Tom Mighell (check out his blog) is not happy. And he has every right to be upset. Tom’s angst comes from the abysmally slow shutter speeds on his Galaxy Note 3 camera. He’s missing all the good shots of his kids, he tells me. I feel a similar frustration with the camera on my Nexus 5. Even before I installed Android L, I’d lose patience while trying to take pictures of action shots. Quite often, the final shot occurs immediately after the crucial event.
Well, several emails back and forth, and a number of failed suggestions later, I felt it was my duty to tackle this issue and make Tom happy. So, this post is all about making Tom happy.
The sorry state of the Android camera
One of the easiest suggestions for making Tom happy was to advise him to get the Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8, both of which have awesome cameras. Unfortunately, Tom loves his Galaxy Note 3, and thus isn’t willing to part toward an “inferior” device.
If you want to compare the epitome of mobile device cameras, iPhone is the gold standard. Apple, despite all of its evils, recognized early on that people want to use their phones for pictures, videos, and making movies or memories. That’s why they built the biggest, baddest, top rated camera into miniature size. If you want to compare awesome cameras, you need to look at the iPhone’s capabilities. Until recently, Android device makers didn’t care to boost the camera’s power, favoring virtual widgets over the actual ones.
Apple also set its devices apart by including actual picture-boosting algorithms (and other “whozits” only the true techies get) to help the operating system process the camera’s stream of pictures. Now, not only would the iPhone capture great pictures, its system processes could actually handle a multi-shot onslaught of action packed pics. The iPhone suddenly became a high-quality DSLR replacement. Meanwhile, Android lagged behind.
But don’t get me wrong, because I love my Nexus 5’s camera including the multitude of different features. In fact, for 90% of my pictures, my Nexus 5 works fine. Plus, add in photo enhancing programs like Google+ Photos or Snapseed, and I take some high quality pictures. Here’s an example:
Except there are other times when I want to catch my one of my kids’ infinite “watch me, daddy” tricks, that my Nexus 5 doesn’t come close.
Enter Fast Burst Camera
For those important action times, I want a high-speed shutter. But the Nexus 5, like Tom’s Galaxy Note 3, won’t work. There’s too much of a delay (sometimes as much as 3 seconds) to create a worthwhile action sequence.
So recently, when my Nexus 5 failed to catch The Droid Tot 2’s first flip off the diving board (and because of Tom’s prodding), I began hunting for a satisfactory substitute. I came across Fast Burst Camera ($3.99).
Before I delve too deeply into analysis, I have a caveat. I can’t say Fast Burst Camera is the best “fast burst camera” in Google Play. In fact, I tested several different “fast burst cameras,” but chose this Fast Burst Camera because it’s easy to use, and is a “one price for all” model. Other camera apps were free, but offered in-app purchases for the whole package. Still other camera apps were awesome, but had extemporaneous gimmicks that I’m not interested in, but that doesn’t necessary minimize their value. My goal was to find a burst camera app that could take high-quality, multi-shot photos like the iPhone and was simple enough to use.
The reasons you’ll like Fast Burst Camera
Ease of use was an important factor in my consideration of a good replacement for Google Camera, at least for multi-shot events. One of the great features of the iPhone (and Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8) is the ability to long press on the shutter button and take a stream of pictures. Fast Burst Camera gets this down easily by giving you the ability to shoot up to 30 pictures per second. You can also slow down the shutter speed and delay the seconds between shots from zero to 1 second.
I found that 1/10th or 1/20th of second was a “sweet spot” for capturing a burst of images with my Nexus 5. The one second delay was almost like shooting with Google Camera, so that setting added little value.
Fast Burst Camera allowed me to capture a number of burst shots at the pool, which Google+ Photos stitched into cool motion animations. Fast Burst Camera also has its own .gif creator, which enables you to create your own motions animations on your mobile device.
If I relied on my Nexus 5’s default camera, there’s no way I’d capture this image:
That’s Droid Tot 3 doing a Superman dive. Google+ developed the picture into this neat reflection on our summertime at the pool.
Some other cool features
Even though I haven’t taken pictures with “night mode,” Fast Burst Camera gives you a setting for low light conditions. The app adds a night vision feel to the screen.
I’m not too confident about the quality of night pictures, especially given my Nexus 5’s low performance regularly, but it’s a fun little feature. Plus, it might come in handy when I take Droid Tot 2 Bigfoot “hunting” for his birthday. Perhaps maybe we’ll catch a photo of the mysterious creature.
Variable burst modes
Fast Burst Camera also gives you control over the type of shooting modes you’d like. Select anywhere from full auto to single shot bursts.
Perhaps I’ll set up a tree stand and use the “Motion Trigger” with night mode to capture my Bigfoot evidence.
Managing image overload
Image overload is one of the disadvantages to these multi-shot cameras. Fast Burst Camera does have a built-in burst manager, which is pretty self-explanatory (click the images to keep and delete the rest). The increased number of images also means you’ll quickly run out of storage space on your device.
I like using Google+ to store photos, so I just use the Android Gallery app (or ASTRO File Manager) to delete the photos on my device after they’re uploaded to my storage. If you follow this method, you’ll have to manually sort and delete your unwanted images. It’s a pain, but my kids and I love the auto-awesome animations.
Finally, you’ll have more success with your shots if you’re shooting pictures in full light and holding as still as possible during the shots. This isn’t too hard since the pictures are flying by at tenths of a second. (Some of the screenshots above look blurry. That’s “user error” trying to click a screenshot and hold the picture steady.)
The ultimate opinion
I’m telling Tom to get this app. It’s a vast improvement for the slow shutter of stock Android cameras, it’s easy to use, and comes loaded with some fun features. Plus, its $3.99 price tag isn’t going to break your bank, but you’ll be grateful for the buy-in when you need the pictures. Fast Burst Camera get 4.5 stars.