Google's "Coming Soon" RAW image support


Not to be outdone by Nokia's announcement for DNG file support, Google has come out to say that RAW file APIs are coming for Google Android KitKat.

First, the API already exist in part within KitKat. Problem is, it's not activated as yet. Developers have seen bits of the API within KitKat but when will Google come out with the option to do this remains questionable.

RAW equals more Storage

That's right, a 8 megapixel sensor can yield up to a 8MB RAW file. This doesn't sound very good if you happen to have a 16GB device with no option to take in a microSD card. The new generation of sensors are already headed towards 16 megapixels and with that, you're dealing with even more storage problems.

RAW support will only be available on high end devices

Possible. The majority of folks have no need for RAW. If all you ever do is post to Instagram or Facebook, then a small JPG file will do just fine. High end camera phones within the same ballpark as the Nokia 1020 will have the ability to save in RAW whenever required but lower end devices running KitKat will probably not have that feature for the sake of taming this storage hungry requirement.

RAW support on selected Apps

There are apps on the iPhone that already does this. That is to convert the JPG files to TIFF. So far, there hasn't been much talk about this with the Apple fanboys as TIFF files are massive! Once Google green lights the API for RAW image capture, device manufacturers are not expected to give you this option automatically but you should be able to buy camera apps that will do this for you. Premium camera apps are far and few on the Playstore. The idea that you'd pay more for an app just coz of a bunch of filters is already passe. Serious amateurs will demand more control over their images and this is where RAW files will appease them.

RAW File Impact on Workflow

Another reason why RAW files may not be such a hit is that it will impact your workflow. Apps must have the ability to edit and open RAW files natively and without sufficient RAM, you won't be able to do this. Furthermore, RAW file editing is already possible via Google's Picasa, making good on the fact that Google will encourage you to consume more mobile data just to upload it to the cloud. Backing up to the cloud should only be performed through a Wifi connection.

Do you really need RAW?

Going forward, camera phones will eventually replace the DSLR and compact camera when it comes to casual photography. Apps can already dial in artificial 'bokeh' when there isn't any. It is just a matter of time when the right app comes along to do all this. Having RAW files at your disposal means that you will have access to untouched images from the sensor—which can then be used to generate all manner of effects with imaging quality rivaling that of upmarket compact cameras. Once this is achieved, you won't be taking that DSLR on holiday.