So You Like CAMERA APP, But You Want New Ways To Use It?
The iPhone’s cameras just keep getting better. Apple has singlehandedly edged out the need for handheld cameras, almost entirely. Soon (hopefully) the iPad 2 might even have a camera worth taking pictures with. But with a great camera, comes a great camera interface—and we’re happy that the Camera App in the iPhone and iPad are constantly being new features, like HDR photography, a Grid for easier rule-of-thirds shooting, and Photo Stream.
But that doesn’t mean that the Camera App has it all—in fact, plenty of other camera apps offer new and interesting ways to use that little camera—whether it’s using as your presence on your favorite social site, making panoramic photos, or even making bland pictures into art. Whether you love the stock Camera app or not, you’ll definitely want to have a look at what these apps have to offer.
Instagram is the premiere social network for photographers. Each time you open the app, you’ll be flooded with friends’ pictures. Some people like to take pictures of their meals, some of their locations, others of what they’re up to. While plenty of similar photography-based social networks exist, none have reached Instagram’s level of polish, nor its avid and fervent user base. It’s like Twitter for pictures, and that means there is always something to look at.
But believe it or not, Instagram has another trick up its sleeve: its filters. The handful of filters Instagram offers means just about everyone can make mediocre pictures look nostalgic. Have you noticed that every picture posted on your social networks these days use scratched lens filters and over/under saturation? This is in no small part due to Instagram. While “real” photographers may revile its ease of use, and overall kitschy factor, there’s no denying Instagram makes picture-taking more fun.
Sure, there are plenty of apps out there that can make you a better photographer, or make your photos look leagues better than they did when you took them. But what if you’re looking to try something fun and unique, without ever worrying about perfect lighting or composing your shots perfectly? Fortunately, there are plenty of apps available for the person who just wants to have some fun with their photos, and perhaps none are better than Percolator, which “percolates” your photos into a neat piece of abstract art.
Doing so is simple-you just select or take a photo, import it into Percolator and then select a range of settings that are all loveably named after coffee terms. The more ground your beans, the smaller the rings that make up your picture will be. There are also options to make your photos look like a watercolor, or even make them out of stars. It’s simple as pie to use and you can get some really impressive photo edits from it.
Camera+ is the app that has been better than the iPhone’s stock camera app since day one. You might even know it as the app that Apple keeps borrowing from. Grid view, HDR photography, and even tapping the Volume button to shoot photos were around in Camera+ long before they came out in Camera. Camera+ was even briefly pulled from the App store because it violated Apple’s rules.
Beyond the features that Apple’s Camera app has, Camera+ also has sixteen presets, or “scene modes” to help you capture anything from a concert venue to a sunset, to cloudy weather. After you’ve taken your photos, you can edit your photos with dozens of filter ranging from “Cyanotype” to “So Emo,” crop the photos, save them to your Camera Reel, and then share them on your favorite social networking. If we haven’t been perfectly clear, we’ll just say. it: Camera+ is a much better camera app than the one that comes loaded on your phone.
Pano is an awesome app that stitches photos together to make panoramic shots. Whether you’re trying to get a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in its entire splendor, or just trying to take a photo of all your friends at the dinner table, Pano makes it easy and works surprisingly well. The process is delightfully simple as well-you open the app, take your first photo and then move your phone until the semi-opaque border of your last photo is matched up with your next shot (this whole process takes no time and is easier than it sounds).
Pano first released in 2008 and since then has only gotten better and better. Updates have substantially improved the stitching process-which is the process that blends two photos together at their borders. Pano is now in version 4.5, and the entire process has been revamped, refreshed, and re-polished a dozen times over.
So You Like iMovie… But Want Something a Little More
With the release of the iPhone 4S, shooting 1080p video has never been easier. Simply open the Camera app, flip the switch—and voila—you’re ready to start shooting some pretty impressive video. But the videocamera app (if you can call it that) is very light on features. You can turn the flash on or off, but it’s more or less press record and see what happens.
You can import that video into Apple’s notorious iMovie app, add all sorts of transition and audio, and make an impressive little video out of it. But if you’re looking to make something more serious you’ll need better editing software (like Reel Director) or if you want to film with filters and “lenses” you’ll need a different app entirely. Luckily, there are plenty in the App Store that help you do everything from webcast to TiltShift.
iMovie is a good program for anyone trying to make quick and dirty videos, but if you’re interested in making real shorts on your iOS device, you’re going to want something with a little more complexity—like Reel Director. Reel Director utilizes an interface that will be more common to traditional video editors and it comes packed with far more options than Apple’s option.
For one, you can actually make cuts in Reel Director. This allows for shorter, less fussy clips. You can add dozens of transitions between these clips (much more than the lame handful iMovie tossed our way). There are tons of options for titles as well, so you can kiss those silly iMovie themes goodbye.
