Photography Apps for the Smart Phone, Part 5


As you may recall, over the last week or so, I’d been sharing some thoughts on various types of photography-related apps for the smart phone, ranging from how to set up your camera, (SetMyCamPro), setting up the shoot (EasyRelease), editing your photos (ColorSplash), and finally, managing your photos (WiFi Photo).  The one thing I hadn’t mentioned, albeit intentionally, was any discussion of apps that can actually take photos!  I’ve been saving that for the last installment here, because while everyone wants to know about taking better photos, there’s so much more that goes into photography, I felt it important to “set the sage”, so to speak!

With the stage set, here we are in the final installment – Part 5 of Photo Apps for your Smart Phone

The funny thing about this one though, is that I am going to cover a number of apps here collectively, because there are some commonalities that we can look at across the board.  After all, it’s the same camera, right?  The same lens, the same aperture and shutter speed capabilities, right?  It’s really all about the different options that photo apps can give you, so let’s just take a look:

Common Features:

  • Shutter Release – across the entire gamut, the shutter release is a big dot in the lower center of the screen – a common setup, so there’s really no need to discuss positioning because it’s the same across the board.
  • Tap to Focus – Another common feature is that you can simply tap the area of the screen you want the camera to focus on.  Not saying that all touch screen functions are consistent across all apps (for instance, pinch and expanding to zoom and go widescreen are not native to all photo apps), but the simple tap to focus feature appears to be a constant.
  • Sharpness – How sharp the photo is really depends on whether you select the right area or not, and whether the camera is capable of focusing at that particular point, along with a number of other human factors, which really take us out of the “apps world”, so I’ll save that discussion for elsewhere (such as here).
  • Camera Selector – Because most smart phones have both a front and rear facing camera these days, another standard feature is the ability to toggle between the two options, and this is available across every app I’ve looked at.
  • Flash – Again, a standard feature for the phone camera.  I almost never use mine though just because it’s such a horrible quality and strength of light, that it almost always makes a scene worse rather than better.  About the only time I’ve used an onboard phone camera’s flash is when I’ve stuck my phone behind a server rack and tried to get a pic of a server serial number that I needed for warranty service.

The Native Camera (iPhone demonstrated):iPhone 4s

For those that wish to gripe about me not featuring an Android phone, I’ll beg out of the Apple versus Android discussion by simply saying that to test all android camera phones would have been cost prohibitive, so I just excluded the category.  If you want reviews of Android phone cameras, ask my good friend Kerry Garrison over at Camera Dojo – he’s an Android user.

That point aside, let’s take a look at some of the native feature sets on the iPhone.  You can see the shutter release front and center, as well as the photo gallery on one of the lower sides, which of course, is common.  To the left is the toggle between photo and video capture.  Still…pretty straightforward.  But when you move to the top center, you get the unique options for the native app – the grid overlay, HDR, and Pano mode.  I’ll look at each briefly:

Grid Mode – Simply put – this makes an overlay of the Rule of Thirds grid on your screen – this can help for those learning composition.  ‘Nuff said…

HDR – This saves your images in the equivalent of a bracketed exposure – I’ve still not found a time when I’ve felt the need to take a smart phone photo off the camera and develop it using the wider dynamic range of the HDR version.  Not sold on the feature, but it could be simply because I’ve not used it.

Pano – Probably my favorite feature in the native app is the panorama feature.  Allows me to take panorama photos and usually does a decent job at covering tonal and brightness ranges across the wider area, which is often trickier to manage in your own pano stitched efforts.  You also will pleasantly find that lines seaming things together are virtually non-existent. Check out a few of my own personal pano photos here

Next up, Camera Infiniti…

Camera Infiniti

Camera Infiniti is different from other apps in that the functions are all compacted around the shutter release.  The dial gives you the option to toggle between a timed release, a standard photo, a burst of photos, and an audible trigger release (by far the coolest feature for my two ¢!)  The settings menu is rather limited otherwise to removing ads, writing reviews, and buying other apps from the developer (Agemarks).

There’s no pinch to zoom or gestures built in here nor is there an interface option that I could find to do this, so was not a fan of that.  Also, the highly visible ad at the top of the screen prompting me to buy Candy Crush I found a bit obtrusive…but I guess developers need money too…

Next up, Camera!

Camera!Camera! comes to us from the folks at Smugmug.  Again, nothing too drastic here, except the options have again shifted a little bit.  You can select the options from the arrow button to the left of the center shutter release.  On order, the functions are standard photo capture, image stabilization, a big button (for easier capture I guess…not sure about the rationale here), a slow burst option, high burst option, and then a timer, and last but not least, an intervalometer (taking a picture every X seconds, or at standard intervals).

There’s an option top center to adjust other settings as well, ranging from location, pinch to zoom, sounds, and several others.  Perhaps the most impressive consideration here is that you have the option to configure your photos to either auto-export to your library or stay within the app (every other one makes an assumption here…)  You can also set up sharing services to places like (surprise), Smugmug, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, and YouTube.

