Looking forward to the impact the android-camera from Samsung may have...

Started Jun 21, 2013 | Discussions thread
Impulses Veteran Member • Posts: 6,347
Re: It's not that easy

I agree: it is not that easy. Also totally agree on the buttons. But: Allthough I am not a coder, I would think that using an operating system like android, might make it easier to develop an app to handle the camera. If I understand correctly, with android, handling the usual "camera-stuff" like aperture, shutter-time, function of the buttons etc, becomes an app. In the past there were some open-source projects to replace the manufacturers firmware (I think it is called "magic-lantern" - mostly for canikon). But these projects had the problem that they needed to reverse-engineer a lot of stuff. They had to de-code the original, find out how to adress the buttons and hardware components etc. They still might have to do this, but I suppose this might become easier, because of the operating-system which restricts and standardizes these aspects. Most importantly: There is money in it and the operating-system makes it less of a hassle to install third-party software to handle the camera. I would definitley pay 50 bucks for a good app for my OMD which improves menus or other aspects. Furthermore: I dont even need Olympus' algorythm anymore for jpg, because these days I tend to shoot raw. And: If it were android, there would be no harm to have another software on the camera, because if I would need apsects of the original, like art-filters or other fancy stuff, I could just switch the app.

Have you used Android or gotten involved in the development process of an app/ROM (even if as a bystander)? Just curious, no offense meant. Xda is a really good place to get immersed in that...

I'm a huge Android famboi, and I think the concept holds *some* promise, but I doubt it'll have meaningful impact for quite a few years unless Samsung or another manufacturer is exceedingly proactive and even self-sacrificial. Basic tweaking and adding non-core features like re-arranging button functions or adding a time lapse feature would be very trivial; former would have to be at the ROM level tho which would mean rooting or jailbreaking your camera tho, the latter could be done at the app level. Altering core imaging functionality within the existing camera app as it were would probably be all but impossible tho, regardless of how good of an API Samsung establishes (if they put one out at all, there's 0 incentive for them to do so). Doing things like adding focus peaking or altering the image processing are all but a pipe dream.

Right now it's not always easy to gain root access on modern Android devices outside of the Nexus line and obscure non-phone/tablet stuff (think of routing like gaining admin privileges over your PC, something everyone tends to have, and more empowering than an iPhone jailbreak). That's a fact, even when the OEM releases the source code, which contrary to popular belief doesn't include every line of code in the device.

In fact, source code releases often lag device launches by months, depending on how compliant the OEM is, and they're not required to include anything proprietary... It's more about giving access to the pre-existing parts of Android that are already freely available, as it were. Things like drivers for the newest phone camera/processor or audio output are usually never released. No OEM will ever grant you code-level access to their custom skin either, which means no one can significantly modify the custom camera interface on a phone, or even something as basic as the skinned Samsung calendar etc.

At best, most mods within custom Android ROMs (the firmware as it were) will get you some UI tweaks and performance improvements. The most comprehensive ROMs will eschew all custom manufacturer skins, apps, and mods to run a pure version of the OS based entirely on open source code (e.g. Cyanogen Mod); and that always comes at the cost of custom camera interfaces or any features added by the OEM on top of stock Android (pretty much any gimmick in a Samsung ad for instance). There's some very rare exceptions to this, like HTC opening up an API for devs to add skins and features to their custom UI or lock screen... But those efforts tend to be very limited in scope and gain very little traction with developers since no one wants to write something that's only gonna work within the limited framework of a couple of specific phones (and may stop working entirely on future ones if the manufacturer gets bored etc.).

Backwards engineering certain non-core features like Voodoo audio mods for phones with Wolfson DACs or adding USB OTG support and that kinda thing are other examples of this, but none of that is as simple as downloading an since even that kinda stuff tends to require root access and some technical know how to install/apply. It's often only possible after a driver leak or tons of effort too (which only the most popular devices garner).

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade nor bag on Android, I tried to keep the geek speak to a minimum too... Like I said, I'm a huge fan of Android. Closed approaches have their place I'm the market too tho... I owned an iPod touch (2nd gen) before I ever had an Android device, quickly realized it wasn't for me, but I don't look down on people using iOS devices or anything like that.

There's a lot of stuff that would be realistic and exiting at an app level on an Android camera, or thru a decent API, but I think most of it falls far short of what some are thinking... Personally I think there's very little that could really be added thru Android on such a device that couldn't be done on a regular camera and/or couldn't be done better on another device (e.g. your phone, tablet, or PC). I'd love to be proven wrong with someone with more imagination, but it's not gonna happen with a camera that fails to gain traction because it doesn't attract photography enthusiasts due to other issues (lack of buttons, large form factor, etc) and doesn't garner mass market appeal for a whole host of other reasons (price, lack of certain standards, etc.).

You have to understand that even if Samsung has the best of intentions about shaking up the photography status quo (and it could really use it), they still have to balance the needs and safety of the masses vs the enthusiast. If the device or camera is way too open and easy to mod it's also exceedingly easy to break it or completely hamper core functionality, which leads to more support calls, unhappy customers, etc. This is already a reality on phones and tablets and they're exceedingly locked down... You definitely can't touch an Android device while flashing a new ROM after having rooted it btw, it's not Windows Update. Android devices tend to behave more and more exactly like a computer, one you don't have a full admin account access to out of the box (but potentially one that's safer and more resilient for the average user).

Even if I'm wrong and reality turns out far more pleasant, be prepared for the dark side of a more PC-like experience. Software is never finished, purpose built devices like a camera or a DVR tend to go thru better QC and testing... When the device can be treated like a PC (or increasingly, a smartphone) the mantra soon becomes to ship it in a "good enough" state as far as bugs etc with the tenuous promise of future updates. I realize that happens to an extent already, but it's not nearly as common or prevalent as it is with something like phones... Even manufacturers like Apple who are supposedly all about the user experience aren't exempt from this (new Maps app/service anyone?).

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