What’s new in Pictures + Camera for Mango

What’s new in Pictures + Camera for Mango

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t own a “real” camera anymore, digital or otherwise.

Instead, for the past couple of years I’ve recorded all my memorable events with my phone—my daughters’ birthdays, my trip to Hawaii, the amazing sandwich I’m about to eat, the weird-looking bird nesting under a bush outside my office. And it seems like most of my friends are operating the same way—camera-free. Your phone is always with you, and it’s the work of a moment to whip it out, snap the shot, and fire it off to Facebook to wow your admirers.

So I was counting on the Pictures + Camera team to cook up a feast of improvements and new features for Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango. And sure enough, after a couple of months of taking and sharing pictures on my Mango test phone, I can’t believe I ever had to live without some of these goodies—stuff like video sharing, tap-to-focus, and Twitter integration.

Recently I sat down for a chat with Aaron Sauve and Jon Canan, two program managers who worked on the features. They told me that one of their major goals in Mango was to deliver on the “people-centric” promise of Windows Phone.

“Pictures on Windows Phone are now more personal, more associated with friends and family, and a lot easier to share,” says Aaron. “And it’s easy to tag photos as you share them to Facebook or SkyDrive right from the camera.”

So when I posted those pics of my college reunion on Facebook this summer, I was able to tag my friends in a couple of taps, so they’d be notified about the post.

In Windows Phone 7.5, it's easy to tag your shots so you never forget a face.

The flip side of the “people-centric” idea is that you get better access to your friends’ pictures, too. “In the People view on the Pictures Hub, you can see the photos of the people you interact with the most on your phone,” Aaron says. “The idea is that you want to get to more pictures from people who are important to you, not just the recent stuff you see in the What’s New feed.”

That’s how I got to see my sister-in-law’s homecoming dance photo from 1989 (I love her, so the details are confidential).

See pics from your favorite people.The What's New area in the Pictures Hub

Also, as Jon is quick to point out, in Windows Phone 7 you could only share photos, not videos. In 7.5, you can send videos in email or upload them to Facebook or SkyDrive—no need to import them to your computer first. “It’s exciting, because now I see my friends doing this in their Facebook feeds every day,” he says.

In order to post to Facebook with pride, of course, you’ve got to have the goods: excellent pictures. So Mango also brings some updates to the camera experience.

Autofix is a cool new option for improving your photos—one tap can brighten up a muddy shot or adjust color that doesn’t look quite right. “It puts the power of the desktop onto the phone,” says Aaron. “It can make a good picture better—and it’s easy to revert the changes.”

Before using Autofix...

...and after.

My personal favorite new feature, as a rather butterfingered phone photographer, is the “touch focus and capture” capability. Now, instead of holding the hardware camera button halfway down to focus on what’s in the center of the screen, I can tap any spot on the screen to focus there. Then the camera snaps the shot in one fell swoop. That gives me a chance to steady my hand before the shutter fires—plus I get control over where the focus is so I can compose a more interesting picture.

In Mango, you can touch the screen to focus and shoot pics.

In Windows Phone 7, customers were lukewarm on the Auto Sharing feature, which (when turned on) would share every photo taken to SkyDrive, Microsoft’s free cloud storage service. “People didn’t want to publicly share blurry pictures of their foot,” Jon says. “So we changed it to a private automatic upload to SkyDrive, so you can store your photos in case you drop your phone in a lake.” He cautions, though, that these are not full-resolution uploads: for a true backup of your pictures, you’ll still need to connect to the Zune software on your PC.

The team tinkered with the Pictures Hub to improve usability—and usefulness. The link to the Camera Roll (the most common Pictures Hub destination) is now front and center instead of two taps away, and the new App panel surfaces photo apps when you need them. “Windows Phone is not just a bucket of apps: we’re a seamless, integrated experience, and this is one way we’re allowing apps to integrate,” Jon says. “If you’re browsing pictures and you want to add a funny effect or a cartoon pirate hat, you can get to the app that does it right in the Pictures Hub.”

And who doesn’t want quicker access to cartoon pirate hats?

The Pictures Hub in Windows Phone 7.5

Customers also asked for more ways to personalize their phones using their favorite pictures. “People want to choose the background and to see the photos that they choose on the Pictures Hub,” says Jon. “So now you can tag any photo as a favorite, and those are used in the Hub background, and they also animate through the Pictures Tile on Start. So you’ve always got one of your favorite photos on Start and on the Hub.”

