Google’s Camera app: A quick run-through

April 16, 2014

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With the launch of Google’s Camera app, we thought it would be a good time to take a quick run-through of what you can expect with the newest camera app on the market. Straight from Google, we get a slew of functionality that comes across simply. That doesn’t make it perfect, though, as we found when running it through some very simple tasks.

We’ll start by noting we took the app for a spin on the HTC One and Moto X. Our Nexus 4 received the update as well, but that’s a Nexus device — we wanted to see how this worked on others. What we ended up with was a lot of success punctuated by an epic failure or two.

The app itself is simple enough — shutter on the right side or bottom of the screen depending on orientation, and settings slide out from the left. The settings are presented in round icons that don’t represent a traditional menu, but serve the same purpose. The interface is a clean, sleek presentation of a very basic (but potentially great) camera app.

Google Camera App Settings AC

With the app you get the camera functionality you’ve likely come to covet if you didn’t have a Nexus device. You can take panoramas (most devices can), and photospheres (this is a neat function). Users will also have a new feature in Lens Blur, which is a lot like UFocus for HTC’s camera. We’ll be pitting the two against each other tomorrow, so check back for that.

Each function is exactly what you think, and familiar if you’ve enjoyed Google’s stock app. For Nexus owners, it’s little more than the added Lens Blur function and a facelift. For others, it’s the promise of new features they otherwise didn’t have on their devices. Of note is a change in the panorama feature, which now acts more like the photosphere where you’re chasing dots around the screen instead of sweeping and hoping for the best.

Google Camera App Fail AC

One problem occurred when we tried the panorama feature on our HTC One (M8), which caused major issues. In attempting a panorama with the Google Camera app, it locked up and force closed. After that, it wouldn’t allow us to access the camera, either via the Google Camera app or the stock HTC One (M8) camera app. A reboot did the trick, but that’s a pretty significant issue. We were able to proceed without issue, so it was likely another app running that screwed the process up. Still, the inability to access the camera at all after the fact is a concern.

When using the photosphere and panorama mode, the dots you have to hover over tend to register quickly, almost bypassing a stop as we’ve grown used to. There were several instances where we didn’t even have to pause for the camera to snap a picture. That’s handy for making quick work of the process, but stitching was an issue. The photosphere stitching wasn’t too bad, but it’s a far cry from the scrolling panorama we’d been using before this. Photospheres were just bad.

Google Camera App 2 AC


Save for photospheres and panoramas, this is a very respectable app. Google may need to adjust the sensitivity of the stitching, or ask that we pause on the dots a touch longer. I’ve got no issue with pausing, but the app often skips past a dot and registers a pic when you get close, so we really aren’t given the chance. We toyed with the resolution in settings, but nothing seemed to help.

We can chalk this up to hardware more than the app itself. Google likely built their app with their devices in mind, which is fine. To be fair, all crash issues we had were with the HTC One (M8), so there could just be issues with that device right now — but it’s clearly nothing a software patch couldn’t fix. The Moto X gave fine results (no crashes), but there were still stitching issues with panoramas and photospheres. The same can be said for the Nexus 4. Google’s Camera app is a good one, but likely needs an upgrade to make it the killer app we know it can be.

Google Camera App Panorama Fail AC

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  • ShermCraig

    Obviously if you have 2 cameras installed (most have more without even knowing it with all the 3rd party photo apps available), they will likely conflict with one another. Probably 80% of the time. Singling out the M8 shows your continued bias.

    • no it doesn’t. the M8 was the only one that crashed when using the app, they have to point that out in a review!

  • Level380

    Looking at your photosphere example, you are not doing it correct. You have to pivot the PHONE around its own axis, not around you!

    • Markus87

      I find it doesn’t work very well indoors, but I’ll give it a shot! Outside I’ve had no problem.

  • Does it offer the option to choose if you want to save the pictures in the SD card or to internal storage or they just didn’t care and just put it on playstore

  • Markus87

    “The can’t connect to camera” bug has been around for a while. It seems to occur when an app that uses the camera (like snapchat) fails to close properly. This occurs occasionally on my Nexus, but a reboot seems to fix it. Another theory that I’ve seen is that it has to do with running your phone in ART instead of the default.

  • Justin Wommack

    I get a force close when trying to select HDR on my nexus 5. Anyone else getting this?

    • workaholic90

      I get the same thing on my n5, running beanstalk custom ROM though

  • Guest

    This app is worthless except for Lens Blur on phones that don’t come with that Mode (Galaxy S4, Note 3, Moto X, HTC One, LG G2, etc.) made even more of a PITA that you need Google Photos (i.e. Google+) enabled to adjust the Blur and whatnot. Hopefully Samsung can backport their Selective Focus to S4/Note 3 in the future. Nothing else about this app is worth installing it. Feature-thin would be an understatement.

  • Nertez

    Jesus STOP using Photosphere in tiny rooms and offices. You are journalist, stop acting like amateurs.