Photo-A-Day Project: My month with the Nexus One camera

1 03 2010

Well, it’s March 1, and my February photo-a-day project has come to a close. I still have plenty to learn and try out, but I feel much more knowledgeable about the capabilities of the Nexus One camera, Android photo apps and Posterous. I created a video slideshow with the 30 photos from the project (I couldn’t resist posting two photos on two of the days).

View larger video.

The Project

I’ve found myself comparing the 5-megapixel Nexus One camera to my first digital camera, a 5-megapixel, AA-battery-eating device I bought in 2004. That camera was slow, bulky and could store about 100 photos. My Nexus One is with me at all times, does countless other awesome things and allows me to instantly share information, photos and videos with the world. Have I mentioned I really love having a camera with me at all times?

This project forced me to venture beyond my normal schedule and routine (otherwise you might see 28 pictures of my neighborhood grocery store or coffee shop). So when I was in Fremont, I took a nice stroll over the bridge and shot this photo.

Day 25

When I went for a walk around Green Lake, I kept an eye out for pretty views and interesting lighting and ended up capturing one of my favorite photos of the project. I like projects that get me outside, enjoying beautiful weather and exploring the city. I also took tons of other photos throughout the month, so February 2010 is one of the most well-documented periods of my life — and it was relatively uneventful.

Day 6

On the other hand, a fun daily project can also take a backseat when you’re busy. Hence, the photo of my new colorful coasters. (Though my calendar helped keep me on track by popping up with a reminder every morning for 28 days.)

Day 17

The Camera

Overall, the camera is very easy to use, but I have one big complaint about the phone’s design. When trying to shoot a photo, it can be easy to fumble and hit the back or search buttons. It’s frustrating to frame a nice shot and then have the camera suddenly switch to search mode. One way to avoid this is to use the trackball to take the photo rather than the on-screen button. Using the trackball button also feels much more natural.

This project led me to read up on the Nexus One camera and figure out how to turn off the annoying and slightly embarrassing shutter sound. You have to have the ringer on, then enter the camera app, then turn the ringer off (using the button on the side).

I didn’t use the flash that often, but I love having it. The camera also has quite a few built-in settings for color effect and white balance. Here is a self-portrait using the Posterize color effect.

Day 22

As you might expect, I got the best shots in bright outdoor settings – and the beautiful spring weather certainly helped. The camera also did surprisingly well with close-up shots. I was really impressed with the camera’s ability to focus on the flowers in the foreground and place the building out of focus.

Day 27

I was really happy with some of the shots (especially the flowers), but 5 megapixels can only go so far. Compare these ice skating photos. On the left is a Nexus One shot. On the right is a shot from the 12-megapixel camera I just bought Adam. (Though I’m pretty sure I didn’t use the flash in the Nexus One photo and that accounts for some of the difference.)

Day 14

And as with many point-and-shoot cameras, landscape shots didn’t turn out great. Simple cameras just don’t do justice to breathtaking mountain scenes. I like this photo from the waterfront, but it’d be better if you could really see the snow-capped Olympic Mountains in the distance.

Day 15

Also, for those interested in a side-by-side comparison of the Nexus One and iPhone cameras, check out this CNET review. It’s an interesting review, but it seems pretty obvious that 5 megapixels would be better than 3.

The Apps

The Adobe Mobile app offers quite a few photo editing functions – crop, straighten, rotate, flip; exposure, saturation, tint, black and white; soft focus – and works great. When you’re happy with your edits, you can save the new version in your camera’s photo gallery. You can also set up a account and upload photos to it. Given all my other photo-storage accounts, I haven’t seen the need yet to use this.

I mostly used the crop and straighten tools in the Photoshop app. It’s difficult to gauge things like color saturation on such a small screen, but it’s pretty easy to crop an image. I do wish the Photoshop app had some sort of “auto enhance” feature (like those that you find on most new digital cameras) that would automatically touch up photos.

I’ve been searching for Android camera and photo apps (if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments section). I liked the FXCamera app, which gives you fun settings like “Polandroid” and the “Warholizer.” Unless you really have a need for a pop art image, these photos are pretty much destined to become Facebook profile pics.


Posterous works really well for mobile blogging, especially photo blogging. Most blogging platforms have a “post by email” feature, but Posterous is geared specifically toward email posting. You snap the photo, select “share” and select “Gmail.” Enter the blog title as the subject of the email and the caption in the body of the email. It’s published immediately and you receive a confirmation email with a link to the post. I often found myself emailing in posts and visiting the website later to edit it further. You can also set up Posterous to instantly autopost to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Tumblr, WordPress, etc. (By the way, WordPress offers tons of features for emailing in posts.)

At first, I thought it was kind of silly to email in content when there are so many apps that could do the same thing, but Posterous is definitely simpler and autoposting to other platforms could save you quite a few steps.

If you’re traveling, a Posterous blog connected to Twitter and Facebook would be a great way to share photos and quick updates. I wish I had the Nexus One on our road trip across the country last year, but I did plenty of tweeting via SMS with my dumb phone and took plenty of photos with my digital camera.

Coming next: Video!

My next project will involve testing out the Nexus One video camera, video apps such as Qik, publishing videos to Posterous – and playing with my newest toy, Final Cut Express.




4 responses

1 03 2010
Kelly McIvor

Great project Amy! I just got the HTC Hero (Android) and found that the phone can be set to geo-tag my photos. I haven’t played with it much yet, however. Does your device have similar capabilities?

1 03 2010
Amy Rainey

Thanks, Kelly!

Yeah, the Nexus One can geo-tag photos. When I’m in the photo gallery, I can click on “Show on map” and view the photo’s location. And when I import the photos to iPhoto, it imports all the location info. If I upload a photo to Picasa, it shows the location info with the photo.

Though this is weird — I just tested it with Better Flickr and it used my current location (not the location where I took the photo). I guess you’d often be posting the photo from the same location?

1 03 2010

Nice overview of the camera capabilities of the Nexus One. Nothing like a project like this to test what it can do.

It seems obvious that having a camera on a cell phone will allow owners to take pictures in situations where they normally wouldn’t have a camera handy, but its impact is greater than that. In that context, I liked your comment that the “project forced me to venture beyond my normal schedule and routine.”

This type of impact of mobile technology can be serendipitous and hard to measure, but even if it’s under the radar, it’s real and potentially important to how we lead our everyday lives. Was it Shirky who said that once technology becomes boring it really has the potential to become revolutionary?

2 03 2010
Melissa Bird-Vogel

ahhh great call Peter – and great project, Amy! It’s been a pleasure watching the month of Nexus pics unfold 🙂 Thanks for educating us — and looking fwd to the video installation of the blog! right now, I’m using an iPhone 3G (not S) so have separate video cam (Flip) for any moving photos on the go. (also downloaded an app for that but haven’t tested it yet – maybe you’ll inspire me 😉

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