Transform an Android Device into an Open Source Camera

Transforming an Android device into an open source-based camera is actually easier than you might think. And while there are not very many Android open source photography apps out there, all the essential pieces are available on F-Droid and elsewhere.

Install CyanogenMod

There are several factors that make CyanogenMod a better alternative to the Android system installed on your device. Firstly, CyanogenMod is based on the Android Open Source Project, so it’s arguably more open than Google’s version of Android. Secondly, CyanogenMod is expressly designed to increase performance and reliability over Android distributions supplied by vendors and carriers. So it runs faster, consumes less resources, and it’s not loaded with useless third-party apps. More importatly, CyanogenMod comes with a rather capable image editor that offers a wide range of tools for processing photos.


Installing CyanogenMod normally involves some technical wizardry, but if you happen to have a device compatible with CyanogenMod Installer and you have access to a Windows machine, you can install CyanogenMod on your device in a few simple steps.

Install Open Camera

CyanogenMod comes with its own camera app, but it’s decidedly light on features. This makes it suitable for taking casual snapshots, but for more serious photographic work you need something like the Open Camera app. Despite its somewhat unpolished interface, Open Camera is a rather capable app suitable for Android shooters of all levels. Casual snappers will appreciate the ability to choose between different scene modes and the auto-stabilizing feature that makes it possible to take perfectly leveled photos every time. There is also face detection functionality that can come in useful for snapping portraits, and overlay grids provide assistance with composing shots.


Open Camera caters for more demanding photographers too, offering features like exposure lock and exposure compensation, manual white balance and ISO selection, etc. The burst mode is perfect for taking multiple photos in rapid succession or at predefined intervals. The app also supports geotagging, video recording, customizable interface, and much more. In short, Open Camera may lack some polish, but its functionality is top-notch.

Install CyanogenMod Gallery

CyanogenMod comes with its own Gallery app that features a versatile editor. But if you run a regular version of Android or use an older release of CyanogenMod, it’s a good idea to install the latest version of Cyanogen Gallery. The app is available on the Google Play Store, but it’s limited only to devices running CyanogenMod. However, the app will run on any device with Android 4.3 or higher, and uses the latest version from APKMirror to side-load the app.


Deploy a Photo Backup or Sync Solution

When it comes to backing up or syncing photos on your Android device to a remote host, you have several open source options at your disposal. For example, you can choose to deploy the Syncthing server on a Raspberry Pi and use the Syncthing client app on the Android device.


Instead of running a dedicated backup or sync server, you might want to use the Ghost Commander file browser with the SFTP or Samba plugins to manually upload photos from your Android device to a remote server that supports SSH, SFTP, or SMB protocols.

Install the A Foto Finder App

The default Android photo gallery is adequate for handling a few hundred photos, but if you have more than a thousand snapshots on your device, the A Foto Finder app can be indispensable for quickly finding individual photos and sets. Designed specifically for handling large collections, A Foto Finder provides several ways to quickly find desired photos. The folder picker allows you to view photos in a specific folder, while the powerful filtering feature makes it possible to find photos matching specific criteria like date and geographical coordinates. Speaking of geographical coordinates, A Foto Finder lets you view all geotagged photos on the OpenStreetMap-powered map. The app’s sorting functionality can come in handy for sorting photos by date, place, and name. And you can view individual photos and their EXIF metadata using the built-in viewer.

Install Scripting Layer for Android

Installing Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A) is not strictly necessary. But adding scripting capabilities allows you to put the Android device to some creative photography-related uses. For example, a simple Python script can turn the Android device into a tool for timelapse photography. Originally maintained by a Google developer, the SL4A project has been dormant for some time, but other developers stepped in to keep the project alive. To install SL4A and Python for Android that work with the latest versions of Android, grab the latest APK releases from and and install them on your Android device. To deploy a Python script, simply copy it to the sl4a/scripts directory on the Android device.

