There have been rumblings of RAW-style image capture support in Android for some time now, and it looks like the "L" release will finally bring photographers everywhere the freedom to individually process and archive their smartphone photos DSLR-style. The "L" developer documentation specifically mentions the new DngCreator class, an API that will allow camera apps to capture images and save them in the Digital Negative format, an open standard published by Adobe as a more generally-compatible alternative to RAW images (which generally require OEM or camera-specific plugins).

DNG images have very minimal processing applied and exhibit basically the same compression as RAW files, meaning you're getting all of the data the sensor captures instead of letting the image processor do the work of trimming things down and adjusting the image to what it perceives as a desirable result. Instead, you can then take that DNG file to something like Lightroom or Photoshop and apply fine adjustments to it to get exactly the image you want. If you've ever captured and processed RAW images using your own camera, you know that it can make all the difference for some photos, because you have much more data to work with when adjusting a RAW file versus an already-processed JPEG. DNGs also have the benefit of (usually) being packaged with a JPEG thumbnail image, so previewing them isn't nearly as processor-intensive.

Here's the blurb from the developer documentation:

The DngCreator class provides functions to write raw pixel data as a DNG file.

This class is designed to be used with the RAW_SENSOR buffers available from CameraDevice, or with Bayer-type raw pixel data that is otherwise generated by an application. The DNG metadata tags will be generated from a CaptureResult object or set directly.

The DNG file format is a cross-platform file format that is used to store pixel data from camera sensors with minimal pre-processing applied. DNG files allow for pixel data to be defined in a user-defined colorspace, and have associated metadata that allow for this pixel data to be converted to the standard CIE XYZ colorspace during post-processing.

For more information on the DNG file format and associated metadata, please refer to the Adobe DNG specification

Great news for smartphone cameras, to be sure.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Theratchetnclank

    This could be big. No more overprocessing by OEMs.

    I'm looking at you HTC.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      and LG. and Samsung. And Sony. And everyone else, basically.

      • X-47B

        Ya, with 1/3-inch sensor and 4mm lens even DNG can't do shit..Even 1020 can't do much with DNG.
        Practicality score = 2/10.

        • Microsoftjunkie

          Well that's a lie. Dxo software is compatible with the raw images of the 1020. Plz dont say they will waste their time for nothing. 1020 is still best camera phone, at least till Mclaren comes out.

          • mgamerz

            Step dad has the Lumia 1020. Can't disagree that Nokia knows how to pack a camera. Things great. If only the OS wasn't boring.

          • Microsoftjunkie

            And what's boring, and how does that relate to what's being talked about?

          • mgamerz

            Windows Phone is so same UI over everything that almost all apps looks the exact same. Black background with awhite text. I used to own a windows phone. It was fast but I hated the UI.

          • Microsoftjunkie

            Point taken

          • X-47B

            If you want to shoot raw and process it later, I will rather get something better than 1020.

          • Microsoftjunkie

            You really haven't seen pro photographers, use the 1020 have you?

        • http://www.bloodflame.com/ Patrick

          You're not looking at the bigger picture here. L is for future devices. If L supports DNG, that might encourage the use of better sensors. Not to mention, dedicated cameras that run Android would absolutely benefit from this. Try to imagine a dSLR or mirrorless from Nikon or Canon that runs L in the future. The doors are now open.

          • X-47B

            Why should DSLR (I personally own A99 & A57) ever need Android? I know about Samsung's Tizen based cameras. I need my DSLR to click great photo. No need for any L or Tizen in that. It's like finding a solution for a problem that never exists.

          • http://www.bloodflame.com/ Patrick

            It's not about a camera needing it, per se. But a nice option to have, and some people (myself included) would enjoy it. What it comes down to is making photography more social right from within the camera. Apps could be developed to process the DNG's. Share them to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 500px, flickr, wherever - directly from the camera. Beam them to your phone or tablet, or your friend/model who you're shooting with. I see this more practical on a mirrorless, but I'd think there's definitely a market for it, and why not? If it doesn't interest you, don't buy it. The people who want it will be glad to get it. I welcome DNG support in Android!

        • whispy_snippet

          I think you'll find you're incorrect.

        • andy_o

          Your argument only applies to dynamic range, and that's debatable. Post-shot perfect white balance and color corrections are an advantage, no matter the sensor size.

        • Jeremy

          The Sony QX10 and QX100 disagree with you.

          • X-47B

            Only if you want to carry another attachment with you. In that case, I will get myself a RX100..

        • psuedonymous

          For quick photos to share with other phones? Yeah, DNG is overkill. For computational photography? I'll debayer the sensor output myself thankyouverymuch!

