Last Updated: October 6th, 2014

The Android team has been hard at work replacing old code that hasn't scaled well with newer and more powerful hardware. We've long known that the camera API was destined to see a massive update, but we were missing details like a release date or exactly what was coming. Thanks to the L release, we can finally see what has been in the works for all these many months.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 2.38.06 PM

One of the most important aspects of the new Camera 2 API is a dramatic increase in performance over the previous interface. The Camera 2 system is now capable of delivering full resolution images at the same speed the hardware can capture them thanks to a fully synchronized pipeline model. This allows the Nexus 5 to achieve 30 frames per second while capturing at it's maximum of 8 megapixels.

In addition to the profound performance improvements, the new camera API also includes burst mode, Digital Negative format (similar to RAW), HDR+, and full manual control of capture and post-processing. Many of the finer control configurations can also be modified, including:

  • Exposure time
  • ISO Sensitivity
  • Frame duration
  • Lens focus distance
  • Flash trigger
  • Color correction matrix
  • JPEG metadata
  • Tonemap curve
  • Crop region
  • AE / AF / AWB mode
  • AE / AWB lock
  • AF trigger
  • Precapture AE trigger
  • Metering regions
  • Exposure compensation
  • Target FPS range
  • Capture intent
  • Video stabilization

Building great multi-media experiences on Android

This is a huge step up for the camera on our Android devices, as we're bound to see higher quality results with less lag. Access to deeper customization controls and more image data will also make it possible for developers to accomplish much more with camera. If you're a developer and eagerly looking forward to messing around with all of the new goodies, there are samples for capturing photos and videos in the new preview SDK for L. They are titled Camera2Basic and Camera2Video.

Source: Android Developer Docs

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    I hope someone somewhere will make a big-ass post about all the new APIs in L

    • Dominic Powell

      if i heard correctly there are 5000 of them... It's gargantuan... and some of them probably haven't even been merged into the L preview yet.

  • Serge Cebrian

    i can see all AP staff is working at the same time..
    i love it !!!

    so sad next weeks will feel like Slow News weeks compared to IO week until actual "L" release :)

    • Simon Belmont

      There is a ton of stuff to dig through. Plus, Google is going to continue to update the L release developer build, so more stuff will get added or fixed.

      I think we'll being seeing interesting tidbits all the way up to L's release. Awesome times.

      • Chris

        That makes me wonder the update interval... Weekly builds, monthly, .... quarterly - hopefully not.

        I'd ask on XDA but we all know what happens when you ask for an ETA.

        • Simon Belmont

          The interval (and method) is really the only thing that's holding me back from flashing L release. I want to know how often it'll be updated and in what manner.

          So far, though, AP has kept me pretty happy with all the information they're giving us. AP is a vicarious flash of L release (lol).

          • Chris

            I'm running it as a daily right now and loving every minute. There are things that I like and there are things that I don't like... But being able to watch one of the biggest Android transitions, in terms of design, has got me hooked.

          • usaff22

            Not sure about the method, but the new Nexus Preview binaries have a different, slightly higher version number than the current L Preview. There should be an update sooner or later, possibly monthly.

          • DaynaGuiguipyt

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        • http://shywim.fr/ Matthieu Harlé

          And now, 3 months later we never got any update except one that just enable Google Fit... So sad :(

      • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

        Where exactly is it stated that they will update the dev build? Is that inferred or an explicit statement from Google?

        • Simon Belmont

          It's an assumption I'm making. It would be sort of shortsighted to never update the build.

          The whole point of the development build is so people can test it out, so developers can test out there apps with it, and give feedback on it, as Google makes progress on it (that's pretty much how every developer build works). The only question is how it will be delivered (OTA, flash, or either).

