The iPhone’s 2-megapixel camera takes some all-right photos, but honestly, there’s a lot of room for improvement. A future model with a higher-resolution camera seems like a no-brainer (rumors point to 3.2-megapixel hardware), but for now, there are some excellent applications for getting the most out of the current iPhone cameras and the photos they produce.
The applications I’ve been playing with either function as capture application replacements (for the in-built Camera app), or post processing applications to make your existing photos — whether from the iPhone camera, or loaded from a computer — pop just a little more.
While most of the apps can function as Camera replacements, only some of them are designed specifically to produce better images as they are snapped. We’ll focus on these first.
Pro Camera – $2.99
I’ve basically replaced my use of Camera app with Pro Camera. It utilizes the accelerometer to help you level your shots before you take them and has an anti-shake function so it won’t capture your shot until the iPhone is still. There’s also a timer so you can take self-portraits if that’s your thing. I’ve noticed that resulting images have some temperature correction applied, and tend to come out a little cooler looking (which seems to work well, especially in lower light). And then when you like a shot, Pro Camera saves in the background while you line up the next photo.
Night Camera – 99 cents
The low-light capabilities of any camera leave something to be desired, and this is especially the case with the iPhone’s hardware. Night Camera attempts to change that. In side by sides of the same night shot with Camera app and Night Camera, I definitely notice a little more detail in NC’s resulting photo. Is it better? Well, if you need to see what’s there in the dark, then yes, but the resulting noise almost undoes the extra detail you gain. Still, it does the job it sets out to do. Night Camera also employs an anti-shake sensor and allows you to review your images before saving.
PanoLab Pro – $2.99
If you want to take panoramic photographs with your iPhone, PanoLab Pro is the app for that. But if you want to take a series of images that make up an entire three-dimensional space, PanoLab can also do that. After you take each image, you can then position it in a 3D space in reference to the other images you’ve already taken. It attempts to adjust the lighting of each image to match the others, but I didn’t see extremely successful results on this point. When you’re happy with your panoramic-ish image, you can choose the size and aspect ratio you want to export. I’m not sure of the practical uses for this, but as they say, the best camera is the one you have with you, and if a panoramic shot is in order, PanoLab Pro will definitely fit the bill.
Quad Camera – $1.99
With Quad Camera, you preset options like delay between shots, the output photo layout (4×1, 2×2, 4×2, 8×1) and filtered output such as vivid, high contrast, lomo, and a few others. The results are a lot of fun. I do, however, wish there were a single shot mode…but then it probably wouldn’t be called Quad Camera.
The remainder of the apps focus their efforts on post processing. With controls that allow you to tweak different elements of the photos you select from your iPhone’s camera, or those loaded into the library, you can turn a so-so image into something that almost looks like it didn’t come from your iPhone!
Photogene – $2.99
As seen on TV, Photogene can crop your photos, adjust levels, colors, apply a couple of simple filters, add borders, and more. There’s certainly power in having these controls at your fingertips wherever you are, but if you want to tweak a normal photo (not born of your iPhone camera) I would suggest using something on your computer that you can see finer details with. Photogene also takes photos in-app for you, and the results, as with Pro Camera, tend to come out with a slightly cooler temperature.
HDR – $1.99
For those who have looked through High Dynamic Range photos (try Flickr if you haven’t) in awe, the HDR app may be something you’ve been waiting for. What HDR brings to your iPhone is essentially just a half-dozen filters that apply looks to your photos that are kinda, sorta HDR-ish. But really not, if you have seen true HDR at it’s finest. I think if you take away the expectations that HDR may create, the filters are really great. You can come up with some fun alternative versions of your photos with the HDR filters, but if you’ve got your heart set on High Dynamic Range, you may be disappointed. HDR also takes photos for you, but the resulting image isn’t initially tweaked (up or down) in any way.
ColorSplash – $1.99
It’s very likely you’ve heard of ColorSplash already, but in the event you have not, it’s worth a mention. Select any photo from your iPhone, and it’s immediately converted to black and white. Then you can “paint” with your finger to apply color just where you want it. The results are cool, fun, and easy to achieve. ColorSplash is the only app of the bunch that doesn’t actually take a photo for you, but rather relies on those images stored on your phone already.
Giving one or more of these apps a try can truly improve the way you use the camera on your iPhone. I doubt they’ll negate that burning desire for a sleek Canon or Nikon DSLR, but they will definitely improve the shots from the camera that you’ve got with you at all times. After all, if it’s with you, it is the best one!