    • Raloc

      what happens when overprocessing turns out to be a giant red herring for cameras that otherwise just sucked ass

      • HurHur


    • joser116

      "No more over processing by OEMs"----That is not what it means. This does not prevent OEMs from over processing shots. It is just an API that OEMs can choose to make as default for their camera app, make it an option, or not utilize it at all.

  • D W

    This is gonna be sweet!

  • Zyre

    I've never heard of DNG capture. What is it? Is it some kind of raw file?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I mean, you could, like, I don't know, read the post. The actual word things.

    • Dave Dean

      Are you kidding? Did you just not read the article and then ask the most basic of questions regarding the content of said article?

      • gk1984

        AP should have made a Vine video instead...

    • Wun Wun

      At its most basic level, no. Think of it as an amalgam of sorts, kinda like a burrito, but not really. Speaking of which, I'm hungry. We'll chat later.

    • psychoace

      It's a generic raw format.

  • evolutionx1

    Also "
    Advanced camera capabilities — A new camera API gives you new capabilities for image capture and processing. On supported devices, your app can capture uncompressed YUV capture at full 8 megapixel resolution at 30 FPS. The API also lets you capture raw sensor data and control parameters such as exposure time, ISO sensitivity, and frame duration, on a per-frame basis."

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      We're getting to the camera, this just seemed more important to post first.

      • evolutionx1


  • ProductFRED

    Good thing Google loves microSD cards and includes them in their Nexus devices! Otherwise, all of these uncompressed images would use up a ton of space!

    Oh wait.

    • Arcest

      You may want to buy the 128GB version of the nexus

      • ProductFRED

        I use a Note 3. Would have bought a Nexus 5 if it had better battery life and either external storage or a 64GB variant.

        inb4 "I'll have you know I get amazing battery life with my Nexus 5" -- I get 6+ hours screen on time on my Note 3 / "Wtf are you putting on your phone that you need that much space?" or "Google Play Music streaming ftw" -- I don't like to waste battery life streaming media, and I like that I don't have to ever wipe my 64GB card or 32GB internal storage because I never run out of space.

        • David Li

          Fully agreed, the people who don't use a lot of space are really light users (checking emails does not constitute 'heavy usage' IMHO); they probably don't even use 1TB on their desktops.

          • silaslenz

            Or people that only use local storage for apps and have an unlimited data connection to stream everything else. I use 10+GB each month, mostly for media. That said, my N4 is also constantly running on an external battery...

          • David Li

            I use over 100+GB of DATA (yes GB not MB). I still fill up my storage :P
            ^That is heavy usage. My phone is basically tethered to a battery pack too.

          • silaslenz

            I'm guessing most of that is movies and music?

          • David Li

            Yea, I have a bunch of subscriptions including Netflix and All Access

          • Simon Belmont

            Yeah. I use Netflix and Google Music heavily as well, especially traveling for business (at home I stream to my Chromecast).

            I'll say I've been really happy with the speeds of my service provider (T-Mobile). Even on HSPA+, it's way faster than Sprint's LTE that I saw in most areas (lol).

          • Simon Belmont

            Yeah. Probably porn.

            Or perhaps he does speedtests every 2 minutes. That would use a lot of data. Haha. /s.

          • ProductFRED

            I use internal storage for apps and external storage for media and downloads. I live in NYC. While there is service on some subway platforms, it's not available while actually going through the tunnels on the train. And even if it was, it would use battery life pretty quickly. I have a $70 unlimited everything T-Mobile plan btw.

          • Simon Belmont

            Love that plan. Love the LTE speeds I get with it, too.

            I switched to T-Mobile a year ago and it's been wonderful. Huge upgrade from Sprint's speeds (but, then again, almost anything is).

          • silaslenz

            Well, I'm paying $7 for unlimited. It's at 1Mbps though, so Netflix is mostly 360p/480p.

          • Simon Belmont

            I take it you aren't in the US. If that sort of plan existed here, I know a bunch of friends who'd use it.

            1Mbps is definitely serviceable. Not super fast, but not bad at all.

          • silaslenz

            Nope, Sweden. It's fine for web surfing, audio and low quality video. Sure, LTE would be nice, but with my kind of usage, that would probably be at least $50, probably more.

          • ProductFRED

            I could get away with 32GB internal storage, but if I download a few games for example, a notable chunk of it is gone. Toss in music, videos, pictures, etc and you get where I'm going with this. I just like not having to ever delete anything. RAW photos (and by association DNG files) are large compared to compressed photo formats, so prepare to see even more storage used by photos.

        • psychoace

          Also Google Play Music caches music anyway so unless you clear it out often it can take up to 700mbs of storage.

