Getting the most out of my Pixel

Thanks for all your great work!

I know there are apps for my Android Pixel phone that proport to give my camera the power of a DSLR. My question is…is that just horsefeathers?

If there is some truth behind it, do you have a recommendation for a camera app?


From a personal point of view, I believe the power in smartphone cameras is in its computational processing of images taken with the device. As a result I tend to find I always get better results working with the default camera app and the limited controls of it; rather than a third-party camera app which provides control over options such as shutter speed or ISO.

In saying that, there maybe certain types of photography the default app can’t achieve where another app may help you get the result (slow shutter speed shots for smooth water or light painting effects comes to mind).

I’ll leave any app recommendations for your Pixel to others as it’s been a long time since I have played around with a third party Android camera app.


I agree. Google are famous for the processing they put into the photos, as opposed to the actual quality of the sensor and the glass. If you remove that, you will get poorer results. Some cameras have great sensors and lenses (Huawei, for example, with their cooperation with Zeiss) and those could benefit from software that generates, for example, RAW photos and allow the manual exposure etc. to be set.

But, at the end of the day, even the Huawei cameras aren’t a patch on a full sized sensor and a decent bit of glass - if you look at a DSLR (or new system camera), a good lens often cost more than a smartphone. And there is a reason why those lenses are so big and long.

The quality of the lenses on a smartphone are severely restricted by its form factor. For what they are, they are very good. But the lens on a $1,000 smartphone can’t compete with a $1,000 lens.

Given Google’s track record with their own photo app, I’d stick with that, unless you have specific experiments or scenarios that the post-shot algorithms struggle with.


I’m not sure about the Android side of things, but on iOS there are apps like Halide (photo) and Filmic Pro (video) that can give you much deeper control over every aspect of the camera. But then you typically lose the computational benefits of the native camera app, so you really need to master multiple apps to get the full range of capabilities from your smartphone. If you do, your phone can certainly do some amazing things. That said, in nearly every extreme shooting scenario (macro, zoom, sports, low light) there is just no beating a larger camera sensor and interchangeable lenses. But the tradeoff in terms of price and convenience can be significant.


Thank you, everyone! You gave me a clearheaded explanation. That’s exactly what I needed.


Lightroom Mobile is ok as a camera, but First Light is much better. It’s an app by the Filmic team. It’s not free. Sorry for just now seeing this.

Open Camera is a free, open-source option that gives full access to manual controls on Android phones that support the relevant features in the Camera2 API, including the Pixel series.

It doesn’t have the slickest UI, but it does have a lot of Real Camera features and good documentation.