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Windows 8 Feature Focus: Camera (App Preview)

As with the smart phone systems that it emulates, Windows 8 includes a Metro-style camera app that integrates with the cameras found in your Windows-based PCs and devices. During the Consumer Preview, this app is pretty much relegated to using a web cam and is clearly unfinished.

It’s possible that future Windows-based devices will include dedicated camera button hardware, as with Windows Phone handsets, and of course many of these devices will ship with both front- and rear-mounted cameras. (As does the Samsung developer tablet that Microsoft provided at BUILD last September.) In the meantime, you can run Camera via its Start screen tile just like any other app.


The Camera interface is simple enough. You can tap the screen to take a photo (or start/stop video recording in Video mode). And it provides an always-visible and translucent app bar that can have as many as four different buttons.


These are:

Change camera. This button is only available on systems with two (or more?) attached cameras, as will be the case with many Windows-based tablet devices. It’s a simple toggle, and switches to the next camera each time it’s tapped.

Camera options. This button triggers a small window with three options: Resolution (determined by the capabilities of the camera and can optionally include both 16:9 and 4:3 resolutions), Audio device (which microphone you’d like to use), and Video Stabilization (a toggle whose availability will be based on the capabilities of the camera).


A More link triggers a larger More options window that will include a number of other options, whose availability again is based on the capabilities of the camera. Included here are Brightness and Contrast sliders, Flicker (60 Hz or 50 Hz), and Focus and Exposure sliders (with Auto options). On some of my test systems, some of these options were missing or grayed out, however.


Timer. This button starts a three second countdown before the system takes a still photo or video recording starts, depending on the mode.

Video Mode. This button toggles between the normal still photo mode and Video mode, and will be white when selected. Normally, when you tap the screen anywhere, it takes a still photo—which is saved to a Webcam folder in the pictures library. But when you tap the screen in Video mode, it starts (and stops) recording video.

Missing in the Consumer Preview is integration with the Share charm and contract capabilities of Windows 8, but surely this is coming in a future build. In PC Settings, however, you can see that the Camera app is registered as an app that can be used to create an account picture. 

As is so often the case, what we see in this app preview is an unfinished product. But I expect more from the coming Release Preview and then again, of course, in the final release. Stay tuned. 

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