Friday Poll – Do you use Lenses on your Windows Phone?

Yesterday, Foursquare released a much needed update for Windows Phone users. Besides fixing a notification bug, Foursquare added Lens support. Lenses are a Windows Phone unique feature that puts camera apps within the camera for relatively quick access. While the Foursquare one seems a bit odd (it just launches the app), others can be quite useful.

First introduced in Windows Phone 8.0, Lenses seemed like they could be a ‘big thing’ on the OS. However, we’ve found ourselves using them less and less, instead relying on post-editing or using Nokia’s apps directly. But that’s us, so we’re curious if you still use them, or have they become a kind of novelty?

Take our poll below and kick off in comments a discussion about Lenses, including how they can be approved or if Microsoft should just abandon the model.


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Reader comments

Friday Poll – Do you use Lenses on your Windows Phone?



Lenses are app extensions that tap into the camera to take photos.  For instance, Photosynth or Nokia's Panorama apps are considered "lenses".  To access these apps you can simply launch your camera app and tap the "..." to get the "lenses" menu option and then choose your associated app.  This tends to be a nice way to avoid loading your start screen with apps if you're happy with just accessing the camera app to get to these more advanced/niche camera apps.  I personally use them maybe 1/100 times I use my camera and don't see a lot of need for it since I know the apps I want to use and just load straight into them from my app list.  Still, it's a nice option for those that might prefer it.

Well here we r talking about the lens feature in Lumia camera app, not the lens literally... That being said, i don't actually use these lenses , most of the time i wuld just open the app directly.

I don't use them. It's a hassle. If I need to take a quick pic, by the time I open the camera then the right lens, it's too late.

I don't think lenses are meant for taking a quick pic. For that you may set your default camera application to either Nokia Smart Cam or Microsoft Cam.

Only for Bing vision, and only after 8.1. Great idea but when i need a picture I want to capture it now and process it later on my own terms, not the opposite.

Same here.  This is how I download apps that WPCentral is talking about, I go into bing vision and hit the QR code on my screen.  I like that I don't have to worry about being logged into the right account and clicking into the store on my pc and then hope the app shows up, I just scan the qr code and I'm off to the races. I occassionaly go through the WPCentral app on the phone too, but I have the WPCentral RSS feed in Outlook and I'm in outlook all day, so that works for me.

Quick tip: In oder to access bing vision, you can just turn off your location ( shortcut through action centre) and then press the hardware search button, bing will pop up instead of Cortana...

It would be more handy if Nokia camera had a lenses button right on the screen... I hate it hidden in the menu..

It surprises me they haven't updated it to show on the main screen, right on the corner next to the camera toggles. So simple...

It used to be there, but they took it away.... You guys make sure you go to the app, and provide feedback... There's a link in settings.

The MS Camera app has a button on screen to go to lenses on my 8X. Super simple. Oh wait, did I find something that Nokia isn't better at????? Stop the presses. 8P

Nice try.... But, you're right. It does have it on the screen... Ok, you can have that tidbit if it makes you feel better about your phone... Lol!!
Actually, the 8x takes great pictures... My last GF has one.. She sent me some pictures recently of a trip she took.. I was amazed!!

Ok.. Do it now!!... Go to the app, go to feedback, and request the button front and center!... Do it now! Do it for me! Do it for WP❗❗❗❗❗❗❗❗❗❗❗❗❗

That's what many people believe and it’s totally wrong because you have almost a centimeter to press on the screen to bring the menu. Nokia chose to move the 3 dots much closer to the edge and I believe that it’s the write choice considering the purpose of the app (a photo app require that the screen clear and with all the buttons on the edge).

I use the lenses option  mostly because I test a lot of them but sometimes I use them to take beautiful pictures

So, you're saying that MS is wrong to? Because there's is on the screen... There's no right, or wrong way... Nokia should just make it optional so that everyone is happy... Agree???❔❔❔❔❔

No I was just saying that it’s not that hard to access that menu from the 3 dots and automatically the Lenses. To be honest Nokia Camera doesn’t need more useless buttons on the screen and don’t kill me, it’s just my opinion.

It's cool, but that's the exact reason why it should be made optional.. The fact that our, and others, opinions differ means that it should be optional....
Of course we know the reason why MS, and Nokia, have different ways of handling this.. It's because MS wants us to use everyone's apps, and Nokia has no interest in deterring users from their apps, and that's understandable...

Because you're using the native camera app, or a very OLD version of NC....... We're using current versions of NC, set as the default camera, on our devices... Are you on WP8.0 black or above?

I'm using Nokia Camera Beta, but I don't have the latest update. But after reviewing my settings it appears that I was using the MS camera. Now that I have switched back, I now have to press the 3dots to get to the lens. It's now a 2 step more...not as convenient.

