Camera Plus


Back in the day, when I used the iPhone 3G, I tried a few camera applications from the App Store. There were two major problems.

Firstly, no software application can make good photos from a poor quality camera. Even if an app helps me take the best photos possible — such as by providing a stabiliser — the results are still lacking.

Secondly, prior to iOS 4, third party applications could not include metadata with photos, such as the camera make and model, location data and the date and time. This is not acceptable to me; I developed a mistrust for third party camera apps.

The Present

Well, now I have an iPhone 4. Its camera is excellent and apps can save all that precious metadata.

While I don't have any major complaints about the default Camera app, I saw a few recommendations for TapTapTap’s Camera Plus and decided to try it out. (I can’t remember exactly where I saw the recommendations.) What really grabbed me was that it allows the focus point and exposure point to be separate, by placing two fingers on the screen.

There are four features of Camera Plus that I thought might be beneficial to me:

There are other features that I did not expect to find useful, such as burst mode.


The stabiliser makes me feel more confident my photos will come out well, and I’d be pleased if this was on by default (it isn’t). However, Camera Plus usually takes the photo immediately — meaning my hand was already still. Thinking about it, when shots taken with the default Camera come out unsatisfactory, it’s very rarely because I was unsteady.

Camera Plus always launches in the default shooting mode, so I have to turn on the stabiliser every time I start the app. While the stabiliser and other shooting modes are accessed in only two taps, this is just a little too inconvenient to be worthwhile every time I launch the app. I’ll go without stabilisation.

Focus and Exposure

Separate focus and exposure points are set by using two fingers, and hence two hands. If you’re reasonably involved in shooting, this should not be a problem, and it seems like a neat use of multi-touch.

I can’t say if this interface works well in practice, as in my week of using Camera Plus, I did not ever feel the need for this capability. I always wanted to set the exposure for what was in focus, which actually makes a lot of sense.

Fill Light

The continuous fill light allows the iPhone’s LED to be continuously on, while you set up the exposure before taking a shot. This will give more predictable results than just a flash of light as the photo is taken. Now that we have devices with enough power to provide a continuous light, this seems like what flash ought to have been all along.

I don’t like the look of most photos taken with the light on, and the LED isn’t pleasant for subjects. These are my reasons for leaving the flash off, not that the results will be unpredictable. So the story is the same here: the feature wasn't useful to me in practice.

Editing and the Lightbox

I have used quite a few applications that allow photo editing on the iPhone. Nothing has stuck. To put it succinctly, the iPhone screen is too small for me to see what I’m doing, and reflects too much light. I can’t get a very good idea which photos are best (or worst) and it’s hard to spot if editing is improving things. Therefore, I do most filtering and all editing on my Mac.

Camera Plus provides extensive editing options, but I found nothing to convince me to adjust my workflow. Photos must be edited from within the Lightbox, which is basically the app’s own special camera roll. TapTapTap describe it like this:

All the pics you take in Camera+ go in the innovative Lightbox where you can quickly and easily skim through them and rid bad shots. You save only the photos you’re satisfied with so that your camera roll stays neat and clean.

However, as I said above, I find the best workflow is to do filtering and editing on my Mac. I don’t care if my camera roll is cluttered; I will sort it out later in iPhoto. The Lightbox adds confusion by giving me a second camera roll. There's more shuffling around to do.

Since I don’t want to edit on my iPhone, I see no reason to use the Lightbox. The app provides an option to save photos straight to the normal camera roll, so I enabled this.

All of that said, if editing on the iPhone is your thing, you’ll find a lot in Camera Plus. From the much touted ‘Clarity’ filter to various effects and borders, there is plenty here, and it is all easily reachable.

Missing features

While Camera Plus has a much longer list of features compared to Apple’s Camera, two extremely important facilities of Camera are absent.

Camera Plus can not record video. I don’t think this was a bad decision by TapTapTap, as the interface is full enough as it is. What this means is that I'll need to keep Camera handy.

Next is high dynamic range merging, which is really very useful; I use it by default with Apple’s Camera. Camera Plus does not do this. In my week of use, I’ve come across situations where I know I’ll get better results with HDR, so I switch to the built-in Camera. Why not use Camera to start with?


Camara Plus adds almost nothing that is actually useful to me. I don't use it's advanced features, like burst mode or editing in the Lightbox. With the lack of HDR merging and video recording, the stock Camera app is more versatile for things I actually do.

This isn’t to say its a bad application. Both the design and implementation are well done. The custom appearance is attractive and suitably muted for an app that’s all about your photos. The various shooting modes are easily accessible, although I would prefer for the previously used mode to be remembered across launches (to leave stabilisation on). It’s strong on editing too.

I do recommend checking the application out if you think any of its features may be useful to you; it isn’t expensive.

Overall I'd rather keep only Apple’s Camera on my home screen. I may keep Camera Plus tucked away for use in special situations, but it will not be my go-to app for everyday photography.

Camera Plus — official website