iPhone camera app alternatives

26 Dec 2012

Find out which camera apps to download to improve your iPhone's photography abilities

The iPhone's built-in camera app is fine for general photography, but other than the option to shoot HDR images, display gridlines and shoot panoramas on the iPhone 5 and 4S running iOS 6, it's not greatly versatile.

That’s given third-party developers the opportunity to jump in and provide camera alternatives with some surprising, useful extra features.

You can’t remove it from the iPhone altogether, as it's a core iOS application, or swap out the Camera shortcut that appears on the lock screen, as swiping this up still opens the default camera.

Camera+

Camera+ is much more than just a regular camera. It's an end-to-end iPhone photography suite.

Where snapping your pictures is concerned, though, the most useful features are found by tapping the cog icon beside the shutter release button to open up the four different shooting modes. Three of these – stabiliser, timer and burst – aren't available in the regular iOS camera application.

Camera Plus

Stabiliser naturally evens out shaky framing while timing takes multipleshots in quick succession, although at a lower resolution than the iPhone’s native setting. This is useful for capturing fast moving sports shots, kids playing, wildlife and so on.

For taking your own portrait, though, the most useful of them all is almost certainly the timer. Tapping this delays the shutter release by five, 15 or 30 seconds (you choose which by tapping the screen). This lets you prop the camera on a steady surface, fire the shutter and then stroll into the shot without having to use the lower-resolution front-mounted sensor.

You can save your images either to the regular Camera Roll or to the Camera+ Lightbox, and from there share them or use the application’s built-in editing features. These are applied on a frame-wide basis so are one-tap operations, and for many of them the process is simplified by picking from a series of thumbnail previews.

Download Camera+ here for 69p.

CameraBag

CameraBag has proved such a hit on the iPhone (and now iPad) that it's since been ported to the Mac, where it performs a similar set of editing functions on regular images.

The name is highly descriptive, as its built-in features effectively give you 16 different cameras in one handy bag. All you need to do is snap your photo in the app, or load one from your camera roll, and you can apply a number of effects.

So, while you may be shooting with a state of the art smartphone camera, you can make it look like you're using an old plastic camera, black and white film, or a retro snapper so poorly maintained that it's letting light leak in through the edges, thus staining the film with wonderful colour streaks.

You might wonder why you would want to seemingly ruin your photos this way, but in actual fact the result is quite charming, and it affords them a level of analogue authenticity that's missing from many modern digital photos.

Camera Bag

Double-tapping a photo once it has had an effect applied makes random changes to the processing, while tapping the small 'i' in the upper corner opens the full options from which you can deactivate specific effects you never want to use, and turn on and off the built-in borders. Download CameraBag here for £1.49.

Camera Awesome

Awesome by name, awesome by nature. Camera Awesome seems to plug all the gaps in the native camera application.

For starters, it offers the same burst shooting and timer options as Camera+, so you can capture fast moving subjects and self portraits using the high resolution rear sensor rather than the lower-resolution camera built in to the front of the iPhone case. It also has a shake reduction option and can make the whole screen one enormous shutter button.

Camera Awesome

However, it goes further than this. The timed shutter option is supplemented by an option to fire off exposures every few seconds so you can easily create a series of time lapse stills that show how things change over time. It’s up to you how often it shoots a new picture, but it’s easy enough to set by tapping the screen.

There’s also a wealth of features for keeping important elements aligned in your image. It uses the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer to show you when you are holding your phone level so you know when your horizons are straight, and there are four separate composition options, with the grid of thirds that we already know from the regular camera app supplemented by a golden section, tri-sec and square option so you can get just the result you’re after.

Perhaps the smartest tools of all sit firmly on the exposure side of the equation, though, as you can set focus and exposure separately.

When using the regular iOS camera application, a single tap sets the point of focus in your image, and the iPhone simultaneously uses the available light in that position within the frame as its reference point for working out the appropriate exposure setting. Sometimes this isn’t appropriate, as it could mean that your subject falls in shadow, or your background is over-exposed and washed out.

Here, on the other hand, you can tap twice to set them independently of each other. First, tap on the main subject of your photo to set the focus. This point will always be sharp, regardless of where you meter for exposure.

Now, without taking your finger off the screen, use your thumb or another finger to tap on the point where you would like to measure the correct exposure courtesy of a second on-screen marker.

Camera Awesome is a great iPhone photography tool, and best of all the basic version is free here.

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