Today on In Case You Missed It: Microsoft debuts a Kinect-based room mapping system that understands furniture; we watch LEDs change color as they’re frozen in liquid nitrogen (because science!) and a programmer creates a game whose code fits into a single Tweet.
From the cutting room floor: Google rolls out 60 FPS video playback for its mobile app so now the walkthrough on your phone matches the gameplay on your console.
Let the team at Engadget know about any interesting stories or videos you stumble across by using the #ICYMI hashtag @engadget or @mskerryd.
Sony’s mobile division has been having a tough time lately, but the company’s image sensors are still proving hugely popular in the smartphone and wider camera markets. In a bid to play to its strengths, Sony is looking to invest heavily in additional production capacity for mobile image sensors.
To raise the necessary funds for this expensive investment, Sony will be issuing new shares for the first time since 1989, which caused an 8.25 percent fall in Sony’s share price. The company is planning to raise around $3.6 billion through a combination of selling new shares and convertible bonds.
Of the total, much of the proceeds are earmarked for investment into additional production capacity for smartphone image sensors, such as those used in Apple and Samsung products, as well as its own handset line-up. Despite high demand for Sony’s cutting edge camera modules, its current production capacity is preventing the company from maximising its revenue.
In April, Sony Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida stated that the company would be investing ¥210 billion in image sensors during the current fiscal year and ¥80 billion on camera modules. The company is also expected to more than quadruple its operating profit for the 2016 fiscal year, following a company-wide restructuring program and strong sales of digital sensors.
For Sony, this is part of a broader plan to focus on its strongest products – music, movies, gaming and device components. We will have to see what this means for the company’s struggling mobile hardware business in the coming years, especially as Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai hasn’t ruled out abandoning the market all together.
Let’s give you a bit of background details before we move onto this new product, shall we?
The word “professional” gets thrown around way too much in the mobile industry. A plethora of manufacturers keep saying their smartphone cameras and accessories are meant for professionals, but I have always said that’s pure madness and bad marketing. Not only because they are abusing the word’s vague definition, but because features like an f/1.8 aperture, a high amount of megapixels or a “blurry background” don’t make a mobile camera a pro tool.
Yes, mobile devices can be pretty damn awesome at taking photos and video, and a good artist can make amazing content with it, but the truth is that at the end of the day size does matter. More specifically, hardware matters; and hardware quality is often at the mercy of size. For example, a larger good quality sensor will always perform much better than a good quality sensor on a smartphne (which would obviously be small).
Glass and stability also matter a lot in a camera, factors which are also impacted by size. Will there ever be a product that really allows for a mobile phone to become a professional camera? I can’t promise that just yet, but the closest I have ever seen a smartphone becoming a “professional” camera is with the IndieVice.
The IndieVice team has taken it to Kickstarter to try and fund their project. What is this IndieVice thing, though? Well, it’s pretty much a case and set of tools that give your smartphone the hardware it needs to become a more suitable professional tool. It has a dark viewfinder that allows you to look at the feed with no light pollution. There’s also a handle on top for adapting to complicated shooting positions.
Not pro enough? Throw in the ability to switch lenses, use an adapter for other SLR lenses, mount a GoPro camera and attach all sorts of professional accessories (lighting, microphones, etc.) to your smartphone. Now we got a winner. And the wireless zoom control adds a touch of simplicity we simply haven’t seen on mobile yet.
To be honest, this is the first time in a long time I am actually excited about a photography/videography product on Kickstarter. And early bird specials start at only $125 for the IndieVice Pro model with Bluetooth remote. By the way, this product is “universal” and is said to work with most phones, regardless of manufacturer, model or OS.
IndieVice has reached about half of its goal, which is set at $40,583. The important factor here is that the project still has 29 days to go! The only bad news is they won’t be shipping these until March 2016, so it will be a waiting game. I am definitely signing up with my next paycheck. Are you?
With nearly everyone having access to a camera conveniently tucked away in their pocket or purse, it has become essential to have a camera that is productive, fast, and gives you multiple photo processing features at a moment’s touch. Z Camera is a light-weight stock camera replacement with customizable features, quick switching between photo, video, beauty modes, and the ability to hide photos in a private gallery.
