Everything used to be better. Or at least, that’s what a lot of people think. You hear it all the time: “In my day… [insert dubious comparison here].”
One thing that’s true though, is that media from the past does have a certain appeal. The nostalgic vibe of old photos or movies is hard to beat with modern devices that capture every detail. Getting your hands on a film camera to take vintage photos, an old camcorder, or even a record player, can require some serious effort.
Instead you can just use one of these awesome iOS apps to emulate them.
Retro Cameras & Photo Editors
Before Instagram, there was one app that started the filter craze: Hipstamatic. Many of the features other apps would popularise, Hipstamatic pioneered.
Hipstamatic is basically a complete solution. You can shoot pictures with a cool vintage control scheme, edit them with the app’s powerful presets and tools, and finally share your images to all the major social media sites. Other apps may have stolen Hipstamatic’s thunder but the original is still one of the best retro apps available for iOS.
If you want to get the most from Hipstamatic and the other camera apps, check out our article on taking better pictures with your smartphone. Most of the tips from my article on taking better photographs also hold true.
Camera Noir ($2.99)
The earliest examples of photography were all black and white, with mass produced color film following many years later. If you want to go way back, then you need to shoot in black and white. The best app for that is Camera Noir.
Rather than trying to do everything, Camera Noir focuses entirely on doing black and white really well. All the tools are tailored towards getting the strongest black and white conversion, providing you with the ability to tweak your shots until they’re perfect. If you don’t want to dig in and use the manual tools, there are also some great stock emulation presets you can quickly apply.
The most basic camera you can make is a pinhole camera. With no lens, a pinhole camera relies on a tiny aperture to focus light into an image. The effect has been understood since the 5th Century BCE. Obviously the camera in you iPhone is a lot more advanced than a box with a pin prick in it, but PinholeCam for iOS does a great job of emulating the look and feel of a real pinhole camera picture.
With the tiny aperture, pinhole cameras have to use really long exposures to get a good image. PinholeCam uses some really clever technology to recreate the effect on an iPhone.
Vintage Scene ($1.99)
Most retro camera apps on iOS are designed to recreate the look of 35mm film from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. There were, however, many decades of incredible film photography before that. Vintage Scene is the best app I’ve found that recreates the earliest film stocks.
With an intuitive, and modifiable, preset system, Vintage allows you to produce photos that look like they were shot in the earlier years of film photography. If you want to recreate wet plate, daguerrotype, or any other ancient film process, Vintage Scene is the way to go.
CameraBag 2 ($1.99)
While many of the apps on this list focus on doing a small number of things, CameraBag 2 does everything. It’s a fully-featured editing app with dozens of awesome presets built in.
While all the power means it has a steeper learning curve than something like Camera Noir, the developer’s ambitions have paid off. If you had to pick only one app for creating a wide-range of retro images on iOS, CameraBag 2 would be the one to choose.
Vintage Audio Players
Vinyl – the Real Record Player ($3.99)
Whether you think there’s some merit to the vinyl craze or have come to accept that digital is a far superior medium, Vinyl – the Real Record Player offers the best of both worlds. It turns your iPad into a virtual record player and all the music you have stored on it, into your records.
With seven classic record players to choose from, Vinyl is the best way to relive the glory days of Vinyl without foregoing the benefits of digital files. The records you listen to most even get scratched (or at least, digitally so!). If you want to add that missing snap and crackle to your favourite tracks, check this one out.
Vinyl isn’t the only old music medium that people get nostalgic about; even cassette tapes, for some strange reason, have their fans. AirCassette does for tapes what Vinyl does for, well, Vinyl. It takes your digital music and makes it seem like it’s being played on an older device.
AirCassette’s emulation is mainly visual. Whatever track is playing appears written on a cassette tape. The two tape wheels spin as the music plays. It even fast forwards and rewinds your tracks just like a cassette tape. The app might be a bit gimmicky but if you want to relive the joys of your first Walkman, it’s the best way to do it on iOS.
VHS and 8mm Video Apps
VHS Camcorder ($3.99)
VHS Camcorder was one of our best apps of 2015. It takes a simple idea — what if your iPhone was an 80s style camcorder — and turns it into an awesome, fun app. Everything from the buttons on the screen to the final wobbly product is reminiscent of an old home video camera.
If you want to create some nostalgia-ready birthday party videos or shoot your own “Funniest Home Videos” clip, VHS Camcorder is the app to do it. It sure beats the laborious analogue-to-digital capture process that using a real camcorder involves.
Super 8 ($0.99)
Many of the worlds best directors got their start using Super 8 film. This popular motion picture film format was widely available from the mid–60s onwards. Super 8 is designed to put you in a budding director’s shoes. You can choose between different lenses, effects, and films. Once you’re done shooting, you can combine different scenes into a single final movie with proper credits.
It’s never been easier to start filming great movies on your iPhone. While something like FiLMiC Pro might provide more professional results, Super 8 is a lot of fun.
8mm Vintage Camera ($1.99)
Super 8 isn’t the only Super 8 emulator available. If you want something with a few more options, 8mm Vintage Camera is the app for you. With 7 lenses, 10 films, and 5 themes to combine there are lots of different effects you can create. You can even add projector noise to make the experience seem all the more authentic.
It might not be the most professional video app around but it’s results speak for themselves. If you want to nail the nostalgic feel of Super 8 film, it’s one of the best apps to use.
Emulating Retro Formats
Although a vintage photo or video effect will never be quite as good as the real thing, digital mediums are a lot easier to create and work with. You don’t have to worry about old cameras, discontinued films, and actual physical processes. Instead, with a great app you can have almost the same look in a matter of moments.
There are a lot more than ten retro apps for iOS apps, but these are the best I’ve found. What are your favorites? And what have you used retro apps for in the past? Let us know in the comments.