Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Google Polishes Camera App to kick Apple Ass Big Time

Truth be told, I have never been a great fan of Apple's iPhone camera. It was built for idiots and that said, it is pretty idiot proof. But if you want more out of it, you just have to go to the app store and ante up on one of those apps. Apparently that's how Apple wants it to play out. You dish out more moolah for the apps and they take a cut out of it.

The upgrade of the camera app in iOS8 is nothing to shout about. In iOS 7, you still could technically shoot 4K video with a non Apple made camera app. Apple has also give it's own camera sensor the seal of approval with 8 megapixels. This didn't change for the iPhone 6 so you are stuck with it sans the 4K video though.

Technology need not be dependent on hardware. Look at the stuff that is coming out now from the likes of Samsung and HTC and you'd know what I mean. The 16 megapixel camera sensor is good but only in daylight. That is why Apple's own iPhone 6 with a smaller sensor can still trash those in low light.

Google on the other hand has a team of geeks sitting in front of computer watching and developing stuff that basically makes full use of the existing hardware. Look at the Nexus 6 and you'd know what I mean. Nexus 6 sports a 13 megapixel, OIS, f/2.0 camera while the iPhone 6 still offers the same megapixel, OIS, f/2.2. What really kicks ass is its new HDR+ capability on Nexus devices.

Google engineers have improved the quality of the image in a sneaky way, using a technique of capture known to Astronomers as lucky imaging. By capturing a sequence of high speed images and averaging the pixels, they have found a way to reduce the highlight blow outs often experienced in bright and high contrast scenes as well as the low light capture problems during long exposures.

Even DSLRs have this problem with blowouts and low light capture but they never found a way around it. Google uses computational photography to obtain a better image and this is something that even camera companies should learn from. The whole Google album of these images can be viewed here.

Death Knell for the DSLR?

To be fair, Google hasn't really invented anything new. They just adapted an existing technology used in Astronomy in a smart device. What they have also done is to find a solution to an existing problem without you have to ante up on the hardware.

Digital camera manufacturers will have to address this new technology by looking into ways of improving their own wares without having to charge for it since we don't really need higher spec cameras for everyday use. The DSLR is only for professional use and to think that we have come this far with smartphone technology is simply marvelous. 

This new HDR+ feature will be on all devices running Lollipop. Google's own camera app available on the Playstore will feature this once the update rolls out. Not sure if it will run on KitKat but keep your fingers crossed.


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