touch me, baby

Touch and drag to focus and expose your images, and it really works

The camera on the Moto X is not going to win any awards. It won't turn you into Trey Ratcliff, it won't get you paid for your pictures by National Geographic, and it won't keep you warm in the evenings. But it opens fast, and with the new enhanced "touch to focus" mode that came with KtiKat it takes pictures a bit better than it did before.

Previously, something was broken with touch to focus. Things seemed to focus on the center of the viewfinder no matter where you tried to move it to, and a lot of pictures showed this by being blurry and grainy. Focus and exposure are two of the most important things we need out of a small sensor camera (the third being good white balance and color correction) and part of the reason why pictures from your phone always look like pictures from your phone.

Motorola wants the camera to be good. They used relatively good components, and are working on the software little by little. Hit the break to see what I mean.

touch to focus mode

Fire up the camera on your KitKat powered Moto X and slide out the settings menu by dragging your finger to the right. Smack dab in the center of the hemisphere, you see the finger. Tap on it. The first time you tap, you'll get a description of what it's going to do for you. 

Basically, it gives you a new reticule. You can drag it anywhere on the viewfinder screen and when you tap to take a picture, it focuses on what it sees inside the circle and exposes — sets the camera settings to get the best picture based on the light in front of the lens — based on what is inside the small rectangular brackets. 

touch to focus

This is a huge boost to the camera, and makes a mediocre shooter a bit less mediocre. See the samples below for a visual of what I mean.

bright

This is a quick and dirty shot with the focus and exposure on the left side of the window, away from the bare light bulb. Everything to the right is blown out and likely can't be fixed, but the little Android figurines look reasonably good. Not "real camera" good, but good.

dark

Here's the same scene, except the focus area was dragged over to the right of the image, where that bare bulb is. You get a lot more detail of an ugly bare light bulb, at the expense of casting the rest of the image in a dark shadow that you won't be able to fix with Snapseed or Google+. 

These tests are extreme, but I think they give a good idea of how things work now. Any picture you take with a bare, bright bulb in the frame is going to turn out poorly. And while this doesn't make the Moto X anyones' go-to camera, your quick and dirty shots will be better than they were before.