Tuesday, November 05, 2019

What I Learnt About Google Camera

This post is almost philosophical and has no happy ending to date.  But with that said, do read on

Restating Google Camera Domination
Last Friday I postulated that the biggest Smartphone differentiation these days tends to be the Camera and the quality of photography.

It is further recognised by almost everybody that Google Camera is the one to beat, or since the Source Code is available, the one to port!

In fact XDA Developers maintains a Porting Hub download page here so head there to see what might be available as an alternative and no doubt superior camera application for your smartphone.

The Latest, The Greatest
Version 6 is now widely ported as the above link indicated.  But the current version shipping with Google Pixel Cameras is unfortunately version 7.

In short order then here are some of the things that I learnt in trying to obtain something that works for my OnePlus 6T smartphone

- XDA Developers continues to be the place for you to start for downloads and forums devoted to your smartphone

- The 6T specific forum is here

- For some reason they can't publish the links to Google Camera 7 ports.  

- The gcam (Google Camera) posting is now 275 pages long!

- You have to join another messaging system called Telegram for Google Camera 7

- Telegram is a messaging app and you can install it on the Phone as well as the Desktop.  Desktop for viewing and Phone for clicking on download links

- Besides the .apk program file for gcam there is a xml file that you need to load, or perhaps select from a set, that turns on settings to give you a preferred set of features, Or perhaps disable stuff that's known buggy and not working, or features that would instantly cause the camera application to crash.

- Here are some telegram screenshots

Nobody told me what to subscribe to.  Is it some sort of secret!  So here my list for the Oneplus 6T.  Really!

At the top of this group is the Pinned message with Important Links.  Poster after poster ignores this and asks the most stupid questions.   Somebody with more patience than I keeps saying: Did you try reading the docs behind the Important Links.  The answer is /oh no, I didn't/  Don't let this be you too!

Here is this important links section.  Guess what there is a link to the latest v7 gcams.  Fancy that

And look, some nice person even packaged the code and the .xml config files into one package, so a simple install is all you need

- Shockingly from Telegram there is also Documentation

All about the Options

Most of you might think the following is boring.  But it is listed for a purpose.  And that is: wow, look at all these features, and can you imagine the complexity and work that has gone into this application.

Let's just contrast this for a minute with a DSLR which simply takes a photo.  All this software and innovation is trying to close the gap, by doing, well clever things.

And don't forget all the developers working on converting this code for the Pixel phones, for free, using their own time, to your non Google smartphone.

Here are the Developer Settings then

All About the Documentation

I resist the urge to similarly print out the scant but at least some documentation on what these parameters mean, you can download and read the above linked document yourself

So What Did I learn?

- That I had to join Telegram for this information.  Some things are too hush hush for  XDA Developers

- There is a small community of enthusiasts porting Google Camera.  For free.

- I'd like to get involved, with API 29 and all of that, but getting into Android porting seems like a task best learnt and not self taught, so next would be to enrol on a class perhaps?

- IRL I learnt that Google Camera is an incredibly complex application with quite literally hundreds of options

- IRL I also learnt that tweaking even just a few can have disastrous consequences especially in this early port phase

- If you want an easy life then for now use the gcam 6 port from the port hub

- Or for an easier life buy a Google Pixel 4 smartphone

- Or even, climb into the Apple Walled Garden with the iPhone 11  (Did I say that!)

XDA Developers Camera Port Hub