- Amazing filter – Many filters available when photograph and photo-editing.
- Real-time filter – Preview your photos before you take photo.
- Fastest capture – Just 1s to capture photo after press the shutter button.
- Simple interface – Intuitive interface, and quickly switch to video and selfie.
- HDR – Open HDR to improve images captured in low light, and backlit scenes.
- Beauty selfie – Just one tap to beautify your photo.
- Private gallery – Keep your private photo safe.
- Video mode – Record video via front facing camera or rear camera.
- Photo Mode – Tons of options, you have the following features flash on/off, set a timer, front camera for selfies and wefies, and also a filter icon.
- Beauty Mode – Take quick “beautiful” enhanced images.
Z Camera has three capture modes: Video, Photo, and Beauty. By swiping your finger left or right, you have the ability to navigate effortlessly through the three modes. Also packed into Z Camera is a Private Gallery. To access the Private Gallery you have to open the Z Gallery that is downloaded along with the app. While in Z Gallery you have three tabs, “My Album”, “Other Album”, and “Private Album”. In Private Album, you are able to set a 4 digit security code in order to restrict access to the images stored in the Private Album.
Zero Team was very thoughtful to incorporate a Private Album. It’s awful when you let someone look at your photos and they continue to scroll past what you intended them to view, and the Private Album keeps their eyes off of those pictures that you don’t want them to see. Although, the Private Album should either be hidden or have an option to long press a title or a section in the app to activate it.
It is never a good idea to easily display Private Album; that’s why the Google Play Store is full of dummy cover apps that allow you to easily and securely hide your photo/video contents. Luckily, Zero Team has baked this feature into Z Camera.
Another complaint I have is the watermark. I was misled by what the watermark feature was. I just assumed that the watermark would allow me to easily have my name or hashtag placed on my photos. I was wrong, the watermark is Z Camera’s name. It would be a very useful feature if Z Camera allowed you to create your own watermarks. This would be a great feature to easily take and post watermark images to your social media networks.
After using Z Camera, I was really impressed with the ample selection of filters that I could quickly apply to my images. Although, after taking images, I realized the quality of the photos came out grainy and had a lackluster pop. I took photos with and without filters and the quality and colors were not comparable to my stock Samsung Note 4 camera.
|What We Like||What We Didn’t Like|
With the plethora of alternate photo apps available, Z Camera doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Although, it will give you multiple filter options and a different look from your stock camera. Z Camera is useful and allows you to take photos or videos quickly although more isn’t always better.
Smartphone camera technology has once again come into focus with the launch of this year’s flagships smartphones and Qualcomm is keen to remind us that it is helping to support some useful camera features. Specifically, Qualcomm has been boasting about its support for hybrid Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) and Laser Auto Focus systems. So let’s see what all the fuss is about.
Leading the way in smartphone auto focus technology is PDAF, which is commonly found in DSLR cameras and has shown up in smartphone sensors too. This is a popular technology as it can be built directly into the image sensor, removing the need for many additional hardware parts. PDAF works by using a number of masked pixels in opposing corners of the sensor. The distance between them means that light enters them slightly out of phase, which can then be used to correct the lens until the pixels are in phase. However, this is a bit of a trial and error process and can still be less than perfect in dark environments.
Laser Auto Focus is a quite different technology, which fires infrared light out from the extra hardware parts and detects the length of the physical object that you’re pointing your camera at by timing how long it takes for the light to return. You will likely remember Laser Auto Focus technology from the LG G4, G3 and Lenovo VIBE Shot smartphones, which can very quickly focus the handset’s camera when looking at objects close by. The only real limitation here is the range of the laser.
By combining these two technologies into a hybrid system, Qualcomm claims to have you covered for focus in every environment. The slightly cheesy video below gives a pretty good overview of how these both work.
Traditional smartphone auto focus systems rely on a technique called contrast focus, where your phone’s processor analyses the full picture to figure out the correct focus by polling through all of the possible focus points and picking the best one. Clearly that takes a lot more time than this hybrid system and can’t be used for proper depth data, which makes tracking moving objects much more problematic.
