When the iPhone 4S graced us with its presence back in October of last year, the central focus for me, being a picture snob, was the incredible built camera capability. Still, after using it for for around 6 months, anytime I sit back to really attempt a fathoming of how a phone with camera capabilities, (and lets not forget that it is in fact, despite all of its extended capabilities, a phone first.) can produce photos that could easily rival professional quality. The standard quality that is available to all that have this phone is great on a stand alone basis, but what I would like to skim the surface of today are a few of the extras, additions, filters and exposures that become available within the App Store.
In no particular order, check out some camera apps that have made themselves regulars on my home screen.
Before we dive into the app store here is a little taste of awesomeness that may deter anyone from seeking out any extended Camera applications. Here are some tid-bits and examples of what the iPhone 4S’s built in Camera app is capable of accomplishing without the aid of additional filters and exposures.
This is our standard default camera that accesses a built in 8 Megapixel iSight Camera, Auto Focus along with Tap to Focus for establishing depth and effect, Face Detection (which really only works well for still images), Controllable LED flash (Modes to include Auto, On, or Off), Video recording in crisp 1080p HD for up to 30 frames per second with audio, Video Stabilization, and built in Photo and Video Geo-tagging. There are also an effective number of editing options once a picture in imported into your Camera Roll. These are to include Photo Rotation, Auto Enhance, Red-Eye Removal, and Cropping. You will find a great deal more options in the editing department with almost all of the other applications, however this is again a great way to personalize your photos just a little bit more than point-and-shoot.
Here are a couple of simple examples of how well the Tap to Focus capability works when playing with Depth-of-Field
Note: Although the front facing camera equipped on the iPhone 4S allows for some great features such as Skype and FaceTime, picture quality is compromised because of the 720p capability that this camera maxes out at.
Another great built in feature to this application is the HDR setting from the Option button inside the subject window. Here you have the ability to add a Grid to your photo screen and turn on and off the HDR capability. HDR or High Dynamic Range, takes multiple pictures at the same time in different exposures, compiles the photos into one crisp image, and establishes the deepest clarity through exposure sharing. Enabling this feature will ensure the best possible photo makes its way through and into your photo library. As a note, when taking pictures in HDR mode, you wind up with two imported photos for ever one that you take. One will be the original picture and the next will be the outcome of exposure layering. Here is an example of the quality and clarity difference when HDR is activated on your camera. The difference is undeniable and the quality is beautiful.
All in all, the standard camera and it’s capabilities have far exceeded expectations. Before I had ever ventured into some of the other Apps I am going to show you, I had decided to hang up my old every day digital camera and replace it with this one. It’s easy to use and produces some great looking photos.
This application greatly mimics the hands-on involvement of an SLR lens. While the point-and-shoot capability is certainly there for popping off quick pics, you will soon be entranced with all this Application allows you to do. Camera + can most certainly bring out a creative side in you that you weren’t even aware existed.
The major Exclusives to Camera + arrange around the control that you have.
Touch Exposure & Focus allow you to set the exposure rate completely separately from the area of the photo you are trying to focus in on. Photo Flashlight gives you continuous LED lighting, ideal for portraits and macro shots. The four shot options include Normal Mode for every day shots, Stabilizer Mode to ensure you get the sharpest picture possible, Timer Mode which sets to 5, 15, and 30 seconds for those situations where there is no one around to take that perfect family picture, and Burst Mode which is great for movement shots. The zoom-in has also been unmatched by any app I have come across to date. You can zoom in at a rate of 6x greater than normal view. The key to maintaining clarity because of the sensitivity on a higher zoom, is to choose the earlier mentioned Stabilizer Mode when snapping the photo and you’re good to go.
After you’ve taken the photo, an entire new level of editing possibilities opens up to you. Everything from Alternate Exposures, Cropping, Filter effects (FX effects), and Borders allow you to implement any alteration you desire. Specific to the FX effects, you get 27 free filters to play with and another library of in app purchase options. Once your edit has reached its full potential an extremely interactive Share option, allows for you to take your photos and email, direct message, create a weblink, or post directly to a number of social media sites. Now that you have edited, admired, and shared your latest work of art, hit save and watch as your photo is directly imported into your Photos Camera Roll.
The only downside that I have come across in this application is that you cannot access the ability to video record from it. None the less it has not yet hindered me in any way.
Okay so this app needs little to say that the name already doesn’t. Camera Awesome has created a totally interactive and involved photo application that makes you look at your iPhone as a “camera first and everything else including phone in the dust” kind of device. Our previous mentioned Camera+ App with all of its capabilities when laying next to Camera Awesome is almost non-comparable. Not because they both aren’t fantastic additions to your Camera App Collection, but that they are very similar and yet very much on different levels.
