Instagram got a pretty major update Tuesday with version 2.0. Aside from a slightly modified, prettier icon, the update also adds new features, filters and general speed improvements that make the whole experience better. With so many apps chasing Instagram’s coattails, it’s a timely update.
One big change introduced in Instagram 2.0 is that you can now add filters in real time as you take photos. Live filters can be enabled by tapping the eye icon from the picture-taking interface, and are instantly applied to the live preview of the image visible through your iPhone’s camera lens. It’s a nice addition, made more so because it’s optional: You can still take a normal picture and add filters after, like in the previous version, or switch to a different filter after the fact, too.
Once you’ve actually snapped your shot, there are a few seconds of processing time, and then you can again cycle through the available filters to make sure you’re happy with your choice. Cycling through the available effects was lightning fast in this new version. It literally feels like I’m using a next-gen device when compared with the previous iteration of Instagram.
Live tilt-shift and borders
Filters aren’t the only things you can now apply in advance. You can also add and modify tilt-shift effects before you snap a picture. Just tap the tear drop icon at the top of the new camera interface, choose either a line or single-spot based effect, and then tap, drag or rotate the live image preview to modify where the in-focus area will appear and in what orientation. It makes it much easier to frame your shots in advance, and again, you can remove or change the effect even after the image is taken in the same way you can modify filters.
You also have the option to turn the border on or off for any effect you’re using while in camera mode before you take a picture. It’s another simple change that makes it easier to frame shots. Borders can also be removed or added after the fact once a picture is taken, which is a nice improvement over the inflexible border mechanism in earlier versions.
Instagram has added four new filters in this update, too: Amaro, Rise, Hudson, and Valencia. These are a little more subtle in effect than many of the other Instagram filters, but they look good and definitely add to the app’s existing repertoire in useful ways. I especially like the Hudson style, with its subtle vignetting and slightly cooled colors.
Instagram’s changes to the core in-app camera are the biggest highlights of this update, and really do a great job of improving the aspect of the app that makes it so much fun to begin with. But developer Burbn also added some great tweaks that aren’t necessarily as apparent, like higher resolution photos (up to 1936×1936 on the iPhone 4 (s aapl) and 1536×1536 on the iPhone 3GS) and easy one-click photo rotation that all add up to a more pleasant experience overall.
New users should find Instagram 2.0 more accessible than its predecessor, and existing fans will love the app’s added flexibility and performance improvements. For an app with no shortage of biters trying to steal its thunder, this is a great update and a solid reminder of why it leads the pack. It’s still iPhone-only, though, so Android users will have to continue watching from the sidelines as Apple fans have all the fun.
Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom will be speaking at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference, September 26 and 27, in San Francisco.