Google has a new standalone camera app available in the Google Play app store, and it can be installed on any smartphones or tablets running KitKat 4.4 or higher. The new app will also be rolling out to other devices in the future according to Google, so that might expand beyond just KitKat to those on other versions of Android.
The app offers a 100 percent viewfinder to show you exactly what you’re shooting without blocking the view with interface elements, and also offers a few trick modes for taking pictures including Lens Blur, Panorama, and Photo Sphere. Lens Blur offers background defocusing effect like those introduced by most smartphone manufacturers on their latest generation flagship smartphones, so it’s nice to see that kind of stuff democratized.
The Lens Blur feature in practice is kind of tricky to get right, as it required you shifting your phone upwards while remaining centered on your focal point. Samsung’s requires holding your phone in the same place for a while but produces more reliable results in my experience, and HTC’s needs its dual camera hardware in the new HTC One M8 but offers up strangely similar finished products. If used in the right circumstances, Lens Blur works remarkably well at mimicking the kind of depth of field you can capture from DSLRs.
Photo Sphere offers the ability to capture full, 360 degree immersive snapshots and is an extension of the kind of feature you’ll find from Panorama, but not limited to the horizontal plane. It’s the first time Google has made this available to non-Nexus devices, so check it out. I tried installing this on a Galaxy S5 without issue, and it’s a nice alternative if you’re not a fan of or are overwhelmed by the options of the stock offering of whatever device-maker you’ve chosen. Some users on Twitter report having issues getting the app to recognize your phone’s camera hardware, but a quick reboot should do the trick.