Google Camera, the default shooting app on Nexus devices, is finally getting a feature we've been anticipating for years. As evidenced by a recent APK teardown done by Android Police, the beginnings of a new RAW capture mode have already been baked into the latest version of the app, which indicates that Google Camera will soon have the ability to store an unprocessed copy of the exact image your camera sensor captures.
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The way things will work should be simple: after enabling the new setting, two versions of each image will be stored when you take a picture. The first version will be the same JPEG format we've grown accustomed to, complete with a bit of automatic post-processing done by the Google Camera app. The second version will be a DNG file (otherwise known as a RAW image), and it will be entirely free of any compression or processing.
RAW image capture was made possible by an API released nearly two years ago alongside Android Lollipop, so it's been a long time coming. But the feature allows for more fine-tuned photo editing after the fact, as the unprocessed DNG file hasn't already been tainted by JPEG compression or Google Camera's own post-processing.
In other words, RAW images are the exact picture that was captured by your camera sensor, so when it comes time to do a bit of editing in Photoshop or similar programs, you're not working against any tweaks made by your camera app's automatic post-processing. This means that, with a little bit of work, you can potentially create a better-looking end product than if you had initially set out to edit the already-processed JPEG file that most camera apps output by default.