Focal: Open Source Camera App for Android

Serious Android photographers need a serious camera app that offers advanced functionality and is not overloaded with useless features. They need something like Focal. This open source app is still at an early stage of development, but it already shows a lot of promise, and it has the potential to become a viable alternative for Android photography enthusiasts.


Focal camera

Focal features a streamlined interface which makes it easy to take photos and operate the app. To change the focus point, tap on the desired area on the screen, then tap the Shutter button to take a photo. To switch between the supported shooting mode, tap and hold the Shutter button, then swipe up to activate the semi-circle with the available shooting modes. Slide the finger to the desired mode to enable it. Besides Panorama and Video, Focal supports the so-called PicSphere mode which is an open source implementation of Google’s popular Photo Sphere feature that allows you to snap multiple photos in every direction and then automatically stitch them into a single panorama image.

Focal allows you to quickly preview taken photos by swiping down from the top of the screen. This displays a thumbnail gallery which you can browse by swiping forward and backward. The gallery features two buttons that can be used to open the currently viewed photo in an external photo viewer or photo editing app.

To access Focal’s options, swipe from left to right starting at the edge of the screen to evoke the main toolbar. Each button on the toolbar opens a palette containing the available options. Most buttons here — such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, and Flash — should be familiar to most photographers. Using the appropriate buttons, you can select between different scene modes and effects. The HDR button lets you enable the HDR feature which automatically takes three bracketed photos. Focal supports several burst modes, and you can use the Burst button to enable the burst mode you want. Each palette can be pinned to the screen, making it easier to quickly access often-used options. Better still, all settings adjustments are persistent, so you don’t have to enable and configure the options every time you start the app.

Since Focal is still labeled as beta, some features are still missing. For example, the app doesn’t support different focus modes (manual, macro, etc.) and there is no way to change the default storage location. Moreover, some features can behave erratically. The PicSphere, in particular, can be rather temperamental at times.

Tech writer covering Linux and open source software

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