With each upgrade of the iPhone, the camera improves, but if you want better functionality to take better pictures on the iPhone, I recommend starting off with the free Camera Plus app [iTunes Link].
Side by side, you can quickly see that even the free version of the Camera Plus has more features than what you will find with the native 3G camera. The 3GS gets a little better in that it has an autofocus feature, plus three megapixels of resolution. But these features don’t outshine what Camera Plus can do.
The launch time of the Camera Plus is about the same as for the 3G camera. The 3GS may be faster in this regard, but I have not tested it. Camera Plus has four useful features. Before you take a photo, you click on the menu icon button on the bottom-left of the interface. This will bring up the menu items. You can tap one or more to use when taking photos.
This feature is apart of the 3GS and later models of the 3G, but in case your iPhone camera doesn’t have it, Camera Plus provides it. Now don’t get too happy. This tool is digital, not optical, zoom technology. Optical zoom uses the optics in a lens to bring the subject closer. Digital zoom simply magnifies or enlarges the subject and does not produce the quality that an optical zoom lens produces.
Digital zoom is not terribly bad, especially when you need it in a pinch, but don’t rely on it for taking photos with any version of the iPhone camera. It’s better to zoom in on your feet than to use the sort of fake digital zoom feature.
With Camera Plus, you simply activate the zooming feature, tap on the screen, and pinch in the middle of the screen and use two fingers to zoom in and out. You can also use the slider. Developers claim that the tool zooms “into a spot with precision.” That’s an over-statement, but it’s nevertheless a handy feature especially for more long distance outdoor shots. I wouldn’t recommend it for macro/close-up photography in which you need detail.
While the iPhone 4’s camera does feature an external flash, Camera Plus brings a flash effect of sorts that is internal to the application. It’s not a real flash, but it brightens up a photo with a simulated flash. It comes in useful shooting in low light situations, such as shaded areas.
This is one of the two best features of the application. If you have ever tried to take a self-portrait using the iPhone you know how difficult it is to click the button of the camera application while trying to steady the shot. It’s sometimes just as difficult to stabilize ordinary shots with the lens facing away from you.
A self-timer means that you when click the camera’s shutter button, you have a pre-determined amount of seconds before the shutter is released. This means that you can hold the camera steady with both hands. In the preferences menu of Camera Plus, you can set the self-timer to activate to up 10 seconds. This tool is also useful for trying out a little night photography as well.
To use it, you simply activate the self-timer in the menu bar, click the shutter button, compose your shot, and wait for it to count down to take the photo.
This feature is probably the most useful one for this free app. When activated, you can click anywhere on the iPhone screen and it will trigger the shutter. And because the screen of course is not the lens of the camera, there’s no problem for your pictures with a few smudges that you finger will leave when taking the shot.
This feature is again great for allowing you to use two hands when taking iPhone camera photos. Since the iPhone camera doesn’t have imagine stabilization that you find in most regular cameras, holding the phone as steady as possible with two hands is really helpful for shooting sharp as possible photos. Absent of using a tripod with your iPhone camera, the self-timer should also be used whenever possible.
The other two menu items to take better pictures include Preference settings for the self-timer, and automatic save, which when enabled automatically saves your shots to your iPhone”˜s camera roll.
Saving images takes about 10 seconds. That’s rather long, but the iPhone camera or any cellphone camera for that matter has never been about speed. It’s about portability – being able to have a camera wherever you go.
Camera Plus also includes the Bing search engine to find and import images from the Internet right from within the application.
After you take a shot, you can save it to your camera’s iPhone camera roll, and/or you can email or send to your Twitter or Facebook account – another feature not found in the iPhone camera.
The free version of Camera Plus only offers a few post-processing tools – one for cropping images and another for black and white conversion.
The full version of Camera Plus has even more features both for shooting and post-processing images, but this free version is great for seeing how more useful it is than the iPhone 3G and 3GS camera application.
I have used both the free and pro version of Camera Plus using the latest iOS 4 operating system for the iPhone, and I haven’t noticed any problems. So this app is definitely worth checking out.
Let us know what you think of Camera Plus and if it helps you take better pictures – and what other camera applications you find useful for the iPhone.