The iPhone’s camera is keeps getting better, and Nokia has given its Windows Phones top-notch camera technology, but new clues in the Android codebase show that Google may be making a play for the pro photographer market.
According to a report by Ars Technica, the company is working on adding support for shooting RAW image files with the cameras inside Android phones. While the code didn’t make it into “KitKat,” the latest release of Android, it’s still floating around in Android’s Git repository.
RAW images provide a photographer with an uncompressed, raw version of the data from a digital camera’s image sensor, which means that the image in question has more detail and a wider range of colors compared to images that were compressed into JPEG form, which is what most smartphone cameras do now. Using programs like Lightroom and Aperture, it’s possible to perform edits to a degree that wouldn’t be possible with a compressed JPEG. Shooting RAW can also help deal with problems that might arise with bad compression algorithms, which would hurt an otherwise decent camera’s overall performance.
In addition, the changes also look like Google will be adding support for external cameras, like Sony’s new QX10 and QX100. By combining the image sensor in one of those with the ability to edit RAW images, it could be possible for Google to turn a Nexus 5 into something that resembles a prosumer-grade point-and-shoot camera like the Canon Powershot G16.
The major drawback to RAW files is that they are huge, and can easily take up huge swaths of space in the phone’s on-board memory. Android phones are well-suited to deal with that, though, since many of them feature expansion slots for Micro SD cards that would allow heavy photographers to easily store massive photo libraries off of the phone’s main memory.
At the moment, though, Microsoft has beaten Google to the punch. Both the Nokia 1520 and 1020 have the ability to shoot photos in RAW.