Windows Phone Central App Roundup: Windows Phone Photography Apps
The native Windows Phone camera app does a nice job of things, as does the Nokia Camera app for those sporting a Nokia Lumia Windows Phone. We will touch base on a few of the top rated photography apps that offer you an alternative to these two camera apps that will not only let you capture images but also edit them as well.
We've watched these four apps develop from their initial release to becoming rather capable Windows Phone photography apps. While our seasoned Windows Phone users may already be familiar with these titles, our newer users may not be and we'll dig a little deeper with this week's roundup to give those looking for a photo app option a better feel for things.
At first glance, Camera360 comes across as a simple photography app for Windows Phone 8 but the more you use Camera360, the more you realize it is a feature rich camera app. Not only does Camera360 offer you a camera alternative but you also have a Picture Diary, a photo editor, a handful of camera modes, manual controls, a double exposure mode and live previews of the photos you’ll capture.
The attraction with Camera360 begins with the camera viewfinder’s layout. On the left side of the viewfinder (or bottom, depending on the phone’s orientation) you will find buttons to access the app’s settings, toggle between the front and rear cameras and your flash controls. On the opposite side of the screen is a manual button where you can control either the exposure or focus of the camera manually.
The manual controls are a simple slider that will appear to adjust exposure and focus. Tap the button once for manual exposure compensation; tap a second time for manual focus. The manual focus can come in handy, especially when shooting macro. Just set your focus to the closest focus distance and move your camera into position until your image is in focus. This way you avoid the risk of Camera360's autofocus keying in on something in the background and blurring your subject.
In the bottom corners of the viewfinder are buttons to access the Photo Diary (the paper stack symbol) and choose your framing (the bracket symbol). Camera360 has seven framing options that can be filtered in the app’s settings. Tapping the framing button will cycle through the frames which includes a pinhole frame, Polaroid frame, several film styled frames and a memory (scrapbook style) frame. You can filter out the framing choices in Camera360's settings to only show the frames you want.
The main camera control sits at the bottom center (or right center) of the screen. Camera360 uses a Creative Compass Tool (the ring around the camera icon) that lets you easily choose your camera mode. Camera 360 has six scene modes that include a variety of effects that can be applied to your photos. The scenes and their effects are as follows:
- Auto: Straight up camera mode with no effects
- Portrait: Sexy Lip, Sweet, Natural, Sunny, Fresh, B&W
- Microspur (macro): Pure, Retro, Elegant, Maple, Emerald
- Night: Enhance, Foggy, Purple, Fall
- Food: Dream, Warm, Normal, Reversal Film
- Scenery: HDR, Color Sketch, Black Storm, Enthusiasm, Pure, Autumn, Lomo
You tap and spin around the Compass Tool to change the camera mode and side swipe the center of the screen to change the filter effects. Camera360 does provide a live preview of the effects to give you a clue as to what the captured image will look like.
Additionally, if you slide up at the camera icon (which doubles as a shutter button) you can change the camera style. The three camera style options for Camera360 include:
- Time Capture: Includes six era based film filters that date back to 1837
- Effects: This is your main camera style with the six camera modes and filters
- Double Exposure: As the name suggests, this style allows you to take one photo and then overlay a second photo on top of the first
Along with the camera features, Camera360 has the Photo Diary which acts as a Pictures Hub in a manner of speaking. Images are sorted by day of the week taken and in calendar view. Tap on a thumbnail to view the full image which will also give you options to return to the camera, edit the image, delete the image, share the image and view the photo information (abridged EXIF file information).
Photo editing tools are a little on the basic side but useful. Editing tools include:
- Rotate the image
- Tilt Shift tool
- Effects Filters
The effects filters include all the filters that are available through the camera modes. It’s an easy way to cross over a filter from one camera mode to another. For example, you want to shoot an HDR macro, just capture the image with the Pure filter and then edit the image and apply the HDR filter afterwards.
All in all, Camera360 is a very impressive camera app for Windows Phone 8. It combines a user friendly camera app with a host of effects and camera modes and tosses in a nice photo organizer and edit to make it a very complete photography app. Camera360 is a free app that is available for Windows Phone 8. You can find your copy of Camera360 here in the Windows Phone Store.
ProShot is a photography app for Windows Phone 8 that offers you a vast amount of control over your camera. Designed for those who are accustomed to having control over their DSLR or film cameras, ProShot delivers a professional feel to your Windows Phone camera. While the app has very limited editing features, it clearly makes up for it in the level of camera control it offers.