Despite all the drum beating, hybrid systems aren’t a new thing in the smartphone world. The LG G3 made use of contrast and laser focus, while the Samsung Galaxy S5 mixed contrast and phase detection methods. However, a combination of all three techniques is clearly the best of all worlds, albeit with a higher cost of production.
Flagship camera focus:
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Of course, numerous hardware companies are actually producing these boat pushing bits of hardware, but processor support is important to help bring these technologies to consumers quickly and in a wider range of products. Qualcomm’s mid-tier Snapdragon 615 chipset supports Laster Auto Focus and the Snapdragon 810 can work with both Laser and PDAF, if an OEM partner so choses.
How high on your list of smartphone priorities is cutting edge camera technology?
Did you take one look at Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-CM1 and vow to pay whatever it took to get this smartphone/mirrorless camera hybrid in the US? You now have a chance to put your money where your mouth is. Panasonic has started selling an unlocked version of the CM1 in the US, and it’ll set you back an eye-watering $1,000 — suddenly, that 128GB Galaxy S6 seems like a bargain. There’s a good reason for the giant price tag, mind you. While the phone half is no great shakes between its 4.7-inch 1080p screen, Android 4.4 KitKat and a Snapdragon 801 chip, you’re also getting a big 1-inch, 20-megapixel imaging sensor with a bright, high-quality f/2.8 lens. If you already treat your smartphone as a camera that just happens to make calls, this might be your handset of choice.
Last month we went over some of the best available apps for tweaking and editing your camera shots, all of which are solid choices for cleaning up your pictures before sharing them with the world. However, sometimes it’s better to line up the perfectly filtered shot to save yourself the hassle of editing things after the fact, and that’s where this guide comes in.
There are plenty of apps in the Play Store that function as feature-packed or unique cameras, allowing you to do things that your stock camera application may not do. We’re going to go over some of the best available camera replacement applications to help you get the most out of shooting your photos.
Google Camera is exactly what you’d expect; camera software directly from Google. It offers an untouched take on Android’s camera interface, so you won’t get any OEM tweaks or additions. Some manufacturers do a better job than others when it comes to adding their own spin on how you take photos, which may or may not get the job done well depending on the phone.
Google’s basic camera app has one of the easiest interfaces you can imagine for a camera, which can be a good or a bad thing. If you’re looking for a quick way to jump into tons and tons of settings, you probably won’t be happy with Google’s minimalistic camera, but if you need something quick and simple to use, this is one of the best apps you’ll find. Taking pictures is painless, and you’ll get most of the standard features you’d expect from flagship cameras today, including the ability to take still shots during videos, a lens blur effect, an HDR mode, and seamless integration with Android Wear.
Plus, Google Camera gives you access to Photo Sphere, 360-degree panoramic shots of your surroundings. The photo stitching tech also works very well for normal panoramic shots and wide angle pictures.
Really, the only drawback to Google Camera is the high-level APIs needed for the app. It will only work on phones or tablets running Android 4.4 KitKat and above, which should cover a good chunk of devices, but not everything. If you make the cut, though, the app is free and definitely worth checking out.
Camera MX is a fantastic app that brings a ton of features you won’t find in other stock camera software. Not only does it give you an easy way to apply live filters to whatever you’re photographing, but it offers a handful of other unique twists on capturing a shot that are hard to beat.
The interface of Camera MX is simplistic and shouldn’t be hard to adapt to for anyone that’s using it. That’s always a plus when looking into a new app. There are tons of shooting options that you’d expect from any capable camera, including HDR modes, tons of filters and textures, and a few cool tricks like a kaleidoscope filter and a mirror mode. The image processing in the software also works extremely well, resulting in extremely high quality photos. The processing may not help as much if you’re already using a flagship device with a great camera, but on mid-range and low-end devices, it can make a noticeable difference.
Aside from live photo editing, Camera MX also tackles the issue of editing and managing your photos. The app features a full image editing suite for tweaking your shots after the fact, and the file manager allows you to easily move, sort, and delete your pictures and videos. Definitely useful if you’re trying to consolidate multiple apps into one.
