Apple has put a lot of work into making the iPhone a great point-and-shoot camera, but it took a long list of third party developers to really scratch the itch. One such developer is taptaptap, the masterminds behind Camera+ ($0.99), arguably the best iOS camera app on the platform.
Freshly updated for iOS 7, Camera+ features a range of powerful features that will please even seasoned photographers used to shooting with digital SLRs. If you’re looking for the diamond in the rough that is a thousand or so camera apps, Camera+ is it.
iOS 7 has come and gone and Apple has once again left out manual camera controls for focus and exposure. Sure, you can lock both settings with a long-press, or refocus and expose by tapping on an area, but you can’t set both independently. The best “feature” Apple’s camera app has is the lock screen shortcut which allows you to launch it without first entering your passcode or flashing your fingerprint.
If iOS users could change their default camera app, a large portion would elect to use Camera+ in its place. This makes the app’s biggest weakness actually using it – a quick photo becomes a slow photo when you’ve got to unlock your device and find the app you want to use. If you really want to get the most use out of Camera+ and its abilities, put it somewhere accessible like your dock or first home screen. You can bury the stock Camera shortcut in a folder of your choice, it’s permanently accessible from both Control Centre and the lock screen via dedicated shortcuts.
Once you’ve remembered to unlock and find Camera+, you’ll be delighted at how much better your photos can be when you have a good level of manual control. Camera+ uses a multi-touch approach to focusing and exposing – tap and drag to set both focus and exposure, or tap with two fingers to reveal separate exposure and focus controls which you can drag around the viewfinder independently. While this is a feature that many rival apps now use, when I first turned to Camera+ a few years ago it was truly liberating.
At the edge of the viewfinder are three buttons. The first locks focus by removing the focus anchor, allowing you to just drag exposure around instead. The second alters the exposure value by up to 3 stops in either direction, which allows you to compensate for especially bright or dark environments. The third button locks the white balance, so you can take perfectly balanced photographs by pointing your iPhone at a piece of white or grey card, lock white balance and say goodbye to sickly green skin-tones.
There’s also a little readout of the camera’s current metering information, including ISO and shutter speed. The faster the shutter speed (remember 1/10 is a lot slower than 1/100 of a second), the lower your chances of movement blurring your shot.
Alongside the shutter button is a small gear icon, and tapping it brings up a selection of modes – Normal, Stabilizer which uses image stabilization for improving shaky shots, Timer and Burst mode. You can’t use any two modes in unison, but independently they have their uses. The stabilizer is particularly beneficial as it uses the iPhone’s on-board sensors to detect movement, then fires a shot when the shakes subside. This menu also features an option for shooting in square crop mode.
The shutter button functions just like the standard iPhone shutter button. That means if you’re a fan of the press-hold-release method of taking steady photographs, you can use it here. The other way to take photos is using the volume up button, either on your iPhone itself or via a headphone remote. This does not behave in a traditional sense, and instead acts as somewhat of a perpetual-burst. The longer you hold your finger, the more photos Camera+ will capture. This is pretty handy, though it can catch you unawares if you leave your finger there too long.
Camera+ also allows you to fire the iPhone flash indefinitely, something the stock app doesn’t do. This makes it easier to take evenly-lit photographs of close-up items in dark conditions, which often overexpose when relying on traditional metering. There are two buttons either side of the shutter, one for accessing the lightbox to review your snaps in same place the stock Camera app uses, and the other is the settings menu.
This menu is packed with all sorts of photographic aids, in addition to options for customising the workflow and core functionality of the app. Here you’ll find options for disabling sounds and digital zoom, enabling a 3×3 grid for composition purposes, overlaying a horizon level for straighter photographs and a toggle for automatic geotagging. I personally shoot with the grid and level on, and definitely appreciate being told my horizon isn’t straight before pressing the shutter (Apple take note).
Shoot, Process, Save
Camera+ uses a rather unique workflow in that it doesn’t save everything to your Camera Roll by default. This behaviour can be changed via the aforementioned settings, and it depends whether you’re a fan of editing or vetting your photos before deciding to keep them or not.
The lightbox displays your snaps like little rolls of film. Tap on an image to bring up options for deleting, sharing or saving as well as information such as shutter speed and ISO as well as geotag information and whether any edits have been performed.
Double-tapping an image takes you to the edit screen, which holds your hand for much of the editing process by using a series of presets. This is like choosing a scene mode on your point and shoot camera, except here you’re doing it after taking the shot. Scenes make darkening or correcting certain images effortless, though be careful the image doesn’t look overdone. There are also quick controls for mirroring and rotating, cropping and adding borders and a large number of Instagram-like effects (with a few in-app purchases to choose from, if that’s your thing).
Once you’ve edited your photo you can Save or Delete it from your lightbox, after which it will be placed in your Camera Roll or removed forever. The Share link now lets you open your pictures straight into another app, like Instagram or Dropbox and you can even import photos you have taken in other apps using the plus “+” icon in the top-right corner of your lightbox.
A Superior Camera
Camera+ takes the convenience of a high quality smartphone camera and adds a long list of manual controls, visual aids and editing options that take your photographs to the next level. I honestly think that the worst thing about it is the fact that I can’t replace Apple’s stock app with it, but it’s definitely worth the time it takes to swipe, lock and launch before shooting. The lightbox and editing features offer a platform for reviewing and refining, though unlike raw photography you can forgo this if you choose.
There’s also a dedicated iPad version, which also costs $1.99 but focuses more on the editing side of things.
Download: Camera+ for iPhone ($1.99)
Let us know if you use Camera+ and if not, which app you do prefer when you’re taking pictures with your iPhone.
Image credit: PlaceIt.Breezi.com