These days, lots of people have cameras at their fingertips: All they have to do is reach for their cellphones.
With a smartphone, a wide variety of apps can make taking photos much more fun.
You can turn that camera phone into a toy camera, a Holga, a panoramic camera or a Polaroid. You can sepia, watercolor, mirror image, light leak and distort any image. One app — Thirty Six — even harnesses the days of film: You have to shoot 36 images before you can see any of them.
Instagram — the photo filtering/social media app that Facebook bought for $1 billion a year ago this week — has more than 100 million monthly active users, according to Mashable. With it you can shoot an image, apply a filter and then share that image with anyone you want.
But there are so many more out there to choose from.
Five Roanoke Times photographers decided to try some of these apps and share their reviews. Each chose two cellphone camera apps and gave them a test drive. You'll see what they liked and disliked about each one.
We hope this guide will help you find your new favorite app — and please share your favorites with us at blogs.roanoke.com/vignette.
— Natalee Waters, photo editor
REBECCA BARNETT | Using iPhone 5
App: Hipstamatic (iOS only)
- Why I chose this app: I use it on a semi-regular basis, but I wanted a reason to use it more.
- Cost: $1.99, but additional camera cases, films, lenses and flashes are available at an additional fee. Occasionally, Hipstamatic will have a free kit available for a limited amount of time.
- App summary: Hipstamatic is a square-shaped photography app that works a little bit more like a regular SLR/digital SLR camera, in the sense that users either need to know what effect they're going for, or be comfortable using a random combination of lenses, films and flashes. The app also allows the user to upload prints directly onto social media sites.
- Like: I like the fact that not being able to see what the photo will look like - based on the lens, film and flash used - makes you think more before you take a photo. I also like the numerous lens, film and flash options and different combinations that are available. When I find a lens, film (and sometimes flash, though I tend not to use the flash) combination that I like, I can make it a favorite (kind of like bookmarking a website in a web browser) to make it easy to find. This also keeps photos that you've taken with each combination, in case you forget what each combination does.
- Dislike: While it is fun to learn about how each tool changes the photograph, I don't like the fact that you can't see what the photo will look like before you take it. This app makes taking a photo on the fly more difficult, unless you know exactly what look you are going for. Lastly, I wish you could set the exposure.
App: CrossProcess (iOS only)
- Why I chose this app: Because I wanted to try a camera app that would not restrict me to shooting a square photo.
- App description: CrossProcess is a rectangular-shaped photography app that adds colors to your photos, emulating the cross-processing procedure that can be used with film. (Cross-processing happens when film is deliberately developed in a chemical solution intended for a different type of film. This procedure creates unpredictable results when the films and chemicals are combined differently.) The app allows the user to either take a photo through the app, or upload a photo they've already taken. The user decides (before the photo is taken) what kind of process they would like (red, green, blue, basic or extreme), or they can have the filters apply themselves randomly. The user also has the option of applying a border to the photos.
- Like: I like that it simulates cross-processing. It's kind of fun seeing what you get with each color process. I like the fact that you can either take a photo with the app itself or upload a photo you've already taken, and I also like the sound that it makes when you take a photo. It's nice, too, that the app gives you the option of saving your original photo, so if you don't like the color it adds, you can redo it.
- Dislike: I wish there were more options than just the red, green, blue, basic or extreme processes. I got bored with this app kind of quickly because of the limited options.
KYLE GREEN | Using Samsung Galaxy S3
App: PuddingCamera (iOS and Android)
- Why I chose this app: For the many different lens options.
- App description: Pudding Camera uses different lens types instead of filters. You shoot with different lenses. Dual lens, quad lens, fisheye and panorama are just some that you can choose and give the user unique looking photos that will not look like many other camera apps.
- Like: Loved all of the lens choices. Dedicated under/over exposure dial easily accessible with a touch.
- Dislike: App crashed several times, causing me to force-quit the program and restart. User is not able to apply effects to photos after they are taken. Interface is sparse and not very intuitive.
App: Camera360 Ultimate (iOS and Android)
- Why I chose this app: I have been using it since my previous phone and have been impressed with it.
- App description: Camera360 Ultimate has many different effects including HDR, Tilt Shift, Lomo, Colorful and more. Controls are intuitive and mimic Android's native camera app. I would easily consider this a replacement for the native Android camera app.
- Like: This program is fast. There was no lag starting up the app and it never crashed. Keeps pictures in a dedicated Camera360 folder sorted by date. Gives user option to upload photos to the cloud. Easy to share photos to social networking sites. Easy to apply filters to pictures after you have already shot.
- Dislike: Not much to dislike here. Free, tons of filters and easy-to-use interface make Camera360 Ultimate a winner.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | Using LG Spectrum-4G
- Why I chose this app: It had a Toycam and Instant, which simulated the old plastic cameras or vintage cameras that give a retro or old-fashioned look to photos. And a few other fun options.
