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 has over 100 million downloads on the Play Store. And even though its lower-tier Photoshop Camera app 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.
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