Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kindle Tip: (1) An app to use the Kindle Fire HD front-facing camera + (2) the free way to do it, described earlier

On October 19, I included a tip on how to access and use the Kindle Fire HD's front-facing camera, normally used for video chats with friends and family.

 The above image is for a $1.99 app, HD Camera, which will probably be worth it for those who don't want to deal with working with a computer-style file manager -- but if you do, the access to the camera controls is free.

  Another upside to the app, for novices, is continuing support from the app creator, which I'll say more about below.

What follows next is what I described earlier, for those who missed it buried in a large group of tips that included other features.

  First, a Setting that often must be done before doing any of this
(if the app-install files are not from Amazon, but in this case they are):
  Amazon allows users to choose to install apps from "unknown sources" and you can "enable" that (do this only with files recommended by people you trust) by going to the 'Home' screen and swiping down (lightly pressing and pulling down) from the top of the screen, to see the Quick Settings Menu; then click on "More" at the right, and go down that Settings list to "Device" to Check the box to allow installation of applications from 'unknown sources.'

Q: Why can't I use the front-facing camera for anything but Skype?
A: You can, as some popular apps can use the camera and there is a way to open or activate the camera via the versatile and free file manager app, ES File Explorer

There are many Kindle Fire apps that can use the camera as a secondary function, and Kindle owners have tended to recommend the Evernote or Facebook apps for this.  But that doesn't give you access to the several features and controls that are there.

Here's how to open the camera via ES File Explorer, once you've installed it.
  1.  Press Apps at the top of the Home screen (or find it in your Favorites
       if you made it a fave) and then click on the ES File Explorer to open it.
  2.  In the top row, click on AppMgr.
  3.  In the top row still, click on Category
  4.  Choose System apps button
  5.  Select camera
  6.  Choose Open

  And that's it!

You'll find yourself with a choice of
  1.   PANORAMA mode shooting (Yes! Works nicely too.)
  2.   NORMAL CAMERA shooting, with choice of scenes, exposure compensation,
        and type of white balance
  3.   VIDEO at 480p, 720p (DON'T use the 1080p one, it crashes)
        time lapse intervals; snd type of white balance
        (It can't do actual HD but it's decent.
         You can see his Skype image at the app page.

The camera's better than I had expected.  From what I've seen, it's just something under 1MB pixels but good enough for casual snapshots and videoclips (which are in MP4 format), considering it's a front-facing camera meant mainly for Skype video-chats.

When you're ready to shoot, including making a sweeping panorama, press the round red button.  For videos, it becomes a square red button that you push when ending the video.

After doing a brief videoclip almost in the dark, I tried pressing a button for 'BBC' to see what on earth that was for, and it offered to send my 'report' to the BBC.  Oh, I don't think so.

You can find the resulting photos and videos under ES Explorer's /sdcard/DCIM/Camera folder.

  I personally find it ultra awkward to shoot a scene or subject without being able to view it except to twist myself into a position to see the front of the tablet at the same time or view it while shooting behind me.  :-)  But it's doable if you really want to record the scene.

Front facing cameras are really just made for taking images of yourself for video chatting. But, as mentioned, what you can do is point it over your shoulder and take pictures of things behind you. You'll be able to see the screen as a large viewfinder that way.

If gifting the Kindle Fire HD to someone who doesn't want to go through some of the early steps above, the app may be a relief.  Furthermore, the app maker, DrHenley responds to questions at the HD Camera app page's customer reviews section.

I'm including here the kind of responses he gives to people with questions and problems, and you can decide whether it would be worth getting the app for the ongoing support. (Emphases mine.)
' DrHenley says:
Stephanie, I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. The app uses the built-in camera functionality of the Kindle Fire HD, which are not completely stable, especially with the 1080p.
  I would disable the 1080p mode in the app if I could but that is not possible. If you stick with 720p things will go much more smoothly. When you first open the app, go to the settings menu inside the settings menu, and click on "Restore defaults." That should make the video camera start working again.

Also, I don't think the tablet has an ambient light sensor, so when you have it set to automatic white balance, it can get confused. Try using manual white balance settings and manual brightness settings. It's only a 1 MP camera, so don't expect 5MP performance.

Version 2.0 will bring some added functions, and I am working hard every day on ways to improve the app.

DrHenley says:
gracieie, the reason I developed this app in the first place was because I was getting a Kindle Fire HD for my mom, and I wanted her to be able to take pictures on it. It started as a very simple little app, but then I decided to put it on the Amazon App Store for others, and I have spent a lot of time trying to make it better.

Be careful with 1080p video. It can cause problems that I can't do anything about because the camera itself is not really a 1080p camera.

DrHenley says:
The pictures and videos go to the standard place: DCIM/Camera on the internal SDCard. You can use a file manager app or the built in "Photos" and "Personal Videos" to manage them. "Photos" is on the Home screen. "Personal Videos" is in the apps list.  Version 2 [of the app], which has been submitted to Amazon for review, will give shortcuts to those apps.

I'm sorry that there is only a front camera, but please don't blame me, I really can't do anything about that :-(

DrHenley says:
The pictures and videos are saved in the DCIM/Camera folder on the internal SDCard. If you have a file manager you can browse to it and open them. There is a "Photos" on the home screen. If you open that, the camera pictures will have a preview called "Camera."

Under apps (device) there is a program called "Personal Videos" which is where you manage the videos.

Version 2.0 will have a quick way to get to those apps.

DrHenley says:
Susan, the Kindle Fire HD apparently doesn't have an ambient light sensor, so you may have to adjust the brightness manually. Click on the settings and then click on the square icon that has a +/-. You can also go into the Scene menu (SCN) and set it to "Night Mode".

DrHenley says:
I figured out the upside down video thing. Apparently you have to shoot videos with the camera at the bottom for them to come out right on a computer. I may have to lock the orientation to prevent that. Another thing to add to version 2.1!

Thanks for bringing that to my attention!

DrHenley says:
Version 2.0 already been submitted and does not lock the orientation. I am testing version 2.1 that at the moment does lock it. One thing I added to 2.0 was a contact button. When you get the 2.0 update, send me an email and I'll send you a beta of 2.1 so you can try it out.

DrHenley says:
This app simply uses the built in capabilities of the Fire HD. Although you can email a picture directly from the camera app, you really need to exit it to manage the images and videos. To manage still photos, go to "Photos, Camera" from the home screen. To manage videos, go to Apps, Personal Videos. To delete a video, long press the thumbnail and select "delete". '

I do think his ongoing Q&A will make it worthwhile for many.

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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  1. Another camera app I recommend for the Kindle Fire HD is the PicShop Lite-Photo. It has the capabilities to store your pics in a camera folder, edit your pics using some standard photo software, and it is available for free.

    1. David, I have several photo editors from 1mobile and getjar sites but had not seen this one. Looks very good. Many thanks for letting us know about it. Will try to highlight it soon.

  2. It does not work.
    There is app manger title in older version of kindle..And camera function does not work even in other camera apps..
    what do I do..???

    1. Anonymous, this blog article was written 2-1/2 years ago for the Kindle Fire HD back then. Which tablet do you have? In the newer Kindle tablets and in an update to the older versions, Amazon added "Camera" as an option when you just click on "Photos" at the top menu over to the right.

      Have you tried that? They added the camera option after I wrote about this app.


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