At Google I/O 2022, Google announced a host of new features that will improve how efficiently third-party apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, and others use the camera and video functions on Android smartphones. The tech giant is also making significant changes to the camera functionality on Android 13 to ensure the output images replicate the preview you see before capturing that image.
Google has a significant edge over competitors when it comes to computational photography. Besides leading with its Pixel line of smartphones that extensively use algorithmic enhancements to capture images with a quality that is often likened to professional cameras like DSLRs, Google, as the creator and sustainer of Android, also provides a standard suite of tools to allow seamless integration between software features and the camera hardware on a device.
Google’s Camera2 API and the CameraX Jetpack library act as a bridge between the camera hardware and third-party apps that use the camera. This includes allowing apps to use all cameras and functions such as using all rear camera sensors as one logical sensor to enable seamless switching between sensors for zooming in and out and using different camera functions such as bokeh effect, noise suppression, focus metering, and exposure compensation. The functionality, however, has been limited to images.
At the 2022 edition of its developer conference, Google announced Video Capture in the CameraX Jetpack library. This means any third-party app that supports the updated CameraX module will be able to use all rear cameras — instead of just the primary camera — on an Android device.
For example, you will now be able to capture videos for your Instagram Stories using the telephoto or the ultrawide camera on the smartphone, or even switch from the telephoto to the primary camera — or vice versa — in between capturing the video. If your smartphone natively supports portrait video, you can also use that feature while recording videos using third-party apps. Likewise, any third-party camera app such as Cinema FV-5 will be able to utilize the full potential of a smartphone’s video capabilities.
Until now, Google has depended on manufacturers to incorporate CameraX Vendor Extensions on their devices for functions such as portrait or night mode. These extensions are highly customized by manufacturers based on the hardware per smartphone. CameraX allows these extensions to be used by apps other than the native camera app on any Android device without the developer of that app having to program each of those features separately.
Now, Google is changing that approach and adding a layer of default Google extensions. If a manufacturer does not provide specific extensions for a device, then Google’s software-based implementation can replace them and allow the most critical camera features to be utilized by other apps. More importantly, this will enable low-end devices to offer a better camera experience when used with apps such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc.
Aside from general improvements to how Android apps use camera features, Google is also adding specific functionality to improve the camera functionality in Android 13. With the next version of Android, Google will be improving the previews that we see on the camera apps. Using preview stabilization, Google aims to make the output images consistent with the previews so there is a minimal difference between what you saw before and what you got after the image was captured. This further eliminates the need to edit photos at a later stage to get the desired results.
Android 13 will also work toward synchronizing the frame rate of the display and the camera preview frame rate to ensure there is no stuttering or disparity between the preview and what the camera hardware is capturing at any given instance. You will no longer have to worry about your images turning out different from what they looked like in the preview. To ensure a smooth and lifelike preview, Google will enhance the preview frame rate from 30 frames per second (fps) to 60 fps in the camera mode to cut out any jitters or lag.
Finally, Android 13 will be adding support for HDR video in-camera apps and the CameraX library so that the stock camera app, as well as other third-party apps using the cameras, can utilize HDR capabilities while recording videos. For this feature to be enabled, an Android device must support at least the HLG10 standard for HDR, along with 10-bit camera capture. This feature will likely be restricted to high-end devices such as the OnePlus 10 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Still, it is a welcome step for HDR video capabilities for more devices in the future.