Saturday, June 12, 2010

More App Love ...

You may be sick of reading about iPhone apps at this stage, but I just can't get enough. I've got five more to report on, and once again they run the gamut from fabulous to just so-so.

I was pondering earlier the performance of the iPhone camera in low light--it's not, as you might imagine, very easy to adapt to low-light conditions. Of course, I guessed that someone must have an app for that, and skulked around until I found Night Camera. This turned out to be a lot more than just a low-light app, however. Night Camera does offer an "accelerometer-assisted" camera mode that fires the shutter when the camera is stable, which could conceivably assist you in low-light situations. But it also has shooting modes that enable you to make a double-exposure, overlay red and cyan versions of an image to create a "3D" effect, and fire the shutter with sound. (Mixed media girl that I am, this feature pinged my "oooh" meter almost immediately, and I'm awash with ideas for using it, although when an ordinary person might use it is kind of mysterious to me ...  anyway, I tried it out and it works as promised.) The image at left is the standard "accelerometer-assisted" low-light photograph.

Add to this options for fullscreen shutter mode (touch the screen area to activate the shutter), a 4x digital zoom (swipe to zoom, no tiny slider to work), grid lines to aid in composition, optional on-picture time stamp and other interesting features like adjustable image ratios and resolution, color or b/w "processing," an auto-timer and automatic "rapid-fire," and you have a pretty full-featured app. By Sudobility, 99 cents.

Next to catch my attention was Camera Bag. This app apparently got some good press from the New York Times, and I admit that it's a fun little add on that goes beyond the usual collection of color and border effects. Either using an image from your Camera Roll or something you shoot on the fly, Camera Bag lets you emulate 12 different films, cameras, and processes, including cult favorites Holga and Lomo, infrared film, crossprocessing, and silver print. Includes easy in-app email or upload. Image at right is the approximation of infrared.  By Nevercenter Ltd., $1.99.

I checked out Camera Flash Deluxe because I was still thinking about the low-light issue, and it claimed to offer "flash." It actually offers a fairly ordinary lightening or darkening process, albeit rather more subtle than some of the others I've seen. You can also add effects like fog, sepia, invert or black-and-white. This app will also let you "flip" the image in-camera. By Haiwen Soft Inc., 99 cents

I had really high hopes when I downloaded ArtCamera, as it claimed I would be able to make my images "micmic art styles of famous artists like Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and others." The sample images looked intriguing. ArtCamera turns to be a series of filters that we've all seen a few million times if we use Photoshop and Illustrator with any degree of proficiency at all, and that we've all avoided as "cheesy;" see old favorites "neon" and "pencil" below.  I guess my expectations were a bit too high. Anyway, it can still be a fun app to goof around with, and lets you apply the filters to images from your library or those you shoot on the fly. You can also vary resolution from 320 to 2048. By MacPhun LLC, $1.99.

My last app this evening is Photo Fx. When I saw the maker (Tiffen--that's right, the pro photo filter people), I thought I might have something interesting here. I was not wrong in that assessment. This app puts at your disposal 67 photo filters, many of which emulate proprietary photographic filters made by the company. All are adjustable, but each filter is "packaged" with a substantial number of presets; the total comes to a whopping 780. Filters are organized by a loose group affiliation: Face FX, Classic FX, Lens FX, and Portrait FX are three of the nine groups. Within those groups you'll find some familiar names (polarizer, Color-Grad, Soft FX, Pro-Mist, Glimmerglass) and some truly funky effects, like light pattern application. You can use your finger to create "masks" on the touch screen and then apply the effects only to the mask. This app also permits you to work in layers, applying one filter over the other; you can select images from your Camera Roll or shoot fresh from the app. By The Tiffen Company, $2.99.

So far, I've reviewed quite a few iPhone photo apps. In my next post, I'll attempt to assemble what I think is the Essential iPhone Photographer's Tool Kit, with a summary of what I like best and why. Your Mileage May Vary, of course, and if you'd like to weigh in on any app I've missed or offer a different opinion of an app I've reviewed, please do post a comment.

As always please note that comments in languages other than English or French will be discarded, as will comments that do not advance the discussion in any way from people I do not know. (I don't have to know you if you're making a useful comment. Those will always be published.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lost in App Land

I admit it. I've made a few shots with my Big Girl camera over the last couple of weeks, but for the most part, I'm lost in Appland.

That's right, Apple had made more money off of me on photographic apps. I've downloaded a few new ones, and I've continued to play with the ones I wrote about in my last blog post on the subject, becoming more conversant with them. I've started to combine and layer the different apps, because they all have strengths and weaknesses.

TiltShiftGenerator - Fake DSLR offers just a few features, but one really makes it stand out. If any of you 2.3 regular readers of this blog are also fans of my artwork, you'll know that I dig a tight depth of field and a fully-blown aperture. TiltShiftGen enables me to get an extreme variation of that affect with my iPhone. A variable position and size "blur zone" lets the user close in on what they want to highlight; it reminds me of the Lensbaby, which my friend Mark Lindsay highlighted recently in a Facebook post. Other less-interesting settings enable the user to vary saturation, brightness, and contrast, as well as apply a variable-degree vignetting effect. Your source photo can be from your iPhone's Camera Roll or you can shoot on the fly. On the left you'll see the source photo; on the right, the same image after applying this app's effects. $1.99 by Art & Mobile.

Kim Criswell asked me recently about camera zoom apps. The lack of any sort of native zoom capability on the iPhone's camera is one of my biggest pet peeves; as far as I can tell, application developers have managed to make up for that absence only in a limited fashion. One I like for its simplicity is CameraZoom Pro. CamZoom Pro supplies no filters or effects, focusing instead on zoom, resolution, and "camera burst." You can select the size of your image (ranging from 640 x 480 to 1280 x 960) and customize "burst count" (ie, the number of "frames" shot), selecting from one, three, five or seven. The app offers gridlines to help you stabilize the camera as much as possible during the shot, and enables you to preview your image before saving it. The zoom function works reasonably well in very good light but basically dwindles down to "nearly useless" in very poor lighting or indoors ... which is what I expected. First you'll see the true distance image with the raw zoom below it, both shot at 800 x 600. Below that, two comparable zoomed images, on the left shot at 800 x 600, on the right shot at 1280 x 960. The final image, as a bonus, is the zoomed bird feeder image with applied effects using Best Camera. By Punicasoft, 99 cents. There's also a free version.

An app I've just recently downloaded but haven't had time to play with very much yet goes by the bold descriptive name of 7.0 Megapixel Camera + ZOOM. It uses a "custom algorithym" to boost your iPhone camera performance to what it estimates to be 7.0 and 5.0 megapixel resolutions in addition to zoom, a self-timer that can be set for 3, 5, 10, 15 or 30 seconds; and a time-lapse option from 15 seconds to 15 minutes. One major convenience already easily noticeable: you snap a picture by simply touching the screen anywhere, rather than having to aim for a small and sometimes awkwardly-placed button. By CrowdCafe, 99 cents.

More images and more apps coming. Do you have apps installed on your Droid or iPhone? Let's see some samples of your work! Send a couple of images to me via email along with a few details about the app and I'll post them here.