The iPhone has been plagued by comments from those with, at best, only a sparse acquaintance with the device. Much criticism was levelled at the camera of 3 Mega Pixels which, pundits claimed, could never produce proper photographs.
Some also criticised the difficulty of taking a self-portrait with the iPhone. Hold the phone (horizontally or vertically) with your nose reflected in the Apple logo then take the shot. What a design coincidence, eh?
It is not just the lens, not just the CCD (the chip), but the software that makes the difference. In good light, images are good enough for some photographers to experiment with. I usually work with SLR cameras and there are huge differences in these devices. I wanted to extend the capabilities, so downloaded some apps that work with the camera.
Camerabag has had some excellent reviews, and won a couple of prizes for users, This has a small selection of specialist filters that can be applied to an image. Like other apps it is possible to take a photograph while working in the app, then apply a filter. However, I had to take care to make sure I did not forget to save before moving on to the next image or filter.
This $1.99 app [iTunes App Store link] (which showed on my bill as 69 baht) had ten filters that produced effects like Helga, Lolo and Fisheye. I was also able to install this on the iPod touch and applied the same effects to images in the photo library on that: iTunes manages both these devices and their apps (as well as the music and videos) and a couple of other iPods without confusion. Camerabag is to be available for other phones (e.g. Blackberry) soon.
The iPhone camera has no zoom although at least one hardware manufacturer offers one now. A Google search produces several results. Kendi Tech's Camera Zoom [iTunes App Store link] does the job using a software approach: this is not a real zoom as with a lens, but uses a software adjustment. Because of this, the image may be a bit grainy, particularly if the photograph is not taken in bright light. Focus needs care too.
When active, there is a slider bar near the bottom of the screen that moves to adjust the zoom, but the settings allow its placement in other areas. There is also a full screen slider that uses the touch screen as the zoom control, plus other controls to make operation faster. This was priced at $0.99.
The simple Sepia Camera [iTunes App Store link] (free), takes photographs and applies a sepia filter. This does not work with libraries, so what you take is what you get. Working in sepia, perhaps harder than black and white, may not suit some people. Takayuki Fukatsu has a number of other camera utilities, such as Toy Camera ($1.99) and Old camera ($0.99) which randomly apply effects to photographs.
Using ArtCamera, I was able to select from 32 filters and choose several different resolutions from 320 to 1600 The larger resolutions required longer, but initially this was not a problem as I selected images from the Photo Library: these had already been optimised for the iPhone and showed the size as 640 x 474. When I used the app to access the camera and took a shot, the resolution of the original image was far higher at 1200 x 1600 so processing crawled.
I also accessed photographs I had already taken that were in the Camera Roll section and applied filters. These were also in the larger 1200 x 1600 size. I was able to export the smaller images as TIFF files of a size of 1.4MB and the larger images at 11MB.
ArtCamera [iTunes App Store link] has some 26 filters, but several of these, are unavailable with the Lite (free) version. The user must decide whether or not to pay the $1.99 to download the full version. It was on sale so I did that directly from the iPhone. As the Lite version does not allow saving of an image with the effects applied, it is well worth the extra for the filters and the ability to save.
I also found a couple of useful photo apps from Christopher Comair: the free PhotoBox [iTunes App Store link] which allows us to use 11 filters plus Auto correction; and Effects Lab ($1.99) [iTunes App Store link] that has the same filters plus several effects that are used in image manipulation. There are more than 15 effects that include hue, saturation, contrast, and grayscale as well as histogram outputs and inputs. These apps work on the iPhone and iPod touch via the libraries, so on the iPhone a just-taken photograph can be used. If a number of filters are used these can be saved as a custom effect using the "stacks" selection.
The iPhone is not a precision camera and there are trade-offs, but it can produce some fair results that can be tweaked by experimenting with effects: all the apps here did exactly what I asked of them.