Despite varying hardware and camera specs, the stock camera app on most Android devices is surprisingly decent for everyday photography tasks.
Some native camera apps, however, especially from lesser-known manufacturers, have poor image processing and few features. Others are simply unsuitable for certain situations, like low lighting or macro photography.
Fortunately, there are plenty of camera app alternatives available on the Play Store. We’ll cover some of the best options on this list, from those that provide SLR-level manual controls to camera apps that have geotagging built-in or other niche-but-useful features.
A note before we start, though: because there are countless Android devices with different specs and configurations, your general experience with these apps may vary. Also, many of the advanced camera features (like manual controls) use the Camera2 API, so make sure your device supports it.
Best Professional Quality Camera App: PRO CAM X
PRO CAM X is currently the best Android camera app for those looking for a high degree of shot control and adjustment options, on par with those found in professional SLR cameras.
Its most important features are exposure controls like manual ISO, white balance, and shutter speed, which give you far more control than what the stock camera provides. These can also help you achieve slow shutter speed effects like light trails and motion-blurred waterfalls.
Bokeh, or the background blurring on a photo, is one of the hallmarks of a photo shot with an SLR camera. The PRO CAM X app allows you to achieve this effect with manual focus controls, allowing you to move the focus point toward and away from the background.
Paired with the professional features of the PRO CAM X is the ability to output to high-resolution formats like RAW and 4K.
We’ve only scratched the surface here of what’s available in the app. Other useful features include multiple grid displays, real-time photo filters, geotagging, burst mode for creating time-lapse videos, and the ability to configure hardware volume keys to perform different shooting functions.
Overall, the PRO CAM X delivers everything you’ll ever need to achieve professional-quality photos on Android, and is the closest you can get to a SLR on a smartphone.
The price is reasonable, too, although you can get the Lite version with fewer features if you prefer something free. It’s worth starting with that version, at least, to make sure the app works properly on your specific model of phone.
Best Free Manual Camera App: Footej Camera 2
Footej Camera 2 is an excellent free alternative to PRO CAM X if you’re not happy with your stock camera app but can’t justify spending money on a solution.
The app manages to combine professional features with a streamlined, user-friendly interface that’s not as cluttered as PRO CAM X. It includes the usual manual controls like ISO, shutter speed, and white balance, and also supports high-resolution formats like RAW.
We also like the other creative controls on offer, such as burst mode, time-lapse videos, and the ability to create animated GIFs. Upgrading to the premium version unlocks even more features, such as a histogram and video stabilization, but you don’t need them to make good use of this app.
It lacks some useful modes that we’d like to see, such as Portrait Mode that simulates depth of field for Android camera phones with dual-lens cameras. Despite such limitations, however, Footej Camera 2 is still a great free alternative to a paid SLR-camera app.
Best Casual Camera App: One S20 Camera
One S20 Camera is for casual users who want a better camera app but don’t need professional features. The app is, as the name suggests, inspired by the one that comes with the Samsung Galaxy S20.
The camera has all the basics covered: HDR mode, auto and touch focus, scene modes, ISO adjustments, and exposure settings. It also supports burst and timer shots, and the photo quality is generally top-notch.
What really sets the One S20 camera apart, however, is its 100+ filters, emojis, and stickers. You can add them to a photo while editing, or have them in-camera as live augmented reality (AR) stickers.
The app supports “beauty adjustments” like adjusting skin tones and doing facelifts for the perfect selfie. There’s also a built-in photo editor that allows you to crop, resize, and color correct photos to your liking.
Underneath those bells and whistles, though, the One S20 camera does one thing very well: help you take better photos. That makes it a great replacement for most stock camera apps (unless you already own the Galaxy S20, of course!)
Best for Selfies: SODA Cam
SODA Cam is the ideal Android camera app for taking the perfect social media selfie. This “natural beauty camera” combines makeup filters, retouching effects, and face recognition technology to give users powerful portrait enhancement capabilities.
What sets SODA apart is that it uses facial tracking to get the exact shape of your face. This allows you to perform alterations accurately in real-time, like slimming jawlines, rounding out faces, and removing bags under the eyes. Makeup effects, like lipstick and eyeshadow, also “stick” to your face much better.
Because filters are applied in real-time, it avoids the need for manual editing later. You can get your perfect portrait much more quickly, without constantly switching between shooting and editing modes. If you’re really in a hurry, you can also use any of the inbuilt presets.
The app isn’t without its glitches, though. A common problem when shooting a video is poor syncing between the footage and your recorded voice. If you won’t use the app much for real-time voice recording (which is the case for many users), this won’t be a deal-breaker.
Overall, SODA is one of the best free apps for taking great selfies on Android, especially since there are no annoying pop-up ads to deal with.
Best for Geotagging: GPS Map Camera
GPS Map Camera is an app specializing in geotagging, and lets you add location, timestamps, and other metadata to your photos. It’s a great way to label pictures while traveling, or for certain professions like real estate.
The geotag includes the location name, as well as a thumbnail of the map location. You can switch between standard, terrain, and satellite map views (just like in Google Maps), which is a useful touch.
The app gives you plenty of freedom on the data you want to include with your photo. You can add weather, compass directions, and the time and date, for instance, or more unusual options like magnetic field information and altitude data. The format is also customizable to suit your preference.
The only drawback is that, since it’s a highly specialized camera app for a specific purpose, it lacks proper photography features like adjustments and exposure controls. For its intended purpose, however, GPS Map Camera works extremely well.
Best Camera and Editor Combo: Pixtica
Pixtica combines a high-quality camera app and powerful photo editing features into one comprehensive package.
Let’s start with the camera. It has a number of useful SLR-style manual controls, which let you adjust ISO, shutter speed, exposure, and white balance. You can also manually set the focus, a useful companion to the app’s Portrait mode.
Most people are drawn to Pixtica by its creative tools, however, and there are many. Photobooth, for instance, enables users to create photo collages with just a few taps. Combine that with the Meme Editor, and you have the perfect social media post.
On the video side, you can use the Time Lapse and Hyperlapse tools to create amazing time-lapse videos. In addition, the GIF recorder allows you to turn any footage into an animated GIF ready for posting. The app even provides general utility functions in the form of a built-in document scanner and QR code scanner.
One small caveat is that, while Pixtica includes filters and effects, there aren’t all that many compared to other apps on this list like SODA and One S20 Camera.
Best Black and White Camera: Hypocam
Elegance is the word that best sums up Hypocam, an app that helps you shoot beautiful black and white photos with ease.
Everything in the app is monochromatic, down to the preview during shooting. This allows you to instantly visualize what your subject will look like in black and white before taking the shot. The minimalist camera interface also helps you frame and compose shots without any clutter.
Hypocam includes several filters and post effects to help you nail the monochromatic look you want. You can enhance your shots with film grain and textures, for example, to make your photos even more appealing.
Like most specialized camera apps, the utility of Hypocam doesn’t go beyond black and white photography, and the lack of robust controls and adjustments limits this app to artistic shots at best. If that’s what you’re looking for, though, Hypocam is the best at what it does.
Wrapping It Up
There’s really no one “best” Android camera app on this list. That’s because every app exists for a specific purpose, and you might even find yourself using a few of them regularly.
If you’re after the most advanced controls over your shots, PRO CAM X and Footej Camera 2 are good choices, while for selfies, turn to SODA.
Creative photographers will do well with Pixtica or Hypocam. A good general alternative to a stock cam is One S20 Camera, while travelers and various professionals will love the geotagging options that come with GPS Map Camera.
Main image via Shutterstock, app images via respective developers