In horizontal orientation, ProShot’s viewfinder has your settings displayed across the top of the viewfinder with a camera mode button sitting at the top center. ProShot offers you six camera modes that include:
- Auto: White balance, shutter speed, and ISO are automatically chosen
- Program: You adjust the exposure, ISO, white balance and flash settings
- Manual: You adjust the exposure, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and flash settings
- Two Custom Modes: You make the adjustments and save them for quick access
- HDR: High Dynamic Range Settings that include exposure bracketing, number of shots to merge and the delay in between shots
Along with choosing the camera mode, this menu will also let you choose your frame rate. Frame rate choices include single shot, burst (up to five frames per second), self-timer and time lapse (up to a five minute interval with no duration limits). The developer does not that the time lapse feature does have some hardware compatibility issues. A link to the current compatibility list will be displayed on the menu.
Three buttons are positioned to the right of the viewfinder, just in front of your settings menu (more on this in a second) that controls your camera focus. You have to focus mode buttons (landscape and macro) and a button to turn on/off your autofocus. The manual focus slider is responsive and as with Camera360 can come in handy when shooting macro pictures.
At the bottom of the screen you will find ProShot’s exposure compensation controls (-3 to +3 EV) and to the right of the screen, next to the focus controls, you will find another settings menu where you can adjust the following:
- Image Resolution/Filter: You can add contrast and saturation to your images, apply eight effects filters and choose the overall image resolution of your photos.
- ISO: ISO range is from 100 to 4000 or you can set it to Auto.
- Flash: Choices include on, off, auto as well as turning on/off the focus assist lamp.
- White Balance: You can choose to have the camera set this automatically or set it to one of six lighting conditions that include cloudy, daylight, flash, fluorescent, tungsten, and candlelight.
- Shutter Speed: Your shutter speed range is from 4 seconds to 1/16000th of a second or you can let the camera set it automatically.
- Main App Settings: This includes display options (grid lines, histogram, etc) as well as turning on/off your Live Tile, turning on/off the vibrate feature and setting your menu opacity/color.
Lastly, there is a review button sitting in the upper left corner of the viewfinder that will pull up the images you have recently captured. From the image view the EXIF information will be displayed across the top and bottom of the image and you can edit the image. ProShot’s editing features are very limited and include image rotation and applying one of the eight effects filters. It would have been nice to have a cropping tool and exposure adjustments but you can easily launch a third party editing app to get this done.
ProShot is one of those Windows Phone apps that may not have across the board appeal. The vast amount of control of your Windows Phone camera may be a little overwhelming to some but you can always fall back on the full-auto setting. Nonetheless, ProShot is a very impressive and capable camera app for Windows Phone 8.
There is a free trial version available for ProShot with the full version running $1.99. The camera app is available for Windows Phone 8 and you can find your copy of ProShot here in the Windows Phone Store.
HDR Photo Camera (trial/$2.99)
High Dynamic Range photography (HDR) has been around for some time now and can be a great way to create jaw-dropping images. Generally speaking, the process involves taking multiple pictures of the same scene at varying exposure levels. You then merge these images into one to create an image with a higher dynamic range that has less shadows and more color.
HDR Photo Camera is a dedicated Windows Phone 8 photography app that makes creating the HDR images a little easier. While HDR Photo Camera does the heavy lifting, I highly recommend using a tripod in capturing HDR images. While it is possible to capture HDR images using your Windows Phone camera handheld, the slightest movement can cause blurring or other alignment issues when the photos are merged. If you don’t have a tripod, prop your Windows Phone against a tree, rest it on a ledge, prop it on your car bumper or any other method that will help you hold your camera rock steady.
Now back to HDR Photo Camera…
The viewfinder for HDR Photo Camera is simply laid out with four control buttons that include setting the aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9), a self-timer, flash controls and camera mode. Camera modes include:
- Single Frame: Your run of the mill, single photo with no HDR processing
- HDR imaging
- Manual: You adjust the shutter speed, ISO and white balance
- Bracketing: A series of photos will be taken, bracketing the exposure
It should be noted that you can apply a tone mapping algorithm to create that HDR effect. This is handy for moving objects that won’t sit still for multiple images such as kids, pets and moving trains.