I actually use lenses a lot, although I have the default set to the Nokia Camera Beta (without equal in getting the best shots).  But, yes, it's annoying to have to dive into the ellipsis to access lenses.  The problem, though, with your suggestion of putting the lens button on the screen is that you'd have to require EVERY developer to do it.  Remember, each lens is a unique design by the developer, and no two camera lenses are exactly the same.  Now, a better option would be to put it on the menu bar itself instead of buried.

That's what we're saying to do.... Just put the link to the lenses section on the screen just as MS has done with their camera app.. What else would make any sense??.... Go back and read the suggestion..

That's the only case I use it. Although I don't find myself using it so often, it turns out to be very handy when I do.

Seeing as nokia has a dozen & counting photo apps it would make sense though it would make more sense if they merged all ther apps & make a startup menu inside the main app

I started just using Red Laser instead of Bing Vision - I really wish they would bring the launcher back to Cortana.

There needs to be a little eye next to the music note at the top of Cortana for Bing Vision.

I use Refocus and Panorama but I launch them from the apps list. I usually find myself in a situation where I think, this would make a good X and then I fire it up, I'm never using the camera when that happens.

My kids corner is all Music and Photo apps. Especially since all my photo apps are not in the photos hub.

I think this is where lenses make getting to the right camera app a dream. I activate camera with long press of shutter button (even from sleep) and then select the app i want from the lenses. It makes it so fast to get to refocus, bing vision, office lens, translate or Blink to use the camera just the way i want at that moment. And then quickly switch back to another one if i need. I find this way WAY faster than waking from sleep and then navigating through the app list.

Me too!! Dedicated button for camera and then lenses!!

People that dont do that probably have all the apps on the start screen :l

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They definitely need to set some guidelines for what is allowed to be registered as a lens, otherwise it just becomes another way for an app to get all up in your face.

I don't, i'm using Nokia Camera, why would i use Lenses for launching different camera app? The Best cam for Lumia is Nokia Camera.

Because you're limiting the experiences you can have such as project tripod and Foundbite to name just 2 examples.

Nokia camera is awesome, and its one of my favorites, but there's 95% more you could be doing that NC don't!!! No HDR, limited filters, no slow motion.. The list goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on,and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on,...............
and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on,................

it's a fast and easy way of accessing lenses like panorama, office lens, or camscanner.. that's what I use it for.. but it's generally nice to have a place where you can find all of your camera apps.. it's like how all your games are in one spot (in wp8 anyway).. nice to have easy access, especially if you have a lot of apps..

Panorama is the most frequently used lens for me. Other than that, I have used Cinemagraph, Photosynth and Blink a few times. But almost always, I launch these from the app list.

Yes sometimes, but it's SO ANNOYING that the Nokia Camera app doesn't have a shortcut to go to them (like the microsoft has), and I have to bring up the menu to go to lenses. I sometimes accidentaly take a picture or press the search button when i try to bring up the menu.

Same goes with front facing camera, where you have to bring up the menu to do it.

Would be good if they added a button on the camera mode selection wheel, video, smart, camera "lenses" I use them a fair bit but a quicker route would be good.

I never understood lenses... Isn't it the same as opening directly the photo app you want? Anyway I never take a picture directly from an app, I take my pictures from Nokia Camera and then import in an app for the filters since you have a lot more settings for taking pictures in Nokia Camera than in most others apps.

I would have a definite use for lenses IF Nokia didn't hide the button in the menu.
As it is, I just add my panorama/refocus/pro shot apps to the start screen and access them that way.
Lenses should be a big deal. Unfortunately, it is poorly implemented

Love how, even in the article, its assumed we all have Nokia's apps to use...or even want them...yes, I do use Bing Vision & Office Lens, occasionally, I'll use 6tag, but for the most part, not a ton.

Lenses were good, but lense access was hidden in Nokia camera, making it less useful. With a UI change maybe I would use them more.

Haven't used many lenses until WP8.1 took away QR code scanner from the search button and then an app was made by a developer to bring it back. In other words.... Put the dang thing back where it belongs MS.

Many times I'll be in one app and decide that it's better done with another. For example, going from Nokia camera to BLINK or cinemagraph if I want to capture motion in the scene.

Almost forgot, I use office lens quite a bit now.

Foursquare lens, doesn't "just open the app".
It lets you take a photo, then add some filters, them some basic edits like crop, and then check in somewhere while posting the photo you just took.

I think the reason "I generally forgot about them" is because Nokia hiddens the link to the Lenses apps inside a Menu on her Nokia Camera app. And most of us are using Nokia Camera.

Another implementation that Microsoft has created that isn't useful. Lenses being one, having apps in the hub being another.

