Version 1.0

Rating 2 stars

Bottom Line: possibly the best set of filters I’ve seen in an app so far, but hampered by low-res output.



Months ago, a video of the beta for RetroCamera by CLBITZ Ubiquitous Communications Inc. appeared on The iPhoneography Blog. The video demonstrated cool filter after cool filter. We all drooled and we all let out a collective “I want this app now! This app exceeds the promise of that demonstration in many ways and disappoints in one, very huge way — the output resolution of the images it saves is no greater than 320 x 480.

RetroCamera has finally hit the app store in two versions — the $1.99 version which is full featured and a free version, also full featured but it adds a very visible watermark at the bottom of the screen. If this app saved in higher resolutions, even 600×800, it would get at least a recommend from me. If it saved images with full resolution, I would probably create a new recommendation beyond “Essential” — the filters are that good.

For the sake of this review, let’s assume that resolution isn’t an issue. If that were the case, RetroCamera would easily have a very impressive filter set — possibly the best set of filters I’ve seen in an app so far.

In addition to crop, rotate, zoom and scale, RetroCamera features six groups of effects as a starting point — Film, Contrast, Grain Noise, Texture, Frame Selection and blur.

The Film effects are the most impressive of the filters. You choose from any of 28 different film styles, including AGFA and Ilford film stocks. There are over a dozen different monochrome film types, including a variety of grayscale, sepia and antique styles, including tintype. There’s even a black & white film printed on color paper style. The rest are various types and styles of color film and processing, including “Romo” (I think they mean “Lomo” or lomography style), color slide, and aged color prints from various decades. Unfortunately, none of the film effects are labeled, but nearly all of them look authentic for the era and are gorgeously rendered.

RetroCamera can add film grain noise to your digital images. An onscreen slider allows you to adjust the amount of film grain added. Adding a little to moderate amount of noise — say, under 30% — adds the look of authentic film grain. It looks great.

There is an impressive selection of frames, including standard border styles from various decades. There are light leaks and other anomalies. One of my favorites is a photo fold — creases where the the emulsion has separated from the photo paper. There’s even a water ring as if there was a cup of coffee placed on the photo. Frames can be applied on top of frames allowing you to add a border and light leaks and then digitally place your cup of Starbucks on the image. Very nice!

Blur and contrast are adjustable with onscreen sliders. There are also many textures that you can apply over your image — wood, stucco, cement and many others. Most are surprisingly usable.

The app has thorough onscreen help that goes away when you touch the screen. The interface is simple and easy to figure out. The app has multiple undos and redos. There is a built-in camera or you can load images from your albums or camera roll.

With the exception of one huge flaw, RetroCamera is about as perfect as you can get for a version 1.0 app. Unfortunately, the app saves any images it processes at a super-low 1/4 of a megapixel 320 x 480 resolution (the same resolution as an iPhone screen) and it’s not mentioned anywhere in the App Store description. This alone ruins an otherwise gem of an app.

I recently blew a gasket at another app that did exactly the same thing — super-low-res output without a mention in the description. It’s hard for me to do that with RetroCamera. This app would rock and rock hard otherwise. If the developer improves the resolution, RetroCamera will be one of the best photo apps in the store.

Right now, RetroCamera is not worth the $1.99 despite the outstanding feature set. The super-low resolution will render images that are pretty much useless for anything but mobile phone images. I do recommend that you download the free version and play around with it (UPDATE 06.08.11 @ 01:00: A free version is no longer available. =M=). You will be in awe at what this app is capable of. You will want a version that saves real pictures. You will yearn for what could have been and hope that they fix the resolution soon.

App Store link: RetroCamera