When it comes to smartphone photography, even the most casual observer will have noticed a recurring theme: software really matters. The established leader in this area is the Google Camera app designed for Pixel phones.
Thanks to Android’s modding community, Google Camera is now much more widely available. Ready to take advantage of all the capabilities of your camera, the app brings the most advanced image processing technologies to your phone.
Here’s how to install the Google Camera on your phone.
What is the Google Camera?
Straight out of Google’s cutting edge research and development division, Google Camera is a camera app that first emerged in 2014 with the launch of Google’s first Pixel phone. While they don’t have the most advanced camera hardware you’d see in other flagship smartphones, Pixel devices are known to produce some of the best mobile photos.
This demonstrates the need for software to exploit every bit of a phone’s camera. By supplanting your camera’s built-in app, Google Camera lets you take advantage of many advanced features, significantly improving the quality of your phone’s image output.
Otherwise, known as Google Camera Mod or GCam, the app will make your smartphone’s camera work like never before.
What makes GCam so good?
Are Google Camera’s features advanced enough to replace your standard camera app? Absolutely! Not only will you see an improvement in image quality, but you will also expand the range of options for taking and manipulating images.
The following features make the Google Camera so great to have:
- Slow motion: Record videos at 120 or 240 frames per second (fps), depending on the capacity of your phone. An ideal solution for creating videos showing the details of the movement, filling them with the potential to go viral.
- Animated photos: By combining the motion of a three-second video with the phone’s Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and gyroscope, you can create blur-free video snapshots.
- Lens blur: Primarily designed for portraits, this feature blurs the background, emphasizing and enhancing the front and center of the object.
- HDR +: By intelligently using short exposure times when shooting burst photos, HDR + reduces blur, image noise, and increases dynamic range. Indeed, from a set of photos, the application takes the sharpest image, improves it algorithmically by processing each pixel and chooses the color that corresponds to the average of the set of photos. Among many benefits, HDR + improves photos the most in low light conditions.
- Smart burst: Once the Google Camera is installed, your phone will be able to take about ten photos per second by keeping the shutter button pressed. By releasing the button, the application will automatically choose the best photo of the set. This is a great feature to have when you want to eliminate photos of people with their eyes closed!
- Video stabilization: Using both OIS and digital video stabilization, the app processes video clips to remove shutter distortion artifacts and corrects focus. As a result, you can create pleasantly smooth videos that won’t annoy people when you share them on social media.
- Panorama: Most cameras have a panoramic feature, but GCam is better than most. Additionally, the Google Camera is not limited by degrees or angles. With it, you can take panoramic photos vertically, horizontally and wide angle over the entire 360 degree range.
Some phones already have some of these features, but Google Camera delivers unmatched results in almost every area. It even improves basic shots, thanks to its HDR and low-light performance.
Comparison of Google Camera to Stock Camera
With Google Camera features out of the way, let’s see how they translate into practice, compared to your built-in camera app.
You get better exposure, more detail, and sharper photos. The effort to replace your default camera app with Google Camera is well worth it. Fortunately, this effort is not too demanding.
How to install the Google Camera
For a smooth transition from the default camera app to Google Camera, it all depends on the compatibility of your phone.
What are the prerequisites?
XDA developers port hub the list will continue to update, so all is not lost if you don’t see your Android phone in the list. However, to make sure your phone is even a possible candidate to install Google Camera, it needs to support the Camera2 API.
The Camera2 API allows developers to access your phone’s camera capabilities to exercise even the slightest control over its lens, still image flash, shutter speed, autofocus, captures RAW, HDR +, OIS and camera sensor.
Although the Camera2 API started with Android 5.0 Lollipop, Android 7.1.1 and later are much more likely to be compatible. To make sure your phone has it, just install the free software API Camera2 Probe App from the Google Play Store.
The application is as simple as it gets. Once you’ve opened it, the first screen you’ll see is your phone’s compatibility list for Camera2API:
The Hardware Support Level section is the most important bit. It will include compatibility for both your rear and front cameras. Here’s what the four levels mean:
- HERITAGE: Support only Camera1 API, which means if this is the only green check mark, you cannot enjoy Google Camera on your phone.
- LIMIT: Support for a narrow range of Camera2 API capabilities.
- FULL: Support for all important capabilities of the Camera2 API.
- LEVEL 3: Additional support for YUV reprocessing, RAW image capture, and additional output stream options.
With higher levels, you are ready for the installation process if your Camera2 API is enabled.
If not, you will need to root your phone and modify the build.prop file with BuildProp Editor. It’s much more advanced, however, and beyond the scope of this guide.
The installation process itself
Once the compatibility issues have been sorted out, the first step is to go to the Google Camera Port Hub and check if the GCam port is available for your device. Of the dozens of supported models, all of them are neatly listed by the manufacturer in alphabetical order, from Asus to Xiaomi.
To make it easier to find, do the following:
Tap the three-dot icon menu in the upper right corner of your web browser.
Select the Search in the page option.
Type in the model of your Android phone. As you type it, the available results will be highlighted.
The alternative to the Google Camera Port hub above is this a GCam Hub alternative. With both hubs, you’ll be presented with a list of APK files to download to your phone. When you tap on the APK download file, you will see a warning screen and need to confirm.
Of course, we know what such a file is for, so we want to press Okay. Then go to Settings> Security and allow applications to be installed from Unknown sources.
Finally, select the APK file you downloaded with a good file manager and select the APK file for installation to continue.
You should now be set up and ready to start exploring the wonders of GCam.
Consider tapping into Google Camera Source
GCam is an easy way to get the most out of your existing smartphone camera. If you are not happy with the photos you get, it is worth investigating.
If your Android phone is not yet supported or is too old to be supported due to the Camera2 API requirement, you may want to consider upgrading to a Pixel the next time you upgrade your phone. In such a scenario, you would enjoy maximum hardware and software compatibility, with all the cutting edge features that the internet giant is capable of providing.
Or in the meantime, there are plenty of other great Android camera apps you can try.
Here are the best camera apps for Android and iPhone that will bring out the best in your smartphone photos.
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