We love iMovie for its simplicity, but burning time trying to make it work for more complex situations is not a good idea. Pick up Reel Director and keep living in the past.
Qik is the best social option of the bunch. Made by Skype Software, there’s no doubt that its main emphasis is on Video Chat. But that’s not all it’s got under the hood. Qik is a vlogger’s dream, with a Record & Share feature that will have you live recording just about everything on earth. Live recording can be done via 3G, and pop off a quick note that you’re broadcasting to Twitter and Facebook. Once you start broadcasting you can change a few number of effects like digital zoom (up to 4x) and a handful of iChat-esque distortion filters to make your face huge or genuinely gnarly.
But if you’re looking for still more, you can subscribe to Qik Premium for unlimited video storage, a Qik desktop app, Priority support, and a whole lot more. Those features will cost you $4.99 a month, but you can give it a spin for 30 days for free.
8MM Vintage Camera
If you think 8mm videos are in the past, well then you’ve never met a hipster. The simple fact is that scratched-lenses and awkward filters are being applied frequently.. If you think it’s dumb and worthless, you might not like 8mm Vintage Camera, but if you’re intrigued you’ll probably end up loving the simplicity and classic style the app represents.
8mm Vintage records everything in various contrasts, but all in Black and White, which makes composing shots a bit less stressful. There are several film types (which work identically to filters) and can be switched on the fly. There are several other buttons to push and poke, but they’re all very limited in functionality-8mm is an app that is meant to get out of your way, so you can focus on the filming. It works and we love it, but if you want more from your shots, you can always save them to your Camera Reel and then import them straight to your favorite video editing software.
Tilt-shifting is a style of photography/editing that has gained significant popularity as of late. Selective blur is applied to make the subject of a photograph look tiny, like model train tiny. There’s some argument over whether apps like TiltShift constitute “real tilt-shifting” because real tilt-shifting means you tilt and shift a lens. But if you don’t know that, you won’t care, for two reasons 1) The iPhone doesn’t have a lens that can be tilted, nor shifted and 2) TiltShift does an admirable job faking it.
TiltShift gives you a handful of pictures they supply you with, before trying to take a few of your own. Sure, TiltShift is the only app on the list that doesn’t take videos, but every good video needs a little b-roll.
So You Like Brushes… And Want New Ways To Express Yourself Visually?
Since its release, Brushes has pretty much owned the “art on iPad” niche. Does it deserve to be labeled best? Maybe. It comes packing 19 brushes, and lets you paint over six layers, one after another, without significant slowdown. You can export your pictures in a variety of different formats and ways, including uploading straight to Flickr. But now Matter how good Brushes is, by now it’s old hat. Besides, its far from the only option on iOS, and its possible that brushes is just the kind of gateway to get you interested in other mediums—you know, besides the iPad.
If you’ve been looking for a desktop solution to your doodling needs, or are looking for a way to take quality drawing with you on your iPhone we’ve got answers. Even if all you want to do is make pixel art or art out of typography, we know the apps that you might just discover you actually do need to become the next (first?) famous digital artist.
Adobe Ideas is probably the best vector-based option for iPhone users, but it’s universal so once you’ve purchased it you can open files on your iPad too (or email them to yourself and open them in Illustrator). It’s a fairly simple app, at first only giving you access to five colors (you can customize the palette), and a handful of tools that you’ll know what to do with the second you look at them. Adobe Ideas originally started as a free app, but since then features have been added and added until it’s become a pretty rich vector-drawing program—likely the absolute best on iPhones and iPod touches.
But be warned, Adobe has snuck in a deceptive and completely bogus in-app purchase. If you want to work on layers (everyone will want to work on layers) it’ll cost you an additional $.99. If you’re serious about illustrations just add it to the front-cost, and you’ll still get an adequate iPhoneoperated vector art creator for under ten bucks, which ain’t half bad.
TypeDrawing is the only art app we know that is almost impossible to be bad at. You simply pick a font (or set it random) and use your finger or stylus to draw with the text. You can write which words you want TypeDrawing to paint with, making all sorts of cool symbolic art about Shakespeare or whatever.
At one point or another, you can see past the type entirely and just see the image (the reverse is true in simpler images with less text). The app will warn you when you’re nearing the limit for a PDF (3000 characters of shadow text), but even if you go way, way over that, you can simply take a screenshot of it and email that to yourself. The possibilities for this app are limitless, but it definitely requires a bit of imagination.
Drawing sprites (those tiny little dudes made from drawing with single pixels) is hard work. There are handfuls of ways to do it, including hopping into PhotoShop, changing your brush size to a single pixel, and zooming in like nobody’s business, but nothing we’ve seen has been simpler than Sprite Something. Whether you’re trying to make an 8bit videogame or just dabble in the medium, Sprite Something will help you do everything from create to animate.