          • AnonGuy

            Yeah I did the trial and ended it then disabled it after I seen it doing that. Google+, Newsstand/Currents, and a number of their other apps can build up large caches as well. It's ridiculous. Google Drive is probably the worst and if used heavily requires routine data clears otherwise it obliterates your internal storage. I've since switched to One Drive and Office Mobile + One note to rid myself of those issues.

            Use a Note 3. Wish it had a faster 8MP camera with bigger pixels, personally. Don't see Samsung putting this in their camera app as an update. They will use it to sell the GS6 instead! Ugh...

            Eying the iPhone 6+ for a faster and more consistent camera right now.

      • Dt Bell

        Straight to the cloud..

    • Leif Sikorski

      At least there seems to be a new(?) sd card Framework.

    • ORB1T4L

      Well if they don't include one in their new phone, hopefuly someone will make a hardware mod with a tutorial, it would just need a MicroSD slot and an soldering iron, maybe a few wires but I think that's all.

    • whispy_snippet

      Use cloud storage and stop clinging to a pathway that Google left behind long ago.

    • http://si97.com/ Saif

      Now that they've sorted out the security issues, there's a chance future Nexus devices will come with SD card.

  • Sir Perro

    This is HUGE for the basic usage of the pictures in a phone, which is basically heavy postprocessing.

    Removing the compression between the sensor and the post processing increases picture quality enormously.

  • perhac88

    2 questions
    1. Does this seem stable enough to use as a daily driver?
    2. And if anyone knows will the developer preview receive updates? Whether it be a special OTA, a flashable update, some sort of update that won't require erasing all data? Or only factory image updates? Or if anyone knows if no updates will occur?
    (My second question I'd guess no one has news on yet, but I thought I'd ask just incase)

    • Alexithymia

      1. It's stable as in nothing seems to crash, but I've noticed some apps such as Facebook have issues where comments show up with no background but you can still read the text. Weird graphic glitch.
      2. Probably not, I feel like this is a one time deal but only time will tell I suppose :). I'm flashing back as soon as I get home but I wanted to see how Android L is, and so far it's awesome and can't wait for it to be released in the fall.

      • perhac88

        Thanks for the info! From what I've seen it looks as if I'd probably flash back to Kitkat unless they announce they'll update the preview. It's good to know it seems to run well with the exception of the graphics glitch. I guess I'll decide if I flash after I hear some more in the coming days.

  • splus

    I'm so happy!!! I've been waiting for YEARS to have a proper camera on a smartphone.

    This basically gives open hands to developers to create a camera app, from top to bottom, and not just a different UI layer with few paltry effects.

    • Microsoftjunkie

      ... on an android phone

      • splus

        What are you talking about? WP or iOS offer low level camera access?
        There's dozens of Android camera apps from various manufacturers that are much better than what's available on both WP or iOS.

        The "problem" is that, while I can install any camera app I want, at the moment I'm stuck with a picture that comes out tuned and processed by the low level OS camera layer. Camera apps only have control of UI, not the raw photo tuning and processing. That's about to change now.
        For example, my G2 produces slightly cold photos and photos brighter than they should be in dark scenes. Different camera apps can't change this because a camera app receives already tuned and processed photo by the low level OS.

        This new API CAN change this because the developer now receives a complete raw, unprocessed photo, so photos can be processed in much better, accurate and user customizable way than the manufacturer does it on each phone model.

        iOS and WP can only dream about this...

        • Grayson

          The downside is, third party camera apps will have to write tuning / processing algorithms for every single different sensor / phone they want to support if they don't use the built in tuning / processing on the phone. I doubt many people, or even companies, have the resources to do that. It's a very time consuming process, even for a single sensor model.

          • splus

            True. But then you can easily offer customizable options of ALL the tuning and processing parameters, and a killer feature of online sharing of profiles for each phone model.
            People will fiddle with it and ultimately find the best parameters. The more popular the phone, the more people will experiment with it and the better the tuning will be.
            This is a HUGE thing.

          • Alan Paone

            Well no, they're all DNG files. They may have to profile sensors and come up with sensible default parameters, but the demosaicing algorithm will always be the same.

        • Microsoftjunkie

          I'm still confused. I gathered that, you're not saying that WP doesn't support raw/dng, you're saying that there isn't any app that will allow "me" to edit those raw/dng files?

          • Grayson

            There's a difference between the manufacturer of the phone being able to get access to the RAW camera data (Android already does this, as does Windows Phone and iOS) and allowing third party apps access to RAW camera data. Do third party apps on Windows Phone let you take RAW pictures on the Lumia 1020, or is it just Nokia's camera app?

          • Microsoftjunkie

            Ok, gotcha. Yes, Nokia Camera is the only camera app available to take raw photos but since the take over, everything is being combined into MS camera and raw photos and 3rd party apps will be able to in a future update.