Additionally from the viewfinder, HDR Photo Camera has a three-dot menu that will give you access to the app’s settings, storage manager, a link to rate/review the app and a link to view the About screen. HDR Photo Camera’s storage manager is where all the single images used in creating an HDR photo are stored. These images are not saved to your Windows Phone Pictures Hub and you can delete them from the storage manager pages.
Settings for HDR Photo Camera cover:
- Capture Parameters for your HDR images
- Turning on/off high resolution processing
- Turning on/off Anisotropic alignment (helps a little with handheld shooting)
- Turning on/off fast capture (supported by Lumia Windows Phones)
- Turning on/off source image saving (otherwise the individual photos will be dumped once the HDR image is created)
- Setting fuse parameters (contrast, saturation, exposedness)
- Display options that include composition grid, a virtual horizon, and guidance messages
In the upper corner of the viewfinder you will find an arrow that will let you review your recently captured images. From this screen you will have the option to adjust the contrast, brightness and saturation of the image, apply effects filters to the image or share the image. HDR Photo Camera has fourteen filters that range from a warming filter to a solarize filter to several HDR effects filters.
From the Nokia Lumia 1020 image resolution with HDR Photo Camera are 3072 x 1728 pixels (16:9 ratio) and 2592 x 1936 pixels (4:3 ratio) both at 96dpi.
HDR photography may not be everyone’s cup of tea but if it is, HDR Photo Camera is an easy way to get your feet wet with the HDR style of photography. There is a free trial version available for HDR Photo Camera and the app is available for Windows Phone 8 devices.
You can find your copy of HDR Photo Camera here in the Windows Phone Store.
Fhotoroom has been around for some time now and is available for both Windows Phone 8 and 7.x devices. This Windows Phone photography app is part camera app, part photo editing app and part photo sharing network app. Of the four titles highlighted in this week’s roundup, Fhotoroom has the more basic camera app but has the more extensive editing tools. The photo sharing aspect is a nice touch to let you show off your photos, get feedback on them and see what other users are photographing.
The main page for Fhotoroom displays a thumbnail collection of images from other Fhotoroom members. To participate in the Fhotoroom network you’ll need to create a membership account (free) but an account isn’t required to use the camera and photo editor.
Across the top of the main page you will find options to view recently added images, popular images or interesting images. You can also toggle between the image timeline, your image home page, any messages sent to you and a refresh button.
At the bottom of the page are control buttons to open an image from your Windows Phone Pictures Hub to edit, launch the camera app, and launch the search feature to find photos by author, hashtag or keyword. At the bottom of the main page you also have a three-dot menu that will pull up options to create a lockscreen image, view your profile, view your likes, view your friends activities, access Fhotoroom’s settings, access Fhotoroom’s store (in-app purchase options for additional filter sets), open Fhotolens or Fhotostorage, and pin the camera or editor to your Windows Phone Start Screen.
Fhotolens and Fhotostorage are two companion apps from the developer of Fhotoroom that can be purchased separately. Fhotolens is a creative lens app (HDR, fisheye, macro, etc.) and Fhotostorage is a Pictures Hub alternative. Both apps can be used individually or integrated with each other. Still not sure why the developer hasn’t offered a single app that incorporates all three but it is what it is.
Settings for Fhotoroom cover your account information, setting up your social networks for sharing purposes, a bandwidth saver, and turning on/off the app’s Live Tile.
The camera app for Fhotoroom, while a little on the basic side, does have a nice feature set. In landscape orientation, along the right side of the screen, you will find a front/rear camera toggle switch, a shutter button, a settings gear, and flash controls. When you tap the settings gear, a collection of options will appear on the right side of the viewfinder that includes:
- Point EV: If you want your light meter to meter on a specific area of your photo, tap this option and then tap the area on your viewfinder you want the meter to read.
- Timer: A one to ten second self-timer feature.
- Grid: Turns on/off your on-screen viewfinder grid.
- Macro Scene Mode
- Scenic Scene Mode
- Portrait Scene Mode
Images captured with Fhotoroom from the Nokia Lumia 1020 are at a resolution of 2592 x 1936 pixels. Images were slightly smaller when captured from the Nokia Lumia 520 (2048 x 1529 pixels).
Once you capture an image (or choose an existing one to edit) Fhotoroom sends you directly to the editing screens. Here you will find editing tools that include:
- Basic editing such as cropping, exposure, white balance correction, sharpening, image rotation, image straightening, adjustments for shadows and highlights and more.