Sprite Something is singularly devoted to creating sprites (hence the name) and it does so by supplying artists with a customizable grid. Tapping a single space in the grid colors it in. There’s no confusion over where your brush is going to paint (a frequent problem with super advanced programs zoomed in as far as they need to be to make sprites), and SS gives you dozens of other helpful features, including onioning (which layers a semi-opaque layer over yours so you can change small details of your animation without starting from scratch.
SketchBook Pro is a better sketching app than Brushes, hands down. The layout and toolbars is always out of your way (a small dot/ring-thing must be tapped to bring up any toolbars) so you can focus on your sketches without the distractions. Once you do click on it, however, you’re greeted to a wealth of options, that are (fortunately) pretty much self explanatory. Pencils, pens, paintbrushes, splatter tools, an eraser and more tools line the left. The top has options for layers, and more niche stuff, while the right has colors. It’s undeniably simple.
Whether you’re looking for a serious Brushes contender or just a faster way to get your sketches down without all the noise, SketchBook Pro might just become your favorite new drawing app.
Rock Out With GarageBand… And Other Music-Making Apps!
GarageBand for iPad is one of the most impressive apps we’ve ever seen. It’s simultaneously able to cut almost nothing from its computer counterpart, but also added never before seen features to the iPad—like pressurized keys on pianos that knew how hard you were pressing them down (we still have absolutely no idea how they programmed this, and have yet to see it in another app).
But what if you don’t have an iPad—or worse—what if you don’t have any musical talents at all? Then what good is Garageband? Or, on the other hand, what if you’re looking for a more traditional track by track recording setup. You know, like something you might find in an actual recording studio? Well fortunately whether you’re a savant or entirely tone-deaf, there are more than a few apps that will help you rock.
Beatwave is pretty enough to be used by people with the volume off, but it’s also impressive sounding enough to want to keep the volume at full tilt. Beatwave takes a different approach to music creation—instead of asking you things like key and time signature, you’re supplied with a grid. A tall line sweeps across the grid, and then restarts at the beginning. Left to our own devices, we decided to start tapping, and what do you know, it started filling in the grid with colors. As the line swept over places we’d tapped a single noise played.
But don’t get the idea that this is a very simple app. These are big grids, and with a few minutes of playing you’ll have made neat songs that you’ll want to share. Add to that the fact that you can layer up to four layers of the grids and you’ll have an entirely impressive loop. Plus every time the line hits a note it’s visually stunning, meaning even if your notes don’t sound that great (even though they’ll all be complimentary), it’ll at least look awesome.
If you don’t know what a polyphonic synthesizer is, Animoog is difficult to explain. Suffice it to say, Animoog looks cool and makes cool noises, and if you have any familiarity with a piano or keyboard, you can make some wickedly awesome songs from this thing. As Animoog puts it, the Anisotropic Synth Engine is this app’s key feature. What is that? Wondering what that is? Well, it’s “An exciting new Moog technology that allows the user to move dynamic ally through an X/Y space of unique timbres to create an expressive and constantly evolving soundscape.” That should clear things up, right?
Even if we can’t decipher its entirely alien product description, we do know what Moog is: a synthesizer with a wide array of customizability. Moogs were incredibly popular in the 70′s, and with an offering like this in the App Store, it’s only a matter of time until they’re incredibly popular again.
King of annoying and arbitrary capitalization rules comes bleep!BOX Player, which sits at about the same level of complexity as GarageBand but looks much more similar to Beatwave. Bleep!BOX is a drum machine, synthesizer, and sequencer for ‘OS. Now if you don’t know what any of those things are, you might want to steer clear—bleep!BOX doesn’t provide much introduction to its whacky square-ish interface.
But the good news is, with a little elbow grease you’ll be whipping together beats like Kanye and feeling like a total boss. Besides being a little confusing, bleep!BOX has plenty of other features that will keep you glued to your iPhone or iPad (we recommend using the iPad version when possible—the larger amounts of space make for a world of difference). These features include real time processing (which means it’s not playing samples), 8 waveforms, Step sequencing, recording modes, and even live performance modes for when DJ Tiesto asks you to open for him.
StudioTrack is the most conventional recording software we’ve found on the iPad, and it’s great for simple recordings, whether you’re using your iPad’s built-in microphone or the Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack (Sold separately. Obviously.) which allows direct mic/line inputs and outputs. That means you could run your guitar straight into your iPad, or even run the amp straight to your iPad for some sassy recordings.
StudioTrack allows up to 8 tracks at any given time (get to eight though and original generation iPads might struggle a bit). If that’s not enough for you greedy track-hogs, you can always merge tracks for what amounts to basically an infinite amount of tracks.
All of this complex recording could be awfully finicky on an iPad, but StudioTrack does a good job making sure you never accidentally destroy something you didn’t want to—chief of all is a slide-to-record feature that is almost impossible to set off on accident.