Analog Camera: Point, Shoot, Filter, Share

I’ve spent the past six months or so looking for a great replacement for the stock Camera app. The nice thing about the stock app is that it’s accessible from the lock screen and it’s incredibly quick. Things like that are valuable in a smartphone.

That being said, the stock app also ignores social capabilities for the most part. You have to open a different app to share photos from the camera roll to Facebook or Twitter. Beyond that, it looks more like a point-and-shoot than it does a camera specifically designed for mobile. Now, there’s finally a camera app that addresses these problems with ease: Analog Camera.

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Going Analog

Analog has been available as a Mac app since 2011. It allowed you to apply Instagram-like filters to your photos on your desktop instead of limiting that to a mobile experience. In shifting the interface from the desktop to mobile, Realmac is bringing that same basic feature set to the iPhone with a few twists on the way. All in all, Analog Camera is to camera apps what Clear is to list apps.

The camera roll is really easy to access.

The camera roll is really easy to access.

Your camera roll and viewfinder share the same screen in Analog Camera. Pulling the viewfinder down reveals a grid of photos from the camera roll. Flicking the camera icon up (or tapping it) from the bottom of the screen brings the viewfinder back. It’s easy and intuitive.

The grid of photos is flexible enough that you can swipe once to the right to access your Photo Stream as well. And again, it’s all within the same app, one quick swipe away, which makes it much faster than the stock camera.

Taking Pictures

The viewfinder is multi-functional. Tapping once combines focus and exposure to the area of the viewfinder you tapped (just like the stock app). Tapping with two fingers on the viewfinder allows you to manually set exposure and focus, which is a handy little feature that can allow for some fantastic photos. And double-tapping sets everything to automatic.

Taking a picture.

Taking a picture.

Taking a photo is as easy as pressing the button, then. This introduces the only real problem with the app, which is that your photos are all automatically cropped to a square. Some people aren’t going to be bothered by this, and it’s not actually a huge problem on a mobile device, but you won’t be able to take full-sized photos. (The same rules apply if you import an image into the app; you’ll be forced to crop it as well.)

Filter Your Pictures

The reasoning for square photos is simple: it’s easier to share them on Path or Instagram. And when it comes to sharing, filters are essential. Analog has eight filters available. Instagram has far more, but while I always struggle with finding a better-than-average filter on Instagram, Analog Camera’s choices are all very good. And if filters won’t work for your image, it’s easy just to go with the original shot.

Choosing filters is really easy, and they're all presented on one screen.

Choosing filters is really easy, and they’re all presented on one screen.

The nice thing about Analog Camera’s filters is that they’re presented (like the camera roll) in a grid. With Instagram, you’d have to scroll through and look at each filter individually. Here, you can get a quick glance at what each photo will look like with filters in place. It’s a smart design decision that, again, makes editing an image quick and easy.

And from there, sharing your images is even easier. Analog Camera detects the social capabilities on your phone (hence its iOS 6 requirement), and if you’re using Twitter and Facebook, you’ll find both are enabled. If you’re just on Facebook, you’ll find only it’s enabled.

You can also take a closer look at any filter.

You can also take a closer look at any filter.

You can also email the picture, open it in any related photo or cloud storage app, or save the image to your iPhone’s camera roll. What’s impressive about this is that the filters and the sharing functionality are part of the same screen — you’re not jumping from place to place.

Addressing Mobile Needs

You can tell from the get-go that Realmac really thought about what people need from their phone’s camera. The app is fast, intuitive, gesture-based (which is hugely important to a lot of us) and built for social. It makes the stock camera app feel like it’s stuck in 2005.

It’s worth talking about the gestures though, just to assuage some potential concerns. Many people, myself included, liked Clear as an app but don’t use it personally because none of the gestures have a visual indicator of how to use them properly. This is the very definition of mystery meat.

It's again worth mentioning how much power there is in one screen here: tap and hold to zoom on a filter, tap to view a full-screen preview. And sharing functionality built right in.

It’s again worth mentioning how much power there is in one screen here: tap and hold to zoom on a filter, tap to view a full-screen preview. And sharing functionality built right in.

But because each screen in Analog Camera is jammed with visual cues and stacks of photos, it’s easy to figure out where to touch or how to use the app. The camera icon beneath the photo grid is my favourite example. You know when you see it that you just need to tap it (or swipe up, if you’re feeling adventurous) to bring the viewfinder back. This kind of clever visual indicator isn’t present in Clear, but it’s very available here.

It's also really easy to share photos with other apps.

It’s also really easy to share photos with other apps.

The filters are where the app shines, though. You can tell they’ve all been lovingly crafted by professionals. As far as quality goes, these are some of the best filters I’ve seen on iOS. The filters are certainly better than what’s currently available in Flickr or Instagram, and since the app has easy sharing built in, you may find you’ll never need to take a picture and do edits in Instagram again. (An aside is that you can take a photo and put a filter on it in Analog Camera, then choose to open it in Instagram and apply another filter to it. You can’t say your photo won’t look original.)

When it comes to sharing, I do wish that the app allowed automatic sharing to Instagram or Flickr. If I take a photo in Analog Camera and save it to my camera roll, I’d love it if the app automatically uploaded it to my Flickr storage as well. That kind of thing is a small quibble, but worth mentioning. (I wish the stock app had that option as well.)

Snapshot Overview

It took me a while to find it, but I think that Analog Camera is my favourite camera app on iOS. It has beautiful filters that I love to use and a fun, fast gesture-based interface. Thanks to the enhanced focus and exposure controls, I’ve taken a few pictures that are among the best I’ve ever taken with an iPhone, and the filters have really helped bring them to life.

Professionals need not apply, of course, but they shouldn’t be using an iPhone for their business anyway. I can remember the first digital camera my family ever had, and it was a simple point-and-shoot. The iPhone reminds me of a much higher-quality version of that. It’s small, it’s portable, and it takes great snapshots on the go. For $0.99, Analog Camera is easily the best way to take snapshots like that on your iPhone.


Summary

Analog Camera isn't for professionals, but for mobile people who love great filters and want to make their photos as social as possible, Analog Camera is the best way to go. Its easy-to-use interface doesn't hurt it any.

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