Droid 4 Camera Quality & Third-Party Apps
April 5, 2012 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Upgrading my phone: I'm debating a Droid 4, but I'm a bit nervous about the mediocre reviews of the camera. Will a third-party camera app improve the photo quality?

I love my physical keyboard. I strongly dislike typing on iPhones & touchscreens, which is making it tough to find a new phone. I've had a super-old original Droid for years, and it's been time to upgrade for a very long time. The features I love about my decrepit outdated android phone: the high quality of the GPS navigation and the physical keyboard.

But...I'm jealous of the great photos my boyfriend takes on his iPhone. I just hate the lousy reception he gets, and when using it, it's annoying to not being able to hammer out a ton of text messages or emails without constantly needing to correct what I type.

My job duties include social media, and a fair amount of both indoor rehearsal and low light performance photography. It would be nice to be able to rely a bit more on my phone's camera for those moments during rehearsal or backstage that need to be quickly captured even if my DSLR isn't available. I'm not necessarily looking for something super hi-res, but I simply want a phone with which I can take pictures that don't scream "crappy cell phone pix." I am primarily interested in having realistic (vibrant, even!) color, some semblance of low-light capability, and an acceptable lack of blur amongst movement in photos. For the sake of this question, I don't care about various stylized filters.

Other misc. info: I'm on Verizon. I own an iPod touch already, so I've got many of the iPhone features I like already available.

Does anyone have experience with the Droid 4's camera quality? Forgive my technological ignorance, but will a third-party app such as Camera Advance or Camera360 Ultimate improve the photo quality in both general use and the specific criteria I list above? Is there another phone you'd recommend altogether?

posted by soleiluna to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have slightly larger than normal hands that perhaps makes it difficult to type on a touchscreen? It has no physical keyboard, but perhaps the Samsung Galaxy S II might work for you! It's got a bigger screen, and you can download different keyboards to find one that suits you. I personally like SwiftKey as the predictive text is awesome, and I type MUCH faster now than I did on my original Droid which I finally upgraded a month or two ago. Others like Swype, where you just swipe over the letters you want. And the photos with this thing are pretty great.
posted by Grither at 12:01 PM on April 5, 2012

Response by poster: Grither - I hadn't thought about that angle. I have small fingers, but moderately long nails definitely contribute to the touchscreen obnoxiousness. Interesting, I'll look into it and give that a try!
posted by soleiluna at 12:17 PM on April 5, 2012

Best answer: I can't tell you anything about the camera in this phone, but one thing i know for sure is that apps can't really improve image quality or low light performance. These things are determined by the sensor, lens, and aperture in the camera. If the camera is really important to you, I'm sure you can find one that is a good compromise of camera and phone for you.
posted by randomgirl at 12:39 PM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a droid 4 and have taken pictures with it that I would be happy to put in my Lighting Design portfolio.
I've found it to be the buggiest android phone I've delt with. I love the keyboard but the 4G isn't that impressive unless I'm downloading podcasts or big files. The 4G does kill the battery. I'm not sure if I would recomend the phone, though I do love the keyboard. I think I'm going to root the phone next week and see if that mitigates some of the buggieness, or at least trades it off for being able to tether it.
posted by Uncle at 12:45 PM on April 5, 2012

As a note, I have an iPhone 4s, and two things come to mind: 1) it's the best camera i've ever used on a phone, period, to the point where it's better than the little panasonic point and shoot I bought 3 years ago and 2) I don't use Siri all that much, but in iOS 5 they've added a "dictation" button to the keyboard. Full stop, the dictation is amazing, and I use it to compose 90% of the texts I send these days

As far as phones with a physical kb though, the Droid 4 is probably the best you'll do until next year when the Droid 5 comes out.
posted by Oktober at 12:45 PM on April 5, 2012

Combo devices, camera + phone, are so far a compromise on quality of both. Don't give up on having a good camera in your purse, for when quality really matters. No phone can compare. A decent, slim, light camera isn't expensive, either.
posted by cmiller at 12:49 PM on April 5, 2012

Best answer: From my experience, most of the Motorola Droid cameras are so-so at best. Noise, especially in less-than-bright-sunlight conditions, is very noticeable. Most of the in-camera photo apps add image manipulation functions but won't do much for noise. I fix contrast and sharpness (and sometimes noise) with mine using GIMP, but that's not particularly handy when you want to just post photos directly from the phone.
posted by tommasz at 1:23 PM on April 5, 2012

Best answer: If you have to stick with Verizon and Android, I'd say hold off for a bit and see what's coming in the next few months. The hope is to see more LTE devices, with more battery life and the latest Android OS installed when you buy it. Right now the Galaxy Nexus is the only phone on Verizon that's shipping with Ice Cream Sandwich. An iPhone on Verizon would resolve the reception issue (hopefully), but it seems like you don't like the software side of that ecosystem, and it still only runs 3G when Verizon has rolled out LTE in tons of markets already.

The new phones HTC are releasing (the One series) have dedicated image processors and fast lenses which should be quite nice. I also find HTC build quality to be a bit higher than Moto/Samsung. The downside is waiting for HTC to release special models for Verizon as they need to have a particular set of radios to run on VZW's network.
posted by ijoyner at 1:52 PM on April 5, 2012

I actually think you'll get used to a touchscreen keyboard pretty quickly. I had two keyboarded smartphones before switching and I can now type quite a bit faster on the touchscreen than I ever could on the physical keyboards. Some of that might the fault of the crappy keyboards on the phones that I had but touchscreen keyboards are totally viable.
posted by The Lamplighter at 3:46 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you should go for a phone with a touchscreen keyboard. You are likely going to end up with one one day as phones with physical keyboards become less and less common, you may as well get used to it now. The iPhone probably has the best touchscreen keyboard and the camera on the 4S is fantastic for a phone/point and shoot. The fact you have an iPod Touch already makes the iPhone that much sweeter as you won't have to buy loads of new apps.

Even the newer Android phones like the HTC One series don't have as good cameras as the iPhone 4S.
posted by blaisedell at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2012

A third-party app won't improve the camera any more than you could increase the size of the screen in software. If the camera is your top priority (or even a high priority), I'd second everything Oktober said.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:12 PM on April 8, 2012

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