Saturday, 29 August 2015

Where are the simple black and white camera apps? - Here's one now!

I could never see the point of black and white photos before. "You're just getting rid of colour, getting rid of precious data of a photo." As a person who barely ever deletes photos or videos, I didn't see the point in taking any photo not at the full quality. I always wanted as much detail preserved in my photos as possible. To illustrate this further, I always kept my Sony Xperia Z1's camera resolution at 20.7 megapixels, just so I would get as much detail out of the images as possible. I'm not a data waster. Recently, when I bought my Sony Ericsson Satio for the third time, I changed my mind. The Satio's camera is terrible when the sun isn't directly hitting the sensor. Otherwise it's great. When you point it at the slightest amount of darkness, chromatic noise creeps in like crazy. The Xperia Z1 mostly features just luminance noise, so it's colourless. This got me thinking, wouldn't images then turn out much better if I get rid of all colours? I'm thinking turning photos black and white of course. In these monochromatic images, the chromatic noise turns into luminance noise and it's much easier on the eyes.

As I tried black and white photography for a while, I really got hooked. I always thought it was overrated until I took it seriously. Being left with only a few shades of grey, shooting these monochromatic photos made me think more critically about the composition of the shot. I stopped worrying about image quality and noise, and I started to appreciate the art of photography. If you think it's boring, overrated, or any other negative adjective, I dare you to go out one day with only a black and white camera. Especially when you're 'out of ideas' or lacking inspiration for photography, this can be a great tool to get back in the game. Luckily for me, that recently bought Satio came with a setting for black and white photos.

Unluckily however, the Xperia Z1 did not. Well... there is this stock camera app called "Creative effects" from Sony that I have no idea of how it ever got through their testing phase. The preview is far from smooth, there is no way to change a single setting and worst of all, the effects take a lot of processing power and make the camera actually overheat and shut down within minutes. It's absolutely ridiculous. I realized this was going to be the moment for me to learn to build Android applications. At the time I was already taking a course in Java, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to put my experiences to the test. And now...

I present to you, Monochrome

Can you guess the city?

It took me a lot of work but it's here now: a fully feature-packed product. It has a clean interface, yet giving the possibility to change settings by swiping left and right, and up and down without being needlessly in your face. It integrates into Sony's own software, as that's the best way for quickly accessing the app from any camera mode. By default it's set to Auto Mode, which does what its name suggests and applies image stabilization where supported. If you swipe up or down, you can change the mode to Sports Mode and Night Mode. Sports mode is for those snaps that you need to take quickly. These kinds of photos aren't close ups, so I set the focus mode to infinity for this mode with a high base ISO so that the image is taken as quickly as possible after you press the shutter button. Night Mode (which by the way works just fine with the 20.7MP setting) when used in the dark, slows down the shutter speed as much as possible to get the most details out of the image as possible. Moreover, I chose to set this mode to enable the macro or close up focus mode. This focus mode is slower than autofocus so I decided to keep it out of Auto Mode to make capturing Auto Mode images quicker. Since the entire camera app is monochrome, white balance does not affect the photos and so Night Mode can be used and should even be used whenever you want the highest quality images when you can keep your phone steady. I use my app on Night Mode about 80% of the time. The other 20% is to make sure the other modes work properly [and yes, they do] ;)

If you want the full list of features and settings you can change, the app description in the Play Store is the most convenient: any updates will surely make its way to the description there. And trust me, I will update the app whenever there's a good feature idea. As a side note: like I always do with whatever I program, I added a little Easter Egg into the app. Can you find it?

If you'd like to buy me a cup of coffee and get a smooth black and white camera app in return, check out the app in the Google Play Store.

I would be very grateful; I will forever remember your name if you decide to leave that behind which may not be the best idea to do on the interwebz but no really thank you I need coffee

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