To get this personalized display, you just tag some favorites and choose “Shuffle background” in the Pictures Hub. You can also pin any photo album to Start now—including online albums—for instant access to the pictures you love. (So pity the poor sap who asks to see a picture of my kids—now they’ll be subjected to a 20-minute Facebook slideshow.)

Aaron and Jon both say it’s been a thrill to work on a part of the phone that so many people will see and enjoy every day—whether they’re climbing a mountain or just tweeting a picture of their lunch. There’s also more going on in Mango with Pictures + Camera than I mentioned. You hardcore photo geeks can check out the complete list of Mango highlights below (note that some features might not be available in all countries or regions, or on all Windows Phones).

Camera:

  • Autofix—Apply some common photographic fixes to a picture, on your phone, in one tap.
  • Touch focus and capture—Tap any spot on the screen to focus there and take the shot. (This varies according to hardware—some phones will have tap-to-capture but will still automatically center focus.)
  • Sticky settings—Save your custom camera settings for next time.
  • Ability to mute the shutter sound—Good for taking pictures at those school holiday pageants (not available in all countries and regions).
  • Review pictures above the lock—Snap a photo when your phone is locked, then take a peek at it above the lock. You’ll only be able to get to photos you just took—better for security.
  • Changes for portrait orientation—Now, when you take a picture in portrait orientation, you’ll see it in portrait orientation when you review it.

Pictures:

  • Video sharing—Send your vids in email or post them to Facebook or SkyDrive.
  • Twitter integration—Tweet your pics!
  • Easy picture tagging on upload to Facebook or SkyDrive.
  • View and add tags on your friends’ Facebook and SkyDrive pictures.
  • Integration with the People Hub—View your friends’ albums on their contact cards and on Group cards.
  • People view—See snapshots and albums from your favorite contacts in the Pictures Hub.
  • Personalize—Tag some favorites and choose Shuffle background in the Pictures Hub, and you’ll see your favorite photos on the Hub and on Start.
  • When you choose a photo from within an app, you can now pick from online albums on Facebook or SkyDrive, not just pictures saved on your phone.
  • Quick access to the Camera Roll—Before, it took two taps in the Pictures Hub to get the photos you’ve snapped. Now it’s front and center.
  • Apps pane—Developers can register their photo-related apps to show up in the Pictures Hub for easy access.
  • Autoshare to SkyDrive changed to Automatically upload to SkyDrive, which you can turn on to upload a lower-res version of every picture you take to a private location on SkyDrive.
  • Pin any album to Start, including Facebook albums.

[See also: 5 essential photo apps for Windows Phone]

Juliette Guilbert is a consumer writer on the Windows Phone Engineering team at Microsoft. And, yes, she really does like taking pictures of weird-looking birds.

47 Comments
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  • I love the new sharing options available for videos, but as a developer, what I really want is to be able to customize the video sharing menu like I can the photo sharing menu.  It seems really lame that I can access photos via PhotoChooserTask, but cannot programmatically access videos that I have made myself.

    With this be possible with Windows Phone 7.5???

  • Ajay M
    11 Posts

    @nzregs - I believe it is a modification/enhancement by HTC through API provide by Microsoft, and i am confident that other devices will also have it.

  • nzregs
    1 Posts

    So is the panorama functionality in the HTC Titan video an HTC app, or a previously undisclosed new mango feature? www.youtube.com/watch

  • Ajay M
    11 Posts

    @ Juliette Guilbert - Thanks for the update. I have a first gen phone. I am now pretty happy that video upload is in Full resolution no matter what i use - cellular or Wi-Fi for first gen phones.

    And thanks for your node on options for resolution on photo upload, i hope you will keep that in mind and convience the dev team to put that feature in next update, afterall we have a 25GB of skydrive storage.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  • KR
    503 Posts

    @Michael Stroh

    I thought you were cool :)

    JUST LET THE DOGS OUT

  • KR
    503 Posts

    @scubadog2011

    lol, agree with your opinion of JoeB's tweet,Joe B is what we call in French "rabat joie"

  • Hey all, check out Joe Belfiore's latest post on this very blog -- front-facing cameras for Mango officially unveiled!

  • Full transparency: I"m Juliette's mean blog editor. :-)

  • And oh, @Rodney E. Jones, don't you worry--we'll have you covered with new articles and videos on windowsphone.com when the time comes. Stay tuned!

  • @Juliette Guilbert , that was a cute and informative post...thanks for that.  Helpful revelation of the video compression issue.  Thanks for confirming what I've said, oh, so many times---that there's only so much you can do by the various internal target dates to make your releases.  Silence does mean you're ignoring customers or not queueing up our suggestions.

