Google Releases Standalone Camera App, Features Lytro-Like Focus Control


Google wants to give all Android users (or at least those running Android 4.4 and up) the opportunity to use a camera app designed by the same people who made the operating system, and so the company has decided to release a standalone ‘Google Camera’ app packed with a few features that will make it a very tempting download at the price of “on the house.”

The app, which launched earlier today, features a “sleek” UI, improved panorama functionality and the ability to capture Photo Spheres, but the headline making feature is none of these. What is attracting attention is Google’s “Lens Blur” feature that can intelligently simulate a shallow depth of field AND gives you Lytro-like take-now-focus-later control.

Google goes into detail on this feature specifically over on the Google Research Blog, but the gist is this: when taking a photo you move the camera in an “upward sweep,” capturing several images that are then handed over to a special algorithm that determines depth.

This information is then used to help you turn the photo on the left into the photo on the right:


From the research blog:

Lens Blur lets you change the point or level of focus after the photo is taken. You can choose to make any object come into focus simply by tapping on it in the image. By changing the depth-of-field slider, you can simulate different aperture sizes, to achieve bokeh effects ranging from subtle to surreal (e.g., tilt-shift). The new image is rendered instantly, allowing you to see your changes in real time.

Of course this isn’t entirely new; other apps have used multiple photos to allow you to choose your focus later. Still, when you combine this feature with some of the other improvements like 100% viewfinder coverage and higher res pano shots, it might tempt some Android users to ditch their Samsung or HTC app and download Google’s instead.

If you’ve upgraded your phone to Android 4.4 or newer, you can give Google Camera a try by heading over to the Google Play store. And if you’re in need of more technical info, you can find a full breakdown of how Lens Blur works over on the Google Research Blog here.

(via Engadget)

  • Glenn F

    “to all Android users”

    Wishful, 4.4 up only.. That’s probably more like not the majority..

  • donnamartingraduates

    4.4 is only on something like 2.2% of all devices.

  • Glenn F

    Yeah. What I said.. Article says all Android users, which is really as you suggest 2.2% of users… Stink.

  • eight12

    Am I missing something, or did this eliminate the time-lapse option that I had on my Nexus 5?

  • Bay

    Not on my Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3. Not sure what the Android 4.4 update plan for it is.

  • Davor

    Yea it sucks I have 4.3 download the apk but no go.

  • CoffeeWithChris

    It’s basically just another show of the lack of thought put into many of these posts in an effort to be one of the first to get something out there.

  • DLCade

    By ‘all android users’ I was implying that nobody would be blocked out because of the phone they chose to buy, but you’re absolutely right, that’s not entirely accurate given the Android 4.4 requirement. Updating the post now.

  • CoffeeWithChris

    That’s great but LOTS of people are blocked out because of the phone they chose to buy… Certain phones support certain editions of Android.

  • Sir Stewart Wallace

    I wonder if this works at all like the Lytro like app Nokia made for Winphone 8.

  • alex stuart

    I cant be excited by any of the features because they’ve completely ruined the UI of my entire phone by making the icon not as tall as any other icon. You wrote the damned rules about that Google, sort it out!

    Otherwise:You still get more detail in a photo sphere than you do in a panorama, the shift focus would be great if it wasn’t so slow (it’s also really soft on the edges of most objects) and HDR seems to have been improved a bit. As an N4 owner who’s lost their primary camera app, I’m not particularly impressed. May be time to switch to Focal!

  • Martin Nilsson

    It should be noted that Photospheres got a major update as well. I think the old resolution was about 8 MP and now it goes as high as 50 MP. That is a pretty massive update that should have been mentioned in the article.

  • Steveo

    And just like that, for most people, buying a fancy fast lens for their interchangeable-lens camera has become obsolete.

    I will always prefer the physical aspect of obtaining nice depth-of-field differences, all “in the lens” and “in camera”, but I understand I am a minority here. It will come to the point where focusing after the shot is normal. “What? You have to focus BEFORE?!”

    Yet another nail in the coffin for camera manufacturers. Oh well, it’s progress… apparently.

    Convenience trumps advanced funcionality every. single. time.

  • Graf Almassy

    Buy Google Nexus device or force your manufacturer to release 4.4. update. This is the main problem with the Android system… manufacturers (exlude the Google’s partners, ofc) never release the latest updates in the right time.

    My prev phone was a Motorola that came with 2.1 when Google released the 2.3. Few months later Motorola released the 2.2 update, when Google released 4.0. I hate this policy!

    My current phone is Google Nexus 5… just hours after the Google presentation the update is ready to install just like iOS on iPhone.

  • john

    Not compatible with Galaxy Note 2. WTF?!

  • Tobias W.

    Yes, I thought the same. Nokia was there first on Windows Phone 8. It’s funny how many keep bashing Microsoft for their Phone OS, but fact is that Microsoft is innovating again and Google and Apple are copying or following Microsoft’s lead again. Like in this case.

  • Giacomo Cannelli

    Anybody knows where the shutter +/- optione went? Cause I can see it in the photos up here, but it disappear on my phone. Anyone knows why? Is there some kind of settings I’m missing?

  • Giacomo Cannelli

    yeah and.. where the shutter +/- optione went? Cause I can see it in the photos up here, but it disappear on my phone. Anyone knows why? Is there some kind of settings I’m missing?