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The Best Camera Apps for Android – March 2018

Posted by William Sattelberg on March 8, 2018

Let’s face it—most smartphones these days are excellent in nearly every way, from $200 budget offerings like the Moto G5 Plus, to mid-range selections like the OnePlus 5T, all the way up to top-tier Android phones like the brand-new Galaxy S9 and S9+. They feature great displays, good build quality and materials, and solid battery life, to help you make it through the day with your phone while enjoying a quality device. Plus, with features like wireless charging  and waterproofing quickly becoming standard, it’s easier than ever to use your device, whether you’re at home, on the go, or headed for vacation.

The one thing that seems to still differentiate a good Android phone from a great one is its camera quality. Most consumers rely solely on their smartphones for taking photos now, with the majority of point-and-shoots deemed outdated and unnecessary. And while professional photographers still rely on DSLR and mirrorless cameras, complete with interchangeable lenses, even those users rely on phones more than ever to capture moments quickly. Images from smartphones have become commonplace, making covers of Time Magazine and winning awards while competing against multi-thousand dollar cameras.

So yes, the camera is one of the most important features of a smartphone, and while the hardware is an important part of how you take a photo, let’s put that aside for the moment and focus on something you might not think about a lot: the camera software. Sure, it’s easy enough to use the included software on your phone, but some users might want total control over white balance, ISO settings, exposure, file formats, and more. For that, you might want or need to turn to third-party camera software on Android. There are a ton of camera apps on Android, but not all of them are created equal. Some apps take worse photos than your already-existing stock camera viewfinder, while others simply aren’t optimized to take advantage of your phone.

But there are a few distinct camera apps on Android that are worth downloading and keeping on your phone. We checked out some of the best camera apps on Android, looking for additional controls, clean and easy-to-use designs, and new features that make switching from your system’s camera app a no-brainer. We tested more than a dozen apps on Android, and of those applications, these are the seven best camera apps available on Android.

Everyone else

Instagram is the sort of application that needs no introduction. The Facebook-owned social photograph giant is the sort of app you already have on your phone, and most of your social circle probably already uses the app even if you don't. It's based around a simple idea: take a 1:1 photo, either through Instagram's included camera or through importing a photo from your phone. You can use filters, borders, or any other sort of photo-manipulation through the app, with the idea that every picture will look good after you've finished your edits. The photo interface is simplistic—you won't be taking any DSLR-quality shots with this—but for what Instagram was made for, it's a good look. You can quickly switch between photo, video, and your phone's internal gallery, with video acting similar to Snapchat. In fact, a lot of Instagram now acts similar to Snapchat: Instagram has a Story mode that lets people view your photos and videos for a 24 hour period, contains stickers and AR filters, allows for emojis and text to be placed right on the image, and even lets you send photos to others as disposable, just like Snapchat. That said, Instagram on Android undoubtedly takes better photos than what we've seen on Snapchat—more on that further down the list—and of course, offers users some features that Snapchat does not. It's a good camera app, and an even better social network.

VSCO, in a lot of ways, is very similar to Instagram. It functions both as a camera app and as a social network, allowing you to follow users from both your contacts and from people you follow on Twitter. VSCO—originally an iOS exclusive app—differs in a few main areas. First, the app almost exclusively focuses on higher-end photography, attracting users that may feel Instagram and similar apps don't focus enough on the actual experience of taking a photograph. Second, the camera and app interface is clean and minimalistic. Icons don't tell you much of what they do, unfortunately, and the app has a fairly large learning curve to figuring out what everything does. Edits can be done inside the app, both of photos taken with VSCO and with your system camera imported into the app's "Studio." From there, you can share and post your photos wit29h VSCO's network of photographers. Unfortunately, the social aspects of VSCO are lacking in a lot of ways. When compared to Instagram, the community is largely made of users you don't know in real life—searching Twitter for my followed users, for example, found that most people through Twitter had stopped using the app since 2015. Contact searches showed a similar problem, with only one contact ever creating an account, without anything posted.  Overall, it's an interesting idea of an app, but VSCO doesn't do enough to maintain an audience that largely already exists on other social networks—mainly, Instagram and Snapchat.