One of the best features of Camera MX is the “Shoot the Past” mode. This feature actually lets you snap those hard-to-catch photos by letting you zip back through the action to a few seconds prior to when you actually pressed the shutter button. Action shots, moving babies, and anything that involves a subject that just won’t stay still are much, much easier to capture in this mode, and that alone makes the app worth trying out.
Camera MX is completely free and is one of the comprehensive photography packages you’ll find on Android. With unique features, excellent editing tools, and a file manager all bundled into one, it’s one of the better apps on this list for broad use.
Retrica takes a much more focused approach to your photos and that might just do the trick if you enjoy taking certain stylized shots. It won’t make a general-use camera replacement, but Retrica’s filters and effects make great stand-out photos that are especially appealing if you post tons of photos to social media.
Retrica offers over 100 filters that are applied to your camera in real-time, beating out what you’ll get on the likes of Instagram and even most photo editing apps. Not only are filters abundant in Retrica, but there are also several other photo effects you can add, including vignette borders, focus blurs, and a photobooth-like collage mode. You can also tweak timers and time intervals, and there’s an option to slap a Retrica watermark on your photos if you want everyone to know what app you’re using when you share your images.
Speaking of sharing photos, Retrica has many options for sharing things to different social media sites built right in. An app like this is definitely designed for heavy social media users, so the inclusion makes perfect sense.
If you need something to quickly apply filters and effects while you’re shooting, and you tend to keep most of your photos uploaded to social media, anyway, Retrica should definitely be on your list to check out. It may not be able to replace your camera if you’re trying to take professional-quality shots, but if look no further if effects are your thing.
Panorama 360 tries its hand at mimicking one of the best features of Google’s stock camera software, with a few extra twists. As the name implies, the app allows you to snap full 360 degree panoramic shots, which are similar to Google’s own Photo Sphere. There are a few differences between a full 360 degree panorama and Photo Sphere, but both are cool in their own way.
To get started with Panorama 360, you simply start shooting then turn your camera around yourself slowly. The app handles all of the stitching and presents you with a full panoramic shot of your surroundings within a minute, no extra input required. If you like wide angle shots, you’ll definitely enjoy playing around with this app.
You can view your shots as a 3D moving image or as a flattened panoramic shot. This gives you the best of both worlds, allowing you to interact with the file on your phone, but still giving you the option to share the shot to Facebook or other social media sites.
The app also caters to social media and thrives on the social and sharing aspect of photos, giving you the option to share to a few different sites. You can also view any panoramic shots that have been taken near you, and the app will geo-tag your pictures for others to view. This is also a pretty cool feature since there’s an option to track everywhere you’ve taken a photo, which is fun if you like to travel often and your phone is your primary camera. These features can, of course, be turned off if you don’t want to share that kind of info.
The app is completely free and offers a pretty unique way to start shooting photos. If you’ve been itching to take Photo Sphere pictures but you don’t have a phone that will support Google’s own implementation, give Panorama 360 a spin. The pun is very much intended.
Paper Camera is a unique app that gained a bit of traction from teaming up with Samsung. The app was pre-installed on a few Samsung phones at one point and received exposure through that partnership. Now, on its own, Paper Camera still offers a very cool way to take some unique photos.
As the name implies, Paper Camera applies real-time filters to your camera that simulate a drawing or sketching of whatever you’re taking a picture of. It has a wide variety of effects you can apply, making your shots look like comic books, pen and paper sketches, neon outlines, or pastel paintings. It doesn’t offer as many filters as some other cameras or photo editors, but it focuses in on the paper and hand-drawn aspect and does that exceptionally well.
While taking a photo, you can tweak a few parameters to fine tune how things look, too. You’ll get a contrast slider, a brightness slider, and a lines slider that makes the applied effect stronger or weaker. All of this is done within an interface that looks like it’s been drawn inside a notebook and that’s actually pretty easy (and fun) to navigate. It also does videos, if that’s more of what you’re looking for.
With a price tag of $2.99, Paper Camera might not appeal to everyone. It doesn’t throw in the kitchen sink like other apps, but if you’re a fan of sketching or hand-drawn filters, it’s the best at what it does and one of my personal favorites.
