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HTC's Camera App vs. Google's Camera App (UFocus vs. Lens Blur)
So I just did my first post in the "first impressions" sticky thread a couple of days ago...wasn't sure if I should post what I'm going to do now in the "Photos and Videos" thread, or create a new one. If you think I should put into the existing sticky thread, let me know.
In any case, I just read that Google released their own camera app in the Google Play store. I downloaded it because I didn't know what it offered that might be different than the HTC camera app. Saw that it has a "lens blur" option, so I wanted to do a quick comparison between that specific effect and UFocus, and thought it might be interesting for others.
I'm not a photographer by any means, so take everything I write here (or that you see here) with a grain of salt. These are my observations and impressions only.
I did two quick series...indoor (mild fluorescent lighting) and outdoor. I'm going to provide the original HTC camera shot, alongside the UFocus edit and the Google Lens Blur. All are provided at original size.
In the following indoor shots, I used my little Android guy as the main point of focus, with some select items in the background. I would say this is close to the ideal situation for a blur/bokeh shot, as the subject is less than 5 feet away from the lens, and there aren't a lot of small objects in the background.
Here's the original:
Here's the Ufocus edit:
...and here's the Google Lens Blur:
- The original picture from the HTC camera app is the largest at 1.68 MB, which I'm assuming is a given, since it contains clearer/sharper details. The UFocus edit is next, at 532k. Last is the Lens Blur version, at 323k.
- Both UFocus and Lens Blur had issues with the small antennae on the android, lumping them in with the background.
- Both blur effects seem to provide roughly the same feel of the picture with standard level of blur (Google's camera app allows you to adjust the amount of blur...something I don't think UFocus does).
- If you look at the green side of the Rubik's cube, the UFocus version creates an artificial shine that the Lens Blur does not.
Next up are the outside pics. I used the center of the car mass as the point of focus. Some additional elements come into play here...one, the M8's camera is known to have some difficulties with color-washing and overexposure with higher levels of light. Two, there is a lot more detail (e.g. leaves on the bush and trees) and depth (I stood about 10-15 feet away from the point of focus, and other things are obviously much farther out than in the indoor shots). I'm only really going to comment on the two blurred photos, as that's the topic of this post!
Here's the original:
Here's the UFocus edit:
...and the Lens Blur:
- Size differences are there again...original (2.75 MB), UFocus (919k) and Lens Blur (582k).
- I see a HUUUGE issue with UFocus. Look at the space between the rear window and the spoiler, along with the upper rim of the driver-side window. Yikes! It had a difficult time sensing depth, and considered those areas as part of the background. Although the Google Cam pic is smaller in size and detail, it doesn't appear to have had the same issue.
- Consideration given here for the depth of the subject...the close side of the rear of the car is probably 4 feet closer than the close side of the front of the car. The car itself, close to far, is about 5-6 feet (just a guess). That's obviously not a very good choice of subject for a bokeh effect shot, and it shows...the roof and hood of the car are blurred to a high degree on the UFocus shot, and while the roof is pretty sharp on the Lens Blur, the hood is noticeably pixellated. Better anti-aliasing going on in UFocus (or whatever...I don't know if that's the correct term in this situation).
Some points of differentiation between the two:
- Lens Blur specifically instructs the user to have the subject 5 feet or closer. It also says to put the subject in the center of the photo. And...it doesn't provide the original, fully focused photo. UFocus, as a built-in edit function of a general M8 photo, allows refocusing of the original, clear image anywhere, foreground or background. In this way, UFocus is the stronger tool.
- Lens Blur allows for strength of blur effect...I haven't found this option with UFocus. If that's true, Lens Blur wins with this minor functionality.
- After taking a shot, Lens Blur requires you to very slowly raise the phone by roughly 1 inch. I assume at the top, it draws in more information, similar to the depth/duo camera on the M8, to provide 3D depth info. For M8 users, just taking the single shot and moving on is much easier, and UFocus wins with convenience. For all other phones without a 2nd/depth camera, Lens Blur or similar app is really the only option.
I think it's very clear that bokeh shots excel only when the subject is front and center, and are clearly separated from the background. Even then, software effects like these two have limited use...I remember reading a review on the M8 that showed issues with hair blowing in the wind of a little girl being incorrectly blurred...similar to the issue I saw in the outdoor shots. Overall, though, I don't see a need for M8 owners to use Google's camera app, at least for Lens Blur. I haven't tried out any of the other effects yet.
My personal use of the pictures I take are for quick publishing to Google+ or Instagram, and I'm not an avid photo-taker, so I don't need the level of detail, accuracy, or sharpness over which others obsess, and I'd like to quickly say that I'm extremely satisfied with the M8's camera and general software. Other people may find strong reasons to use Google's camera app on their M8, for its different strengths or other effects.
I hope this has at least been an interesting read!