Version 1.0

Bottom Line: Essential! There are apps that you’ve paid for that aren’t nearly this good. It is a fun and, especially for free, an essential app.

Kodak Instamatic 100As a kid, growing up, my very first camera was a square frame Kodak Instamatic 100 with the peanut bulb flash and the textured plastic near the shutter release that was supposed to look like one of the old light meters. It used 126 format film, which was single perforated 35 mm film housed in a plastic cartridge. The camera was inexpensively made and was produced for the masses. It was built more solidly than the plastic “toy” cameras and didn’t produce a lot of the Lo-Fi artifacts that are the trademark of those cameras, but it was a fun camera for a kid growing up to explore the world in photos 24 square images at a time.

Format126 by Chris Comair is a new app that is the result of a collaboration between Chris Comair, who created EffectsLab, LOFI and Polarize, and Glyn Evans who writes and publishes

Format126 makes your images look like they were shot with a number of retro cameras and films from the 1960’s and 70’s. As an Instamatic emulator, Format126 takes some liberties with the number of effects the app offers, and given the limits of the 126 format, this was an excellent choice, making the app much more interesting than the original film format.

As with Chris’ previous apps, the interface is simple and the app is very fast. In version 1.0, there are 8 filters to choose from, as well as three additional cropping and frame effects — Vignetting, Square Format and a border– a nice nod to to the 126 film format.. All choices are easily accessible from a single drop-down menu.

All eight filters are well-rendered and very usable. They span the gamut of color effects from a stark monochrome (MonoHi) to the oversaturated look of the LOFI filter. The PolaColor filter produces results that are different than the look of the Polarize app — the images are a little more washed out with different vignetting. The three monochrome filters produce good results that look like a superfast film.

While there are other apps that produce similar results, Format126 applies these filters with unique results. I especially like the ColorPlus, which adds just a bit of contrast and saturation, the PolaColor, which desaturates just a little, and the Mono filters.

Format126 sample images

Format126 sample images (click to enlarge)

The filters are not adjustable. I don’t mind this omission as when shooting with the low-end consumer films, your options were limited. When using the app as a camera in square-frame mode, the viewfinder aspect ratio does not match the crop — the viewfinder is always in full-screen mode (the next update addresses this issue). However, the app is based on classic point-and-shoot where viewfinder accuracy was sketchy to begin with, and it’s certainly more accurate than HipstaMatic’s Classic wandering viewfinder. These are minor, minor points and for me, do not detract from the enjoyment or function of the app at all.

iPhoneographers have already embraced this app and deservedly so. This app is also easy enough for a casual photographer to use if they want to add some easy, cool retro effects to their snapshot.

Format126 is a great concept and a worthy edition to your toolbox of Retro Camera apps. There are more effects here than the original Kodak 126 format had, which I feel adds to the value of this app. The filters are well-rendered, nicely done and the app is easy to use. In keeping with the spirit of the original camera, I suggest you challenge yourself creatively and leave Format126 in square-frame mode.

There are apps that you’ve paid for that aren’t nearly this good. Format126 doesn’t recreate the environment of shooting with an old 126 camera, but it is a fun and, especially for free, an essential app.

App Store Link: Format126