iPhone Camera Not Quite As Shitty Any More

Over the past 10 years I’ve shot with a variety of film and digital cameras to capture off-the-cuff snapshots: Canon Elf, Lomo, Holga, Canon G11 and the Nikon D80 DSLR. All these produced great results… but busy (or lazy) lives being what they are, good shots often remained on the media storage they were captured on, never quite making it to my desktop where I could process and share images. At least not till months later, when the temporal relevancy of the shot was sometimes lost.

The iPhone was my first and only mobile phone camera. My most anticipated feature was the ability to capture a shot and share it with others via email or MMS in real time. But I was initially disappointed by it’s total and complete shitty-ness: Low pixel-count, horrible low-light capabilty, excessive noise, slow shutter speeds, non-existent exposure control and fixed-focus limitations. I know, it’s a lot to ask from a mobile camera but, to a certain extent, some mobile phone models do deliver on some these features.

The 1st and 2nd generation iPhones were particularly susceptible to these flaws. The 3GS somewhat improved it’s viability as a legitimate on-the-go camera by a boost in pixel count from 2MP to 3MP, dramatically improved low-light results and significant noise reduction. Still no replacement for a pro-sumer pocket camera or DSLR, but at least it was a small step forward.

But what really lifted the iPhone from woefully inadequate pocket camera to viable on-the-go capture device is the wealth of camera Apps now available for the iPhone. Selective focus, whole-screen shutter release, digital zoom, Tilt Shift simulators, Photoshop exposure processing and other on-camera tools now enable you to turn otherwise underwhelming shots into arty little treasures.

I’ve tried a number of these apps, only one of which I use consistently: CameraBag. This handy little shutter-bug assistant  provides a variety of filters that, when used alone or in successive applications, yields some pretty interesting results. CameraBag filters include Helga, Lolo, Magazine, Instant, 70′s and a few others (the developers were required to alter proprietary brand names to avoid copyright violations).

CameraBag’s filters do have one significant drawback. Unlike other image-processing apps, they are limited to a single setting that can sometimes over or under-process the image. Certain shots respond better to specific filters, depending on the original capture’s exposure, saturation and contrast characteristics. But creative application of filters applied on top of each other can create some nifty effects.

I’ll be posting a more comprehensive slideshow collection of the my Best Shitty iPhone Pics, but for now, here’s a brief glimpse of what can be accomplished with a good eye, the right lighting conditions and creative application of CameraBag filters.