          • Seth Merritt

            Can they do an OTA for only the devices that flashed the images or are we going to have to wipe every time? Probably a good idea anyway but might get tiresome.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

            Yeah, it's not entirely obvious, but Google regularly does multiple OTAs for different versions on each device. For example, when 4.4.2 came out, there was an OTA for 4.4.1 and the build update that came out shortly before it. There usually aren't a whole slew of OTAs targeting each iteration from start to finish, so some users will have to install an interim version bump before moving forward if they aren't up-to-date, but that seems pretty fair.

            How Google handles this is still not going to be clear until it actually happens. We may never see updates for the preview build, it could be that flashers will just have to manually flash the official version when it comes out. On the other hand, there might be regular OTAs every few weeks until L is official.

  • Corey Watford

    Now that the nexus 6 isn't dead, can't wait for these features to be applied to its camera

    • san

      I don't want a 6'' or even a 5'5" phone. I am not the Hulk

      • Corey Watford

        its just a name, will Nexus 5 (2014) make u happy

      • Crispin Swickard
      • Cory S

        Yeah because the Nexus One had a one inch screen. Just stop.

        • Nimer55

          There's three possible senerios with naming.

          1)Next nexus phone becomes the Nexus 5 (2014), and the number on phones just like tablet represents screen size. And that can just happen without any changes.

          2) Google either stops making tablets or phones (highly unlikely)

          3) Google renames their tablets to just "Nexus tab". Or something similar. Very possible If they don't plan to have many screen sizes, but even so, they could still do stuff like " Nexus tab mini".(I'm not proposing those as actual names).

          But they can't keep the Nexus 7 as a 7 inch device, refreshing it each year, and keep going a number up on phones. Though I personally like the sxreensize method, i do know it will a) make talking about the specific devices more cumbersome, and b) confuse the hell outta the average customer.

          • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

            Well, if Apple got away with "The New iPad" (lol), I think Nexus 5 2014 would be just fine.

            Better than the absolutely random HTC One -> HTC One M8 (because now that there's an M8, you, regular joe consumer, find out that the other one was actually the M7! Ha!). Seriously, wtf.

          • Nimer55

            Haha yea, apples name isnt great, but the HTC name is simply ridiculous. I think for tablets, lack of numbers is more okay than phones though. I find most people know which iPhone they have, but most just know they have an iPad. Even during the time when they were numbered, like the 2 or the 3. I think it has something to do with the Carrier model, and every iPhone coming out around the same time... But people are really aware of which model a phone is, but to most, an iPad is an iPad (not including the iPad mini).

          • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

            You're right. I've also heard people saying they have a Galaxy Tab, and that's it, a Tab; not a Tab 1, 2 or 3, just the Galaxy Tab. Funny.

        • mechapathy

          Yeah, and the Nexus S had an S inch screen.

          • Simon Belmont

            Yeah! And the Nexus Q had a Q inch screen.

            Wait a minute. It didn't even have a screen!

  • Ryan O’Neill

    If Google implements all of these features in its Camera app, it will be better than any OEM camera so far.

    • DonEmu

      Thing is OEMs would also have access to this API as well, meaning they can also use it to improve their own cameras.

      This would give everyone a big leap.

      • Harvie Boles

        True that! More better camera apps soon!

    • Rovex

      Remember that OEMs aren't limited to what Google gives them, many have their own APIs for these things already.

    • Grahaman27

      I feel like most OEMs already have most of these features, its google thats behind.

  • Тарас Мукин

    I hope we will see slo-mo (60fps, maybe even 120) at 720p or little bit less (for 120). It's not so much needed function, but it's fun and I wanna try it on my N5

    • Rob

      Already got both on my G2, granted it's not stock.

    • Simon Belmont

      The Snapdragon 800 is definitely capable of processing 120 FPS at 720p (Note 3 can do it, for example). We just need to know if the camera hardware, itself, is capable.

      I'd wager it probably can pull it off. We'll just have to wait and see.

