Samsung has included several features within the Galaxy S4‘s camera app that allow you to do more than just take a straightforward snap. These include modes to suit different lighting conditions, those for capturing events full of action and others that allow you to add effects to photos.
One of the most striking of these functions is Dual Camera, which combines the handset’s front and rear-facing cameras to make one image, and it also works in video mode.
Switching on Dual Camera is easy since the function is accessed from an icon that sits at the top left corner of the display when the camera app is open. Doing so will superimpose a small image from the front-facing camera onto the main image from the rear-facing sensor with the smaller of the two pictures then free to be moved around and resized with a few swiping gestures.
The way in which the smaller image is displayed can be changed and a variety of different frames can be used to manipulate the way it appears on screen. These are accessed from a menu which swipes out from the bottom of the screen and includes regular shapes (such as circles and rectangles) along with others such as heart shapes and blurred edges.
What is it all for? Well, Samsung’s take on it is that you can use Dual Camera to add yourself to a group photo that you’re taking. Gone are the days when you have to ask a nearby stranger to take a shot for you – just paste yourself into the frame with this function.
In truth, we struggle to see how this will be used in real life situations; while the smaller image is not of a particularly bad quality, it stands out way too much from the main image to feel like a real part of it. This is a factor which is exaggerated if the lighting conditions in front of and behind the person taking the photo are different and you can end up with a really dark smaller image on a much brighter main one.
As well as superimposing the front-facing camera’s image onto a main picture taken with the rear you can switch the two cameras by just selecting the front camera before opening Dual Camera mode. This will see the image from the rear camera laid-over the face of the person taking the photo.
Dual Camera also works with video and can be combined with Samsung’s ChatOn messaging service to make video calls. It is in this respect that we think the feature could really become useful, allowing users to show others where they are and give them a glimpse of their surroundings. Maybe badly combined photos showing you and your friends won’t become popular, but the way in which this feature could be used as a communicative tool has more potential for the future.