In many ways, the iPhone has become the new point and shoot compact camera. In fact, the iPhone 4 holds a pretty commanding lead as the most popular camera on Flickr, followed by the iPhone 4S and the Canon 5D MkII. I recently upgraded to the 4S and I can tell you that I absolutely love it. First of all, it’s always with me, but beyond that, the 8MP camera in the 4S is really fantastic, even more so when you consider that it’s in your phone. About a year ago, Nikki did a round up of some of the apps she was using at the time, which is still quite a popular post here on Faded + Blurred. So, we thought we would see what a difference a year makes and take a look at some of my current favorite iPhone photography apps.
Developer Ben Syverson describes his app, Mattebox, as “the photographer’s mobile camera” and, in many ways, he’s right. Using the app is amazingly intuitive and the minimal interface beautifully displays relevant information (shutter speed, ISO, focal distance) without being distracting. Syverson says he took his “more control with fewer controls” design cues from the Konica Hexar, a 35mm camera that has amassed somewhat of a cult following among film shooters. One of the unique features of Mattebox is the dual-stage shutter release, that allows you to “half-press” to lock focus and exposure on the center point, then recompose. You can even lock the exposure to a different area of the scene by quickly lifting up on the shutter button; focus will remain locked. Then simply slide the shutter release down with your finger (or thumb, in my case) to take the photo. Once you’ve taken your photo(s), image adjustments are just as intuitive. You have control over color, exposure, saturation, gamma, vignette, and crop using simple, multitouch gestures. Mattebox is a superb app, especially for a 1.x release. According to Ben, the upcoming version 2.0 update is “very deep” and is going to add a slew of new features, such as live filters, more control over exposure and social sharing. In the mean time, you can’t go wrong with Mattebox.
- Dual-stage shutter lets you “half-press” to lock focus and exposure
- Simple, minimalist interface
- Intuitive multi-touch image adjustments
On the surface, 645 PRO is the most complicated (looking, at least) of the current crop of iPhone camera apps. The output is absolutely stellar, but truth be told, I think the interface is a little busier than it needs to be. Sure, it’s great to have options like histogram, metering mode and battery level, but do you really need those options to be visible all the time while shooting? Personally, I would like the option to toggle them on and off. Still, it’s all about the image, right, and that’s where 645 PRO sets itself apart, at least for the moment. Rather than only saving JPEG files, 645 PRO saves what the developer calls “developed RAW” files, which are basically lossless TIFF files. You also have the option of saving in lossless JPEG which, according to the developer gives you files with “no visible compression artifacts at all.” In my own tests of JPEG vs TIFF, I can tell you that not only are the TIFF files much larger than the JPEGs (approximately 7-10MB per image), the image quality is noticeably better, in some cases dramatically so. Beyond being able to output developed RAW files, 645 PRO lets you choose between multi-zone and spot metering, allows you to lock exposure and focus independently (great addition) and offers a variety of Film Backs to choose from when shooting that emulate several medium format aspect ratios. On the processing side, there are seven different Film Modes that are inspired by the looks of classic film stocks.
- Saves “developed RAW” TIFF and lossless JPEG for better image quality
- Real-time shutter speed, ISO and histogram
- Film Backs and Film Modes emulate classic film aspect ratios and stocks
Visual Supply Co. are the folks behind the fantastic VSCO Film Lightroom presets. They are a great set of presets that emulate classic film stocks like Portra, Tri-X and Ilford HP5 (my favorite b&w film). With VSCO Cam, they’ve brought that same film look to the iPhone. Once you’ve taken a photograph you would like to edit (the camera portion of the app is really no better than the stock iPhone camera), you are presented with 10 numbered filters to choose from. Think of these as your base “look.” From there, you can fine-tune (sort of) parameters like Fade, Grain, Contrast, Temperature, Fill, Exposure, Saturation and Vignette with sliders. Well, they are sort of like sliders. Rather smooth adjustments, each slider has 4 “stops” ranging from -2 to +2. Most of the time, at least in my testing, it works out fine. But occasionally, the “right” adjustment will fall somewhere between one of the stops, forcing you to decide between using either a bit too much or not quite enough of whatever parameter you happen to be tweaking. While it would be nice to have a bit finer control over them, the quality of the filters in VSCO Cam is fantastic, which is really what you’re buying it for.
- Subtle, high quality filters (especially the black & white)
- In-app image browser
- Share photos to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
If you shoot video with your iPhone 4S, particularly a lot of action, you’re going to love SloPro. It’s the only video app that I know of that allows you to record slow motion video at 60 frames per second. That’s right, you can output 60fps video right into iTunes. What’s even cooler is that you toggle slow motion on or off when shooting, then assign In and Out points in the app, allowing you to shoot normal 30fps and basically keyframe where the shot goes to slow motion. If you are shooting action sports like skateboarding or bmx, or just want to add some cool slow motion to your iPhone epic, give Slow Pro a shot.
- Record 60fps video on iPhone 4S
- Set keyframes for Slo In and Slo Out
- Export 60fps clip directly into iTunes
Nik Software makes amazing post processing tools for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture and now they have brought that same intuitive interface found in their plugins, along with the same fantastic results to iOS with Snapseed. In fact, I’d have to say that Snapseed is the best post-processing app currently available on iOS. Snapseed gives you many of the same U Point based, adjustable parameters you’ll find in their “big” plugins, right on your iOS device. There are customizable filters such as Drama, Grunge and Vintage and the Black & White filter uses the same processing algorithms (as well as the ability to add grain and use contrast filters) as their superb Silver Efex plugin. If you find that you love the features, but just hate editing on your iPhone or iPad, Snapseed is also available on both Mac and PC. There’s very little missing here, but if I had to complain about something, it would be the lack of any noise reduction, and the lack of U Point selective sharpening, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see both features show up in an update.
- U Point Technology lets you make precise, targeted adjustments
- Apply stock presets or tweak individual parameters for unlimited customization
- Universal app runs on iPhone and iPad