  • OnbekendeBekende


  • Leif Sikorski

    The big question will be if the next generation Android Devices (at least the high-end ones) will finally have some kind of feature parity with their cameras. If this will cover just Nexus devices I doubt that developer will spend that much time on features that aren't supported by the majority of the phones that get sold. A good example are the focus and metering regions that have been around for a while. So far for example many Samsung devices support just 1 focus region and 0 metering regions which might be one of the reasons why there was so far just one app (that i can remember) that allowed to touch one area for focus and another one for exposure like camera+ does on iOS.

    You can easily check that with apps like Android Hardware Info (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dama.hardwareinfo), Just search there for "max num focus areas" and "max num metering areas".

    I wish that such things would be mentioned in SmartPhone reviews so Samsung, HTC, LG and others actually see that we care about it. If they don't do a good implementation/support of such features developer won't waste their time with making better camera apps.

  • Gokh

    This is clearly the best things in Android L !

    • whispy_snippet

      I tend to agree. The Android camera has just taken an enormous leap. It's the only area where Apple has an advantage over Android. When L officially releases this will all change!

  • Dhaiwat

    With the POSSIBILITY of another nexus phone in the works (I doubt they would care too much about putting a really good camera on a tablet) I'm excited to see if they will put in a better sensor to show off the capabilities. Thoughts?

  • henry

    30 fps 8MP? Does that mean we can get close to sort-of-4K video on the Nexus 5?

    • Tarun Pemmaraju

      That's what I was thinking. Unless there's some limitation, this sounds like we'll have nearly 4K video capabilities.

      • leviel

        Well, a 4K video of one sec doesn't seems so useful right now...

    • Matthew Skalecki

      These are raw images. There is no way that the storage system could keep up with the demand. So the video encoder would have to be capable of realtime 4k encoding to make anything longer than what would fit raw in memory. I don't think the Nexus 5 has such an encoder.

      Still, burst is awesome.

  • Harvie Boles

    Can't wait to try this API :)

  • Grayson

    I haven't seen any of these improvements in the Google Camera app on Android L yet. Taking an HDR+ shot is actually MUCH slower on Android L than in KitKat.

    • alejandro lopez

      Yes it takes ~4 s

      • someone755

        Usually (that is, when the feature works) it takes ~20 seconds for my phone to make an HDR picture (8MP instead of the sensor's full 12MP).
        There's always a bright side! :D

    • Tom Erlandsen

      Glad I'm not the only person who noticed this. Still, that's what we get for playing with dev builds

  • NF

    What does this mean for slo motion? Is it possible?

  • Cory S

    "For everybody else, try messing around with the new camera in the L preview on a Nexus 5 where some of these improvements have already taken shape."

    I don't notice any changes in the camera on the L preview/ Nexus 5?

    • Tony Ceralva

      The default Camera app of the Nexus 5 is not using the new APIs, but developers already can play with them.

  • kekkojoker90

    No News for audio?

    • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

      I haven't searched into what audio latency is but I hear devs saying all the time that Apple does it better than Android, and worse, that that's easy to fix. So I'm really annoyed by that, I just don't know how exactly it affects me =P

      • DHM47

        It's the time between touching the screen and hearing the sound. I think the most notable thing would be musical instrument app

      • kekkojoker90

        Found! Latency reduced with audio patch-panel kernel and openSL (from kitkat), 24 bit sampling, sampling rate raised to 96khz (from 46 D:), better dynamic range with floating point, better resampling from stream audio, better a/v sync and support for usb audio :D

      • Android Developer

        I think it's the time since the app tells the framework to play a sound, till the time you actually hear it.

    • Dan Andersen

      There was lots of news for audio actually. in this same video where they talked about the camera improvements, they also cover audio, also a section on video. you'll notice the youtube video integrated here was setup to start at 29:46. start it from the beginning and hear lots of other good stuff!

