8 Android camera apps that will take your photo game to the next level

You don't have to be stuck shooting with the camera app that came with your phone.

shootingstuff
Florence Ion

It’s time to start taking better photos

There’s that old, overused saying that the best camera is the one you’ve got with you. But if the one you’ve got in your hand comes with the most ineffective camera application, then it’s the worst.

Thankfully, there are plenty of apps in the Google Play Store that can help you achieve faux-professional smartphone photographer status, or at least give you a little more control over how the shot looks. For instance, I personally like apps where I can adjust the shutter speed for when I’m shooting at dusk, but if you like filters and presets, there are plenty of applications that offer those, too.

So, let’s go through some of the better camera applications available for your Android phone. Some are free and some require you to pay, but all of them offer a little something for the photographer in you just waiting to bust out.

opencamera

Open Camera

Android is an open platform, so it’s only natural that there’s an “Open Camera.” This camera app is full of features and, unless you decide to donate, it’s totally free to use.

Open Camera’s interface might appear busy at first, but that’s because there are a ton of options to choose from, including several focus and scene modes. You can also choose to lock your exposure, or change the white balance filter based on the environment. Open Camera also offers configurable volume keys and an option to edit button placement for right- or left-handed users.

If you decide to download this app, be sure to spend some time in the settings panel. There’s even an option to enable Google’s Camera2 API for more granular camera settings.

Open Camera (Free)

cameramx

Camera MX

If your phone's default camera app is lacking a bit of oomph, you'll want to check out Camera MX. This app has all the bells and whistles of most camera apps in the Play Store, like the ability to add effects and filters in real-time, but there's a few extra novelty features you might find worthwhile.

For instance, Camera MX offers a feature called Live Shot photos. After you snap a photo, the extra footage from a few seconds before the actual photo was taken will be saved. That allows you to go back and save a still, in case you missed the moment, or share the photo to social media as an animated GIF or video. 

Camera MX (Free)

bestme selfie

BestMe Selfie Camera

Did you really think I wouldn’t make room for a dedicated selfie camera app? I like BestMe’s variety of real-time filters. There are 125 to choose from, or you can skip those altogether and just tack on a bunch of emojis and stickers after you shoot your photo. You don’t have to shoot a selfie, either, because BestMe supports the rear-facing camera if you want to add in a few friends into the photo. There’s even a collage mode that prompts you with a face to make before it shoots.

By default, BestMe sticks a watermark on your photos, but you can remove that via an option in the settings menu. BestMe has also hinted at Android Wear support coming soon, as well as real-time video filters.

BestMe Selfie Camera (Free) 

camerafv5

Camera FV-5

When LG and Samsung debuted manual camera modes on their respective devices, I was so excited. I love the ability to manually adjust the focus or the shutter speed for long exposure night shots.

Unfortunately, stock Android does not offer its own manual mode, but you can download an app like Camera FV-5 to get access to those particular features. Camera FV-5 enables you to adjust the shutter speed, ISO, metering mode, and white balance no matter the megapixels you’ve got on the back of your device. You can also adjust exposure bracketing and choose whether to shoot in JPEG, PNG, or RAW, the latter of which will allow you to take those images to the computer and adjust them further in an editing app like Lightroom. The best part of the app, however, is all the relevant information displayed on the viewfinder, including a battery meter and an aperture gauge.

Camera FV-5 ($3.95)

cinemafv5

Cinema FV-5

If you're into making novice documentaries with your smartphone—or attempting to, anyway—you might want to consider investing in Camera FV-5's video recording equivalent, Cinema FV-5. The app offers similar manual controls to Camera FV-5, but there are a few extra settings plopped in specifically for video makers.

For instance, Cinema FV-5 offers the ability to plug in a pair of headphones for audio monitoring. The app also offers an on-screen histogram, so you can keep those colors leveled throughout the plot of your video. And if you're looking to get semi-professional with your video-making, there's a number of granular controls available in the settings panel.

Cinema FV-5 (On sale for $2.49)

manualcamera

Manual Camera

The Manual Camera app employs Android's Camera2 API that was introduced back in Lollipop. It's one of the easiest to use if you're a camera novice, too, thanks to its helpful introductory walkthrough.

If you're been thinking of ramping up your smartphone photography up to the next level, Manual Camera is a great place to start. The app offers all the usual features, like the ability to manually adjust the shutter speed, focus distance, and ISO, as well as the ability to shoot in RAW.

Manual Camera ($2.99)

cameraringo

Cameringo+ Effects Camera

Cameringo+ Effects Camera offers a wide range of both funky and practical camera effects. You can choose from the usual number of Lomography and hipster filter effects for your photos and videos, as well as a few “faux” HDR effects and filtered “Pro” effects. There’s also an option to shoot a GIF, if you’d rather get a little creative, and a fun Little Planet mode. My favorite are the face distortion modes, which you can see here in the photo.

Cameringo+ Effects Camera ($2.99) 

vscocam

VSCO

Last, but not least, is the exceptionally popular VSCO cam—a worthy consideration if the primary objective of your smartphone photography is to show off to your friends how idyllic your life is. There’s nothing that can’t fix a gloomy day like the right set of photo filters.

VSCO offers a wealth of pre-configured presets to help you achieve the exact look and feel you want for your photos. You can also batch edit a few different files at once, which is especially helpful if you’re aiming for the same aesthetic across the board. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can also upload your photos to share with VSCO’s budding online community. But be forewarned that while the application is free, you’ll have to pay for some of the more effective presets.

VSCO (Free)