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Taking 'super resolution' photos on the Nexus 6P

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.

Nexus 6P Full Zoom

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.

Color Compare

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.

Download: Camera Super Pixel (Free with ads) (opens in new tab)

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

50 Comments
  • I end up with a slightly more blurry version that's 8 times the size. Thanks, Russell..... pssh....
  • No blur if you do it right. Maybe try focusing that lame sarcasm on actually learning how to hold your phone. Might end up with some nice photos and fewer people thinking you're kinda lame! Win/Win!
  • omg AT&T Galaxy Note 3 (On T-Mobile)
  • Ouch, what a response! lol
  • Russell u been Savage those month Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Freaking rekt Posted via the Android Central App
  • Comment Level: Savage AF
  • Hopefully he can get to one in time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_burn_centers_in_the_United_States Posted via the Android Central App
  • I immediately grabbed some ice from the freezer. I need that guy's address. Mailing. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It works great for me. You obviously need to quit shaking your hands when taking a photo with this app. If you don't have steady hands this app is not for you.
  • I (mostly) l have to agree with LeoRex here. Image quality is not that much more meaningfully better than a plan old 16 MP shot on my V10 (same camera hardware as the G4, which is supported). And this is pinned against a wall so there's zero movement. I can upload a Google Drive folder if there's interest
  • You should compare it on a large high-res monitor with accurate calibration. There's little to no difference on a phone display, but there is some difference when viewed on those.
  • Yar any possible critique towards this page and its reporters is meet with brutal force with absolute zero discussion or reflection on their side.
  • Awesome, thanks! Gotta try that on S7
  • It works! Big difference. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm checking this one out, but seems the square panorama mode in the native camera app is a little similar. It stitches 9 photos together as one big photo.
  • At the moment these are the phones compatible with this app: ● Samsung S7 / S7 edge (48.8 MP)
    ● Nexus 5 (32 MP)
    ● Nexus 5X (48.8 MP)
    ● Nexus 6 (52 MP)
    ● Nexus 6P (48.8 MP)
    ● OnePlus 2 (51.9 MP)
    ● Sony Xperia Z5 (Android 6.0)
    ● Mediatek (eg. Micromax Canvas A1, Sparkle V, ...)
    ● LG G4 / G Flex 2
  • I'm wondering why the S6 and Note 5 aren't listed.
  • I think they don't have proper RAW support.
  • No RAW support Posted via the Android Central App
  • It says they're working on it: "We are working hard to add support for new devices (Samsung S6, LG G5, ...)." But as was pointed out, this requires RAW support and Burst Mode.
  • New update today adds S6 and Note 5...
  • Ugh, my Note 4 is sad. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Works on the N6 like a charm. Holy crap this app is awesome. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Tried it on my G4. Holy crap. The amount of detail is insane. Of course, you need to take the shot at the perfect time but damn, once you do, you will have one heck of a photo. It's 63.5MP on the G4, BTW.
  • No joke. Try it with a tripod and you'll be amazed. I used a gorilla pod with my G4 and I was blown away.
  • Same MP size on my V10 though it helps that they share the same exact sensor. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I can't try this out because it's not compatible with my phone, but i am curious... From your description, it sounds like you keep the phone still while it takes the picture(s), rather than moving the phone to capture more of the subject, similar to a photosphere. I'm struggling to imagine how this does anything more than just blow up a standard resolution photo to make it bigger... Clearly there's more to it than that though. Some kind of witch craft. I need to get my hands on a compatible phone and try it out myself. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Super-resolution is an advanced processing technique that takes advantage of the fact that the noise in camera sensors (especially in phones) can be “averaged out” taking several shots of the scene, yielding a far better result than typical 1-shot denoising processes; and often also of the fact that, even if taken with a tripod or other immobilizing method, the camera does still move microscopically between shots, and this minute displacement can in fact be used to extract more detailed information of the scene than if the camera truly was perfectly, absolutely still.
  • This actually makes sense. I guess it's kind of like HDR, but for noise instead of exposure. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Exactly. In fact, and though the theoretical main purpose of super-resolution is to actually *increase* detail (as, say, if you were shooting with a sensor with more megapixels), in practice noise reduction is by far the most noticeable effect with just a few shots, whereas significant detail increase may require a heck of a lot more.
