Nokia's current Lumia line isn't getting Windows Phone 8. Bummer. That doesn't mean Lumia owners are getting hung out to dry just yet. The Finnish company is still dedicated to bringing new features to the platform through Windows Phone 7.8. However, the latest piece of software is Camera Extras, which is available in the U.S. and China as we speak. We tested it out on a Lumia 900, and here are our thoughts.
Camera Extras is implemented right into the built-in camera app, so the experience is seamless. Users will be presented with a list of new features in the settings menu: Smart group shot, Action shot, Panorama and Self timer. Tap on one, and it'll instantly launch you into that mode. Everything is painless to execute, and your normal photo settings are still in the same menu, where you can easily scroll down and tweak as needed.
Smart Group Shot
Ever take a family photo where dad or Little Suzy looks away? With Smart Group Shot, Nokia uses "advanced algorithms" to ensure users get the best possible photo. By snapping five images in quick succession, the feature manages to detect the "best" face for each person in the shot and combine the photos into a single "best" shot. It's almost like a morphing mobile photoshop hybrid. And if you're unhappy with the result, Smart Group Shot lets users choose alternative faces to get the picture to their liking.
Once you jump into Smart Group Shot, all it takes is one press of the shutter button and it'll commence its magic. We found it worked as advertised, and it chose faces (indicated by white circles) without a hitch, but it didn't always choose the "best" face. For example, in one five image sequence, it chose the picture where Jon wasn't smiling (and frankly looked angry); there was a perfectly good image of him smiling that it inexplicably looked over.
I wish Action Shot was capable of faster continuous shooting — somewhere on par with the HTC One X's rapid-fire capabilities — but sadly that's just not the case. There's at least a one second lag between photos, which doesn't sound like much, but something can easily be missed in that second. That can potentially lead to a lot of frustrated users.
When you access the feature, simply hold the shutter button down and it will do its thing. We tried it out by having Ralph jump, and there were more than a few times when the camera didn't catch him in the air. That could be down to our bad timing, but that's not something folks have the luxury of worrying about when fast action is taking place.
Panorama shots are fantastic for outdoors, and using the feature in Camera Extras produces some pretty great results. Not only that, but it's extremely easy and intuitive to use, making the experience as painless as possible. Once Panorama opens, a Tap to Start screen will appear, which will then set the feature in motion.
After every shot you take, you'll be prompted by an arrow within a box to pan to the right. Once you've panned over enough, the UI will require you to match up two boxes before snapping another photo; this is done so you gather enough information for the end result. Once you've snapped up enough photos, simply hit a small check mark and it'll process the image.
We found that it worked well, but like a lot of panorama apps and software, not everything lined up 100 percent every time. We tested it both indoors and out, and were happy with the results.
Pretty self explanatory. Hitting Self Timer will give users ten seconds before the photo is taken. It's easy, and it works like it should. Nothing to see here.
Overall, Camera Extras is a neat add-on package that really should've been included from the start. It's a bit of a bummer that you need to download it from the Windows Marketplace (instead of coming pre-installed) but once it's installed you can access each feature right from the built-in camera. Ultimately, it's a small reason for Lumia owners to stay away from non-Nokia camera devices; it produces good results, and it's fun to mess around with, particularly Panorama. Oh, and it's free, which is always good.