- Style filter applications that include seventeen core filters with the option to purchase additional filters through in-app purchase. All totaled Fhotoroom has over seventy-five filters to choose from that range from lowdef to film styles to color tones to black and white styles.
- Frames that can be as simple as a solid white or black border around your image to Polaroid styled framing to film styles.
You also have the options to launch the camera app from within the editor or open your Windows Phone Pictures Hub to open an existing image to edit. One nice aspect of Fhotoroom’s photo editor is that it supports images up to 22MP in size. This will allow you to pull up DSLR sized images into Fhotoroom and edit them on the fly.
Fhotoroom has been a staff favorite for some time now and the developer is constantly trying to tweak the Windows Phone app to add new features and improve the overall performance of the app. Fhotoroom is a free app that is available for both Windows Phone 8 and 7.x devices. You can pick up your copy of Fhotoroom here in the Windows Phone Store.
There is also a Windows 8 version of Fhotoroom available that you can find here in the Windows Store.
While it is easy to pick a standout from most app or game roundups, it's not so easy to pick a front runner when you are talking photography apps. Each of the apps highlighted in this week's roundup perform admirably and is capable of capturing and creating fantastic images.
The more I use Camera360, the more I am impressed with this photography app. From the intuitive layout to the amount of features Camera360 has, it really is an impressive photography app. Fhotoroom is equally impressive and if the camera interface was as smooth as Camera360’s it would be all the more difficult to choose between these two Windows Phone apps. I think where Fhotoroom has the edge over Camera360 is with its editing tools and the integration with Fhotolens and FhotoStorage.
HDR Photo Camera and ProShot may be niche apps that appeal to select groups. If you find High Dynamic Range photos appealing, HDR Photo Camera is a worthy app to have in your Windows Phone photography arsenal. If you want a vast amount of control over your camera settings, it is going to be hard to beat ProShot.
Again, all are capable Windows Phone photography apps. The key to finding the best photo app is finding the one that fits your needs and preferences the best. Some argue that we have too many camera apps in the Windows Phone Store but I’d rather have too many than not enough.
In addition to the apps highlighted in this week's roundup, here are a few more worth considering.
- Photosynth (free): If you are looking to take your landscape photography to a new level, check out Photosynth. This photography app captures and stitches together multiple images to offer up to a 360 degree field of view. You can upload images to the Photosynth network for sharing and dazzle your friends with a full view of the countryside, your living room, the football stadium or anywhere else that a single photo will not do justice for the view. (Store Link)
- Phototastic (trial/$1.99): Phototastic is a feature rich collage creator that is available for both Windows Phone 8 and 7.x devices. The app features over 140 collage frames, over 30 filter effects, stickers, filmstrips, and other customizations to build attractive collages. (Store Link)
- 4Blend HDR (free): While HDR Photo Camera is a quality choice for building HDR images, 4Blend HDR is another HDR offering that taps into the Nokia Imaging SDK, has voice activation for tripod use, a respectable collection of filters and a little more control over your camera settings. (Store Link)
- PhotoFunia (free): PhotoFunia is a cloud-based photo editing app that can add a fun flair to your images. You have access to over 300 effects that are stored in the cloud, minimizing the amount of space the app requires on your Windows Phone. (Store Link)
- Fantasia Painter (trial/$1.99): Fantasia Painter is a popular photo editor that delivers over one hundred effects that include colorization, filters, borders, a collage builder, and thirty-two unique paint brushes. (Store Link)
- Sketch Camera (trial/$1.49): If you are looking for a new perspective for your photographs, take a gander at Sketch Camera. It transforms your photos into sketch drawings and has … styles of sketches to choose from. (Store Link)
- Thumba Photo Editor (trial/$.99): Thumba Photo Editor is the elder statesman amongst Windows Phone photo editors. While the app hasn't been updated since 2011, it still can hold its own with over 70 image adjustments and effects that include lomo filters, HDR filters, cross processing, tilt shift and more. You can even map out where your photos were taken. (Store Link)
We have touched on several quality Windows Phone photography apps in this week's roundup that complement the advances we have seen with the Windows Phone camera hardware. While many will argue that we have way too many photography apps in the Windows Phone Store, just as is the case with weather apps, having a choice isn't always a bad thing.
If we have overlooked your favorite photo app, it is not a sinister plot (we can only write so much) and you are welcome to add your photo app recommendation in the comments below.