Point-and-shoot cameras are on the way out. Smartphone cameras are just too convenient -- and too good -- for dedicated entry-level cameras to last forever. The iPhone helped kick off the smartphone boom in 2007, and the camera on the iPhone 4S -- released in 2011 -- is easily one of the best on the market as of mid 2012. The high resolution, 8-megapixel sensor helps, but other camera elements are more important. The backside-illuminated sensor captures lots of light, which is important for shooting at night. The f2.4 aperture lets more light reach the sensor. A five-element lens increases image sharpness. And 1080p video shooting is just the icing on the cake.
Apple released a service called iCloud alongside the iPhone 4S. One of iCloud's features, Photo Stream, syncs photos snapped on the iPhone to cloud storage, as well as to a Mac or PC, streamlining the process of backing up photos or sharing them with friends. It's another convenience that makes smartphones killer pocket cameras. And they get better still: In addition to the iPhone's default camera software, there are tons of camera apps on the App Store that add the features and options of pricier dedicated cameras.
Here are 10 great iPhone camera apps you should check out if you like shooting pictures and video with your phone. Want to shoot a stop motion video? Love the idea of combining photography and social networking? Feel like doing some photo editing on the go and want something more complex than Apple's Photos software? Read on.
CameraGenius has been around since 2009 -- a long time in the app world. The developers of this $3 camera app have updated it again and again over its life, hitting version 4.3 in February of 2012. Camera Genius is a jack of all trades. It adds additional shooting options, like a full-screen shutter button and time stamping. It adds sharing tools like quick uploading to Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter and Picasa. And it offers editing options: A simple cropping tool sits alongside tons of color filters for styling up photographs.
The app is popular enough to have accrued more than 1.5 million downloads in its lifetime. While some of its features, like burst shooting and anti-shake, have been made redundant by updates to Apple's basic camera app, Camera Genius is a simple tool that provides a lot of functionality in an amateur-friendly interface.
The $4 Mattebox app looks simple, but it's actually a photo app built for photographers who are used to shooting with fancy DSLRs. The user interface is modeled after a famous camera made in the 1990s, the Konika Hexar, and it uses that camera's viewfinder as inspiration. Mattebox displays information pro photographers expect to see at a glance: ISO, white balance, shutter speed and focal distance. Only white balance can be manually controlled due to the iPhone hardware, but all that information is on display for photographers to keep in mind while shooting.
One of the app's coolest features is a dual-stage shutter button, or slider. By holding down the button, you can lock exposure and focus, then adjust your framing before sliding the button down and snapping a shot. Mattebox also offers some basic editing tools for cropping, color, exposure, gamma and saturation tweaking, but the unique viewfinder is its primary draw.
If you want filters, check out the next app: Camerabag.
Camerabag is a $2 filter app. Like the more famous Instagram, Camerabag lets you apply all sorts of stylized filters to an image, transforming a digital photo into an '80s Polaroid replica or a warm silver take on black-and-white aesthetics. Like Camera Genius, Camerabag has been around for years. And while newer apps have passed it by in terms of popularity, Camerabag still has its supporters, thanks to a simple interface and a selective range of filters. "Instant," "1974," "Cinema," and "Colorcross" are a few of the 14 filtering options.
If a photo doesn't come out quite right, double-tapping will re-apply a filter and change how it looks. That's about as simple as photo editing can get.
Want more control over your photo manipulation? Then it's time to download a dedicated editing app.
There are bigger names in the photo editing world than Snapseed, like Adobe Photoshop, but Adobe's iPhone-focused Photoshop Express can't match Snapseed with features or reviewer praise. The editing suite features adjustable brightness, contrast, color, sharpening and saturation. And instead of simple filters, Snapseed supports special effects like tilt shift and adjustable texturing. Filters aren't just on or off: You can customize how strong they are. Center focus even allows you to add some post-shot depth of field.
Basics like cropping and adding borders are also included. The original photos are never overwritten, so you won't have to worry about accidentally saving a bunch of edits over a pristine photo. And with social tools for Flickr, Facebook and Twitter, you can share edited photos as easily in Snapseed as you can in most other photo apps. At $5, it's one of the most expensive apps on this list, but that's still a bargain for the best-reviewed editing app on the market.
If the name alone doesn't intrigue you, here's the gist of CameraAwesome: It's a free app that's racked up more than 4 million downloads in the first half of 2012 by offering a simple "awesomize" button to auto-adjust images. Camera Awesome does more than that: It offers quick tap controls for independently adjusting exposure and focus, 36 presets, filters, frames, crop and rotate tools, and compositional aids for framing shots. The video recording app even starts working before you press the shutter button to capture the previous five seconds of action. Useful, if you're a tad slow on the draw.
So how does Camera Awesome make money? In-app purchases. They offer loads of additional filters in packs of nine for $1, or all 250-plus filters for $10. Filters can be mixed and matched to create different visual effects. Camera Awesome's sharing center features all the usual suspects of social sharing, including Instagram, and by picking a favorite service, you can automate the process to get photos on the Web as quickly as possible.