- App description: The app allowed me to make photographs look funky. I love that. It also includes a Fisheye option, Symmetric, Poster (solarized, Warhol-style filter) and a Normal mode. You can share directly from the app, and it stores the photos in its own album. You can also use the filters on photos from your gallery.
- Like: I liked the simplicity of the app and the creativity it promotes. Also, if you share a photo with social media, FXCamera donates a penny per photo to Japan Water Forum, which is dedicated to providing the world with clean, safe water.
- Dislike: I couldn't figure out how to save the files as large as I wanted. They were downloading rather small.
App: One Man With A Camera (Android only)
- Why I chose this app: For the many choices of cameras that resembled old-fashioned and toy cameras.
- Cost: Free, but you can purchase other cameras with options.
- App description: This application, which allows you to take photos with the various cameras, is very cool. The free version includes Lomo, Polaroid, Film and these filters: Dreams, Rusty, B&W, Old, Vintage, Sepia, Paper, Push and Cross (cross-processed look).
- Like: I loved it. I love old cameras, and this simulated them very well.
- Dislike: The cameras and the filters are together on the menu choices, so it's hard to use a lomo and then apply one of the filters. It's all called processing, so it's a bit confusing. The camera modes are actually filters.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | Using iPhone 4S
App: Photosynth (iOS only)
- Why I chose this app: I wanted a way to capture panoramic images in a dynamic fashion.
- App description: Photosynth, by Microsoft, is a tool for making interactive panoramic images. It guides the user through the steps of taking 30 to 50 images for a 360-degree view. The app stitches the set together, blending the seams between each image. The app also records the orientation of each image, making the final panorama interactive while maintaining proper perspective.
- Like: The app walks through all the steps to make the panorama, even taking the pictures automatically when they are lined up. For best results, use the exposure lock option to ensure that the entire image has consistent exposure.
- Dislike: Stitching was not always perfect. The only way to view the panoramas as interactive environments is via the app itself or on the Photosynth.net website. They can also be saved as flattened images and shared to Facebook, Twitter, or an email address, but the interactive component is lost when going this route.
- Why I chose this app: The built-in iPhone camera makes it hard to control focus and exposure.
- App description: Camera+ gives a much greater range of control than the built-in iPhone camera app. Features such as a built-in level and grid overlay, along with independent controls for focus and exposure make this app my go-to when shooting with my phone. I often use it to capture images to post process with Instagram or Hipstamatic.
- Like: Little features such as a grid overlay and a live horizon level make shooting certain images a lot easier. There are simple intensity controls for each filter and effect, allowing for more precise processing.
- Dislike: Some parts of the user interface were hard to understand, and it wasn't always clear what the process was to edit photos.
MATT GENTRY | Using iPhone 4S
App: Old Photo PRO (iOS only)
- Why I chose this app: Sure it's a gimmick. But what fun.
- App description: This app makes images look old and torn. It has a very simple interface and is easy to use.
- Like: This app is so easy to use; it really fits with the Apple platform. After making a photo, touch a simple process button. In 15 seconds, the app sepia tones the image, gives a it a rough and rugged feel and you're done. Instant history!
- Dislike: I had a hard time finding and keeping the "historic" images I made with the app. Apparently, they do not go directly into the phone's camera roll archive. The only way I could figure out how to save them was to email them to myself. What good is a historic image if it doesn't stick around long enough to be shown?
App: 645 PRO (iOS only)
- Why I chose this app: This app is allegedly for serious camera phone users, which I am not sure I qualify as. In a lot of ways, I still prefer to use a dedicated digital SLR.
- App description: This app provides the user with all the controls, buttons, dials and manual overrides of professional gear, offering high-quality jpegs, max-quality jpegs and even raw images for additional work-up later. This app tries to offer everything a digital SLR can deliver.
- Like: I was immediately impressed with the big, bold interface of the app and liked the easy access to the app's manual by touching and holding a small button in the bottom left corner. The app developers strongly encourage reading the manual. The photographer has complete control of exposure, light balance and focus. It says it offers professional film modes inspired by classic film stock, whatever that means.
- Dislike: I had a lot of trouble with this app. I thought I would like to have all the nerdy buttons and dials of a camera on my phone. But the result has been clumsy and difficult photography. Maybe I'll get used to it with time, but my first experiences have been frustrating and confusing. One of the big problems I had is seeing and using the little dials and buttons. The tiny buttons and settings are a real pain. I made a photograph with the app and didn't even know it was in black and white I until I sent it to the photo editor, who sent me a message asking ... "did you know this is in black and white?" Apparently, I had tripped one of the little picture mode buttons by mistake. This has happened more than once. Initially I was attracted to the app with the possibility of having it be like a real camera experience ... the reality is, a phone camera is a phone camera, and a snapshot is a snapshot.
- What I rate it: 1.5/5
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