We first mentioned Fhotolens some time ago when the Windows Phone 8 photography app was in the beta stages. Fhotolens has now made it through the beta testing and is available in the Windows Phone Store.
Fhotolens is a camera app from the developers of Fhotoroom that creates a virtual 10-24mm lens field of view to give your images a wide angled look to things. The app also has a High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode along with front camera support and a nice collection of scene settings.
The app still needs a little fine-tuning but overall, if you are looking for a fish-eyed lens approach to things Fhotolens is worth a try.
The run down on Fhotolens’ viewfinder has a help button in the upper left corner of the screen with your flash, settings, shutter button and front/rear camera toggle lining the right side of the screen. The viewfinder controls will rotate on the screen as you shift your Windows Phone from landscape to portrait views.
Fhotolens Settings Menu
When you tap the settings icon, a series of options will line the opposite side of the screen that includes:
- Point EV: This place a shutter symbol on the screen that can be moved about to set your exposure based on that particular spot on the viewfinder; a spot meter of sorts.
- HDR on/off: Fhotolens does have an HDR mode that will take three images at various exposures and stack the three images to capture the full visible range of light in a photo.
- Grid on/off: Turns on and off the Rule of Thirds grid.
- Scenes: Fhotolens offers three scene choices, Macro, Scenic and Portrait.
You will also see a slider bar when the settings are exposed. This slider bar regulates the amount of curvature your image will have. As you increase the curvature, the image will zoom in slightly. This is done to eliminate the black space above and below the image that the extreme wide angles create. This feature was not present during the early stages of the beta version of Fhotolens. You can see the black voids in the sample image below taken with the beta version of Fhotolens. There is a slight distortion to the viewfinder because of the zoom but it is not reflected in the final image.
Fhotolens Sample Pre-Release without image stretching
This is a nice feature for those who don't care to edit images and gives you a full frame image. Fhotolens produces images in the neighborhood of 1700-2560 pixels on the wide end, depending on the lens slider. The majority of the 10mm test images shot ended up with a resolution of 1723 x 1287 pixels.
Fhotolens does support tap to focus but to capture an image you will need to tap the on-screen shutter button or your Windows Phone shutter button. However, Scenic mode does not support tap to focus and instead sets the camera to the infinite focal point. You can also pinch to zoom in on a subject as well.
Once you snap a photo, it will take several seconds for Fhotolens to process the image and a small thumbnail will appear on the right corner of the viewfinder for that image. Tap the thumbnail and Fhotoroom (if installed) will launch so you can edit or share the image.
Fhotolens Macro Sample
The HDR images will require you to hold your Windows Phone still while all three images are captured. The slightest movement will make image alignment difficult and we recommend a tripod to help keep things steady. I found a Joby Gorillapod worked out nicely with the Nokia Lumia 1020 fitted with the camera grip for photographing the testing out the HDR mode with Jiminy Cricket.
While I like the concept Fhotolens brings to the table, the app could use a little fine-tuning. It lacks the in-app ability to review your photos without jumping over to Fhotoroom. This can cause problems if you do not have Fhotoroom installed in that you won't be able to review your images. An independent means of viewing the last captured image from within the app would be a handy feature.
Fhotolens HDR Sample
It does take a while for Fhotolens to process your images. There is a lot going on under the hood but if there is a way to shorten this time, the app would have greater appeal. Patience is the game in using Fhotolens but that's not necessarily a bad thing in that the end product isn't too shabby.
Image quality is good but I did notice a blue color cast on many of the images I took. The cooler image tone wasn't critical and easily adjusted for in Fhotoroom, Nokia Creative Studio or another third party photo editing app. Images could also use a little contrast but again, you can always tweak things in a photo editor. The fish-eye effect is nicely done but, I could not help but think there needed to be a little more curvature at the 10mm setting. HDR images are nice may lack enough “pop” for many. I would not mind seeing a way to tweak the exposure settings with the HDR mode.
All totaled Fhotolens is a nice addition to the Windows Phone 8 photography lineup. While there is room for improvement, camera apps may be some of the more challenging to develop due the wide range of variables that come into play. The app has come a long way since the first beta version and is but another creative tool to add to your Windows Phone camera bag.
There is a trial version available for Fhotolens that has a six image capture limit. The full version is currently running $1.49 and is available for Windows Phone 8 devices (including low-memory devices). You can find your copy of Fhotolens here in the Windows Phone Store.