DSLR Camera Pro promises to be able to replace pretty much every function of your full-size DSLR on your phone, making every shot count by adding settings and image tweaks typically seen on professional DSLR cameras. As we've seen with other apps like Open Camera, DSLR Camera Pro can modify exposure settings, display histograms, modify white balance and ISO settings, and apply color effects for each shot. DSLR Camera Pro does do a few really interesting things to replicate the feel of a traditional DSLR camera: the app has a virtual two-state shutter button, which effectively acts as a shutter button would behave on a traditional DSLR, allowing for a focus state and photo state. The app includes a light meter, something we haven't seen on too many apps in the Play Store for cameras. There's a burst mode included, for taking multiple frames and photos at once, and, as we've seen on other photo apps, included grids for following the rule of thirds in your photos. Some of the features do rely on being supported by your specific hardware, but testing the app on a Galaxy S7 edge showed no problems using the application as stated on the specific Play Store page. The app is well-designed, though a bit busy for our tastes, and supports additional features like front-facing camera support for selfies, though does make a point of not included borders or filters for photos—if you want that in an app, this isn't the one for you. Overall, we quite liked DSLR Camera Pro, though the $2.99 asking price is a bit difficult to recommend when Open Camera offers similar functionality for free.

While Google does list their own camera application on the Play Store, most users will find a dramatically outdated version available for download. Only Nexus and, more prominently, Pixel and Pixel 2 users get granted access to the improved camera software to go along with the fantastic hardware on those phones. However, thanks to the modding community that has become dedicated to Android over the last decade of its existence, a modified Pixel Camera mod has been developed to give newer phones access to the software and HDR+ enhancements that the Pixel line already has support for. In order to use this modified Pixel camera, you'll need a phone running on a Snapdragon 820/821 or Snapdragon 835 processor. Software versions shouldn't matter too much, though running Android Nougat or above. Newer versions of the mod have added portrait mode capabilities as well, making for a great addition to older devices like the Galaxy S7. You can check out all the updates at the link provided. Just keep in mind this modded APK may not work on every device, even if you have the correct processor.

In this age, most smartphone users have moved on from using point-and-shoot cameras, let alone full-on DSLRs for their photos. Of course, that doesn't mean that millions of people worldwide don't rely on their DSLRs to take photos and videos daily. Content creators on YouTube, especially, have largely made the switch to cameras like Canon's EOS line for vlogging and short-film creation, but it can be difficult to control and use these cameras on their own without someone monitoring the image. This is where DSLR Controller comes in: using this app, you can control every aspect of your DSLR, from focus to zoom, exposure to ISO, white balance to shutter speed, all while providing you with a live-view image of your shot on your phone or tablet. DSLR Controller allows you to connect to your phone both over Wi-Fi and wired USB connections (which we used), and supports almost every post-2006 Canon EOS camera, including the 7D and 7D Mark II, the entire 5D series, the Rebel t-series of starter DSLRs, and the popular mid-range 70D. Chainfire, the developer behind DSLR Controller, provides a full list on both their website and on the app page, and overall, we found the app to be reliable and well-made, even with the occasional crash or two during testing. If you're a photographer or videographer looking for a larger display for previewing content, DSLR Controller's one of the best apps you can find on the Play Store.

Originally launched as an iOS exclusive in 2016, it took Google over a year to bring Motion Stills to Android users, and once launched, it premiered with a completely different set of features than what iPhone owners had received. While the iOS app was created as a way to export Live Photos to a gif format, the Android version is largely designed as a way to create three-second motion captures instead of photos, with the ability to export to gif as needed. Tapping on the capture button will begin to record your the clip, with a soft glow around the screen to represent a recording in progress. Once you're done capturing content, you can enable and disable a digital stabilizer, add and subtract sound, loop forward and backwards, and increase the speed up to eight times. Plus, with an easy share button, you can send your motion capture in both gif and video format. Motion Still was updated to version 2.0 in February, which added a whole new visual interface to the app, as well as AR stickers first seen on the Pixel 2.

Snapchat has undergone a lot of changes since we wrote our initial review of the app back in July. The company rolled out a major upgrade to their visual layout, first to beta users in December and gradually following with a wide rollout in February, and needless to say, the response to the update has been mixed to say the least. Still, the good news here is that Snapchat appears to be working on their photo quality on Android, slowly improving the app's capture quality (which we bashed in our original review) and rewriting the app from scratch in a future update, which should result for photos with a much higher quality. No word on when that update will eventually arrive, but for now, we have experienced an improved version of the app made for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, which uses the Pixel's Visual Core to take better photos than what you could expect from any other Android phone using Snapchat. Hopefully the rebuilt Android app isn't too far away from being shipped, but until then, most Android users should expect Snapchat to take some pretty poor photos.

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