Photography has always been a big talking point surrounding Windows Phones, specifically Nokia devices. Comparing specs like megapixel and sensor size has been common, but speed has always been the Achilles heel of the high resolution photography. At CES this week Microsoft was present giving writers a look at the new camera app coming to some Lumia devices. The app requires the Denim firmware and will be first available on phones packing the Snapdragon 800 chipset. The new and improved camera app focuses on speed, quality, and features, but still has some catching up to do.
The Lumia 1020 was made famous by having a 41MP camera, but the flip side to such high resolution photos was a painfully slow capture speed. Taking a photo at 41MP could take a couple seconds when going from pocket to picture. This problem is worst on the 1020, but other Lumia phones have a similar lag when it comes to taking photos. Better chips like those found in the 930 have helped, but more needs to be done, and that is where this new camera app comes in.
The new camera app, demonstrated on a Lumia 930 (Icon), sees considerable speed improvements. Pocket to picture times have been greatly reduced which makes taking photos less of a hassle especially if the subject is active. HDR has also been added and promises to bring a more evenly exposed final photo. In example photos the HDR seemed more like a simple vibrant boost, but there wasn’t a lot of range in brightness in the scene either. HDR works by merging an under exposed, over exposed, and normally exposed photo into a photo which has brighter shadows and less washed out spots.
Shot to shot speed is also an issue plaguing most high end Windows Phones today, and Microsoft has a different solution than just having the phone taking shots faster. With the new camera app users can hold the shutter button to begin taking 4k video, then after the video is taken users can scrub through the video and extract 8MP images. This is good for action shots or situations when a medium res photo is good enough and timing is more important.
Using a flash on smartphone photography has always been a tricky question. Lumia phones with OIS and high megapixel sensors have been able to take great low light photos, but sometimes a flash is still needed. For this Microsoft has the dynamic flash feature which takes two photos, one with and one without the flash, and merges them into a well exposed photo. As is the same with the HDR feature, dynamic flash can be customized with sliders to achieve the best looking photo.
Overall it would seem Microsoft is improving their photography experience on Lumia devices, however they are not moving at a pace which most Windows Phone users are satisfied with. Microsoft also seems to be missing the point of mobile photograph, which is quickly take a good photo. Messing with settings, waiting for the app to load, delays between shots, and post processing requirements ruin taking a decent photo quickly. While iPhones don’t have the best specs they are the best when it comes to taking a photo without needing to make adjustments and tweak setting for a good photo. Microsoft needs to focus on making the default shot great and fast.