Version 2.0
Price: $1.99

Rating 3 1/2 stars

Bottom Line: It’s all that’s good about the original RetroCamera and much more. Now in greater than full resolution.

UPDATE 06.08.11 @ 10:45: Updated review with mention of bugs when working with square format images. Because of this bug, I’ve dropped my rating down half a star. My apologies for any inconvenience. =M=

Back in December, 2009, I reviewed RetroCamera, an analog photo app and at the time I said had “possibly the best set of filters I’ve seen in an app so far, but hampered by low-res output.” Output was an abysmal 320×480 pixels. Otherwise, the app was awesome. I was assured by the developer that an update was coming that would address the resolution issue.

When no update arrived, I, along with most of us, thought RetroCamera was a dead app. 18 months later, the developer CLBITZ Ubiquitous Communications Inc. has released the 2.0 RetroCamera update. It’s all that’s good about the original RetroCamera, plus a lot of the good from the dev’s other app, the excellent FILM LAB, and it supports more than the iPhone 4’s native resolution.

There’s a whole lot of new good in this update. There are now over 160 film styles instead of just 28. The new ones are the same film styles as in the excellent FILM LAB. Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly as many of them. The AGFA and Ilford film stocks in the older versions of RetroCamera are gone. The app now features film styles from Kodak, Polaroid, FUJIFILM and a few others. There’s a much greater variety of film styles in this version than in previous versions, but I hope we get to see more of the developer’s film styles in an update soon. They’ve already done a great job of recreating the looks and characteristics of hundreds of films in their other app.

All of the app’s original tools and more are in this update. The UI, toolset, and overall smoothness and functionality are improved significantly. The app is much more responsive than either its earlier version or the newer FILM LAB. A lot of the interface quirks in the older versions of the app are gone. The new UI is similar to the original (and takes just as long to figure out), but it’s more polished.

There’s a bit of a learning curve to familiarize yourself with this extensive toolset. The app has tooltips that pop up often. Once you’re familiar with the app, you can turn the tooltips off in the settings.

There are five classes of tools to apply effects — Film Simulation, Noise, Texture, Frame and a Move/Rotate/Resize tool. Tools now have intensity and transparency sliders. Some tools also have Brightness/Contrast and Color controls in the tools themselves, giving you excellent control over the effects.

Any effect can easily be applied and stacked – a great feature for an app like this. For instance, multiple types of noise can be applied to an image, such as film grain (noise), stains, then scratches — all are found in the noise tool.

I’m not usually a fan of texture overlays, but RetroCamera’s are really good and relevant to analog photography. Thankfully, there aren’t any palm leaves or stucco textures here, but there are great old stained paper textures, photo print damage, and light leaks.

The vignettes are found in the Textures tool. There are several basic vignette shapes to chose from and they are all highly customizable. Like many of the effects in RetroCamera, vignettes can be resized, moved, and rotated. It’s one of the more powerful vignette tools available in the App Store.

The app still has a full set of image editing tools — Brightness/Contrast, color, HSB (or HCV). There’s an adjustable new Bokeh tool as well, with two types of bokeh — circular apertures and octagonal apertures. The bokeh tool is good, but not as versatile or as realistic as the excellent interactive bokeh in the photo app LensLight by BrainFeverMedia. There’s a vignetting/blurring feature (not the vignette feature from the Textures tool) that’s poorly done and pretty useless. It should be usable to create a tiltshift effect, but the blur edge is very sharp, rendering it ugly and unusable.

It’s a lot of work to create an analog effect in RetroCamera, but the results are worth it. Version 2.0 not only comes with a bunch of presets, but you can easily save a series of edits as a preset. All effects are tagged, which comes in handy when searching for a particular effect.

Two of RetroCamera’s many frames

Film styles are pretty true to the stocks they emulate. This developer has always been excellent at recreating the characteristics of analog film. Noise, frames, textures, light leaks, etc. are accurate looking and well rendered. They layer seamlessly with the image.

RetroCamera now saves at higher than iPhone 4 resolution. It will resample your photos up to 3210×2400 pixels — that’s 7.7 MBs. It also saves geotag and EXIF data. The app now shares directly to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and the growing Steply network.

Over the year and a half since it was released, the analog film app market has become much more crowded. Now, there are apps like Plastic Bullet, the ClassicCAMERA apps from misskiwi, PictureShow, Infinicam, lo-mob or any number of apps with retro analog features and the standard is now set very high because of these newer apps.

How does RetroCamera stack up now? While it’s not perfect, RetroCamera is one of the best apps to accurately recreate a wide variety of retro and classic film and photo styles. Although I love the number of film styles in FILM LAB, there are more things to play with in RetroCamera. FILM LAB makes your pics look like film — RetroCamera is more complete and makes them look like real, old photographs. I’d love to see more of the film stocks that the developer has already created. The AGFA and Ilford film stocks are among my faves and are missed in this version. A mash-up of RetroCamera and FILM LAB would make one outstanding app.

UPDATE: While I did spend a couple of hours with the app this morning, I only tested portrait and landscape images and overlooked square format prints during my tests. Several readers have correctly pointed out that RetroCamera has problems with square format prints — even ones that are cropped square within the app. The app does not size its standard frame borders to square format images — it simply adds unsightly blank space above and below the image. Taking this further, the app also has issues with landscape images rotated in the app before beginning work. Fortunately, the app defaults to working in fullscreen mode, regardless of rotation and asks you to correct the rotation of the image when saving. Also, the 120 square format frames have are not transparent outside of the frames (other square frames in the app are) and save with unsightly white lobes (which can easily be cropped off, but it’s an extra step and a pain. The app needs better square format compatibility. Thanks to readers smlombardi and obo78 for pointing this out. =M=

RetroCamera is not one-touch easy. It will make you work. But the end results are great looking images that look like they were taken with an analog camera. There are a few issues and this revised review reflects them. Overall, this is a very exciting update, especially for standard frame photography.

If you gave up on the app a while ago and deleted it from your iPhone, go back into iTunes and reinstall. If you deleted it from iTunes, redownload RetroCamera — it’s a standard update and you shouldn’t be charged again for it. If you never purchased RetroCamera and like the look of classic analog and lo-fi films, this update is highly recommended.

UPDATE 06.08.11 @ 12:00: I suggest reading through the comments before purchasing this app. See what other readers have said about it before deciding if it’s right for you. =M=

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.1 or later.

RetroCamera - CLBITZ Ubiquitous Communications Inc.


Here’s all that’s new in RetroCamera 2.0:

The brand-new “RetroCamera” has been finally released!
Now it supports high resolution images, the template function and upload to social networks.

As well as maintaining its great usability in the current version, it features 168 film simulations and 146 textures such as damaged texture, light leak, lens flare and adhesive tape. The effect sequences will be saved as a template, and you can quickly load the necessary effects with a single touch from the next time you use them.

Moreover the application features 21 different kinds of presets.
Photos can be shared to Facebook, Flickr, Steply and Twitter.

We added a circular bokeh effect that creates an artistic blur circle.
The mask function specifies the effect area, and you can create a tilt-shift photo that blurs the corner of the picture and simulates miniature scenes.

Main features:
– High resolution image (320×428 – 2400×3210)
– Template (21 presets)
– Save to the social networks (Facebook, Flickr, Steply and Twitter)
– 168 film simulations
– 18 noises
– 146 textures
– 64 frames
– Move, rotate or resize
– Brightness, contrast
– Coloring
– Hue, saturation, value
– Bokeh (circular bokeh)

* Some functions are limited on the 3G or the first generation iPod touch.