    And, yes, you have a mean editor ;)  Also, shame on @Joe Belfiore for his latest tweet....that was just plain cruel.

  • Hi all, thanks for the comments and questions. To those of you slavering for Mango: down, boys—it’s coming! I know you can make it until [date redacted by mean blog editor].

    @SeNiLe911 (and others) on video in MMS: With every release there’s stuff we just can’t get to. That’s not to say we don’t think it’s valuable and worth considering for the future, though.

    @bc3tech: You can share video via Facebook or email (for Facebook, you need to set up your Facebook account under your phone’s email+accounts settings to get the Share to Facebook option in Pictures). If you’re running into size issues, that’s probably a hardware thing—1st-generation Windows Phones don’t do video compression, but many 2nd-gen phones will. So for now, you can upload your 720p vids via WiFi (or use VGA).

    @Ajay M: On the coming 2nd-gen phones, if you upload vids on WiFi, it’s full-res, but if you upload on cellular, we’ll compress it to save bandwidth (1st-gen phones will always upload full res, because they can’t compress video). There’s no setting for video upload resolution, so if you want full-res you can connect to WiFi for the upload. On choosing resolution for photo upload, we agree that would be nice to have—just haven’t been able to get to it yet.

    @SoylentG: You can email multiple pics from within the email message—attach one, rinse, repeat.

  • @ riz699

    Dude! If you touch any blank part of the screen while in edit mode then the keyboard will drop. Please read your manual. And it sounds like you have a weak local network. Your complaints should be with your provider. My device works great, so I understand your frustration, but Juliette and the WP team have been hard at work so let's be patient. Just think, If it wasn't for them our only other options would be iPhone or Android. Makes me cringe just typing it.

  • riz699
    5 Posts

    Would you give us date of release because we are sick of this now? what about copying and paste function in received text messages? Copy paste funtion between different applications? At the moment it is not possible to copy phone number from web and paste in dialer to make a call.

    Office is crap in WP7. I had office in my windows mobile 6 and it was much better than this so called newer version.. It looks like Microsoft has stolen this office from low level software company. This office is absolute rubbish when you want to edit word or excel document. No option to select a range of cells in excel or drag a fromula down the col. It looks like it is imcomplete office and released in haste. I shall be disappointed if this is not improved and I would go back to iPhone which is so better in getting things done. It was only the office which attracted me to buy WP7 phone and I regret why did I gifted my iPhone for WP7 to my brother.  Now my only hope is that is Mango update would solve these problem or I shall have to buy iphone 5 when it comes in the market.

    Why there is no option to mimimise the keypad in editing mode? This makes it annoying when you want to review while editting especially in excel and composing email.

    Why hotmail fails to sync when on cellular network? Dont tell me that this might be insufficient signal strength. I am able to watch youtube video and browse websites but still hotmail will fail to sync.

    Bing search is crap. It does not give the results that I want and I have to use google.

    The biggest problem of all. I was trying to download maps in app called OfflineMaps. It takes ages to download maps. I was blaming the developer of the app but found out that it is Microsoft that has put this developer in shame. Microsoft doeos not allow to download map data over Zune and it takes forever to downlaod directly on phone on wifi. You can image how disappointed the developer would be on this restriction.

    I would like to see some explanation from Microsoft team on these issues. I would like answers on point by point basis on every issue that I raised.

  • When Consumer will get Mango Update?

  • Rukai
    3 Posts

    Hi, any one knows how to create the last one picture? any tools?

    i'm developing an WP app, hoping to use that style picture....

  • I got a question for Juliette. When Mango does finally release to the public, how will the "upgraders" know what's new and how to use it??? Will the Zune software have a downloadable addendum or give us the option to play a quick demo? Will the manufacturers send emails with a list of updates to registered users?.How will EVERYONE be educated about Mango? Not everyone keeps up with the WP7 ecosystem like us WP devotes do.

  • Was the first pic taken on a roller coaster? I wouldn't risk my precious Windows Phone if I were you ;P

  • KR
    503 Posts

    Those with Samsung phones,sure have great Cameras even with 5 MP,but those with HTC's can't really use their phones as substitue for their Regular Cameras.

    My Samsung Omnia 2 running WM6.5 with a 5MP camera which i have since 2009 takes amazing pictures which some Cameras and Camcorders can't,but at hte same time my HD7's pictures are a disappointment,at first i thought it was just the HD7,but even after seeing the pictures taken by Android HTC phones with 8MP cameras,including the evo 3D i came to conclude that the HD7 will probably be my first and last HTC device

    I use the pictures and videos from my samsung Omnia to do some major projects and people have a hard time believing they were taken by a phone,whereas the pictures from my HD7 are just good enough for facebook

  • So. I am not seeing a way to share more than one picture from your Windows Phone 7 they way I could with my iPhone? Frustrating to only be able to email one at a time. Am I missing some trick?

