Android camera API to give RAW results soon

A retracted bit of code in the newest version of Android (4.4 KitKat) has appeared this week with Google looking to boost the software-based camera functionality of mobile devices. One part of the equation in making a smartphone take high-quality photos is in the camera's lens itself, while another is in the image processing provided by the machine's system-on-chip, aka its processor. The final bit rests in the operating system, with Google looking here to provide Android devices of all kinds the ability to bring on much higher-quality output than ever before.

According to the code dug up by Ars Technica, Google Android devices had been coming up on a point where they'd have a new camera API. This API is made for developers to take advantage of features Google had implemented into Android – as with all APIs, these features are only "unlocked" when a developer takes advantage of them.

This code had been in development for about a year – back to December of 2012, and was this October retracted from the final build of Android 4.4 KitKat. In other words – it was almost ready, but not quite.

For the prime-time, Android code must be solid enough for real-world users to take advantage of. In this case, whoever was responsible for judging that factor seems to have wanted a bit more time in the back-burner before the API went live. This API goes by the name and is described by Google with terms including:

Raw Sizes

Sensor Sensitivity

Detected Faces

Sensor Timestamp

And the following descriptions of new functionality:

"Full-capability devices allow for per-frame control of capture hardware and post-processing parameters at high frame rates. They also provide output data at high resolution in uncompressed formats, in addition to compressed JPEG output.


General RAW camera sensor image format, usually representing a single-channel Bayer-mosaic image. Each pixel color sample is stored with 16 bits of precision.

The layout of the color mosaic, the maximum and minimum encoding values of the RAW pixel data, the color space of the image, and all other needed information to interpret a RAW sensor image must be queried from the {@link} which produced the image."

This update will likely come sometime inside the new year. With the introduction of the Nexus 5 with the first version of Android 4.4 out in the wild now, it's more likely Google would push an update like this a few months after the first appearance of the smartphone that's a hero to the name to give it a bit of a boost in the press – in addition to this one, of course.

Have a peek at our full Nexus 5 review right this minute to have a closer look at the abilities of this smartphone for now, and anticipate the change-over soon!