When my fellow Canuck and shutterbug, Lisa Bettany, teamed up for with the TapTapTap guys to make Camera+ (iTunes link) I was a little curious but also a little wary. I thought to myself, here we go again, another photographer renowned for usually sporting a Canon 5D MkII touting the merits of the iPhone’s camera. Sure we’ve all heard the old saying: “the Best camera is the one you have with you”. And while that’s certainly true, I’ve always used the saying as a reason to lug my Pentax K200d SLR around with me everywhere I go, going so far as buying three separate camera bags for various occasions and adopting a huge MEC Brenta courier as my every laptop bag. But when I decided to abandon the BlackBerry and finally get an iPhone, things started to change.
The BEST camera is the ONE you have with you.
First, let’s get something straight: The iPhone 3GS camera isn’t really that good at all. In fact it can be a chore at time just to get to it. On the BlackBerry Storm I had dedicated the right hand convenience button to activate it immediately and this was very useful for Evernote and whiteboard captures. But I very rarely never used my BlackBerry to snap everyday pics even with the very adequate LED flash. The main issue I had with the storm’s camera was the fact that it was slow and the accessing the library was always a pain in the ass, Java file systems are just too slow and something about the BlackBerry OS makes it even worse. The fact that most camera phones have more megapixels and better lens doesn’t really matter, the iPhone just seems to make it more fun. Its kind of like the first time you used a Polaroid, you knew the picture was gonna be crappy, the white balance would be way off, there would be sun flares everywhere sometimes even indoors and now matter what it would just look chemically burnt. Yet, you just couldn’t wait to shake it or wave it around even blow on it a little and see how it turned out even though you knew that doing all those things would make it even worse. Now to be perfectly fair most of my iPhone pics turn out perfectly fine for what they are and I would really like to see it’s autofocus put to good use like a handheld bar code scanner for a Delicious Library app or some kind of augmented reality search like Google Goggles for Android.
So why even load another camera app onto your phone? To be quite honest, I’m still trying to figure that out myself. A big part of me still wants to go back my MacBook Pro and edit every RAW pic in my modern day dark room, Aperture. You know: “To keep it pure”. And then I remember why I took the pic with the iPhone to begin with, just so I could capture something now and share it easily and quickly. The last part is becoming even more of a factor these days as my growing addictions to Twitter and Flickr seem to be reaching OCD levels. A few weeks back at some Fête Nationale celebrations in the park, I was taking some pics of the kids with the K200d when Steph’s little boy made it to the top of an inflatable rock climb in Spider-Man like prowess and speed. He was away on business but he really needed to see that so he could congratulate his son that night when they spoke on the phone. For those little moments of immediacy, the iPhone really rocks. With a click, a snap and a few taps you can MMS something to one person or twitter your friends in an instant. And of course there are times when that amazing scene you thought you were capturing perfectly actually turns out pretty lame. Of course if you were at home, you could tweak the contrast, apply some filters to mask the obvious flaws or give it a cheesy vintage feel.
And this is where and when an app like Camera+ really comes into its own to transform and personalize those lame little camera phone pics into the shared memories you intended them to be. Let me explain this a little better: On Canada Day, Uno de Julio for our southern cousins, there was a parade in our Pointe-Claire Village and as part of the soccer team we all took part. At the end of the parade, I notice these 5 Ferrari’s just sitting by St-Joachim church all in a row including my personal fave, the Magnum PI Ferrari. So I grab the K200 and snap away until I’m kind of happy with this one, but all I really want is the prancing horse and I know this is gonna take some post processing to get it right. At this point I’m already discouraged at the thought of yet another project to add to the RTM task list.
But then I remember that I have my iPhone and better yet Camera+ which I had only just started playing around with. So what the heck I pull that camera out too and start taking some real close ups. At this point the owner of the 308 GTS is starting to wonder what the hell I’m doing. He totally expected the K200d treatment, but then for me to pull out any kind of phone just blew his mind. He asked what I was doing and then I had to explain it all to him, going so far as showing him how I take a picture of the Prancing Horse and give it the 1970’s treatment and make it look all authentic.
So to the dismay of my wife and kids, I did an impromptu Camera+ demo and probably sold a copy as I some him tap away at his on iPhone a few minutes later. So what initially started off as the same picture give or take 10 megapixels, was turned into a tacky Polaroid that could easily have been taken the day Tom Selleck’s red rider rolled off the assembly line.
Another example of the cool features bundled into Camera+ is the high contrast Ansel B&W retro filter. Ever since my University Photo 101 days, I’ve been a big fan of black & white photography, Ilford Delta 400 film in my old K1000 and Ansel Adams photography so this filter has certainly plucks the right nostalgia strings in heart.
“The One with the Antlers”
Most Canucks will immediately recognize the label as either one of Alexander Keith’s Red Amber Ale or India Pale Ale and they would be right for picking the first. However for my wife’s grandfather, Fred, who’s eyesight just happens to be afflicted by macular degeneration; this is pretty much the only way he can pick out his favourite beer at the Dépanneur. “The One with the Antlers”, he always reminds my wife. Although he has been known to drink “The one with the Bear… You know those funny lights up north” Ahh… You mean Boréale?
But apart from the incredible amount of rich filters, including all the sun-flare-hot-chick-dewey-grass-pets-bokeh sure fire way to get you Explored on Flickr filters you can could possibly want. Camera+ is also has all the social media sharing option I need. I never upload to Facebook, so I’ll leave that one alone. But I was quite impressed with the Flickr upload, complete with tagging, privacy, set selection and geotagging. In fact that is how I uploaded the two Polaroids above. The Twitter sharing feature is pretty good too, but I would have preferred to use my own URL shortenening service, like YOURLS, not only for stats but also as my own personal stamp of approval to my links. I always feel that when I’m forced to use someone else’s links that I lose ownership over what I’m publishing. It’s a personally pet peeve on mine and you can read more about it here. And of course you email the picture too and then use whatever Tumblr, Posterous or WordPress service you want. The only thing I would have added to this list of options is the ability to MMS someone with a “dumb” phone like say… the LG Xenon. And to be fair my only other issue is that the once you load the app or switch to it with iOS4 you then have to click once more to take full screen photos. Sure you can an immediate picture using that tiny little viewfinder as seen above, but you should be able to set the app to always open to the full screen option. Why? That way I can replace the default Camera app from Apple with this one as my de facto choice.
At this point you can probably name 4 to 5 other excellent camera application including some by other high profile photographers. So why chose Camera+ over something like Best Camera or Hipstamatic? Mostly, its personal preference, I initially liked the specs such as the 2/3 grid, Zoom, and the Lightbox, as well as the social media integration. I also trust TapTapTap, they have other great iPhone apps and I also like to encourage my fellow Canadians like Lisa Bettany. And also because it’s only $1.99 for the time being, and yes that’s USD and not CAD.