How would you rate the iPhone's camera app? On a scale of one to ten, what score would you give it? Seven, eight? How about three or four? It takes photos, it has flash on/off/auto, it displays a grid of thirds and has HDR (high dynamic range) on/off. That's it. If you are serious about photography using your iPhone you should consider a more powerful camera app that has more features.
The camera app bundled with iOS is actually very basic and there are alternatives that are much more powerful, flexible and feature-packed. Here are three that you will love.
SmugMug's Camera Awesome is one of the best camera apps for the iPhone and is offers many advantages over the Camera app in iOS. How many times have you taken photos where the horizon is on a slope? This app uses the iPhone's gyroscopes to overlay a horizontal line on the image so you can get the horizon level. It's just what is needed for landscapes. You may have heard of the rule of thirds for good photo composition, well a grid of thirds can be displayed on the image. There are also Golden, Trisec and square grids for alternative layouts too.
There are a number of special effects to choose from and after the photo has been taken you can apply Lone Star, Road Trip, Joan of Art, Blue Pill, Goddess, and many more filters. Around 10 filters are free and dozens more can be purchased for a small fee.
Single shots can be taken with or without image stabilisation to counteract camera shake. There is a timer and time lapse shots to take photos at regular intervals. You can take several shots at once and there is a slow burst mode, which is great for portraits just in case someone blinks as you take a photo. There is also a fast burst mode, which is good for capturing fast action shots.
Camera Awesome has great links to social networking sites, including SmugMug, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube (videos can be taken too), and more.
Price: Free (SmugMug UK, SmugMug US)
Joby has been producing camera apps for some time and first there was GorillaCam, which relaunched as Frame X Frame, and now it's called GorillaCam again. Whatever Joby calls it this week, it is a slightly simpler app than Camera Awesome, but it has some great features of its own, such as the ability to create stop-motion video by stitching together lots of photo frames. This is where the name, Frame by Frame, came from.
A menu can be pulled up from the bottom of the screen and there is a self timer so you can take a photo after a certain number of seconds. Anti-shake helps to prevent blurred photos due to camera shake. A spirit level can be displayed at the top of the screen so that you can get the camera level and avoid sloping horizons. A three-shot burst mode takes three photos in quick succession and this helps with action shots and ensures you don't miss the critical moment.
Finally, there is stop-motion and you can set a continuous shutter or a manual one. It's interesting to experiment with if you want to have a go at this sort of thing and have some models or clay lying around. A zoom bar makes it easy to zoom in or out before taking a photo. It is another essential camera app with some unique features.
Price: Free (GorillaCam UK, GorillaCam US)
Camera Art FX
There are many apps that apply special effects to photographs you have taken, but Camera Art FX is different. It applies the effects before you have taken the shot. There are around half a dozen special effects and they are applied directly to the live image on the screen. You can point the camera, frame the subject, get everything lined up just right, and then flick through the various special effects until you find the one you want. Then tap the camera button and it takes the shot.
It's really interesting seeing the live picture with the effects applied in real-time. You might think that it would slow down the camera, but it's OK on an iPhone 4 and with the extra horsepower in the 4S it works great.
The special effects include comic book, two types of pencil, ink sketch, cartoon, poster, vintage, watercolour, old film and more. There are one or more controls that enable you to customise the effect, such as the line and shade with the pencil, and so on. The range on offer is OK for a budget app and it is fun to play around with. It doesn't do a lot else and it is a simple app.
Price: Free/£0.69/$0.99 (Camera Art FX UK, Camera Art FX US)
- Written by Roland Waddilove
- Published: 19 February 2014