Working With RAW Photos on Android

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With the launch of Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google announced the ability to capture photos in RAW on Android smartphones. There isn’t currently much option to edit these RAW photos, though there are a handful of camera apps that are capable of capturing RAW. As I browse online forums and blogs, a common question I see is how to view or access the RAW photos once they’ve been captured.

While I can’t speak on behalf of each RAW capable app, so this will be more of a generalization. First of all, Gallery apps and Google’s Photos app can’t read RAW files. What this means is if you capture RAW only, don’t expect to see your photos appear in these apps. If you shoot jpeg+RAW, you will see the jpeg photo, but not the RAW. Instead, you will need to use a file browser to locate the RAW images but don’t expect to open the RAW photos from the file browser unless you have an app that can read RAW files. Where these images are stored will vary by which camera app you use.

Most of us capturing RAW photos will edit them on a PC using software such as Lightroom, DxO, Capture One, Photoshop, etc. You would copy the files from your phone to your PC just the same as any other file before editing. However, if you wish to edit photos on your Android device, I know of two apps that are capable, but so far have only played with one:

Photoshop Express

I discovered Photoshop Express could edit RAW photos in the fall of 2014, before Android supported RAW photos officially. My PC had died, I had just snapped some concert photos for two bands, and needed to process them. I saw RAW editing as a feature on Photoshop Express and copied my RAW photos from my Canon DSLR onto my Nexus 7 tablet. I learned very quickly that Photoshop Express will only import photos from the Gallery, but the Gallery won’t recognize RAW files. Instead, I had to find my RAW files in a file browser and share them one by one to Photoshop Express. The editing tools weren’t what I expected either. I was able to make my adjustments, but the tools were very consumer-like and familiar with other general photo editing app or filter-applying app. Once I got past the overly-simplistic interface, I must say I was impressed with the results. I was especially impressed with the noise reduction option as I shot at 3200 ISO at the event. Note that noise reduction is a paid add-on, however.

Photo Mate R2

This app is a bit on the expensive side compared to other apps available, but it’s a steal compared to other RAW editors. I have not yet tried this app, but the features are recognizable to other professional RAW editors. Once I get my hands on this, I plan to write a review. In the meantime, please share your thoughts if you have used it already.

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