Google Camera Portrait mode and Comparison with other Cameras

 
 

This post was last updated on January 22nd, 2020 at 05:16 pm

In this article I am going to compare the Google Camera portrait mode with the portrait mode on other cameras, such as: MIUI camera, OnePlus Camera, Huawei Camera, etc. Judge yourself based on the facts and decide if the Google Camera is worth the hype or is there any better camera.

Google Camera is admired for its capabilities to deliver DSLR like images from a tiny mobile camera sensor. Following its popularity, I decided to write about the GCam features and how does it stand against other cameras from different OEMs. This article is going to compare portrait mode on Google Camera with other cameras.

Google Camera Portrait mode vs OxygenOS camera vs MIUI camera

What is Google Camera or GCam port?

Known for its extra ordinary features, the GCam or Google Camera is the default camera application that comes bundled on Google Pixel phones. Following are some of the outstanding features of Google Camera: Portrait mode, Night Sight mode, Astrophotography mode, HDR+ processing, Photo Sphere, etc.

Because of its amazing image processing algorithms, the Google Camera produces stunning photos and hence is ported to work on many Android phones beyond Google Pixel series by developers.

What is Portrait Mode?

In portrait mode the camera generates the bokeh effect where the subject stands out and the background is blurred out because of the shallow depth of field. This portrait mode shot gives a pleasing viewing experience to human eyes, also the focus primarily goes to the subject. The bokeh effect or the shallow depth of field on DSLR cameras is generated by using a larger aperture lens, which is not possible for the tiny mobile lens with fixed size aperture.

How Portrait Mode works on Google Camera?

Well, I am not going to the technical details on how does the Google Camera creates an image in portrait mode. That’s beyond the scope of this article. But if you are still interested into the technical details, here is an article on google blog that explains about the same.

As I have already said earlier that the mobile camera sensor and the lens both are tiny to create DSLR like bokeh effect. That is where the mobile phones have a secondary camera that senses the depth between the subject and the background and does software processing to create an illusion of bokeh effect or background blur effect. The software processing that creates the bokeh effect is part of the camera application, in this case it is Google Camera and other camera apps.

Following are some of the examples of portrait mode images captured from Poco F1 Google Camera:

How Google Camera Portrait mode compares to other cameras?

By now you might have got an idea on portrait mode and how does the mobile camera fakes a shallow depth of field in the portrait mode to generate the bokeh effect. The common problem in this creation of artificial bokeh effect is that, the edge detection and calculating the accurate depth of field in the whole scene. let’s have a look on how Google Camera and other Camera applications generate images in portrait mode shots.

I have captured portrait mode shots on the following phones:


The default Google Camera on Google Pixel running on Android 10 does not have a Portrait mode. So, I had to use a GCam Mod for Google Pixel which was ported by Cstark27.

Portrait mode shots from other phones were captured using their stock camera application.


After uploading, the images were down scaled by WordPress itself. More or less everything is still visible but if someone needs, I can upload the unedited images to some external site.

You need to click on the images individually to enlarge it.

GCam Portrait mode Edge Detection comparison

Below are some camera samples captured on portrait mode on different phones.

Edge Detection on Honor 6x Portrait Mode

Honor 6X was released in the same year as the Google Pixel. This is the only phone with a budget spec in this comparison, but the primary reason to add the Honor 6x is to show case how bad the edge detection could be in the portrait mode on mobile phone camera.

Having said that, I have marked a portion of the portrait image shot captured on Honor 6X. The primary subject where everything should be in focus, the camera application has blurred that out. And simply it could not detect the edges on any corner of the subject.

See the below image where I have marked few areas of bad edge detection examples:
Honor 6x bad edge detection on Portrait mode

Edge Detection by Oxygen OS Camera on OnePlus 6 and MIUI Camera on Redmi Note 7 Pro

While the OnePlus 6 and the Redmi 7 Pro stock camera app added a pretty well bokeh effect to the image but failed to detect the edges on certain areas. See the below images where I have marked certain areas:
Edge detection on OnePlus 6 portrait mode

Edge detection on Redmi Note 7 Pro portrait mode

Edge Detection by Google Camera Portrait Mode on Google Pixel

While the Google Camera on the Pixel has added less blur effect to the image but it has an unbelievable edge detection algorithm. I have marked the same areas where the OnePlus 6 and the Redmi Note 7 Pro failed, to show case how well did the Google Camera generated portrait mode images.
Edge detection by Google Camera on Google Pixel

Final verdict on Google Camera vs OxygenOS camera vs MIUI Camera

As explained earlier the portrait mode on mobile phone camera is all about the depth sensing by the secondary camera, detecting the edges and adding final bokeh effect to the subject and beckground. From that view point and the above sample images captured on not very old phones, it clearly understood that the Google camera does a pretty good job.

But if you see closely, the Google Camera adds a less blur to the background leaving other objects visible in the image of course not clearly. In my opinion, adding a little more blur effect on the Google Camera to the background objects will enhance the beauty and focus on the subject. Because the whole idea of the portrait mode shot is to make the subject visibly stand against the background. I hope you agree on this.

How to download Google Camera or GCam?

If you feel like Google Camera or shortened as GCam is the better camera in the competition, probably you would like to install it on your phone as well. The Google Camera is only available on Google Pixel devices and not on any other phones yet. But fortunately there are some ports available known as GCam ports for many Android phones and you can have search the list to find one for your phone.

Google Camera APK Download

That’s all on GCam’s portrait mode and how does it stand against other mobile camera apps. I will come up with other GCam feature articles in detail.


GCam / Google Camera APK


About the Author

A Software Engineer by profession who has worked for few big organizations; such as: Broadcom, Cypress Semiconductor, LSI Corporation, Toshiba, Western Digital; on various cutting edge technologies and product lines, such as: RAID storage Driver, SSD firmware, Wi-fi firmware etc. Having more than 8 years of experience in software engineering domain.

 
 
 

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