Every once in a while we see a camera mode in a phone that doesn't exist elsewhere. It's not usually a big deal, but over the last couple of months we've seen a number of requests for "super resolution" modes on cameras that didn't include the feature natively. This is a little tricky, as super resolution photos occur when you take several photos at the normal resolution of your sensor and stitch them together into a single photo with a resolution that is several times larger than your existing sensor. There's a lot more to it than that, but for the purposes of smartphone photography it lets you take a single photo at 40 to 50 megapixels. This isn't a mode you'd want to use all the time, but it never huts to have more tools in your belt.
An app called Camera Super Pixel lets you take these super resolution photos on Google's Nexus 6P, as well as several other Android phones that lack the feature natively. Here's how it works.
We've seen native super resolution modes on several phones in the last year, most recently the Asus ZenFone Zoom. In our testing with most of these phones we've found that the feature works well enough to get a cool photo every once in a while, but conditions really have to be perfect. There's usually a noticeable delay between tapping the shutter button and seeing the photo, and features like HDR and image stabilization are usually available in this mode. When dealing with an app that has not been heavily optimized by the manufacturer for this particular feature, it's easy to assume these same problems and a couple other issues will crop up.
The first thing you need to know about Camera Super on the Nexus 6P is the two full seconds between tapping the shutter button and saving the photo. It's going to happen every time, and there's nothing you can do about it. The camera on the Nexus 6P already isn't particularly fast, and when you take that 12MP sensor and try to take 49MP photos, there's going to be a delay. That delay means you need to be perfectly still to avoid screwing up the photo, which means your best shots are going to come from a tripod. Even then, you'll find you can't take photos of things in motion. Super Resolution seemed like a great idea when capturing this amazing sunrise at the beach, but zooming in reveals a whole lot of mess in the waves.
You also lose HDR+ in this Camera Super Pixel app, which means compared to your normal stock app colors can appear washed out in many situations. This isn't as noticeable when taking photos of scenery or of faces, but when vibrant colors are involved it usually stands out a little if you compare side by side. It also means low light photos aren't as good in this mode, since HDR+ is what helps the sensor Google uses stand out in that area. You can still catch a killer sunrise or sunset, but if you're looking for a compare on your phone or on Facebook it's unlikely you'll think the Super Resolution shot is better. Since the Nexus 6P doesn't include image stabilization, there's nothing else to lose here.
While it's not magic, and there are some flaws in this capture mode, the photos you get that do turn out are exceptional. Perfect photos for setting as a wallpaper on high resolution monitors, or sending off to get printed if that's your thing. It takes some practice to use right, and there will never be a time when you use this to take a quick photo, but it's a worthwhile app to have in your drawer for when you see something you want to capture in a way that can be deeply appreciated anywhere. To see the full resolution of these photos, check out the link here.