Camera Awesome is a very eccentric application. I mean, it actually calls one of it’s photo editing processes “Awesomizing”. There are processes on this App that you really wouldn’t expect to find. For example, the Composition matting allows you to separate different exposures and focuses within different portions of the same photo. An “Awesomized” photo will look similar to an HDR with the colors popping more and the light filtering in only in the places it should. There are also built in FX Filters in this App. Although there are not as many free FX filters as in some of the other Apps, the ones that are available without purchase are a great platform.
The Sharing capability within this App leave little need for any second party help. Having a direct link to share your photos via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, SMS, Email, and more, makes you actually want to send more pictures.
The last thing I would like to cover is the ease of use and organization of the built in photo library. It compiles all of your photos and videos in its own photo library where you can do whatever you wish with them. If you don’t feel like cluttering your default photo library you can sort through the ones you must have and the ones you mustn’t. And, in a reversal of rolls, you also have the opportunity to import photos from anywhere else on your phone into this library if you think that a photo you already have could use some sprucing up.
HDR FX is one on the newer additions to my collection and the more I play around with it the more I wonder why it took me so long to track it down. The initial response I had when addressing the apps homepage was that this may actually be a photo application geared towards kids. The R.O.Y.G.B.I.V hot air balloons and tropical bird chirping sound effects on the Startup page couldn’t help but lead my mind in that direction (check it out and you’ll see what I mean). At first glance, this Startup page, aside from the graphics and annoying bird calls, seems to be extremely vanilla by allotting you a whopping three options. The option to take a photo, upload a photo from either your phones Camera Roll or Facebook Acct, or selecting an information button which brings you to a set of options ranging from tutorials to feedback. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” my dad used to always tell me. Should have listened.
The actual camera interface on this app is very simple and self explanatory. You can set your flash to Auto, Off, or On, Flip to use the front or rear facing cameras, and touch to focus is also available. You too have the option to zoom in using the pinching technique. The zoom capabilities look to be around a 5x or 6x. This is pretty good, however you will certainly be producing grainier photos the higher you zoom in. Because there is no stabilization shot mode, you will need to have your phone resting on something or on a stand in order to avoid over pixelated photos. If you do need to zoom in heavily on a capture, I recommend using something like Camera+ or Camera Awesome that has stabilization capabilities and simply uploading that picture into HDR FX.
Now things get fun.
For example sake, I went ahead and uploaded a photo that I had taken earlier in the week. Once you upload, HDR FX begins analyzing the image and permissions you to use one of their 42 preloaded filters. Broken up into three categories (Scenery, Sky, and Ground), you will find a small yellow star in the upper right corner of selected filters which denotes what the “HDR LAB” recommends as a suitable filter. Take their recommendations or don’t it doesn’t really matter because they’re all pretty awesome. (Note: unless you are trying to get a little goofy with totally distorting your pictures, the HDR Recommendations are usually the best ones to chose from.)
Next, click Edit Photo in the bottom right hand side of the screen and six interactive edit options will appear. The first (HDR) allows for you to fine tune the HDR filter you’ve already chosen if you feel it necessary. You do this by adjusting the highlight, shadow and opacity.
The second (Sky Edit) allows you to filter different colors into the sky portion of the photo while leaving everything ground related untouched. Simply set the bar, chose a color scheme off to the left, and watch as the entire demeanor of a picture changes before you eyes.
The third (Ground Edit) works in the exact same way on everything south of the filter border. Set the red bar on the horizon and any edits you do to that point are only effected from that point down. More specific to the editing, you are given scenery options off to the left. Because there was a pond in my picture i chose a water based scene and vuala.
The fourth (RGB Adjuster) allows you to manipulate the three major colors that when combines in one way or another make up all possible colors. On this screen you also have a black and White option that will drop the first layer of the photo (the original photo) into black and white while leaving any Sky or Ground Color alterations alone.
The fifth (Texture) gives the opportunity to apply markings to distinguish your photo as antique, printed on matte paper, aged, and many others. This can be made to look extremely authentic when applied to Sepia Tone Photos.
The sixth (Framing) is just a simple collections of frames you can place around the photo to maybe add a little extra effect. Some are pretty original so i recommend giving them a try.
As an overall review to this App I am a big fan. There really aren’t any options not already attached to this built in editing software that I feel it needs to have. It’s simple and very clean and as you can see only a few easy steps separate you from adding a great deal of character to your photos.
Although there are many more fun and exciting filters that allow you to import goofy faces and place your mug into a famous location or scene from a movie, these are the three apps in addition to the standard camera that are my choice for a more practical use.
I hope you enjoyed and in some way may have interested you in venturing out into the fun world of iPhone Photography.