  • Sounds good. One thing I did not like when I had the Lg Quantum was the that the 2 stage camera button esp for self shots was hit and miss & other models seemed to work the same.  Pics would come out blurry or blown out!  When I eventually switch from my Sprint Palm Pre would prob go back to Windowsphone. Tapping the screen would solve having no self timer as well :) I hope the update is good with multitasking as well.  I'm spoiled with the Pre!

  • jschroedl
    24 Posts

    I'm with Strider_Auz here.

    I'll ALWAYS opt for my Digital Rebel or even Coolpix L100 over the phone unless the phone is all I have. Pic quality from the HTC Trophy isjust awful unless there is tons of light.

  • @Sogeman, you're kidding, right?  I can take my 1.3mp camera and take the same photo with my Focus and the picture is absolutely better on the Focus.  I can take my Intova underwater camer, which is 10mp, and it's pictures look much better than the Focus.  The pictures also looked much better than my Intova 5mp underwater camera.  Oh, sure, there's more involved, but more megapixels do make a difference.

  • Default Facebook upload doesn't honor the new Facebook default permissions. In other words, I've chosen at facebook.com to make my posts by default only visible to a custom list of people. I then upload a photo with a comment below it to Facebook from my phone. That post is visible to Friends of Friends instead of the custom list I wanted. If I upload the same photo through facebook.com, the permissions are right. (dev Mango build pre-RTM)

    You'll very likely need to work with Facebook to fix this issue. It's also very likely that they developed the feature not considering this scenario, so they'll have to change things on their side first.

    Mango rocks! Keep up the good work and prove that Microsoft can deliver consumer software as well as you deliver business software.

  • Sogeman
    51 Posts

    -Review pictures above the lock—Snap a photo when your phone is locked, then take a peek at it above the lock. You’ll only be able to get to photos you just took—better for security.

    What exactly does that mean? o.0 To take a picture I hold the camera button when the phone is locked, then I take the picture but I can still view every photo I've ever taken by swiping to the left. Is that function not in the Beta or am I missing something.

  • Sogeman
    51 Posts

    @ScubaDog2011 And since when do more MP make a better photo? With current hardware (the cheap one they use in those phones) I'd say less is better.

  • But, @Strider_Auz, that's going to be a function of the OEM, not Microsoft.  Japan now has a WP7 device with a camera with over 13 megapixels.  Other cameras rumoured to be coming out evidently will have 8mp cameras.  So, it's just a matter of time before those devices with better cameras are available.  It's nice to know that Mango is very much ready to take advantage of them.

  • This is great news. I am loving all the features. I do hope that none of this is US-centric. Please deliver Mango fast.

  • Camera sticky settings and the ability to mute the shutter - HOORAY!

  • second for virtual shutter. Physical button is a good choice for traditional user like to use it like a camera. But in real practice it requires two hands, slow and causing instability, please give user more choice.

    (Now even new cameras have touch screen to control shutter, but we are moving backwards...

  • Windows Phone is looking to be great in many aspects as Mango nears rolling out. I can't wait. I did just hear however that there is a rumor that Nokia will not release a Mango phone States side until March 2012. I seriously hope that is not true. I am looking forward to Sea Ray.

  • I_Mean
    24 Posts

    I want the dedicated virtual shutter button the phone not just the tap and focus to take the  picture, it is time lagging feature not helpful to capture the picture instantly. Also, there is always possibility of shake when we tap to take a picture. Don't get it. They can add tons of unnecessary feature to make outstanding among competitor and still exclude this feature to stay different from others.

  • Ajay M
    11 Posts

    All the features are good, but can you please explain following,

    1. Video Upload to Skydrive from phone will be of actual resolution or low resolution?

    2. Do we have options to set what Size of video will upload to SkyDrive or Facebook or in the email?

    3. Why your team force us to upload low resolution photos to Skydrive? What is the harm in giving options we can choose from actual size, large, low resolution? Forcing us to auto upload low resolution snaps make the complete process a NULL. I need to again upload them via zune to Skydrive for a full resolution photos.

    Cann't yoy guys provide options? How difficult it is? Please do the work with perfection, don't make half baked stuff like Apple.

