Android 2.2 brings camera software improvements

A software update to Android's camera software adds some neat new tricks, the main one being that you can finally use the thing with one hand.

Android 2.2 brings many of the camera options closer to where your thumb hangs out. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

As part of the Android 2.2 "Froyo" update, which is being unveiled at Thursday's Google I/O Conference , a very nice upgrade has been made to Android's built-in camera software. Google has effectively made it a one-handed endeavor, and one that does a better job at matching its user interface to how you hold your device.

The biggest change is that the pull-down menu, which would often require two hands to toggle and navigate, has been removed completely. In its place is a very simple system of transparent dials that pop up with options when you press them. They also rotate as you rotate the device, so that they're always facing the correct direction.

These may seem like two very small changes, but they have a dramatic effect on how much easier it is to identify and access camera features that, frankly, were not worth the hassle of weeding through menus to access, or that simply did not work while holding a device in portrait mode.

Besides the cosmetic makeover, there are now 13 in-between levels of digital zoom over the previous 5. On the Nexus One, you're still limited to a 2x digital zoom, however you can now pick one of these in-between levels for a better framing of your shot. Google has also done away with the rather irritating plus and minus buttons to change the zoom level, and replaced them with a simple slider that requires a minimal amount of thumb movement.

As for video, there are now four settings for quality that combine some of the timing control limitations from the previous version of the camera software. While the standard high and low settings can handle videos up to 30 minutes in length, there's now a specialized MMS setting that caps off at 30 seconds, as well as a high-quality YouTube setting that can do 10 minutes, which matches YouTube's length limit.

We ran some quick quality check tests and noticed no real differences in things like camera noise, default white balance, focus time, and application launch time. All these things remain the same--though we did spot one change Google has made to the metadata it includes in its photos, which now lists the focal length. Previously (at least on the Nexus One) this was something that had been left off. This wasn't a huge deal, but now that it's listed in the camera's EXIF data, you can do neat things like run your photos through Adobe Photoshop CS5's image perspective and lens correction tools .

There might be a few more secrets tucked away within the updated app on other devices. If you spot any when you get the update, drop us a line.

 

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