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The Gift of the Daguerreotype

The Gift of the Daguerreotype - The Atlantic

In 1829, a French artist and designer named Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre struck a partnership with fellow inventor Joseph-Nicephore Niépce to develop a method to permanently capture the fleeting images visible in a camera obscura. Niépce passed away suddenly in 1833, but Daguerre kept experimenting, finally achieving success around 1834.

Continue reading The Gift of the Daguerreotype.

Posted in Good Read, Photography

Focal Camera is an Open-Source Modular Analog Camera Building System

Focal Camera is an open-source modular analog camera building system | Photo Rumors

The Focal Camera is an open-source modular analog camera building system, free of charge and low in material-costs that allows anyone to build working cameras ranging from SLRs to stereo. Through a system of pre-designed modules, each housing a particular function, not only can complicated functions be understood, but also utilized and combined with each of the other 18 modules.

Continue reading Focal Camera is an open-source modular analog camera building system.

Posted in Hardware

This Homemade Instant Camera Uses Raspberry Pi and a Thermal Printer

This Homemade Instant Camera Uses Raspberry Pi and a Thermal Printer

Photographer Arvid Larsson recently made himself a portable instant camera that’s powered by a Raspberry Pi computer camera and thermal receipt printer.

Continue reading This Homemade Instant Camera Uses Raspberry Pi and a Thermal Printer.

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Posted in Photography

This is How Press Photos Were Transmitted Back in the 1970s

This is How Press Photos Were Transmitted Back in the 1970s

In our world of digital photography and high speed Internet, photojournalists can quickly and easily send large numbers of high-res photos to the other side of the globe. Things weren’t always so convenient.

Continue reading This is How Press Photos Were Transmitted Back in the 1970s.

Posted in Photography

11 of the Most Interesting Lenses in the History of Photography

11 of the Most Interesting Lenses in the History of Photography

For almost two centuries, the science and art of photography has allowed people to capture the world around them through carefully crafted lenses. However, not all lenses are created equal. While most lenses just aim to please, others aim to impress. Today, we are taking a look at some of the most exotic lenses we could find.

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Weekend Project: Shooting with Tamron Adaptall 2 SP 500mm f/8 Mirror Model 55BB

A few months ago, I bought a Tamron Adaptall 2 SP 500mm f/8 55BB mirror lens. Not that I needed it, but the price was so low that it would have been silly not to buy it. The lens came with a Nikon Adaptall adapter, so I tried it on my trusty Nikon D90 a couple of times. But since then, the lens has been sitting idly on a shelf.

Last weekend, though, the weather was (relatively) nice, there was some hectic bird activity in our garden, and I felt like doing something else than sitting in front of the computer all day long. So I’ve been monkeying around with the lens mounted on a SONY NEX-3N using an el cheapo FOTGA F-mount adapter.

This turned out to be an unwieldy yet surprisingly usable setup. Shooting with a rather hefty lens attached to a SONY NEX-3N proved to be a challenge. On the 1.5X crop sensor, the lens has a 750mm focal length, so focusing and keeping the camera stable, especially when shooting hand-held was far from an easy task. For better results, I switched to the Shutter Priority mode and cranked up the shutter speed to 1/800 sec.

Mirror (or catodioptric) lenses are more compact and much less expensive than proper tele lenses. There are also drawbacks: catodioptric lenses have a fixed aperture (f/8 in case of 55BB) and they produce unusual doughnut-shaped bokeh that can be distracting. Fixed f/8 aperture and long focal length mean that you need to shoot at high ISO in most situations. Fortunately, most modern cameras, including the lowly SONY NEX-3N, can handle high ISO rather well.

Mirror lenses rarely score high marks in optical quality tests (see, for example, a review by, but I found the results produced by the lens more than adequate. Sharpness is acceptable, there is no noticeable vignetting, distortion is negligible, and there is no color fringing to speak of. What’s not to like?

Tamron Adaptall 2 SP 500mm f/8 55BB is compatible with the SP 1.4X Tele-Converter which increases the focal length to 1050mm on a 1.5x crop sensor. I happen to have the tele-converter too, so it looks like I have another photography project for a sunny weekend.

Posted in Scribbles

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