These apps offer a pretty broad variety of what you’ll find available on the Play Store. There are apps to handle your everyday shots, apps to give the occasional shot its own unique look, and apps to show off some outrageous effects to your friends on social media.
Did we miss any of your favorite camera replacement apps? Sound off in the comments below and let us know.
Come comment on this article: Best camera replacement apps for Android phones and tablets [June 2015]
If you’ve been wondering what kind of home monitoring camera Nest would make after buying Dropcam… well, don’t expect a revolution. Droid-Life has posted leaked details revealing that the companies’ first joint product, nicknamed the Nest Cam, looks similar to earlier Dropcam models. The biggest hardware changes should be 1080p video streaming and simpler pairing through Bluetooth. This last part might have been confirmed in a recent FCC filing.
The biggest change may be an overhaul to Nest’s mobile app. On top of a brand new, decidedly more modern-looking interface, the software will treat these cameras like other Nest devices — you could check both the temperature and your living room security in one place. As for when you’ll see all this? Nest is known to be holding an event on June 17th, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a camera shows up for the occasion.
If you’ve fiddled around with Sony’s pint-size RX shooters before, you won’t find any dramatic design changes; the RX100 is a still a tiny, dark aluminum box with a 24-70mm f/1.8 lens that leaps out with gusto when you turn the thing on. It’s plenty light and squeezes into even a tight pair of jeans without trouble, just watch out for the lens’ telltale bulge. Really though, you’re not buying this thing for its looks. Sony drew at least a little inspiration from smartphones when it plopped a 1-inch, stacked CMOS sensor setup into this thing — it allows for smaller camera bodies (not that the Mk.IV is tinier than its predecessor) and captures photos at resolutions up to 16.8 megapixels.
Now, I’ve been referring to this thing as a point-and-shoot, but that’s a comparison based more on size and shape than it is on performance; you won’t find another pocketable camera that can shoot with shutter speeds as quick as 1/32,000th of a second. The shutter action is oddly quiet too (especially to a guy who does 95 percent of his shooting on an SLR), which Sony seems proud of. Your next barbecue won’t sound like a paparazzi war zone. The whole thing feels tight and snappy, too, thanks to the internals — whipping through menus was quick if a little unintuitive, and more importantly, there was basically no downtime between photos.
So yeah, it’ll fit in your clothes and takes photos that’d make your phone cry (had some macabre device maker kitted it out with tear ducts). The really neat stuff comes into play once you start using the thing as a video camera. Sony claims it’ll shoot near-broadcast-quality 4K video for five minutes at a time, and can record slow-motion video at up to 960 frames per second. This is the part where I wanted to dump a gallery of test photos or slo-mo video taken with the Mk. IV, but — surprise, surprise — Sony was having none of that. Still, seeing exactly how a bald, sleight-of-hand artist pulled off his card tricks in startlingly crisp slow motion was probably the highlight of my morning. The rest of us might have written off tiny cameras that aren’t smartphones, but Sony’s sensor and design chops argue pretty strongly that we’ve been too hasty. Obviously, there’s still plenty more to dig into here and I’ve had all of a half hour to play with the thing — stay tuned for more nuanced impressions once we get a little more review time in.
Like it or not, selfies remain A Thing — and there are signs that Apple is about to embrace those narcissistic photos through a hardware upgrade. Programmer Hamza Sood has discovered code in iOS 9 which suggests that the next iPhone’s front camera will get a flash (increasingly common on camera-centric phones), so nighttime won’t prevent you from putting yourself in the frame. You could also see some big improvements to video and software-only features, including 1080p recording, 240 frames per second slow-motion capture and panoramas for those extra-wide group shots. There’s no guarantee that any of these features will make the cut in future devices, but they hint that Apple is eager to move past the creaky 720p front cam it offers today.
Photo by Will Lipman.
iOS 9 is hinting at future device front cameras having: 1080p resolution, 240fps slow mo, panoramamic capture, flash pic.twitter.com/NkMjdsUZEX
– Hamza Sood (@hamzasood) June 10, 2015
Source: Hamza Sood (Twitter)