The Rise of the Android Camera?

The Rise of the Android Camera?

Can the smartphone camera leverage the capabilities of the rapidly developing, open source and hugely capable Android operating system to displace traditional firmware? Will this finally integrate camera and computational platform? One manufacturer thinks it might have the answer.

We've seen it before with the Samsung Galaxy Camera NX, a device that eschews traditional manufacturer firmware and opts instead for a smartphone operating system to run the camera. This is something I've called for recently, not because of the communications or games playing capabilities of a smartphone, but rather because they make excellent platforms for computational photography. This will enable photographers to realize photographic creations that would be difficult or impossible to create otherwise and Google is at the bleeding edge of this revolution with its Pixel 3 phone.

Against this backdrop, it's exciting to see another manufacturer revisit the Android camera, this time in the form of the Yongnuo YN450. Currently, just beyond the vaporware stage (there is a least a product shot, assuming it's a physical reality), Yongnuo have a competition on their Facebook page to name the new camera. This closes in January so it's possible that the camera would be announced at CES 2019. Photorumors outline the currently advertised specs which include Android 7.1, 5" 1080p screen, 3G 8MP front selfie camera, and support for Canon EF lenses amongst others. Using the EF mount allows support for a wide number of lenses making it immediately usable, but there is no mention of the sensor inside which will be a key consideration for many.

Are Android cameras the future? Would you buy one and, if so, how much would you pay? $500, $1000, or $2000? Of course, the big question is how long will it be before someone makes a call with their Android camera, holding it up to their ear!

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18 Comments

John Horwitz's picture

hmmm...telephoto lenses for long distance calls?

What is the point of purchasing a $1000 - $2000 phone to do photography? then buy the same lenses one would for a dedicated camera... Phones are becoming such an everything hype just to justify growing prices. I don't need a $500 Swiss knife same with phones, they are becoming something else than what I use them for.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

A device that runs with Android is not necessarily a phone and it doesn't talk about that either.

It talks about a camera that uses Android to do in camera processing.

Of course then if you add some small pieces it could also make calls.

I mean yes, it could possibly be a good idea, I'm just concerned how far stretched this can go.

Mike Smith's picture

Take a read of my earlier article (https://fstoppers.com/originals/future-smartphone-photography-bright-297527) - Im keen to see an Android phone that does photo processing as good as google in realtime but with a decent camera!

This would be beyond amazing, this could easily become another 3d printing movement with all that armchair coders out there to work on constant refinements, much better than a few people making decisions for others.

Mike Smith's picture

I really hope so! I dont think Nikon/Canon would voluntarily go down this route, but Google's success with its Pixel smartphones is something they increasingly cant ignore.

Ken Savage's picture

Can anyone speak to extra processing, OLEDs, etc adding noise and work arounds?

"This is something I've called for recently, not because of the communications or games playing capabilities of a smartphone, but rather because they make excellent platforms for computational photography. This will enable photographers to realize photographic creations that would be difficult or impossible to create otherwise and Google is at the bleeding edge of this revolution with its Pixel 3 phone."

You don’t need Android for that. You need the very powerful processors in phones and the right instructions (software) to do that. Android doesn’t inherently have any computational photographic ability.

The camera manufacturers are capable of introducing such things but they fear cannibalization and the turning upside down of their existing product lines. At best they are like the deer staring at the headlights trying to figure out what to do. At worst they have made up their mines to continue with the old ways, like Kodak.

Ben Bezuidenhout's picture

Having your favourite camera, say a Sony A7 III running on Android would enable you to make use of 3rd party apps. I love the idea. Imagine 3rd party app developers concentrating on evolving your experience on your favourite camera. Adding that extra that you may need. Not hoping for software updates from the manufacturer.

Being able to quickly edit and share may also be viable to me. Imagine using Lightroom on it, run your chosen preset, do levelling and white balance. Share to your blog or social media.

Mike Smith's picture

Thats also my the vision! It will take some pressure from smartphone manufacturers to cause this shift I think...

Amp Lighter's picture

Just wanted to add, if in fact this "smartcam" is going to be based on the android opsys, then I would suggest that anyone brave enough to purchase it, would alter their way of thinking and get rid of the "standard" photo software included in the smart camera. For more information: https://opencamera.sourceforge.io as this would be the better choice for software/app for this smartcam.

Spy Black's picture

Although the form factor will probably evolve, cameras with SIMs are inevitable. I believe it will be the only way they will survive the onslaught of cellphone cameras.

Mike Smith's picture

and i really think itvwill be a better product as well. camera manufacturers need to evolve