Smartphones have, for so many users, replaced DSLR cameras. This is especially true in a lot of work environments, where DSLR cameras are either too complex to master or cost prohibitive. Thankfully, the new Android Lollipop APIs are very camera friendly. However, the stock camera app doesn't make use of all the advancements in the platform. Fortunately, for anyone looking to up their smartphone picture game, there's an app that does a great job of implementing the following new features:
- RAW support
- Manual focus
- Shutter speed
- White balance
- Exposure compensation
- Spot exposure
- Incredibly fast shutter
If you have any desire to gain more control over the photos you take with your Lollipop-powered device, you owe it to yourself to pay $2.99 (USD) for Manual Camera.
When you open the camera for the first time, you start out in full auto mode. Once the app is open, you simply tap on the viewfinder to set Auto Focus, Auto Exposure, and Auto White Balance. You long-press the viewfinder to set back to center weight, and then use the wheel in the bottom right (Figure A) to adjust exposure.
Manual Camera running on a Verizon-branded Nexus 6.
Once you have everything set the way you like it, you can lock values by pressing the corresponding button (such as ISO, White Balance, and Shutter Speed ) on the left edge of the screen. You can unlock a value by long-pressing the corresponding button.
To save in RAW format, do the following:
- Tap the gear icon
- Tap JPEG until it reads JPEG+RAW (Figure B)
Setting Manual Camera to save in RAW format.
When shooting in RAW format, you need to know a couple of things:
- The files can be better manipulated in tools like Lighttable
- The files will be larger in size than standard JPEGs
Another word of warning: Manual Camera is really only intended to work with the rear-facing camera. If you plan on trying to use the app with your front-facing camera, you'll need to install the Manual Camera Compatibility app and run it. This app will tell you if your camera is supported. Most likely, the front-facing camera is not.
Finally, Manual Camera works in full-screen mode. In order to exit the app, you must swipe downward from the top of the screen (as if you are opening the notification bar), and then tap the home button to exit.
If you're looking to get the most out of the new camera APIs in Lollipop, Manual Camera is the best route to take. With this installed, you'll be snapping photos from your smartphone that will rival your DSLR.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.