Lumia Camera or Camera app?

Many tech sites make ridiculous claims regarding which smartphone has the best camera and some "tech reviewers" post sample images as proof their reviews are accurate. The truth is that your choice of camera app, your photography skills (if you have any), your smartphone's condition (available memory, OS version and cleanliness of the lens) also contribute to how good your hastily taken photo will be once you view it on your device or on your PC.


Lumia camera app Exposure settings

From taking snapshots of documents to capturing newsworthy events that occur, there is little doubt that smartphone cameras can be useful beyond feeding one's narcissistic tendencies and abject disregard for courtesy. Although very few people change the default camera app set on their device, the app that launches when you press the camera button on your smartphone can help improve your photo regardless if you have very little interest in photography.

Note: As a non-photographer who sees the sensor on a smartphone as a useful tool, not a controversial topic worthy of fistfights, I won't even touch technical topics such as exposure, bracketing and shutter speed lest "photographers" come out of nowhere and smack me with their overpriced tripods.

The Camera app and Lumia Camera are two of the more popular options Windows Phone users have on their devices. The former was preinstalled with earlier Nokia Lumia phones and regularly updated. The Lumia Camera app can be installed from the Microsoft Store for Windows Phone and is set as the default camera app for Windows Phone devices running Denim (the Black update retained the Microsoft Camera as the default app).

The Lumia Camera app has more options than the Camera app so it's certainly recommended if you want to change exposure, shutter speed, ISO and white balance settings while you're making like Peter Parker. Timer and exposure bracketing settings are also available from the Options menu, two options missing from the Camera app. Like all camera apps for Windows Phones, you can easily switch to a different camera app (aka Lens) such as Camera360, Lumia Cinemagraph and Lumia Smart Camera.


The Lumia 925 was marketed for its low-light support and the Lumia camera app leverages the excellent sensor to capture great evening shots without much effort from the user.


If you're holding your Lumia horizontally, the manual settings for the Lumia Camera are displayed at the top of the screen. In contrast, the Camera app has the controls on the left side of the touch screen.

I have clumsy, ungainly hands and initially thought my fingers were better off with the Camera app when I purchased the Lumia 925 almost two years ago. However, flicking the settings with the right thumb in the Lumia Camera app was actually comfortable and gave better flexibility when it came to adjusting to shooting conditions. Obviously, some users will find the placement of controls for one more comfortable than the other particularly if they own one of the XL series of larger Lumia devices.

For the Camera app, you would have to expand the options menu to get to the Exposure, ISO and white balance settings. However, the Camera app has the advantage of having preset Scenes directly available from the on-screen controls. 


The Camera app settings and option obscures most of the screen when you access them.

On the other hand, the Lumia Camera app has a slick control wheel that pops out when you tap the ISO, flash, exposure and shutter speed icons on the control bar.
Both camera apps take advantage of the Lumia 925's competent camera and can produce usable photos for your website or personal photo library. In the end, it's a matter of preference whether you select the Lumia Camera app or the Camera app as your default camera app on your Windows Phone.

Note: To change the default camera app for your Windows Phone 8.1, tap Settings > Applications > photos+camera and select the app from the Default camera app list.


Photo taken in the Wangjing, Beijing area using the Lumia Camera app on a Lumia 925. Image resized using Office 2010.

Smartphone cameras, sensors and camera apps are getting better all the time but it's more useful to get accustomed to using your choice of app and the niggles of your smarpthone camera than buying the latest from Apple, Samsung or HTC tauting superior photo abilities.

As a final note, make sure you elbow people with a selfie stick directly on their nose if they get in the way and "accidentally" slap the smartphone from the hands of idiotic selfie fans.


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