Monday, March 28, 2011

Cool Camera Apps - Part 1

No subject gets more attention in my newsletter than the apps I review. (Note: in case you haven't heard - "app" is just another name for a program. The term evolved along with mobile technology but is now being used for full fledged PC/Mac software as well.)

I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I use my iPhone camera. It's certainly not a great camera but for many purposes it's "good enough" and, most important, I always have it with me. I divide camera apps into two categories
1) apps that are primarily associated with taking pictures (photography)
2) those that are mostly used for editing pictures (editing)
This distinction is not precise since many apps do a combination of the two. I base the distinction on the primary attributes of the app and what I generally use it for. Some apps modify still and/or video images as they are being taken; others operate on images from the library and some can do both. The following two apps cost 99 cents each.

For the photography apps, you can't beat QuickCam - often described as the camera app that should have come with the iPhone. For general purpose iPhone pictures, I've switched completely to Quickcam. It's easy to use and will start up and take pictures much faster than the standard Apple app. It has a rapid fire mode where you can touch and hold the camera button and take two pictures per second. While you are taking video, you can touch the camera button and take a still picture.

ToonCamera is another favorite. It works on both live and stored still and video images to create a cartoon effect by limiting the number of colors used. This picture of a fox taken in our back yard

Cartoon Fox - original shown in inset
shows the results. If you are familiar with the GIF image format, you get the same effect. GIF works great on art and drawings with a limited number of colors but produces the cartoon effect when used with photographs - like coloring with eight crayons!

Here's a quick list of other favorites in this category (many have free and paid versions)
Timelapse - Set your camera in a window and it can take pictures at regular intervals for a specified time. Then save the results and play them back as a movie - watch a flower grow!
ExternalCamera - Monitor the iPhone camera on your iPad - watch and listen to a sleeping baby or keep an eye on your front door.
CameraFun - Variety of special effects.
SneakyPix - Set the camera to take a series of pictures while you appear to be reading email or talking on the phone - that's sneaky.
CanScan - Use this camera app to snap a picture of a document and automatically rotate, crop and adjust the lighting for a perfect "scanned" document.

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