The best camera is the one you have on you, but that doesn’t mean the default software is going to help you get the best pictures. There are numerous alternative apps in the Play Store that change everything from the way you shoot to how many tweaks you can apply after the fact.
So we’ve taken a look at the best free alternative camera apps for Android to help you decide which to download.
1) Google Camera
I hear you, Nexus owner, you thought this was a post about alternative camera apps. Well, it is. Most other smartphones don’t ship with Google’s camera app pre-installed.
Here’s what newcomers should know. This app is capable of shooting basic shots, recording video, shooting panoramas, fake camera blur, and creating photo spheres. And the entire time, there’s usually only a single giant button on-screen.
Google’s app is about as basic as it gets, but it’s capable of more than it lets on. The software is worth a looksee before moving on to other things. This also lets you experience what the company that designs Android thinks a camera app should be.
Download: Google Camera for Android (Free)
2) Camera ZOOM FX
Camera ZOOM FX is the app for those of you who find the default apps too basic. You want control over what folder your photos appear in. You want to apply filters as you’re shooting. You want to capture photos in bursts and adjust white balance while you’re at it. You want to experiment with time lapse photography. You might even want to change the camera shutter animation, because you’re feeling goofy.
Camera ZOOM FX will let you do all of these things, though some of the features require the premium $2.99 version, while extra animations and frames are available as separate download packs.
3) Camera360 Ultimate
Like Camera ZOOM FX, Camera360 has been around for years, and it strives to be the one feature-rich app you need for snapping photos. It’s packed with filters, powerful effects, and editing tools. There are multiple ways to share photos. If you decide to go with this one, here are five camera tricks to check out.
Download: Camera360 Ultimate for Android (Free)
5) Camera MX
Camera MX is packed with features like the previous two apps, but it offers an interesting technique called Shoot-the-Past mode. This lets you rewind to the moments immediately before a shot to see if you can capture a better image, which can be very helpful for folks who can’t stop taking blurry shots by accident. I know, that sounds kind of cool and creepy at the same time. Fortunately you have to opt-in before Camera MX starts recording moments automatically.
I particularly like that Camera MX’s interface lets you tweak a good number of settings without having to dive into a separate screen.
Download: Camera MX for Android (Free)
Retrica is a tool for the Instagram generation, which is immediately apparent from the moment you first launch it and realize that it has activated your front-facing camera by default.
Retrica is aimed at those of you who aren’t all that interested in how well a picture originally turns out — you’re just going to edit and filter it anyway. Then you’re going to stick it in a collage and upload it to a social network that will scale it down to a smaller size and reduce the image quality.
In that case, there’s no point wishing your phone were as capable as a dedicated camera. Here’s an app made specifically for the way millions of people now take pictures.
Download: Retrica for Android (Free)
Like Retrica, Vignette doesn’t care about capturing a realistic image. Out-of-the-box, this app will radically alter your photos. It will apply filters, crop images down, and make any number of changes to get your photos social network ready. But Vignette does this while offering one of the more minimalist interfaces you will find in the Play Store. This alone was enough to catch my eye.
How Do You Capture the Moment?
You may have a point-and-shoot or DSLR, but if it’s not on you at the moment that you’re witnessing a beautiful sunset or your kid just blew out the birthday candles, it’s isn’t doing any good. That’s when it’s time to whip out the smartphone in your pocket and hopefully have a camera app that won’t get in your way.
I’ve focused on interface and features in making this list of apps. If you want to see if one can actually improve the quality of your photos, well, that’s a question we’ve already tackled for some of these options before.
But I would love to hear what you think. There are far more camera apps where these come from. Which one do you keep installed on your phone or tablet? What cool things do you do with it? How has it improved your photos? Tell us below!