The final note here is to not lose sight of some hidden gems.  You can switch a compositional grid on and off from the options in the top menu, add filters natively, and even toggle on a leveling function that helps you keep horizons straight.  Very cool!

Next up, Photosynth


There’s not much to Photosynth but I did feel it is worth mentioning here because I sung the praises of the built in pano feature to the iPhone.  Photosynth from Microsoft does just this – panos!  What’s handy here is that when you press start, it will take one picture, then the frame will help you align the next portion up, and you can keep going up to an entire 360 degree circle if you want.

Photosynth 2

Not much in the way of settings – just the ability to sync photos to your various Social media accounts (with your Microsoft account listed first of course), an exposure lock, sound, and hints. One thing worth mentioning here is that you do also have the option to toggle saving panos created directly to your camera roll…something most other apps lack.

Finally, my default photo app of choice – Photo+

Photo Aug 07, 3 53 32 PM

First off, don’t confuse Photo+ with Photo Plus (further up) – these are two different apps, with very different feature sets. The Photo+ app is so cool, I don’t want to wax on too much, but the host of features available are impressive:  normal capture, stabilizer, timer, burst, zooming options, and then inside the menu, you can toggle other things like volume snap, the grid overlay, the horizon level, geotagging, sharing services, and best of all – you can choose whether your photos are saved in the app for further editing, or photos are exported to your camera roll – or both!

In addition to all these functions, the editing capabilities of this app are pretty amazing as well.  You can crop, add borders, adjust lighting (white balance), and of course, apply filters.  The best part…if you make an edit to a photo, then want to apply another effect, you can press and hold the save button to get yet another sub-menu to save and remove from the app (export to camera roll), save and keep, Save without edits (clear all the edits out), or Commit Edits.  This last one is pure genius, because then you can go to town with any of the other editing functions of the app.  Well worth the price of admission of 99¢!

So, there you are – the final installment of the Camera Apps articles.  Apologies for not getting this out on the normal schedule, but better late than never, right?  Don’t forget to share your own thoughts, and comments on the various apps down below.  Which ones have you used?  Any apps that stand out for your work flow?  Sound off in the comment section, and don’t forget to check out the other app articles!

Happy shooting!

Video Wars Episode 2: White Balance

Screen shot 2012-07-09 at 1.13.50 AM

After deciding to move forward with a G12 a short time ago (since Canon hasn’t announced their mirrorless edition yet), I started running some video comparisons between that on the G12 and that on my iPhone.  Video is the one portion that I hadn’t really looked at when it comes to a small portable camera, and my own experiments to see what would make the best fit would also serve as good content worth sharing on the blog as well.

So, today, I am sharing the second in a series of video comparison tests both to share my own thoughts on the video quality, and to enlist the thoughts of others on video quality comparisons as well.  The purpose here is to see if there is much difference in quality when I make a manual change to white balance.  We can make comparisons in studio lighting conditions all we want, but the truth is, in the real world there are cloudy days, sunny days, conditions with tungsten versus flourescent lighting,and I know what happens in photographs.  Does the same happen in videos when you can versus when you can’t control these options?  Let’s find out:


Results:  So, the video from the iPhone had some nice cloud definition, but otherwise looked rather flat.  I had the bonus of getting a car to drive through the wet street near dusk, so some nice reflections from the lights bounced off the street.  It gave a good idea of what will happen when two different sets of lighting conditions are in the same space (tungsten from the headlights, and cloudy conditions overhead).  It’s a boring video and will surely not make it to Cannes, but does reveal more of the limitations on the iPhone.

One minor flaw in my capture efforts should be noted though – I recorded the video in portrait mode instead of landscape mode – if you look at the first post from the “Video Wars” series – I did record in landscape mode and it showed as auto-rotating, so put aside the wonkiness in the aspect ratio for now – that was operator error! 🙂


Result:  I noticed immediately when switching to the G12 that the foreground area got a lot more visible.  This, of course, is due to the fact that I was able to set the the white balance to cloudy.  This way, the foreground is more color accurate.  The trade-off is that the clouds in the background lose their definition.  When I first started looking at the YouTube video for comparison, it looked flatter than I remembered it on the LCD, but even then, it’s still got more detail than the iPhone equivalent.

Verdict:  Here, I think the nod has to go to Canon.  For a highly portable device, it still allows me to get high quality video and more control over exposure, to include ISO and white balance.  We’ll see how the rest of the testing goes, but right now it’s a dead heat – Round 1 went to the iPhone and Round 2 goes to the Canon G12.  Who will be the winner in Rounds 3 and 4?  We shall see? Does the iPhone still have the lead, or has Canon leveled the field?  Would love to hear the thoughts of everyone reading, so feel free to chime in either in the poll, or via the comments:

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.