Review: Apps can enhance smart phone cameras
Beyond all these effects, Vignette includes a variety of adjustable camera settings, including contrast, saturation, sharpness, exposure and white balance. There’s also an option to touch the screen anywhere to take a photo, which I found useful since I was testing the app on a phone that doesn’t include a dedicated camera button.
Compared to other camera apps, Vignette is pricey, but its capabilities make it worth the cost. And if you’re curious to try it out but don’t want to commit just yet, there’s also a free demo version available.
Retro Camera (Android, free): As its name implies, Retro Camera lets you take photos that look as if they were shot with old-style cameras. The app, which comes from Urbian Inc., includes the app developer’s takes on five different “cameras” that you can shoot with: The Barbl, Little Orange Box, Xolaroid 2000, FudgeCan and Pinhole. Each camera can be used in color or black-and-white mode, and the images I got were definitely retro and cool-looking.
My favorites were The Barbl and Little Orange Box, which are modeled off of a `50s East-German camera and a `70s Russian camera, respectively. Shots I took with The Barbl looked a little washed-out, while those taken with Little Orange Box were high-contrast and sharp-looking, occasionally with scratches on the images.
I also loved some of the app’s quirky touches, such as the way the “camera” you’re using fills up the phone’s screen and gives you its own little viewfinder, and how the photos you’ve taken are arranged on a virtual clothesline, clasped by virtual clothespins _ a reference to how photos were hung to dry after processing in a darkroom.
Jelly Lens (Any cell phone, price varies): Who says smart phones should have all the fun? As long as your cell phone has a camera you can use a little gizmo called the Jelly Lens to add special effects to any photo you take (and if you do have a smart phone, you can use this with any app you like).
Much like the glass filters employed by old-time photographers, the Jelly Lens is a little plastic lens filter with a sticky ring on its back that you can attach to the lens of any small camera. Each Jelly Lens comes with one built-in filter with an effect like “kaleidoscope,” “stretched” or “wide angle.”
I bought one with a “starburst” effect that blurs the edges of the image to create a sometimes-dreamy, sometimes-streaky shot, depending on what I was photographing. Through the Jelly Lens, an ice-cream-stick sculpture on my mantle became a psychedelic work of art. And I liked that the focal point on the filter was slightly off-center, so I could turn it to choose my focus.
I appreciated the Jelly Lens’ built-in keychain and cell phone loop _ definitely useful since it could easily get lost. I wasn’t that thrilled with its level of stickiness, though, as it often fell off the back of my phone. You can wash it with soap and water to remove any gunk that gathers and make it sticky once again, but I only had limited success with this.
You can buy a Jelly Lens online from Kikkerland ( www.kikkerlandshop.com) for $7.50 apiece, or for varying prices on Amazon and elsewhere on the Web.