Last year, at least two major camera manufacturers decided to integrate digital cameras and Google’s Android operating system to create a smart camera, a new device that could send photos online without needing to plug it into computers.
More camera manufacturers are expected to jump on the Android OS bandwagon this year, and while we don’t quite know who will be releasing, given the success of the Samsung Galaxy Camera last year, it’s pretty much a given.
If you already have one of these, you probably already know about the instant Instagraming and fast Facebooking on offer, but how can you make an Android camera even better?
When it come to cameras, two batteries are definitely better than one. While that’s true of any camera, it’s doubley true of the Android breed of camera.
Android seems to be a little more intensive to batteries than a regular camera, probably due to the higher resolution touchscreens and advanced connections, such as 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth built in.
On our trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, our Galaxy Camera pack consisted of two batteries, and from how often we were using it (for live-blogging the whole thing), the batteries would last around four or five hours. Since then, we’ve seen that the more things you do on an Android camera, the worse the battery takes a hit.
Thankfully, batteries aren’t too expensive for cameras anymore, and a quick search on Google found batteries for both Nikon and Samsung models costing at max $40, with some as low as $15.
While regular cameras need to be backed up at a computer, Smart Cameras can be backed up over wireless networking and 3G.
With a simple link to Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, or any number of other cloud storage solutions, images and videos can be quickly backed up to a place online, so you don’t have to wait until you’re home to put those photos in a safe place.
Post-process to go
If you don’t need to bring as many computers with you, that’s probably a good thing. We’ve tried taking the Samsung Galaxy Camera out on trips without an iPad, tablet, or laptop computer, and have found the few Android options out there for easy photo edits actually make it worthwhile.
Google’s Snapseed is one such app, providing a free tool for cropping, rotating, colour conversions, and more options for the retro film look than Instagram can manage.
Depending on the camera you’re using, Snapseed may not load in the whole size, with the limitations set to just under three megapixel at the time of publishing. Snapseed will reduce the size for you, sure, but be aware that the image you process from Snapseed may not necessarily be your entire thing.
Lithic is another neat app capable of processing your photos in a very different way.
If you’re a fan of comics or the stylisation in the movie “Sin City,” this app processes your photos to look like they’re stuck inside the comic universe. It’s not the same type of processing that Snapseed offers, but it’s a very fun app altogether.
Photo Editor is another freebie offering curves adjustments and some filters, but then there’s always the classic: Photoshop Express.
Adobe has yet to bring the ever useful tablet friendly Photoshop Touch to smartphone devices, but this app offers you the basics – cropping, brightness, contrast – and a few filters, too.
On the fly blogging
Going on holiday soon? We’re envious, but we’re also eager to see your adventures, and if you want to show the world what you’re doing, blogging is something you might want to consider doing.
Consider creating an account at WordPress.com and starting up your own travel diaries, social blog, or just a placeto post what you’re doing, because once it’s created, you can show the world your eyes through an Android camera.
Tumblr is another option capable of pulling this off, and with the Tumblr app able to create a new account or login to a premade one, and quickly upload photos to the system.
Get a grip
Accessories can help make any camera, but there don’t seem to be many specifically for these all-in-one Android superstars, so consider grabbing the basics: a tiny tripod and a decent strap.
If you have a Sony Move or Wii-mote that’s not doing anything, take the strap off one of those controllers and throw it on here. Even if you’re comfy with the strap on your Android camera, we’ve found these types – with a clip that holds it in place on your wrist – seems to do a better job than the average flimsy fabric cord you get with a compact camera.
Likewise, a small tripod can make the difference between whether you take a shot or you don’t. Consider something like a tiny GorillaPod or even a well-built Manfrotto tabletop, and just make sure you have something with you, because if you need to take a shot at night without flash, you’re going to want it.
So ‘appy, oh so ‘appy
With the power of Android behind you, there’s more than just the basic camera functionality on offer from what the manufacturer provided. You have all those apps that can normally run on Android to choose from!
But it’s worth pointing out that not every app has been optimised to work with Android cameras, thanks to the fact that the zoom is often programmed from the volume rocker on a phone, and so some apps don’t let you move in closer, but rather, think you’re changing the volume.
Hopefully, the app developers across all camera apps on the Google Play store fix this soon, but until they do, there are only but a handful we’ve tried that work (tested on the Samsung Galaxy Camera).
One of these is Paper Camera and was one of the first to work with the Galaxy Camera. Similar to the aforementioned Lithic, this app turns your photos into a work of art.
Unlike the heavy pen style of Lithic, though, Paper Camera turns to different styles of effects, and even seems to take better arty-filtered images than the option on offer from Samsung in our Galaxy.
Camera FV-5 is another app that works a treat, expanding on the viewfinder on offer from your Android camera and adding more touchscreen controls to, in essence, bring your compact closer to a user modifiable camera.
The zoom can be a little touchy in this app, but that should change with updates down the track.
Vignette is another app that offers some retro styling, working with the zoom and allowing you to get nice and close with your camera, while achieving high resolution photos that have the charm and feel of an Instagram image… without Instagram, of course.