Your complete guide to the Android camera

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Switch between the Camera and Gallery apps

Before we move from discussing what you can do with Android 4.2's Camera app to what you can do in the Gallery, I'd like to take a moment to discuss how you switch between these two photo-oriented apps.

If you're inside the Camera, simply swipe right to left to enter the Gallery app. You'll find yourself in the Camera section, which is devoted to photos you've taken, and you'll be viewing them in Filmstrip view.

The Filmstrip view of the Gallery app.

While you're there, you can return to the Camera app by swiping from left to right—provided that you're viewing the most recent picture you've taken. (If you're not viewing the most recent photo, keep swiping in that direction and you'll eventually get back to the Camera.)

The Gallery app in Grid view.

Otherwise, you can switch to Grid view by tapping the words Filmstrip view in the upper-left corner of the screen, and selecting Grid view. Once in Grid view, you can tap the camera icon near the upper-right corner to return to the Camera app.

The Gallery app

I've already told you how to switch between the two thumbnail views, Filmstrip and Grid. You can probably figure out that tapping a photo will bring it up full screen. And I assume you know the two-finger gesture for zooming in to examine a photo's detail.

So let's move on to some less-obvious features.

View and edit photos

You can access the editing menu either via the drop-down options or through the icon at the lower-left corner of the screen.

Say you're viewing a single picture, and you want to alter it. You have two ways to enter Edit mode: Tap the icon showing three overlapping circles in the lower-left corner of the screen, or tap the menu icon (three vertical dots) in the upper-left corner, and select Edit.

The Edit environment contains four workspaces.

You can apply filters to your photos to make them look vintage.

The first workspace uses the same triple-circle icon as Edit itself. Here you can try ten different filters on your photo, altering or removing color. Options include Vintage, Bleach, Punch, and B/W—although I don't know why Google chose the name "Latte" for what is obviously sepia tone.

You have only seven frames to choose from.

The second workspace provides seven frames. You can put any one of them around your photo.

The third set of photo-editing options includes the ability to crop your images.

The third set of editing options identifies itself with the standard crop icon. That's a little confusing, since cropping is only one of its four tools.

  • Straighten allows you to rotate the image in 1-degree increments, adjusting it if the angle is just a bit off.
  • Crop does what you'd expect, but it's initially confusing to use. No matter how you drag the corners and sides of the image, the aspect ratio doesn't change. In other words, you can make the picture smaller, but you can't change its shape. To fix the problem, tap the Original box in the lower-left corner to bring up a menu of aspect-ratio options. Select None, and you can make the picture any shape you like.
  • Rotate behaves almost exactly as Crop does, except that it limits you to 90-degree increments. In other words, it's just like every other rotating feature in existence.
  • Mirror lets you invert the image left to right or top to bottom. Swipe the image to flip it over.

The final set of editing tools, at first glance, looks much like the filters in the first workspace. But the eleven offerings here aren't just on-or-off filters; they're adjustable tools in their own right, most with their own slider bars.

The remaining tools offer advanced editing options.

Here you can adjust the exposure and contrast. The Shadows adjustment, for example, allows you to set exposure only for the darker parts of the picture. Vignette can fade or wash out the sides of the image while leaving the center whole.

The most powerful adjustment, curves, provides a full histogram. By adjusting the curved line—which can control general brightness or one primary color—you can change the image in detailed ways.

Save or undo your work

If you change your mind while you're working, you can always go back. Tapping the menu icon in the upper-right corner while in Edit mode will bring up a menu with Undo, Redo, Reset, and History options. The last option allows you to select different points among the changes you have made.

When you tap Save in the upper-left corner, Gallery will save the image as another file. You don't lose the original image.

Handle videos and panoramas

You can't alter videos the way you can still photos, but you can trim them, cutting off pieces at the beginning or the end.

Don't mistake this tool for a real video editor. You can't trim from the middle, or splice different shots together.

You'll probably want to use another app if you wish to do more robust video editing.

At least what you can do is easy. Once you tap Trim on the menu, all you need to do is adjust the sliders to trim out the parts you don't want, and save your work. Again, the app saves the trimmed version as a separate file.

The Camera app saves a panorama as a standard .jpg file, and the Gallery app doesn't recognize it as something special. Anything you can do with a standard photo you can also do with a panorama.

What can you do with spheres?

The Camera app also saves spheres as .jpg files, so you can view them anywhere. Viewed through any kind of conventional viewer, however, they seem pretty weird. Our brains can't relate to a 360-degree view, presented flat.

But in this case, the Gallery app knows that spheres are something special, and handles them appropriately. When viewing a Photo Sphere in the Gallery, you'll notice a Sphere logo at the bottom center. Tap it, and you get a closer view of a piece of the whole. You can scroll in any direction that you photographed.

Any 360 degree Photo Sphere can become a tiny planet.

And you can turn a 360-degree sphere into a world of its own. Tap the small icon in the lower-right corner, and you get to create a "tiny planet" out of your image. This fanciful feature bends the landscape you captured into a planet of a size fit for the Little Prince, and then saves that result as another .jpg file.

You can edit both spheres and tiny planets with all of the tools available for standard photos. They are, after all, .jpg files.

Share your world (tiny and otherwise)

Once you're happy with your pictures, panoramas, videos, spheres, and tiny planets, you may want to share them with other people.

To share the image or video you're viewing in the Gallery, tap the sharing icon near the top-right corner. The resulting menu will have a disappointingly small selection of options.

Fortunately, one of those options will be 'See all'. That one will list every app you have that's capable of sharing an image or video with the outside world. As an added convenience, the last app you used for sharing purposes gets its own icon between the sharing and menu ones.

If you're in the Camera app and want to share the photo you just took, swipe right to left to enter the Gallery app. The photo, and the Share icon, will be available.

I can't promise that you'll get great photos with an Android 4.2 device. Size and weight limitations, as well as price issues, make it impossible to put really good optics into phones or tablets. Lenses, unfortunately, don't follow Moore's Law.

Besides, I don't know if you have the talent. Or, for that matter, the cats.

This story, "Your complete guide to the Android camera" was originally published by TechHive.

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