Yesterday Nokia let loose the highly-anticipated Camera Extras add-on for their Lumia devices. Found in the Nokia Collection for U.S. and Chinese Lumia owners (releases to more regions scheduled for July), the app integrates directly into the camera app you know and love (or possibly hate). Let's clear one thing up right away though: Camera Extras does not improve your camera's overall performance (a firmware update for that will come later), but instead adds four unique new ways to take photos with your device. The new modes are Smart Group Shot, Action Shot, Panorama and Self Timer. To learn more about each new shooting mode continue reading, or check out our video overview above. (Download link after the break.)
Smart Group Shot
Easily the niftiest of all four of the new shooting modes, Smart Group Shot lets you reverse time to get a great smile on everyone's face. When you're in the mode, you press the camera button (or tap the screen) and a simple burst shot of five photos is taken. However, once you're done the app will use face detection on all of the people in your photo as well as aggregate all five shots to switch on the fly. From there you can tap on anyone's face, and then scroll through your five shots to pick the best face that you want to show up in the final photo. Once you're done, the new photo is finalized and saved to your Camera Roll.
Nokia has done a standout job to make Smart Group Shot work extremely wellThis is undoubtedly the one camera feature that will make your friends insanely jealous, but regardless of its wow factor Nokia has done a standout job to make Smart Group Shot work extremely well. The face detection never messed up in all of our trial shots, including with some intentional shaking of the phone during a shot. The downside to this mode is that we noticed each burst photo varied in brightness even though the lighting never changed, which is odd and can sometimes make one replaced fact darker/lighter than it should be. But that's the only issue we've had so far, and if you're in natural light we doubt this 'bug' would be a problem.
This may well be our favorite of the four in Camera Extras, because of its polish and speed. Action Shot is a mode in which you can take as many photos as you want in succession effortlessly by holding down on the camera button until you're done. Once you let go of the camera button, the app will produce an image viewer where it will present all of the shots you took and let you pick which one(s) you like the most. By default all of the photos you take are saved in the Camera Roll but if you only like one, you can pick the 'Keep One' option; or if you dislike just one, you can pick the 'Delete' option. Finally, if you hate all of them you can choose 'Delete All'.
This is perfect for parents who might want to get some cool photos of their kids' fast-moving basketball games, or even when you're hanging out with friends and want to make sure you catch an embarrassing moment. However, the software doesn't do much to suppress blurring anymore than the stock camera app so make sure you have a steady hand and a well-lit subject if you want the best action shots in this mode.
Photosynth, eat your heart out.Another new mode thrown into this extension is Panorama, which finally adds the much-requested wide shots every amateur photographer loves to use. It works in Camera Extras the same way it does everywhere else: you take a starting picture, then you follow the arrows until you stop over a certain point, take a picture, rinse and repeat until you're done. Granted, Nokia does a better job than most apps we've seen in the Marketplace since it makes use of some augmented reality to guide you through the shot.
I've never been much of a fan of panorama shooting modes, simply because it feels like you have to have the steadiest hand in the world to pull off even a decent looking one. However, with Camera Extra's Panorama mode they've done some magical behind the scenes sorcery to make sure there's no weird ghosting or shadows to mess up the resulting seamless shot. Photosynth, eat your heart out.
This feature is pretty self explanatory if you've any digital camera in the past decade, but we'll explain regardless. Self Timer adds the ability to let the camera take the shot on its own, based on an interval of time. In the case of Nokia's software, you're only given the option for 10-seconds whereas most point-and-shoot cameras will give you at least up to 30-seconds.
However, for most people 10-seconds should be enough and Nokia has done an amazing job polishing this one into a diamond. You're given a transparent overlay with a circular timer, as well as accompanying music that increases in speed as the camera gets ready to take the shot. In our tests of the feature, the Self Timer would refocus about 2 seconds before the shot is taken so in case your portrait includes some squirmers you should be able to get everyone settled without ruining the final photo.
It's safe to say Nokia's Camera Extras is a must-have app for any Lumia device owner. The software adds a lot of new functionality that matches -- and in some cases may even surpass -- the same camera features found in multicore Android devices right now. Each mode is polished to a tee, and actually has a genuine use too without seeming gimmicky. If Nokia can accomplish all of this on a single-core processor and a simple application, we're unreasonably excited to see what the company's future phones and software will accomplish in imaging.
To download Camera Extras for free from the Marketplace, click on the tile or link below. Or you can scan the QR code to your right with Bing Vision on your Windows Phone.
by Nokia Corporation