Camera+ 4: An Almost Perfect Camera App

Camera+ has been one of the most popular camera apps for the iPhone ever since it debuted back in 2010, offering a dizzying array of features and advanced controls for composing shots. To say that Camera+ was groundbreaking would be an understatement and it set the benchmark for how a camera app should be. It even introduced new features, such as the rather controversial VolumeSnap: a feature that led to the app being pulled from the App Store, only to then see it become part of the built-in camera app.

With the iPhone now the go-to camera for almost every user, the market for camera apps on the App Store has become one of the largest and second only to games. Camera+ has had some fierce competition since our last review in 2011 but the developers, tap tap tap, have now launched their next major iteration: Camera+ 4.

New Look

The most noticeable change to Camera+ is its new look, eschewing the previous skeuomorphic elements and textures that were reminiscent of the leather grip on a classic Leica in favour of a modern look that is much more fitting within iOS 7. The interface itself hasn’t changed all that much, it’s simply had an overhaul and, on the whole, it looks great. The developers haven’t fallen into the trap of just removing all gradients and making everything text on a white background — Camera+ still has its own very much unique look.

Camera+ sports a whole new look, doing away with leather textures and gradients.

Camera+ sports a whole new look, doing away with leather textures and gradients.

Saying that, I am actually torn between whether or not I like this new design as, although I detest rich Corinthian leather, Camera+ never felt as offensive as certain apps within iOS 6 such as Game Center or Calendar. To be honest, I kind of miss it.

Composure

The new look has also made its way into the composition view where everything does feel much cleaner. Unfortunately, now that the text and button elements are much lighter, shooting outdoor shots or anything with similar white and grey colours makes them much more difficult to read.

The extra screen real estate of the iPhone 5 is put to much better use with dedicated buttons for focus lock and white balance. A new exposure slider lets you perform exposure compensation for up to ±2EV, while exposure lock will keep this in place, providing much better control when it comes to bright compositions.

The viewfinder and composition view remains excellent, with better use of new iPhones' 4-inch display.

The viewfinder and composition view remains excellent, with better use of new iPhones’ 4-inch display.

A feature introduced just previous to Camera+ 4 was Horizon, a level that is displayed within the viewfinder window to provide a visual queue of whether the iPhone is being held straight. For most apps, it’s a nice feature to have but for Camera+, it’s a necessity which I’ll discuss later.

The usual options for burst mode, stabiliser (where the camera won’t fire until the iPhone is still) and timer are still present though a new option to use a popular square crop is provided for anyone wanting to (eventually) share their photos on sites such as Instagram.

OCD suffers will no doubt be as irritated as I am by the angled photos button on the lower left of the screen. I may be being somewhat overly critical but, gosh darn it, why is it not straight!?!

Your Own Personal Photo Lab

Camera+ outstanding photo editing features are what really set this app apart from the rest. The Clarity function works similar to HDR and can really help over or under-exposed images, or those with large exposure variances such as ones taken in the shade during a sunny day.

A number of filters (effects) are available with some degree of control.

A number of filters (effects) are available with some degree of control.

Again, not quite new in version 4 but something that made it into one of the last updates prior was the ability to layer effects. This is something Camera+ for iPad has been able to do and is a welcome feature. Before this, you could only use one effect unless you were prepared to save, load and repeat the process.

Now, you can layer the effects, adjust their strength and even the order the effects are performed all within the app. It’s a feature I had been desperately wanting for years and was one of the reasons why Camera+ eventually made its way off my home screen.

Layering effects is a great feature and brings it in line with Camera+ for iPad.

Layering effects is a great feature and brings it in line with Camera+ for iPad.

There are a good number of effects as well as some additional ones available to purchase, though the best ones are found within the app.

Unfortunately, I’ve been spoiled with apps such as KitCam and some of Camera+ editing functions are far too limited. Vignetting, in particular, is a binary option and can only be enabled or disabled, there’s no option to set the amount you wish to use.

Perhaps the biggest flaw within Camera+ editing functions is the lack of any real adjustment tool for rotating or scaling images. Camera+ for iPad includes a great method of doing this but it’s sorely lacking on the iPhone app. It’s the only function of Camera+ that doesn’t appear to have had any update over the years and even apps such as Instagram, not exactly known for its advanced editing powers, has a fantastic adjustment tool to fine-tune the rotation of images. This is why I previously said that the Horizon level in the viewfinder was such a godsend in Camera+, there’s no other way to properly adjust an image if it’s not straight.

Photo Information

For the more interested photographers, Camera+ includes the best photo information of any app for the iPhone. You can check out an image’s resolution, file size, ISO and exposure, and more.

Provided you’ve allowed Camera+ to know your location, each image is geotagged and displayed within a map that you can also open directly in Maps.

Photo information is provided, right down to the effects used and where the photo was taken.

Photo information is provided, right down to the effects used and where the photo was taken.

Sharing

Sharing options include Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and with iOS 7, AirDrop. For the Instagram users amongst us, photos can be sent directly to Instagram though, weirdly, you have absolutely no control over how the image is cropped. I don’t know if this is the fault of Camera+ or Instagram but I;d recommend simply saving your photo to the camera roll and launching Instagram yourself.

Camera+ takes advantage of iOS 7's AirDrop function and can also send photos directly to Instagram, though it's not ideal.

Camera+ takes advantage of iOS 7’s AirDrop function and can also send photos directly to Instagram, though it’s not ideal.

Conclusion

While Camera+ 4 isn’t in itself a big update, it’s the culmination of years of updates and feature enhancements that have made this one of the best camera apps for the iPhone. There are some shortcomings when it comes to the editing of photos and the lack of any form of straightening is something that desperately needs to be addressed.

After applying a few filters, this is a final shot from testing.

After applying a few filters, this is a final shot from testing.

Camera+ is still one of the undisputed champions of iPhone photography, thanks to its intuitive and advanced composition controls that allow users to easily adjust almost everything, from exposure to focus.

For anyone regularly taking photos with an iPhone, you owe it to yourself to try Camera+ if you’re not already using it. At just $1.99, you’d be crazy not to.


Summary

Despite some shortcomings, Camera+ still remains one of the best camera and photo editing apps for the iPhone.

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