Capture Vintage-Looking Images Through Old Virtual Cameras With Retro Camera [Android]

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retro cameraWho doesn’t like taking photos with their smartphone? Of course, taking the photo itself is usually just half the fun. The other half (the “larger” half, some would say) is applying funky effects to those photos. Apps like Instagram and FX Camera make it easy to apply beautiful effects to your images, and often have creative names for those effects like “Willow” or “Orton”.

Retro Camera is very much like those two apps, but it doesn’t let us forget where those retro effects originally came from – old toy cameras. In other words, Retro Camera doesn’t just let us apply retro effects, but it tries to make the entire photo experience feel like you’re using an old camera. Gimmicky? Sure. But it’s also fun.

History & Vital Statistics

retro camera

Retro Camera is not a new app. Angela mentioned it back in 2011 in her post covering 3 Hipstamatic-Equivalent Android Apps For Retro Photo Effects, and it has been firmly ensconced in our Best Android Apps for a while now. On Google Play, it has accumulated over five million (!) downloads, and over 50,000 reviews garnering a 4.3-star average. In other words, it must be doing something right.

Above you see one of the cameras in the app, called the FudgeCam. You’re looking at what makes Retro Camera so retro. Whereas other apps usually offer a modern capture interface and restrict the old-timey look only to the effects, Retro Camera makes everything feel old, and makes each effect into a full-fledged camera with its own unique capture interface. Let’s look at a few more of those, and their results.

Reference Image

Before I show you what some of the cameras  look like along with their results, here’s the setting I’ll be using to demonstrate the effects:

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vintage pictures

The images you’ll be seeing below won’t be completely identical to this one, because Retro Camera doesn’t let you apply effects to existing photos in your gallery.

The Bärbl

The Bärbl is a classic German camera dating back to the early Fifties. This is what it looks like in Retro Camera:

vintage pictures

And this is what its resulting image looks like:

vintage pictures

A heavy-handed ultra-retro look, with light leaks, and a large frame.

Xolaroid 2000

An obvious reference to the Polaroid 2000 classic camera, the Xolaroid 2000 looks like this:

vintage imagess

And the resulting image looks like this:

vintage images

I’ve added the thin black border myself so you could see its dimensions, and how much white space the Polaroid effect adds. Again, a very overexposed image, with oversaturated colors.


Or in its other name, “Japanese toy cameras gone bad”, looks like this:

vintage images

Bonus points to any reader who can tell me what the dog on the left is saying. Resulting image looks like this:


A much more reasonably exposed image which doesn’t necessarily scream “cheap retro effect.” Definitely more usable than the other two.

Several other virtual cameras are bundled with Retro Camera, but you get the point. The effects are simple, and often heavy-handed.

Reviewing Your Recent Photos

To complete the old-timey feel, Retro Camera includes its own built-in image browser for your ten most recent shots:

retro camera

Again, nice if you like this sort of thing, but rather limited in functionality.

What Retro Camera Won’t Let You Do

Retro Camera is fun, but it has a few glaring limitations:

  • You can’t apply effects to existing photos. You pick a retro camera model, take your photo, and get the effect. No way to undo or pick a different effect after the fact. Which leads me to…
  • You can’t tweak effects. Other camera apps (like Snapseed, for example) let you control numerous parameters about your effect, applying them selectively to get just the look you want. Retro Camera isn’t like that: Each camera has one effect, and that’s exactly what it looks like.
  • It isn’t social. In other words, this is no Instagram killer. To me this is more of a pro than a con, really.

Final Thoughts

I love taking photos, but honestly, I fail to see what’s so exciting about Retro Camera. Its heavy-handed emphasis on simplicity actually makes it feel inflexible and unintuitive, at least to me. Then again, as I’ve said at the outset, its amazing Google Play ratings and user base show it must be doing something right.

What do you think? Is this the sort of camera app you like, or are you more into the modern-looking photo effect apps?

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