My friends and I love Lenses and Hubs! We use Lenses all the time! And we want Microsoft to bring back Hubs!

I use lenses quite often (Nokia Refocus and such) and I fancy the lenses placement in top of the menu. In under 5 sec I'm in the right lens.

Not often, maybe because i have a Samsung Ativ S and i don't get the Nokia Lenses.. But mainly use for Bing Vision.

People say they live for Windows and windows is number one and they don't even know what lenses are? Jeeesh, you need to broaden your horizons people.

The only lens I use is Photosynth (which needs to be updated, badly, to support more than panos)
rarely I'll use Bing Vision to search for something.
very rarely I'll use blink (but not usually because saving as gif is a pain)

I love the idea of lenses... but none of them really do things that I care about.

Never really did. It's like that big feature that everyone forgot, especially if you're using Nokia Camera since its hidden in the menu and there isn't a button directly to them. It's a neat concept but it need to be improved. I find the current layout is cumbersome, especially if you have lots of lenses installed. Another thing that would be nice, is if anything with a lens could be set as the default camera app. I'd imagine that would increase compatibility with camera apps being set as default.

I use it often to switch to panorama, because I basically always long press the camera button from sleep to get to the camera app it is easier to then switch to the panorama lens rather than unlocking, going to the panorama app, then opening it. I also use it for refocus and Cinemagraph but I use those apps a lot less than panorama ( even if the Nokia panorama app can get frustrating at times).

Rarely... Honestly speaking I noticed that the default camera app (either Microsoft's or Nokia's) takes better photos than the Nokia camera app or any other camera app which I've used. It takes less time for the default camera app to load up and it also captures photo faster.

I'm writing a book that requires pictures. Daily, on my 1020 I am using Nokia Panorama and Refocus. I am also taking shots with Photosynth hoping we can figure out how to use that experience for the e-version of the book, Oh! and then there is the scanning of QR codes to force update or try new apps I read about on WPCentral.

Never used them, up until yesterday's foursquare news I didn't even really know what it was. But they are a really great idea, someone just needs a killer app for it.... And the now obsolete foursquare ain't it. :)

Other than wishing Nokia Camera has an onscreen button for lenses, yes I am one of those who do. I never look in my app list for camera apps.

What I would like to know is how to remove app lenses from the list. Some I like, some are clutter.

Yes I do but this certain app, *ahem Evernote ahem*, doesn't support it so I don't use it as often as I want.

To just pick up and shoot; I use Nokia Camera Beta that is activated by my side button.

However, when I am on the road, I use ProShot all the time to upload receipts to Expensify.com - Proshot allows me to preset a 3MP B&W setting so I can shoot the receipts at low (but legible) resolution without having to do any post editing.

To switch over to HDR, I access HDR Camera or 4 Blend from Lenses - Not too often, but anytime I feel something deserves HDR, I love the shortcut Lenses provides without having to go to my Apps menu or junk up my screen with these apps.

Lastly, I have used Lenses to access Bing Vision for reading a QR code.

What I appreciate is that all of these apps give you a choice to shoot in full resolution as opposed to trading away resolution and file size for the effect.



I use office lens a lot, bing vision (in 8.1 until they hopefully add something like Cortana Vision) and photosynth (occasionally if I'm on vacation).

Lenses are just like the games hub, but for camera apps instead of games, and accessible from the camera. It's nice when you reflexively open the camera, and then realize you want something other than the default app. Instead of feeling sheepish and exiting back to the start screen, you can just pull up the lenses. And this way you need not keep all the camera apps pinned to start.

Honestly I forgot about them. But they're a good feature that's not being used to its full potential.

I don't, but I am sure that the idea is good, it's needs a better implementation. Most of the time I forget the feature exists, better to have a permanent icon on the camera UI

I like lenses alot, but they seem harder to access these days when you set Nokia camera as your default app

Nope. Having to access them via a menu or by hunting down the list of apps is too cumbersome for me, and I don't want lenses as tiles. They should be accessable via hidden buttons directly in the camera interface.

I use them quite often actually. Especially on trips to the country side; Panorama and Cinemagraph I appreciate alot. And I use Office Lens whenever I get a business card or a receipt so that's basically daily. The lenses definitely add value to the camera and the camera experience would be poorer without it.
Don't underestimate that Office Lens either, it's the closest thing you'll get to having a scanner in your pocket; can't recommend it enough.

P.s this WP Central app has to be one the best I've used. The functionality is first class and the attention to detail is impeccable. Great job WPC keep it up!

I use the panorama feature as its straightforward to use. The translator lens is amazing. Fresh paint is not obvious to get into. Photosynth if done right gives a new approach to image taking - though it looks odd taking a full 360 image - good for cathedrals etc.