Like Camera Awesome, Camera+'s name implies a twist on the basic features offered by Apple's default photo-taking app. With more than 7 million downloads, Camera+ has become the go-to photo-taking app that fulfills the jack-of-all-trades slot once owned by Camera Genius. The $2 app offers a range of shooting features, like constant fill lighting from the LED, image stabilization, timer and burst modes, and a 6x digital zoom option. The range of editing tools is even greater, starting with a "clarity" feature that auto-tweaks images, much like Camera Awesome's "awesomizer."
Camera+ allows you to import photos taken in the default camera app and edit them with effects, filters and a digital "flash" that brightens overly dark images. Cropping, borders and sharing to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr round out the list of expected features.
SloPro is a big divergence from the filters and editing tools of apps like Camera+ and Camera Awesome. SloPro is all about video. The free app can shoot 60 frames per second (fps) video on the iPhone 4S -- twice the frame rate of the standard 30 fps -- and then export that video at three different speeds: slow, slower and slowest. Shooting at 60 fps is important, since the app can then slow the video down without resulting in choppy playback. And with that, slow motion iPhone video capture is easy as can be.
One caveat: SloPro requires a $2 in-app purchase to remove a video watermark and export videos in slow motion or at 60 fps. Videos can also be uploaded to Facebook and Twitter.
Our next app isn't quite so specialized, but it's still all about video: FilMic Pro is the go-to choice for budding filmmakers with iPhones in their pockets.
The $3 FiLMiCPro app does its best to offer professional video functionality in a downloadable smartphone package. FilMiC Pro offers three different options for controlling exposure and focus, adjustable frame rate from 1 to 25 frames per second (and the iPhone's standard 30 fps), and an image flip option that supports add-on 35mm lenses. There are four bitrate options with a max of 48 mbps at 1080p, and framing overlays for various resolutions like 4:3, 16:9 and 2.35:1.
Other guides, like bars for the rule of thirds and color bars for post production, are meant to help filmmakers frame and edit shots. Videos can easily be saved to the phone's memory or uploaded to Web services like Facebook, Youtube, Dropbox or Tumblr.
Next, we'll take a look at our last video app that focuses on a particular task, much like SloPro. It's called Frameograph.
Frameographer is the iPhone app that will finally let you make that Gumby fan movie you've always dreamed of. Or maybe it's the sun setting over a city skyline that you've always wanted to capture in a beautiful time lapse. Frameographer has both styles covered. The $3 app focuses on creating stop motion movies and time-lapse videos with easy control over every frame in a project. For stop motion, the ability to duplicate frames or delete multiple frames at once makes it possible to edit a home movie in-app, rather than dumping a series of photographs and editing them together on a computer. The "onion skin" mode displays the most recently captured frame on screen, making it easy to line up a series of stop motion shots.
The app's interface couldn't be much simpler: It displays video frames, buttons for adding in music and exporting a finished project to the iPhone's camera roll, and a few other basic options. Time lapse allows you to snap photos as rapidly as one per second or as slowly as one every 10 minutes, and the final video can be output at a flexible framerate.
More than 30 million people use Instagram on iOS. In the world of iPhone camera apps, Instagram reigns supreme, thanks to its simplicity and perfect pricing (it's free, of course!). Because it's so popular, you probably know exactly what it does: Like Camerabag, Instagram allows photographers to slap filters onto their images to make them sepia tone or lo-fi. But what if you don't like filters? Well, Instagram is still a powerful camera app because of its social filters. Thirty million downloads can attest to that. Instagram's real draw is social networking and how easy it makes sharing photos.
Every photo gets a convenient Web link and its own page displaying comments, "likes" and the location where it was shot, if users choose to enable that feature. Instagram taps into Twitter's popularity with the ability to follow other users and see their photos. Best of all, the price is right. Instagram won't change how you take photos, but it will change how you share and consume them.
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Putting together a list of 10 iPhone camera apps gave me a chance to check out a few apps I'd heard good things about. Some of the popular choices, like Instagram, deserve spots on the list for obvious reasons. A lot of people love them. They're easy to use and help you share photographs with your friends. But my personal favorites are apps like Frameographer, which allow you to create genuinely cool stop motion videos for only a couple bucks. It's a natural extension of the game-changing convenience of smartphone cameras.
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- Hamburger, Ellis. "SloPro for iPhone shoots video in slow-mo at 60fps." May 3, 2012. (May 21, 2012) http://www.theverge.com/2012/5/3/2996373/slopro-for-ios-60-fps
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- Muchmore, Michael. "Snapseed Review & Rating." Dec. 30, 2011. (May 21, 2012) http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2397076,00.asp
- Snapseed.com. "Creative Adjustments." (May 21, 2012) http://www.snapseed.com/home/learn/mobile/creative-adjustments/