  • Wikipedia has a super nerdy science based article on Super Resolution imaging: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super-resolution_imaging
    It's deep reading, but gives you the idea how this works.
  • G3 not compatible but found apk to download to try. Everything seemed to work as far as app opening and camera working. However, it wouldn't actually take a picture. Tap or hold shutter button and it just kind of lightly highlighted that area but no capture of any info.
    Oh well.. Lol I tried. Was very curious to use this app. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Oh and it would allow me to purchase pro directly from app store but knowing there was good chance that wouldn't change anything it wasn't going to be worth the $. If so then I'd probably purchase Posted via the Android Central App
  • Didn't know that the nexus 6p was slow taking pictures... Care to elaborate? I thought that it was one of the best smartphone in the camera department lol
  • He didn't say it was slow, he wrote "not particularly fast".
    I can't really comment on my camera since I don't know a lot about photography, but as I remember it most reviews said the camera is good, and very good in low light. Posted via the Android Central App
  • They were referring to the app being slow when taking pictures. The phone itself normally is very quick from what I've read. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This is a great app, just don't try to hand hold. The native 6p camera app is very fast and lag free if flash and hdr are off. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Tried it on my 5X, going to keep it. Colour me impressed! It's a great app! Posted via the Android Central App
  • "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." This also means that app must be upscaling the captured pixels and extrapolating the missing pixel data instead of combining/stitching several photos like the Cortex Camera app available for the iPhone (and hopefully soon also available for Android). So this app will not capture more detail than the image sensor is capable of. You end up with a 50MP photo with 12MP worth of image details. Shrink it down back to 12MP and you will have not lost anything.
  • Now I actually took the effort of reading the app description in the Play store. It actually seems to be just like Cortex, which then should mean that it shouldn't be necessary to hold the phone perfectly still.
  • Well, I've used the app several times and I think I know why. When you press the shutter, the app takes a quick burst shot of 4 pictures (hence the delay in the shutter being pressed and the picture being taken). It then processes and analyzes each photo to stitch them together for extra detail AND also checks each individual photo to ensure that there's no significant difference in the position of the subjects in the photo so that there's no weird effect when processing is complete. If it detects any difference in the position of the subject in each of the photos, the processing will fail and the picture will revert to a normal full-resolution shot.
  • The developer of Cortex Camera is working on an android version, but it's going slow as I don't think there is much support. Please follow @CortexCamera on Twitter to show interest. It's the best photography app I have EVER used, as it takes much sharper and better exposed shots in low light conditions.
  • The way these system works is to use pixel shift. In a camera which has this mode built in, it actually moves its own sensor by a pixel in multiple directions, then uses pixel mapping to shift all the images into exact alignment after they're taken. So it's relying on a very small amount of movement.
    Handily for us, we can replicate this simply by holding our phones in our hands, as this applies a very small shift between each image.
    Without this shift, the camera would take exactly the same photo each time, and so may articicially increease the number of pixels in the image by simply guessing the difference between adjacent pixels, but it would not increase the detail at all. If you zoomed in, it would actually look less crisp as all hard edges would be blurry.
    The method used by this app (and similar ones) will only work if there is a very small movement between each rapidly shot image.
    The worst thing you could do would be to put your phone on a tripod. The trick is to have a very steady hand, and shoot a scene with very little movement in it.
  • Any alternative to this app? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Makes me nostalgic for the Nokia 808 and 1020, phones purpose-built for high resolution photos. Those things were ahead of their time. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Guess I'll give this a spin on my V10. Sounds interesting enough. One picture at a time--LG V10
  • "Since the Nexus 6P doesn't include image stabilization, there's nothing else to lose here." I know I'm splitting hairs (and it may only apply to video, I'm not sure) but I thought the 6P does have electronic image stabilization, it just lacks optical image stabilization, correct?
  • Digital yes, optical no.
  • Works pretty well hand-held with my G4. Very little delay in taking the picture. Impressed.