      • kekkojoker90

        Thanks, Latency reduced with audio patch-panel kernel and openSL (from kitkat), 24 bit sampling, sampling rate raised to 96khz (from 46 D:), better dynamic range with floating point, better resampling from stream audio, better a/v sync and support for usb audio :D

    • Simon Belmont

      No. I didn't HEAR anything.

      Get it? Hear? Oh, okay. I'll just leave now because that was terrible.

      • someone755

        What a horrible night to have a pun.
        Go back to what you're good at, Simon -- fighting vampires.
        Leave the bad jokes to Castlevania 2. :P

    • Aaron Jaeger

      Bluetooth audio seems better for me on the L preview. I'm still trying to figure out if it's placebo effect.

  • NinoBr0wn

    I can already feel tears of joy cresting.

  • Simon Belmont

    Can't wait to see all this stuff added into the stock camera app. I love that it's finally updateable outside from the Google Play Store.

    This stuff is really exciting. Love the coverage, AP.

  • Sergio

    Hope they implement DNG into Google Photos. It would be HUGE to backup and make non-destructive edition to Raw pictures stored in the cloud...

    • Aaron Jaeger

      The guy in the video says that Google+ photos will handle the DNG files.

  • someone755

    Too bad my phone barely does 1080p@30fps ;-;

  • Maranello Santiago

    I hope Note 3's equipped with AOSP will benefit from this in the future.

  • Gonçalo Santos

    Did they make the Shot button Smaller? because its like 1/3 of the screen!

  • liam

    1 photo every 3-4 seconds? That's not burst mode.

    • Paul_Werner

      I don't believe that's the second counter. I think that's the millisecond

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      Those are hundredths of a second in the photo. That's ~30 photos every 1 second.

  • Meowsefer

    This is exciting and I'm not sure why this wasn't included in the main I/O presentation.

  • gotitogether

    When I first started watching the YouTube video embedded in this post, I immediately had to do a quick double-take because I thought one of these guys was Dustin Diamond aka "Screech" from Saved By The Bell, just minus the curly hair and goatee...lol

  • http://mattdm.org/ Matthew Miller

    Note that DNG isn't "similar to RAW". It *is* RAW -- it is a particular standard format for files containing RAW camera data.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      RAW is a bucket term for multiple file formats from different manufacturers, it just means that no meaningful data has been thrown out. DNG is a file format created by Adobe that makes that data generically readable. The conversion to DNG can lose some data in circumstances where a camera records something that isn't supported by the format.

      Because of the generic nature of RAW, it's fair to say that DNG is a RAW format. However, it's also accurate to say that it's similar to RAW without defining it strictly as RAW. In essence, the purpose of the DNG format is slightly different than RAW files.

      Also, nitpicking over the distinction is sorta like arguing flac vs. wav vs. alac (and any one of a dozen other lossless audio formats). They're all a little bit different, but the distinctions rarely matter all that much.

  • Kenny Strawn

    Well, the video performance and stabilization boosts, in terms of who's making the Nexus 6, sure throw HTC, whose 4MP cameras in the One and One M8 are physically incapable of recording the 4K video that the 13MP and 16MP cameras from LG and Samsung are (and thus incapable of taking advantage of the camera performance and stabilization improvements), right out the window...

  • Ivan

    Does this mean that we will finally be able to set focus and exposure points separete from each other?

  • kuttor

    Will this new Camera2 API be used through all Android phones (when Android L drops)? Or, is this advancement only going to be for Nexus... I would hate it if it was only for Nexus.

  • ProtoKun7

    Its* maximum of 8 megapixels.

  • Blucose

    When Instagram released their hyperlapse app in iOS they said they couldn't bring it to android because of some APIs. Obviously it's hard to know, but do you think this will enable them to now?

  • iJutsu .

    OMG it's almost 2015 already! lollipop in on! fix the freakin camera!!!! focus still takes forever, in video-mode i a nightmare, and no burst mode! WTF google? Nexus 5 got all the metal inside to allow this things to work flawlessly! I dunwanna go ack to iphone.. -.-