Google Camera HDR+

HDR+ from Google Pixel camera performs significantly better than other smartphone cameras in low light condition thanks to Google’s computational photography technology. The working principle is basically image stacking but Google made it really fast. HDR+ mode takes series of images and processes them in background. The post-processing includes aligning the sequence of images to avoid blurry image and image stacking for noise reduction. A developer called B-S-G successfully ported a modified version of Google Camera from Android O Developer Preview to other Android devices with Snapdragon 820/821/835 processor.

Google Camera apk download link

I have tested on OnePlus 3 and it works really well in very low light condition. First, this scene is what it looks like to naked eyes.

Taken with Manual Mode, 1 second shutter speed, ISO1600 on tripod. Edited in Lightroom to approximate similar exposure to naked eyes.

These are the pictures from different modes on OnePlus 3 stock camera.

HDR off and HQ off
HDR on
HQ on

The noise level in all 3 modes are very high and totally unusable.

Here is the picture from Google Camera’s HDR+ mode.

Taken with Google Camera with HDR+ enabled. The words on the charger and lens filters become readable.

The picture from Google Camera outperforms OnePlus 3’s stock camera significantly and it looks even brighter than what we see. How does it compare to manual mode? Setting shutter speed to 1 second, ISO 1600 and mounted it on a tripod.

*drag the slider to view the difference

Google’s HDR+(without tripod) vs Manual Mode (with tripod)

Unsurprisingly, manual mode is always better and tripod made it much sharper but HDR+ is made for handheld usage. So here is the comparison between HDR+ and handheld manual mode with the same setting.

Google’s HDR+(without tripod) vs Manual Mode (without tripod)

Picture from HDR+ appears sharper since it is not a continuous long exposure.

For photographing low light scenes, Google Camera’s HDR+ is ideal if tripod is not available and there are no moving subjects. If tripod is available, always use manual mode with tripod.