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.

cyanogenmod

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.

opencamera

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.

gallery_editor

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.

syncthing

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 github.com/kuri65536/sl4a and github.com/kuri65536/python-for-android and install them on your Android device. To deploy a Python script, simply copy it to the sl4a/scripts directory on the Android device.

Tech writer covering Linux and open source software

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