Camera apps are among the most popular on the App Store. From social networks based upon photos to simple apps that make collages, all types of activities that are based on photos are active pieces of the market.
Most of these apps rely upon Apple’s own Camera app for the photo itself. This isn’t surprising — the native Camera app is utterly fantastic in almost any condition, as Apple has taken its time to optimize in every possible way. Camera Plus — note the word “Plus,” not the symbol — takes on Apple’s solution, as well as all other competitors.
An Alternative Camera App?
Camera Plus is more powerful than what Apple ships on the iPhone, though certain functions don’t appear to be possible. Camera Plus is able to overlay certain features and a fantastic design on Apple’s camera stack, but the ability to minutely control specific aspects of the how the camera works and functions just aren’t here. Keep that in mind when I say that Camera Plus is “powerful;” that word is certainly relative, and anyone with experience with a DSLR and the ability to operate it may be disappointed if their expectations aren’t set at an appropriate level.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to business. What is the iPhone best at, when it comes to snapping photos? Apple has optimized the iPhone for quick shots, particularly in iOS 7, where many different processes and tasks take place in the background in order to produce the most visually-appealing photo.
The downside of these background processes is that it removes what controls the iPhone’s hardware can provide. Camera Plus attempts to give you back this control in the form of charming gestures and taps, while also maintaining the high level of functionality that Apple provides.
Camera Plus is a complete replacement for iOS’ stock app. Every feature that that app has, minus the square photos and live filters, are included in Camera Plus, and then some.
My favorite feature is probably the level, which makes it easy to tell when the horizon — or any other flat surface — is actually level in a picture. The ability to ensure that my photos are level is fantastic; frankly, Apple should just rip this idea from Camera Plus and stick into the stock app, because that’s how great it is.
Camera Plus also includes the four-thirds grid, which is handy, but won’t magically turn you into a professional photographer.
The “Lumy” slider lets you quickly edit the brightness level in a photo. It’s handy to have, particularly in places where the iPhone would tend to overexpose pictures, but it won’t ever truly compensate for a lack of light. It can produce better-looking photos in certain cases, so I give it two thumbs up. It also gives the user more control over each photo, and I’m a fan of that.
Camera Plus has some basic functionality to try and lock focus on a specific area. Tapping and holding anywhere on the view will bring up options for macro, normal, and far. Tapping one of these will tell the app that you want it to focus on that area.
It works, though I find the tapping-and-holding aspect of it to be somewhat clunky and difficult, particularly when trying to use it quickly.
The app does have other features, and these are hidden in a pop-over view. These options include: Big Button, which lets you tap anywhere to take a photo; Stabilize, which uses the accelerometer and gyroscope to try and compensate for any movement; Burst, which takes multiple shots quickly; and, finally, Timer, which allows you to take set the app to take a photo after anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds.
Additionally, you can opt to geotag photos, set the resolution, and decide whether or not you want the volume buttons to take a photo.
Quick note: Camera Plus also supports video recording, meaning that it can fully take over iOS’ stock camera app. The grid and level are still present, though the options in the pop-over are not present.
All of these features work, and work well — most alternative camera apps try to fit every feature possible, but those features rarely work in terms of execution. Camera Plus is able to deliver with every major feature it touts.
Included with the app is its very own photo viewer. Again, it covers the basics — sharing, though Camera Plus can share to services other than Messages, Facebook, and Twitter — but it also moves into other territory. Editing capabilities are excellent. Individual settings (brightness, temperature, saturation, etc.) can be tweaked from within the app.
Camera Plus also moves in on the Instagrams of the world, as it has recently gained filters. Go crazy with preset options such as “Mistiq” and “Selfie.” Maybe you’re feeling more like “PurpIX” on this fine day?
Adding stylized text is also possible. I most joke — these are the features expected of a photo app these days. Frankly, Camera Plus brings a lot of class to this crowded market, and I found myself enjoying these things far more than I probably should. The app also includes a “Pix’d” feature, which adjusts photos to look better. I found this feature to be fairly accurate, though there were times that I didn’t see any improvement in using it.
I did run into some strange slow-downs while using this part of the app. Scrolling through the photos or editing features would randomly lag, even if Camera Plus was the only app running on my iPhone 5S.
New App, Better Photos?
What’s the point of an alternative camera app if it doesn’t enable you to take better photos? Let’s remember, first, that Apple’s app is inescapable. It will find you, whether you want to take a photo from the lock screen, or if you’re simply taking a picture to send to some friends by way of iMessage. Thanks to its prime location, Apple’s APIs, and the inability of third-party apps to be selected as the default option, you will find yourself using the camera app that was pre-installed on your iPhone.
In my testing of Camera Plus, it has made its way to the dock of my iPhone, finally conquering the space of the default camera app. This is a feat which hasn’t been done since I began using an iPhone. I do believe that Camera Plus is “better:” the level alone makes my photos seem more professional. I also find that the stabilize option does work reliably.
With that in mind, do I recommend Camera Plus? Yes, absolutely, but to a specific group of people. I find that Camera Plus works best when you want to take a moment and capture a photograph. If you’re more interested in snapping a quick picture to send off to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Camera Plus is probably overkill. The editing and viewing features of Camera Plus are very, very nice, but the highlight is the extra set of features in the app. To me — and many others, I imagine — that highlight is very bright.