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.