Google Camera now available in the Play Store, brings Photo Spheres and Lens Blur
We had heard a rumor recently that Google was preparing to release its own camera app into the Google Play Store. Today, Google has released the Google Camera into the Play Store, bringing a new UI and other nice features, though it doesn't seem to have everything that had been rumored, specifically it doesn't have hooks for 3rd party developers. However, it does offer pretty nice features overall.
The big addition compared to the stock camera apps that we've seen in Android is with a feature called "Lens Blur". The idea here is to allow anyone to take a picture with a nice bokeh effect, which is usually hard to do on a smartphone. The HTC One M8 has added a second camera to be able to offer this effect, but of course Google has found a software solution. The solution is actually quite simple: after taking a photo with a clear subject, just rotate the device upwards a bit and Google does the rest. It's not as simple as just tapping the shutter button, but it works well enough and means you don't need to buy a specific device just to get that. There's a cool writeup on how this feature was created at the Google Research Blog.
The other big feature in Google's camera is Photo Spheres. This was a feature that Google added to Android in 4.2, but many manufacturers (including the Google-owned Motorola) removed the feature from their camera apps. Now, as long as you can install the Google Camera (which does require Android 4.4), you can take Photo Spheres. Google has also improved the Panorama function with higher quality images.
The UI changes aren't really all that big, and are really the worst part of the app. The different image modes (Photo Sphere, Pano, Lens Blur, Camera, and Video) are accessible with a swipe from the left, and the gallery is accessible with a swipe from the right, as usual. The trouble is that other functions like flash and switching to the front camera have been hidden in an overflow menu. And, extra controls are still painfully thin. This is a camera for quick shots and not much else. One nice addition to the UI is in the Video mode, if you are holding the phone in portrait mode, there is a continuous animation telling you to rotate the device to landscape, because there really is almost nothing worse than portrait-oriented videos.
As mentioned, you need to have a device running Android 4.4 in order to get the Google Camera, so that limits its reach right now.
Download: Google Camera