The iPhone’s camera keeps getting better, with some experts saying it may be able to replace your point-and-shoot. These apps will get it most of the way there.
The iPhone 4S was touted by Apple chief executive Phil Schiller at its launch as a point-and-shoot digital camera replacement. Soon after, on NBC Nightly News, noted people photographer Annie Liebowitz said the iPhone should be your go-to point and shoot. For a discussion of whether that’s true, check out our camera analyst’s Jim Fisher’s piece, Can the iPhone 4S Replace Your Digital Camera? Whichever side of that debate you fall on, there’s no denying that photos taken with an iPhone, especially with the latest 8-megapixel 4S, can impress.
Want them to impress even more? Check out apps like Camera+, Camera Genius, Instagram, Hipstamatic, Photoshop Express, and Snapseed (details below). These let you do things like correcting your photos’ lighting and color, blinging them up with retro or eye-popping effects, and sharing them online. If you snap pictures with you iPhone, you owe it to yourself to install some of these apps, and a handful of others named below. A few of them won’t even cost you a dime.
Some of the issues formerly plaguing the iPhone’s camera and photo capabilities have been addressed by Apple itself in iOS 5. In the Camera app, these include grid lines on the shooting screen, pinch to zoom, and the ability to use the volume-up button as a shutter. In the Photos app, iOS 5 does a few things that were formerly the sole province of third-party apps, including crop, rotate, enhance, auto-enhance, and remove red-eye. It also now has some Faces people-tagging and Places geo-mapping capabilities. And beyond these apps, iCloud’s Photo Stream lets you automatically upload photos and share them.
As you’ll see if you read the reviews below, there’s still plenty of room for extra goodies that iPhone photo apps can add. The default Camera app still has no timer, nor an image stabilizer or shot preview, and some of these apps can add those functions. Even with these feature-adding apps, the iPhone camera still falls short of standalone digital cameras in a few ways: For example, you won’t get the ability to set shutter speed, aperture, or ISO level while shooting. Nor can you work with the camera’s raw files, which provide a lot more flexibility during editing. But for a buck or two, and in some cases for free, they’ll significantly improve your iPhone photography. For a look at gear that does the same, check out our 9 Ways to Supercharge Your iPhone’s Camera. Without further ado, here are the apps:
Adobe Photoshop Express 2.0
Free. Camera Pack upgrade $4.99
Adobe knows something about image editing, and you get a taste of this expertise in this free app. But you’ll need the $4.99 upgrade for full app functionality, and you get finer editing controls in Snapseed, and more effects in Instagram and Camera+.
AntiCrop does one thing, but it’s an interesting thing: Extend edges of your photos based on existing content. It’s not perfect, but for 99 cents, it’s a nifty tool for your iPhone photo kit.
A beautifully designed iPhone camera enhancer, Camera+ gives you more shooting options and better image effects than you’ll get with the native iOS Camera app. If you need even more image control, opt for Snapseed, and if you need more shutter options and sharing, head for Camera Genius.
More limited than most apps here, CameraBag simply lets you remake your iPhone images to resemble various photographic styles, both retro and striking.
Camera Genius 4.2
Camera Genius adds some cool shooting and post-shot tools, some of which are matched by the slightly slicker Camera+. It’s the only app here that can time and place stamp your images. It also lets you trigger the shutter using your voice, a timer, or when the image comes into focus. Camera Genius offers the most direct sharing options we’ve seen: to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, and Tumblr.
Color Splash does one thing, but does it well. It lets you easily create a striking photo by adding areas of color in an otherwise black-and-white image.
Hipstamatic shares some similarities to how some would characterize hipsters themselves: a lot of style but not much substance. There are much easier ways to get retro effects on your iOS photos and to share them, but the app is cleverly and stylishly crafted, and lets you pretend you’re using a Kodak Instamatic from days gone by. One downside is the many in-app purchases are needed for new “gear.”
Instagram combines photo effects using a very clever interface with a captivating photo-centric social networking element. Though it only offers square photos, only on the iPhone, you can still share to other social networks, but its own is the real draw.
In a clear, innovative interface, the master of photo correction, Nik, has produced the only iPhone app that approaches the power of desktop digital image editing software. Possibly the most powerful iPhone image-editing app around, Snapseed can do amazing thing with your phone photos, lets you then share them directly to the major social networks.
By Michael Muchmore, PCMag