I use my iDevice cameras all the time, literally on a daily basis, and I know I'm not alone. You can probably relate when I say that since I usually have my iPhone with me, that I find myself taking more pictures than ever, and good quality photos too! One of the first rules of photography if you want to get priceless shots, is to always have a camera with you. With the rise of the camera-enabled smartphone, virtually everyone seems to have an iPhone camera at the ready these days. To support us in our photography aspirations there are no shortage of excellent camera apps in the App Store, and over the years I've tried many of the best of them. Out of a crowded field, I've distilled a list of my top 5 iPhone camera apps, ones that I've put to continual use, and they’ve consistently performed well. Read on, some of my top picks may surprise you!
1. SlowCam ($1.99)
While this camera app isn't one I use very often, it's a great app to have, and one worth mentioning right off the bat. If you have the brand-spanking new iPhone 5S, with its built-in slow-motion video feature, then you may not be too interested in this one, but for all the rest of us, there's SlowCam. SlowCam brings slow-motion video capture to iOS 7, regardless of which iPhone or iPad you use.
Features of SlowCam include:
- Tap and hold "Slow Motion" button to record in high frame rate slow motion. Possibility to set it to just tap to start slow motion in iOS settings.
- Smooth transition from normal speed to slow motion.
- Slide Zoom button to zoom in/out (iPhone 5+).
- Support of 120 FPS (iPhone 5s+), 60 FPS (iPhone 5/5c, iPad mini), 30 FPS (other devices)
- Set Focus/Exposure point together or separately (double tap to reset).
- Rendering in background—you can record the next video even while the previous one is being rendered.
- Saving video in Camera Roll.
2. PureShot ($1.99)
This app is a professional photographer's dream come true. With Pure Shot your iDevice will capture and preserve the truest quality and highest resolution digital images possible on an iOS device. I consider PureShot an absolute must-have for any serious iPhoneographer.
Pure Shot features:
- A choice of HI_Quality JPEG, MAX-Quality JPEG, or dRAW TIFF output*
- A choice of standard multi-zone or (positionable) spot-metering
- Configurable tap-to-focus. Set-and-lock, or simply define the point-of-interest.
- Standard 4:3, square 1:1, or 35mm 3:2 image ratio.
- Choice of single shot, 3-shot burst, or 3-shot exposure bracket.
- A "soft" shutter release button that can be configured just how you want it.
- Comprehensive on-screen information.
- Real-time ISO, shutter-speed, and comprehensive GPS readouts, with optional Ev100, Dynamic Ev, luminance, or illuminance reading.
- A choice of four real-time histogram options.
- Night mode, for real extended shutter speeds of up to 1 second.
- Quality-optimized 6x digital zoom.
- Dynamic interface for iPhone and iPod touch with 3.5-inch display allows for maximum viewfinder size.
- Direct integration with other apps, including Dropbox and image editors.
- A comprehensive in-app user guide
PureShot combines the unprecedented output quality of Jag.gr's 645 PRO with blistering performance and a compact user interface.
The term "developed RAW"—dRAW—is used to describe a TIFF image that has had no in-app post-processing applied and, critically, no JPEG compression at any stage.
3. Pro HDR $1.99
Pro HDR is my favorite iOS HDR app by far. With Pro HDR on your iDevice you will be able to capture the most naturally balanced and rendered photos, ones that look most like what your eye naturally sees. Of course, like many photo apps these days, you can tweak the image and add filters right within the app to give the pictures your own special customization. Pro HDR requires you to hold still as it takes two images and combines them, blending the best elements of light and shadow from both shots.
Pro HDR features:
- Automatic in-app HDR capture: all you have to do is tap to capture.
- Manual in-app photo capture lets you choose the exposure of each image in your HDR.
- HDR off mode allows you to take normal photos quickly.
- Photo library support lets you make HDRs from your saved images (up to 12MP), or edit normal images.
- Front and rear camera support.
- Digital zoom, cropping, self-timer, flash and torch options, and grid overlay.
- Beautiful filters and frames, custom-designed just for Pro HDR.
- Add a text caption to your photo.
- Proprietary image alignment algorithm precisely aligns full-size images in seconds.
- Seamless image blending creates one beautiful output image nearly instantly.
- Live-updating image adjustment sliders to perfect your HDR. Choose the perfect brightness, contrast, saturation, warmth, and tint, or let Pro HDR automatically select the best settings.
- Fullscreen image preview in portrait and landscape orientation.
- Save HDR images at the full resolution of your camera (up to 8MP), or use our super-fast small resolution mode for quick captures.
- Geotagging, GPS, Compass, and EXIF data saved to your camera roll.
- Share your HDRs with the world at full-res with built-in support for email, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr.
4. Camera Awesome (free)
Camera Awesome is hands down one of the best iOS camera apps, with the deepest set of photo-taking features in the app store today. In the words of the Wall Street Journal, "It is by far one of the most full-powered camera apps,… and it marks an exciting advance for smartphone cameras."
Camera Awesome sets the standard for what a great camera app can be. It’s minimalistic, full featured, intuitive, and comes integrated with many social-sharing sites. Camera Awesome is easy to use, yet sports an extensive array of editing capabilities built-in. As Time magazine put it: “Camera Awesome makes the iPhone feel less like a cameraphone and more like a phonecamera"
If you are looking for one of the best, comprehensive, all-purpose, general photography apps out there, I'd say this is the one.
Among Camera Awesome’s awesome features:
- one-tap and zero-tap sharing.
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SmugMug, Picasa, Photobucket, and Flickr.
- One-tap Awesomize.
- Touch just once for perfect pictures.
- Professionally designed special effects from renowned photographer Kevin Kubota.
- Gorgeous design that gets out of your way.
- Great Scott! Video time travel!
- Pre-recording starts before you hit record.
From an extensive catalog of fancy filters, to the unique feature of timed-interval auto-exposures, the powerful Camera Awesome might quickly become one of your favorite go-to camera apps once you try it out.
5. The iOS Camera App
Last but not least is the iDevice's own native camera app. This one isn't the fanciest, nor is it the most full featured; but for speed and ease of use, you can't beat it. Even with a diverse array of photo apps on my iDevices, many of which I've tried to make my default iDevice camera app, the native camera app is still my most often used camera app, if not my favorite. It almost goes without saying, that Apple's iOS camera app is the most seamlessly integrated, accessible, and easy-to-use camera app available for our iOS devices, so I'm grateful that it's no slouch when it comes to taking great pictures. I took the pictures below using an iPhone 4's camera app.
Features of the native iOS camera app include:
- The ability to record HD video from the rear camera and standard video from the front camera, or HD video from the front camera on the iPhone 5s
- Easy sharing abilities via Facebook, Twitter, SMS/iMessage, and email.
- Photograph with flash set to On, Off, or Auto.
- Basic tap-to-focus, and facial recognition features.
- High performance integration with all other features and apps of iOS 7.
- Easy access from Control Center’s upward swipe.
- In iOS 7 we now have Burst mode for rapid-fire shooting and a filter catalog. Panorama mode is also available in iPhone models 4S and up.
- Set HDR to On or Off and choose whether to save both HDR and the original or only the HDR shot. Note: The iPhone’s native HDR feature pales in comparison to Pro HDR, so don’t let that feature stop you from trying out Pro HDR.
Stay tuned for my upcoming roundup of top iPhoneography photo editing apps.