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The ex-Googler behind amazing Pixel cameras is going to make a camera app for every phone

Google Pixel 4 XL
Google Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The former head of Pixel photography, Marc Levoy, has joined Adobe.
  • Levoy's stated mission is to create a universal camera app for Android users.
  • No timeline for a release is given, but Adobe already makes a universal Photoshop Camera app.

In a surprise move earlier this year, Google's head of Pixel photography, Marc Levoy, left the company. Now we know where he went: Adobe. We could've guessed Levoy's services would be in high demand, and a name as big as this makes sense. And it's a big deal for every person who uses an Android phone.

But Levoy isn't going to disappear inside the Adobe machine working on image processing in Photoshop or something miniscule. The most interesting part of Adobe's announcement of Levoy's role is that he will specifically be working on a universal camera app. And that's a huge deal for the smartphone world, because Levoy has proven to be a mastermind when it comes to producing fantastic photos within the constraints of small cameras in mobile devices.

With the name and distribution of Adobe, Levoy's genius can be experienced by dramatically more people.

Levoy, and his team inside Google, was responsible for the development of all of the technology that makes Pixel cameras amazing: from headline features like HDR+, Night Sight and Astrophotography, down to simpler behind-the-scenes changes to processing, multi-frame capture and lens correction. Put simply, the Pixels have a (deserved) reputation for taking incredible photos because of Marc Levoy.

Now working at Adobe, which distributes its apps to every Android device (in addition to iPhones), Levoy has an opportunity to share his camera expertise with dramatically more people than would ever have access to it on Pixels. Adobe's Lightroom Mobile (opens in new tab) has over 100 million downloads on the Play Store. And even though its lower-tier Photoshop Camera app (opens in new tab) has only crested the 100,000 download mark, you can easily see that quickly changing when word gets out that it's now integrating all of the amazing technological prowess that has made Pixel phones the best smartphone cameras around.

The state of third-party camera apps on Android isn't great, and leads to a lot of frustration as built-in camera apps simply have deeper hooks into camera hardware. But we can image that, of anybody, Levoy would be one who could create a camera app that plugs into all of the appropriate APIs and frameworks in Android that make it work seamlessly. We've seen time and time again that simply sideloading the Google Camera app on any phone produces surprisingly good results with no optimization, and I have no doubt that with an official goal of creating a third-party camera app that Levoy can deliver. Let's hope we see the fruits of his labor soon.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

7 Comments
  • This should be fun.
  • It would be interesting to see the results of this app compared to a gcam port.
  • The Gcam port has been garbage for me on two devices.
  • Gcam port didn't work well for me. Night Sight was missing and I had to reset the phone to get rid of hooks into the system. If this works well, and has the astrophotography and Night Sight modes, I might take a look. If it doesn't, it won't off any advantage of the existing camera app, and would be a downgrade for video.
  • Still gonna have the age old problem of not being anywhere as useful as the stock camera app with almost all phones having multiple sensors these days and 3rd party apps only really being able to utilise the main lens
  • Here's hoping for a paid download and not a subscription.
  • Adobe did just release Photoshop Camera, an app that applies filters and such directly. Look for PsC. Sure he had nothing to do with this, but I imagine he will.