"The medium is the message." Marshall McLuhan

The Right Camera App For Me and Maybe You

Posted on May 11th, by koci hernandez in Apps, Blog, Essentials. 9 comments

I’ve been interested in sharing a few observations about native iPhone camera replacement apps for sometime and I’m finally getting around to it now. Lucky for us there are a few new camera apps making vast improvements and I’m certain more are on the way. Before I get into the details of these apps I wanted to share a screenshot of my current favorites. This isn’t the first time I’ve shared my favorites and it won’t be the last. I move around photo apps on my favorites screen as often as a new photo app is born. Here is my current screen:


There continue to be a few staples for shooting, Hipstamatic and  ProCamera. Plus the old stand-bys for post processing, ScratchCam, King Camera,  Lo-Mob and Filterstorm. The rest are new to me and are fast deserving a spot on my favs list. Before I explain some of the features I like in these new crop of apps, let me explain the 3 features I look for in a camera replacement app.

1. Speed

I’m a frenetic shooter. If I was a weapon I’d be a shotgun. I like to shoot click, click, click tap, tap tap, as fast as an app will allow. It’s just the way I shoot. Now if you’d describe yourself as a sniper rifle then this really means nothing to you. But for the Gary Winogrands  in the crowd speed is an important feature.

2. Independent Focus/Exposure control and lock feature

It is my belief that the key ingredient to  beautiful and evocative imagery, especially on a mobile device is proper ‘manual’ control over exposure and focus. If you leave these important features up to the camera to decide especially in tricky lighting situations – which is every situation except a severely overcast day– then you risk poorly exposed images and no app or filter in the world is going to save your blown-out highlights. It would be like putting lipstick on a pig, :)


3. Full Resolution output

For me, this applies to both shooting and processing apps. The majority of new apps that hit the market are full res, but the last thing I want is to find out the hard way that I’ve been shooting at a low res. How do you check?  Well, first look at the app feature description in the app store, ‘sometimes’ it will say in the description, sometimes not. Take my word for it, just head over to iPhoneography.comGLYN EVANS has been doing our community a great service for a while by providing the best app reviews around and it’s his number one feature he’ll call-out on an app as demonstrated by this recent post:

Polamatic, another shameful low-res** Polaroid app





Ok let’s start with an app that had everybody excited, evidence with this headline:

645 PRO Turns Your iPhone Into A Mini-DSLR Camera, Offers Lossless JPEG Compression And More

Let me say right up front I like this app, it has a few good features, but it’s only a “mini-DSLR” in its interface design. I think the DSLR-like interface will make some camera-snobs feel better about using their iPhone as a camera.

Things I like:

  1. Super quick and easy AF/AE lock
  2. No internal or pop-up menus, every feature is accessed and activated via the home screen, pictured above.
  3. Detailed instruction manual
  4. Lossless compression- it saves a version of the image without extra JPG compression
  5. Spot or Grid meter options

Night mode, yeah real light trails, pictured below


Feature request:

  • Big Button option – I do all my shooting from the hip without looking  at the screen, it’s hard find the small shutter button.

Final Thoughts

Great app – worth the price. Ultimately no features you couldn’t find on other apps sans the lossless compression feature. For me it won’t replace my other apps until it has a Big button feature. And shoots faster.




This app does one thing and one thing very well, lets you shoot in low light better than most apps especially the native camera app, have a look below of this image I took at night in my backyard:


These examples might not seem like a big deal, but it can mean the difference between having something or nothing, the extra detail in the window light and the star, only visible if you click on the image. Also the night trail effect due to it’s capability of shooting at slow shutters is a bonus.




This is my  favorite new app! For my shooting (shotgun) and processing (app stacking) style this is the complete package. First, it’s fast, not as fast as ProCamera, but very close. It’s got very easy and intuitive AF/AE lock, you just tap inside the AF/AE button:


It’s also got an interval timer for time-lapse, not a feature often seen in a camera replacement apps, you often have to get a separate app like iTimelapse. It also has a Big Button feature, which is a feature I love, because it supports my habit of shooting quick without looking at the screen. Finally and this is one of the big selling points for me, it has almost endless filters, textures and borders below is a SMALL sample.



