Even though you have a shiny new Galaxy Note 5 with its amazing camera, or a Xperia Z5 with a 23-megapixel sensor, the photos you shoot aren't the best possible yet. This is because your phone by default stores all the images on JPEG, which is a compressed format, meaning that your photo is compressed. To explain it better, let's imagine a cake that is freshly baked from the oven and you want it to fit in a box that is shorter than the cake. What do you do? Well, you can press the cake from the top, making it shorter - here it goes, you compressed it. It will be still a cake, but it won't look as good as the original one. Going back to photography, there's a simple way to have the full image from your camera and it is called RAW format. RAW is simply the file containing all the information captured by the camera sensor, which gives you the best quality possible your camera can provide.
You might be asking yourself why phone makers don't put their smartphones to save in RAW format, then. Among other technical challenges, one problem is that the final file will be very large and after just a few shots your storage would be full. JPEG, on the other hand, gives you a considerably smaller file and modern compression algorithms make the images look nice for the average user.
However, if you want to explore the full power of the camera sensor on your Android, there are several apps on the Play Store that allows you to shoot in RAW format. To help you get started, here are 5 great apps, so, let's check out the list.
As the name says, this app allows you to take manual control of all aspects of your photo, such as white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, focus, shutter speed, etc. Everything can be controlled automatically or you can lock on values for individual parameters. The controls are easy to use and are located on the side. The app also has additional features including a timer, flash and grid lines to help you align things. Unfortunately, it is not compatible with all devices and you should run a compatibility test before purchasing it.
This app focuses on DSLR-like manual controls with special modes for specific photo types, such as Program for fixed ISO and Speed for taking photos with at the fastest shutter speed possible. The good thing is that by selecting these modes, the remaining parameters are adjusted automatically, making sure you take great photos without messing up the image with bad combinations of these parameters. Of course, you can also control every aspect of your photo, including exposure, white balance, and focus. Timer and grid-lines are also present. The full app costs $3.95 while there's a free Lite version that does not offer RAW option. With Camera FV-5, you can save both JPEG, lossless-PNG and RAW files at the same time.
(Free, Lite version)
AZ Camera is pretty similar to previous options with the advantage of being free to use. Some options have to be purchased in-app, but you can shoot RAW images right out of the box. You can also donate money for the developers and have features like exposure bracketing, live histogram and unlimited video recording with manual control unlocked.
A Better Camera
This one here is packed with a lot of features, including pre-shot, HDR+ for photos and videos, Night Mode, high-resolution panorama shots, unwanted moving objects removal, and time lapse. Of course, there's also the RAW capture, but it is not compatible with all devices. Since you can ask for a refund on the Play Store up until 2 hours after the purchase, you can simply get the app and check the compatibility. The app is on sale too, so you can buy it for 50% off. There's also a free version with limited features.
If you took our advice, then you chose one of the above apps for shooting in RAW. Then you realise you can't open your image just like a regular photo. This is because you would need a desktop software or some special apps in order to view and edit RAW images and Adobe Lightroom is one of the best over there. Additionally, Adobe has lifted the price for the app so you can get it for free.
Additionally, some modern high-end smartphones already shoot in RAW, including the HTC One M9, Galaxy S6 and the LG G4, although the feature has to be activated manually on the camera settings.