Coinciding with the release of Android 4.3 and and an updated stock camera, stage one of the CyanogenMod team’s top secret “Project Nemesis” was finally unveiled on July 26. According to the development group’s weekly wrap-up on www.cyanogenmod.org, the goal of this project is to bring users the best custom operating experience possible. As such, Focal, a feature-packed camera application, was announced as the first component geared towards reaching that goal. CyanogenMod developer Guillaume Lesniak (XDA Recognized Developer XpLoDWilD) posted details about the new camera on Google +, explaining almost a dozen new and improved features that were integrated into the Open Source app.
Included in the announcement was a video showing Focal in action. It’s no doubt that you have all heard the expression, “being in the right place at the right time.” CyanogenMod has expanded on that by claiming Focal will provide you with “the right pixel, look, path, spark, and feeling at the right time.” There are two key components at work within the UI that help backup that claim: a side bar and personable widgets within the sidebar. With a simple swipe, widgets can be reordered and hidden depending on your preference. When the screen is rotated, all widgets and the sidebar stay in place to avoid cluttered distractions while trying to take a picture. “It just feels natural,” said Lesniak. Doubling tapping on the viewfinder will turn it into a Quick Capture mode that allows you to take pics no matter where you tap on the screen. By use of a “rule of thirds” grid that helps frame your shots, you can achieve a more professional looking photo with Focal.
Those who have a tendency to take “selfies” will love the timer and burst mode features, which are sorely lacking in the stock camera. Not only does the timer allow you to set up a delay after pressing the shutter button, but it also has a built-in voice trigger that snaps your mug as soon as you say, “cheese,” “cid,” or “whiskey.” The burst mode takes a series of shots in increments of 5, 10, 15, or more without the need to press the shutter button multiple times.
Light metering is a major component to getting the proper exposure of your subject. With the addition of a meter ring alongside the standard focus ring, your subjects will be less likely to turn out too bright or too dark. Depending on your device, different metering modes are available including frame average, spot metering, and weighted point.
A swipe-enabled review drawer has been implemented for quick reference to your recent photos. Wherever you are in the app, swiping down in portrait mode of left in landscape will allow for easy access to your pics. When shooting in burst mode, a mini review drawer is available in real time. You can also take a picture while the drawer is open and it will slowly fade out of view. Like stock, swiping gestures also allow you to instantly delete unwanted photos; and tapping on a photo will automatically open it up in gallery.
The ability to take video snapshots while recording is now available to all devices by simply double-tapping the screen or pressing the volume up key. By using the volume down key or tapping the screen, Focal also allows you to refocus your video. Different effects can be added/changed while shooting by keeping the corresponding widget open while recording.
Google’s new “auto-awesome” feature has been extended to Focal by adding an automatic picture enhancement system. Within five seconds of taking a picture, Focal will automatically enhance all new pictures you take. Panorama mode has also been enhanced so your pictures come out better than ever! Rather than the previous 160 degree panoramic, the new app allows you up to 360 degrees of landscape.
The CM team has also created a better software HDR algorithm that according to Lesniak, first matches the shots before blending them together and then applies them as a real tone-mapping. “It takes a little bit more time to process than our previous implementation, so you might not want to use it on all your pictures, but it’s definitely worth it on your special occasions,” he said.
One of the great new features added to the Android 4.2 stock camera was Photo Sphere. Unfortunately, not every device is compatible with it, and those who really wanted to use it had to exchange all CM enhancements in order to use it. With Focal, a similar feature called PicSphere has been introduced. PicSphere is an opensource replacement for Google’s PhotoSphere, and allows for complete 360 degree panoramas.
While Focal is not available quite yet, the team promises to publish the source along with its official repositories as soon as the last few bugs are worked out. Once the source has been released, you can expect to find it in subsequent CM nightlies. The source code is split into two different repositities: android_packages_apps_Focal and android_external_Focal. As an open source app written under version two of the General Public Licence, the android community is being strongly encourage to contribute to the success of Focal by adding new widgets and settings. Lesniak said that this is to “achieve the final goal of the app” which is to “have a complete camera software, opensource, that is both powerful and compatible with every device.”
As this is only the first phase of the Nemesis project, Steve Kondik said in a Google + post that there will be much more to follow. “My goal for CM has always been to break open these mostly proprietary mobile devices so we can turn them into the product we really want…What’s most important to me is that anyone can get the code, hack on it and change whatever you want, build it, and flash it to your device.” he said. “Nemesis is our plan to improve the user experience in the right places. The new camera app, Focal, is just the start. Without giving too much away, invoking teaser videos, or giving ETAs, I can confidently say that awesome things are going to keep coming.”_________