Camera Operation

The camera app layout is clear and concise with virtual shutter and video switch on the right, flash, front camera and settings buttons on the left.

The Fire Phone is currently the only smartphone to use Amazon's Fire OS operating system that we previously have only seen on the Kindle Fire tablets. It is basically a customized version of Google's Android OS but the user interface is quite a bit different and you don't get the usual Google services, such as Gmail, Google Maps or Calendar which have been replaced with Amazon app equivalents. Whether or not the OS is for you depends largely on personal taste and what proportion of your digital content you buy at Amazon. Image capture, editing and shooting however is pretty much the same as it would be on a standard Android device.

On the Fire Phone you cannot place a camera shortcut on the lock but a quick press of the shutter button will open the camera app (don't press too long as that will open Firefly app instead). You can also open the camera app by tapping on the icon in the app carousel or in the app grid on the home screen. For quicker access you can pin the camera icon to the front position of the carousel and/or the top of the app grid. 

Once in the camera app you'll find the user interface to be extremely simple. There are no customization options whatsoever and very few options and settings in general. That's bad news for those who prefer a degree of control over the way they capture their smartphone images but also means you can entirely focus on the subject and framing and novice users don't have to worry about camera options they don't fully understand.

A tap on the settings icon opens this screen and the very limited options you get in the default camera app.

A tap on the virtual shutter button or a press of the volume rocker or camera button captures an image. Long-pressing will capture a burst of images. However, this does not work with the camera button as unfortunately this will launch the Firefly feature, even when you are in the camera app. 

By default the camera will set focus and exposure to the center of the frame. However, you can tap on the screen to focus on a specific area and press and hold to lock both focus and exposure. Face detection is always on and will optimize focus and exposure for a detected face if there is no manual user interference. As usual you can zoom using the pinch gesture.

Apart from the shutter button on the camera app's main screen you'll find icons for switching to the front camera, controlling the flash and switching to video mode. A tap on the settings icon on the bottom left of the camera screen will open up only four additional options. In the settings screen you can turn on HDR mode. You have to do this manually but the app suggests when the mode should be used based on the scene. Here you can also turn on image review and access the panorama and lenticular modes which we will have a closer look at in the features section of this review

There is nothing wrong with a simple camera app but for our taste Amazon has taken the simplicity a touch too far. You cannot even change the image size and aspect ratio or switch off the annoyingly loud shutter sound which can easily become a problem in quiet environments. The default app does a decent job for point-and-shoot users, everyone else will probably be looking for a third party alternative in the App Store before too long.