On Android Cameras

Aug 30, 2012 | 3 minutes read

Tags: blog

I can’t help but feel camera manufacturers have stagnated over the past few years. It’s become a megapixel race, which is of no interest to any self respecting professional photographer. I can still produce magazine quality photos with my 8 year old Canon 20D from 2004 with it’s mere 8.2mp. In fact, besides HD video shooting, which came in 2008, what have camera manufacturers been doing?

Then I came across the Samsung Galaxy camera. Samsung have used Android JellyBean as the operating system of the camera, driving all menus and interactions. At first glance, it seems  like a great idea – combining a powerful touch interface with the ability to write apps specific to a camera.

Android seems a perfect fit for this idea – an API could be introduced to determine if the device is a camera, making camera-specific apps a possibility. Third party developers could undoubtedly develop incredible solutions:

  • WiFi syncing all the photos from a shoot as they’re taken – to the web, Dropbox, your PC, wherever!
  • Communicate with larger screened Android tablets for photo editing
  • Wirelessly communicate with smart TV’s
  • Social network photo apps are perfect out of the box – Facebook Camera, Instagram

But wait, what’s this? Is that a home screen I see? But of course! There’s the memos app, and there’s your contacts, and there’s the web browser.
It turns out, this is just another unfortunate example of Samsung getting it all wrong.

What Samsung have done is taken Android OS, and added in a custom camera app, leaving in all the other clutter. Tiny icons sit on a home screen full of apps that don’t belong on a camera. Typically I’m against manufacturers taking Android OS apart, and Samsung are infamous for doing so – but for a camera? Maybe a custom interface wouldn’t be such a bad idea!
I can’t help but think how Samsung have taken an exceptional concept, and let it down with such poor software.

This leads me to another thought – what if Apple were to build a camera? Not Apple’s 1994 QuickTake, no – a new camera, for the “post-PC era”. I can’t help but think they’d do a better job. Sure, it’d be iOS based, but I highly doubt we’d see an iPhone firmware directly ported to the back of a camera. No, it’d be custom – just like Apple TV’s, 100% fit for it’s purpose.
It’d ship with PhotoStream, iCloud and AirPlay all integrated. It’d be an exceptional device.

It’d also be really expensive – which is why I think it’s a pity Samsung didn’t get this right.