The changes break down in five categories, Burke says, autofocus first among them. Mixing speed and image quality requires a fragile balance, particularly in low light, and Android 4.4 skewed too far toward image quality. “There’s a tendency to say, ‘oh, we have this cool thing that stabilizes, so lets make the shutter time longer, reduce the gain even longer, and get better shots.’” But while the Nexus 5’s optical image stabilization allowed it to get better-than-average shots in low light, in good lighting it just made for frustratingly slow shooting speeds. By speeding up the framerate and increasing how quickly the camera can read its surroundings and fire a picture, Burke and his team improved the autofocus, the exposure, and the white balance. “You fix the motion blur,” he says, “and make everything faster.”
For five week’s worth of work, this is impressive, especially considering how badly the camera was trashed on the Vergecast. It’s come a long way and it’s good to know Google’s paying close attention to this issue:
With Android 4.4.1 on board, however, the Nexus 5’s camera stops being a dealbreaker — it’s not the best smartphone camera, but it’s a camera you can use confidently and expectantly knowing that it will almost always deliver. It may not take the perfect shot yet, but rarely offers anything but a completely usable one. Burke says it’s only going to get better, though he admits there’s a lot to do. “Cameras can be pretty complicated,” he says.