  • Brandon
    20 Posts

    @WinningGuy you're out of luck. sorry (see my previous post)

  • Brandon
    20 Posts

    I'm so glad this topic has been brought up, maybe I can get the ear of the wp7 team...

    Try taking a 20 second 720p video and share it with a friend directly. You can't tweet it, can't YouTube it, can't email it, can't txt it via MMS, can't get a link to the vid after uploading to SkyDrive, nothing. to say you can "share" video at all on this platform is ludicrous.

    To be fair, I was absolutely in love with Wp7 (am a developer) until I tried to share vids instantly while at a sporting event. I was simply flabbergasted by the headache that ensued.

  • Did you fix the Author metadata tagging so it does not say "Hello from Seattle" anymore and actually has my name on as the author of the photo?

  • Conny
    60 Posts

    Ok, I only have one gripe...

    Could you please stop teasing us about what's coming with Mango and just let us have it already?

    Not that I'm impatient or anything of the sort... >.>

    Great post, I'm definitely looking forward to my own slice of gooey Mango goodness. Let's just hope that AT&T doesn't pull their usual 'New iPhone coming out, let's wait a few months first to milk that for all it's worth'. Really makes me angry.

  • Sogeman
    51 Posts

    @Kenny Rawlins that's pretty much the only country restriction on WP that makes sense since there are laws against a muted camera in some countries.

  • KR
    503 Posts

    If u say its now up to carriers to deliver mango then update the Where's my phone update page so we can see at what stage each carrier is.

    Coz it feels now like Microsoft finished coding mango and just handed it to the carriers and told them to do whatever they feel like,which to me means we the customers will go through the same NoDo fiasco

  • Sheeds
    205 Posts

    Great Stuff.  Some very nice Mango improvements.  One small comment though - Do people really like only having smartphone camera resolution pics as their SOLE family memories.  I use my Focus for quick and easy capture the moment snaps = but it just doesnt compare (and no smartphone does IMHO) with my Pentax DSLR with good quality Pentax Glass/lenses...especially in lower light conditions!

    Convenience Factor of smartphone camers = 100%  Quality = meh.  Is that just me or do others agree?

  • KR
    503 Posts

    BTW,I am tired of hearing how great mango it is,it's reached the point were the mango posts are no more exciting or interesting cause I don't see anything new which I haven't read about already.

    JUST BRING IT ON

  • KR
    503 Posts

    Really?

    Mute the shutter sound not available in all countries and regions.

    What a shame.

  • Sogeman
    51 Posts

    One thing: I'll never tweet a picture outside of the Twitter app. It's just terrible that it's uploading to Skydrive (which is bad for mobile) and doesn't even have the decency to use an URL shortener. It shows it shortened on the phone but that's just not true.

    I want my pictures on the twitter picture account of my choice (yfrog in my case) not on Skydrive (at least not those downsized ones, I'll upload the originals manually from the PC since you can't do it on the phone.

    Also, could you talk with Facebook about making the integration an official client? Right now I can't view statuses and pictures of people that changed their security settings. Still have to use the Facebook client after all.

  • I still hope to see video sharing through MMS.  

    There are still a bunch of people out there without smartphones that I want to share video with.  Or at least be able to receive video from.

  • Excellent informative post...  Can't wait for Mango!!   Just one thing, when your uploading a photo to FB or whatever and are taken to the camera roll to select the pic.  Unfortunatly you are taken to your very first photo instead of the last photo you snapped?  Quite fustrating as your scrolling like carzy to get to your last taken pic.  Maybe I'm missing something but any work if this has  been improved in Mango...  Maybe its just me that has this problem??

    Great work WP team!!

  • SeNiLe911
    12 Posts

    Can't wait... this will make a great phone even better! Just one question though, why will we still not be able to send video by MMS? I thought for sure we would see this come Mango. It's great that we'll be able to send video by email or  upload them to Facebook or SkyDrive but MMS should have been there from the start and we'll still not have it?

  • Anchel
    2 Posts

    As much as I love the many new Facebook and Twitter integration features (which I had already read about), it is the small details that get me full of joy :D

    Autofix, reviewing photos when the phone is locked (I happen to need this a lot) and the changes for portrait orientation (finally!) are great tiny improvements that all together make a big difference in the pictures experience.

    As for the rest, I'm sure this is only going to boost the amount of photos and videos I have in my Facebook account ;)

  • Hawk
    61 Posts

    I luv it all!  Can't wait to see it live on my phone which brings me to my main question...when is Mango coming?  Getting tired of reading all the reviews and new feature articles.  It's almost September.  I sure hope it's released and on my phone before Apple releases the iOS5 and iPhone5, rumored for October.