When you look at the price tag, FREE! You ask yourself, where’s the catch. Well, it’s in the filters. They’ll cost you. .99 cents per pack or you can do what I did and buy all 262,134 possible combinations of filters frames and presets for $9.99. It was worth it for me, BUT if you’re a Filter-Hater (Shame on you!) or a sniper shooter, then stick with the FREE version and don’t complain, what do you want for FREE, your money back? 😉 You don’t like the price? Don’t buy the filters, simple as that. Apps are not cheap to build, I’m willing to pay for good apps and filters and it’s cheap compared to the days when we had to buy film, processing and pony-up for prints . Photography is cheap now-a-days, pay if you like the app. Sorry mini-rant over.



These are the three apps I use everyday: Hipstamatic, ProCamera and Camera+ ( Camera+ for processing only, not for shooting, it’s too slow to start-up)


Big Button feature, you can double-tap the viewfinder and get the viewfinder to go ‘fullscreen’ and become a Big Button, then you just tap the screen to shoot.

Then you get this!

Yeah that’s a GOLD Hipstacase you see! Don’t hate, :)

One last note on my Hipstamatic life, I shoot %99.999 of all my Hipsta pics with The Lucifer Lens and the NIKE film. NOTE: They don’t currently offer this film anymore, but if they ever bring it back, GET IT, it ROCKS!



The speed on this app is unsurpassed in my experience that’s why I love it so much. When I’m not shooting with Hipstamatic, generally when the lighting is a challenge or I want to lock my exposure on a shaft of light, I use ProCamera to shoot the image because of it’s speed and AF/AE lock.

Another thing I love about ProCamera is that when you sent the AF/AE points they lock automatically there is no need to take any extra step to lock them. Also, don’t forget to enable the EXPERT mode in the settings panel in order to get the AF/AE lock mode.



As I stated above I don’t use this app to shoot, because it’s sooooooo slow to start-up. But there is one feature/filter I just love, it’s called Clarity.

My workflow goes something like this if I don’t shoot on Hipsta.  Shoot in ProCamera, save to camera roll. Open Camera+ and import image from camera roll, crop square, cuz that’s how I roll, apply Clarity filter, then a BW filter normally Ansel, then save back to camera roll.

One of the things I appreciated in Camera+ is the Filter intensity option, it allows for greater control of how much of any given filter you’d like to apply to your image. One final tip is that before hitting the save button, IF YOU HOLD it down for a second it brings up another menu which allows you to SAVE AND KEEP, etc. Because maybe you’d like to put Clarity on that image AGAIN, WHAT? :)  Anyway, I hope you enjoy is little post, I just had a fit of inspiration and  I thought I’d share my thoughts on these apps with you.















9 Responses to “The Right Camera App For Me and Maybe You”

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  2. Regi says:

    This was very informative, thanks, especially the tip on shooting with Hipstamatic. The one thing I didn’t care for was the small viewfinder, now I will definitely use it more often!

  3. Miku says:

    Thank you for a great write up!

    Hipstamatic and ProCamera are my most used apps as well.

    I see great potential in 645 Pro but I find that the lag of the ‘viewfinder’ prevents me from capturing some of the decisive moments. Have you looked at the TIFF files? Is there a noticeable difference in file quality. I don’t understand why they chose TIFF over DNG. No one uses TIFF anymore for lots of reasons.

    For Nightcap I was hoping to get a real long exposure but to my disappointment it is limited to 1 second.

    Have you tried CrossProcess and ShakeItPhoto from Banana Camera Company? I use those a lot and would highly recommend them.

    • admin says:


      Yes, I love both ShakeItPhoto and CrossProcess, especially the sound and shake effect of ShakeItPhoto!

  4. Kate England says:

    Thanks! Very useful tips and suggestions! I also enjoyed reading about your favourite Hipstamatic combination and your workflow, and wonder if you’ve replaced ProCamera with CameraAwesome?

    I recently discovered NightCap, and got a few nice pictures of the supermoon.

    A favourite Hipstamatic combination of mine is Loftus/DC film or Freedom Film.

    Now off to take a look at CameraAwesome!

    Again, many thanks for the inspiration!

  5. jesse wright says:

    great article! another underrated app is ‘Almost DSLR’

  6. […] auch andere Apps ausprobieren. Eine recht umfangreiche Liste inkl. Besprechung findet sich hier. Ergänzed vielleicht noch […]

  7. Jeff says:

    As a Lynda.com member, I have seen Koci’s work and his motivation. Great job Koci !! Keep up the good work, here and Lynda.com.

    Oh, this isn’t photography related but I use an app called “AppShopper”. With this, I keep a wish list of apps I like but not ready to pay premium prices for. I receive emails with each price change. It’s free as well so check it out.

    Happy shooting everyone :-)

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