            Still dont know what you were referring to, "only IOS and WP can dream of". WP has been the best platform for photo taking for awhile now.

        • Microsoftjunkie

          I'm still confused. I gathered that, you're not saying that WP doesn't support raw/dng, you're saying that there isn't any app that will allow "me" to edit those raw/dng files on the phone?

        • Microsoftjunkie

          I forgot to add that, there isn't any app in ios or google play that's better than what's on WP. You're definitely someone that doesn't use WP.

          WP has always since the beginning, offered a better more complete camera experience. From wb, manual focus, zooming while recording, directional audio, Dolby digital recording, etc. I don't know of any android phone that offers all of what WP does. Maybe Sony phones, since they're a camera company.

          • splus

            Yes, you're right, Nokia's camera offers great features.
            But that's not what I was talking about. At the moment third party apps can not access any raw data on Android, WP or iOS.
            This is what this API is - offering raw photo data to third party apps, so they can do any kind of tuning or processing.
            Editing photos is a whole another thing - that's for already existing photos.
            This API in Android L is for access to raw picture data that's coming from camera sensor - the full control of all camera parameters.
            Imagine having ALL possible parameters available in a camera app when taking photos. Full control of your shots, more than you have in any DSLR...
            It means you're limited "only" by a camera sensor, not by additional software processing layer, which has been the case until now.

          • Microsoftjunkie

            I could've sworn I already admitted to that. I'm glad I try and read up on other platforms. But the same thing is in the works for WP as well.

          • AnonGuy

            Nokia Camera came 2 years after Windows Phone release. Windows phone had the worst camera software before then. And isn't Nokia camera limited to their own phones? Not everyone wants one of their bricks.

            I had an HD7. The default Windows Camera software was terrible, and not even close to being on part with what Samsung had in TW or HTC had in Sense devices. Not even close.

            On top of that it was super slow to take pictures and they barely had an options in it it was about as bad as the iOS camera except it took much worse pictures so it was more apparent. If the phone takes great pictures then you don't need many options. Most people just point shoot and share. It's only when the camera is pumping out mediocrity that one feels the need to fiddle with settings.

        • AnonGuy

          iOS does. Android not much. You can do a lot more on iOS with their camera APIs than on Android. Some things doable there are simply impossible on Android. This is especially true when you look at the exposed APIs for video recording.

          There is no standard on Android, so apps routinely lack heavily in quality and consistency compared to their iOS counterparts.

    • AnonGuy

      No. It still is missing decent unified API for video. It's why Analysis apps like Coach's Eye are so much better on iOS than Android. 240fps 720p beats 25-30fps 4th that stutters...

      IMO, there were more important things to tackle than this.

  • Simon Belmont

    I'm looking forward to burst mode, myself. Take a bunch of pictures in rapid succession and choose the best one.

    That's definitely coming. I saw in that list of things in the shape of an 'L'.

  • TaylorSellers

    Does this mean that a 3rd party camera app could capture unprocessed data from the sensor and then apply its own processing algorithms automatically? Or does it just allow you to save the DNG file for manual editing elsewhere? If its the former, we'll probably see a bunch of new camera apps on the play store, each claiming to have superior photo processing, though it could be an issue given the variety of sensors on the market.

  • Zach Mauch

    I'm curious to see how Google+ AutoAwesome Feature will do with these images. Since google is controlling both we might see some nice things.

  • bacardi

    What about slow motion on nexus 5?

  • whispy_snippet


    Stick that in your pipe and smoke it iPhone photographers!

  • Melad360

    does anybody elses cameras not take pictures on the L preview???

  • Suman Gandham

    OOI is there anyway to force the camera to save as PNG rather than JPEG? I'm assuming this would have a noticeable effect on "point and shoot" image quality?

  • Melad360

    just found a little problem with the release, enabling the nuplayer in developer settings makes the camera not work. just happened to me and after some elimination I found it was the nuplayer. as soon as you press the shutter button it freezes, but when its disabled it works just fine. so anyone who enables that, just know your camera won't work!

    • http://twitter.com/yo2boy_ yo2boy


  • TheSparks

    Wait has Google announced/released the new camera API?

  • black


  • bob

    Hope this will (Auto) enhance a lot processing images on server side e.g. Google Photos

  • Alan Paone

    You guys aren't dreaming big enough. Putting android photos into Lightroom isn't all that interesting, nobody wants to put exactly as much work into phone photos as they do with DSLR photos. Putting a Raw developer straight into VSCO or snapseed means that the photos seamlessly come out perfectly processed with no artifacts and junk from being processed over and over.