Sprinter: Instagram for App.net

I was actually really late to the photo filter game on my iPhone. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I really got into Instagram, and Analog Camera really rejuvenated my love for a truly mobile camera app. (Actually, I’d say it spoiled me). The iOS 7 camera has me excited, but I’m not sure it can replace both those apps on my home screen.

That being said, I’m always up for trying new camera apps, because I think they’re a lot of fun. Recently, Sprinter caught my eye: It’s an Instagram-like camera app that uses App.net as its social network, so the community is already there. Sprinter’s goal is to make sharing photos to ADN as easy as possible. Read on to find out what I think about this new app.

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Late Registration

Sprinter, not unlike ADN, is later to photos and filters and social networks than I am. The app has a lot of catchup to do it if wants to keep up with the likes of Analog Camera, Instagram or even Vine. And you can tell right away when you boot up the app that Sprinter isn’t meant to replace any of those.

Take a picture.

Take a picture.

It’s an incredibly simple photo app: Take a picture, choose a filter, write a status and post. As always with ADN, the benefit is that any photo you take is yours to keep. It’s not shared or used to sell personal information. You can attach your location without fear, because nobody is going to sell it to advertisers.

Choose a filter.

Choose a filter.

Another advantage of supporting ADN is that the app can benefit from a social network filled with users. People on ADN don’t have to use Sprinter to take advantage of your photos. In fact, since Sprinter isn’t an ADN client, people will need to use a third-party app such as Felix or Riposte if they want to see your photos. All Sprinter does is upload them to the service.

Post a status. Done.

Post a status. Done.

And you’re able to claim your photos back as your own whenever you like — they’re not claimed by ADN or by Sprinter. The photos you take are yours. For some people, that sort of private ownership is worth the $4.99 entry point for the app, but I have to evaluate the app based on something else: Its filters.

The Same, But Different

To a certain extent, I’m not wowed by filters anymore. Filters are to iPhone photos as bokeh is to a good dSLR. Lots of different apps and cameras produce different effects, but to a certain extent, they all start to look the same eventually. The point is, it’s not the tools but the photographer that makes the picture.

I find Schuylar does some unusual things with exposure that i don't like.

I find Schuylar does some unusual things with exposure that i don’t like.

Regardless, some of the filters in Sprinter are moderately interesting. Bastian is an over-saturated joy, and Bennington is one of the better black and white filters I’ve seen in a long time. It’s very balanced — not too dark, not too bright. Perfect for just about any photo actually, and that’s rare for a black-and-white filter.

I adore this black and white filter.

I adore this black and white filter.

Some of the other filters are ho-hum or just bad, though. Heumann is an inexcusably terrible filter I have yet to find a single real use for. It can singlehandedly ruin every photo through an odd focus and a bizarre exposure setting. Schuylar can’t decide what it wants to be, creating odd exposure effects throughout photos. And Rocksteady is just plain, completely sterile to the point of being inoffensive — and that’s almost worse than being bad, because it neither adds anything nor takes away.

That’s three photo filters I’m likely to never use, and in an app that only includes seven filters, those odds aren’t the best out there. It makes the $5 price point even harder to swallow. How many people are willing to spend $5 on four great filters and three useless ones? Tastes differ amongst individuals, but I can’t see anybody falling in love with all seven filters. The “wow” factor simply isn’t there.

Other Issues

Sadly, the filters aren’t the only thing holding the app back. I was crushed when I realized I couldn’t import photos from my Camera Roll. I took a picture with the stock camera app over dinner and wanted to share it on ADN, but realized I couldn’t re-import the photo. Later, my phone died while it was applying a filter. I had to retake the photo, because I couldn’t simply import it and carry on from where I left off.

And like all mobile photo apps, Sprinter forces you to take square photos, cropping out a huge chunk of space. Instagram and Analog Camera do the same thing, and while I don’t think this is a deal-breaker, I’m aware of a lot of people who think it’s unforgivable.

I can't think of any time I'd want to use this filter.

I can’t think of any time I’d want to use this filter.

And in this case, I’m a little more inclined to agree. After all, if these photos are stored in my ADN storage, I’d rather have at least high-fidelity, uncropped originals instead of square images all around. It’s a bit of a shame.

Finally, the viewfinder in Sprinter is consistently darker than my other camera apps. I’m not sure if they’re using the camera technology in my iPhone 5 to the fullest; I know that the iPhone 5’s lens absorbs more light than the iPhone 4S. Of course, because I don’t have any accurate metering tools, I can only say what I am judging based on experience jumping back and forth between apps, but it did look like Sprinter was continually darker.

Final Thoughts

I can sum up Sprinter by discussing its name and its icon: Both to me feel relatively careless. This is an app where the icon could be much better. As it is, I don’t know by looking at the icon what Sprinter does. I don’t know from the name what Sprinter does. Both feel random, and careless, and like they haven’t fully considered the users.

While the app is literally one of the easiest apps I have to use on my phone, and it’s actually very quick, I feel like it’s altogether quite careless. Almost half the filters feel like they were thrown together without much actual thought given to their visual impact. They don’t add to my sense of the moment in any case. And while the app is simple and easy to use, I think its main attraction is the ownership of its photos. This is a case where the app was developed purely because it’s a good idea. It makes sense to build a photo sharing app on ADN’s backbone.

But Sprinter feels like it’s the app that was made first, not necessarily the best app that will be made. I’m hoping for something more interesting in the future. In the meantime, those of us who absolutely must have ownership of our shared photos should consider giving Sprinter a look. Just lower your expectations.


Summary

Sprinter is ho-hum, and almost half the filters are useless, but it does come with the benefit of App.net's social network and the ownership of all your own photos.

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