Google has confirmed that it is working on building support for the RAW photo file format into its Android mobile operating system, as well as a burst mode that allows for rapid image capture. The company spoke to Cnet on Monday, saying that the new features have been under development and may be opened up to developers in the future. Reportedly, the features are already present in Android's hardware abstraction layer, the part of the operating system handling inputs from a mobile device's hardware.
"Android's latest camera HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and framework supports raw and burst-mode photography," Scigliano said to Cnet. "We will expose a developer API (application programming interface) in a future release to expose more of the HAL functionality."
The RAW format is typically available only on higher-end cameras, and it allows for greater editing options in image processing programs such as Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture. RAW files are much larger than JPEG files, as they contain a great deal more image information. The tradeoff, though, is that they allow users to almost completely change the look of a photo from its original state, improving light balance, exposure, and assorted other aspects to achieve a more visually appealing result.
True image quality depends on a device's hardware, but other device makers have already built RAW support into their offerings. Nokia's Lumia 1520 and 1020 support the format, and Nokia has paired that capability with large image sensors, enhanced optics, and optical image stabilization to boost image quality. With RAW support in Android, devices built on Google's platform will come closer to photographic parity with the Windows Phone-powered Lumia models, and they will arguably have a leg up on Apple's new iPhones.
Google has not given any timeframe for the introduction of the RAW feature, saying only it will ship "in a future release." The company will, though, be allowing developers access to the capability upon its release, meaning that apps other than the standard Android camera will be able to take advantage of it.
The other feature, burst mode, was suspected along with RAW support when it was discovered inside the Android source code. Apple's iPhone 5s already supports this capability, as do devices like Samsung's Galaxy Note 3. Google's implementation, though, will allow for photographers to take a series of shots, with the image parameters changing between shots. Thus, a user could set the device to not only capture a rapid series of images, but aspects such as the exposure could change from image to image.