I like instant camera apps — fake Polaroids or fauxlaroids as I call them here. Few cameras elicit such an emotional connection and warm fuzzys as an old Polaroid instant camera. The border and shape of the SX-70 prints are so iconic, they’re trademarked.

There are a lot of fauxlaroid apps and photo apps with instant camera effects. Some of them emulate instant photos better than others. New photo app PolarCam tries to, but just misses the mark for me in capturing that visceral magic of classic instant cameras.

“PolarCam offers a fun, super simple and smooth experience to take retro effect photo & video instantly. Transform everyday moments back in time to the beauty and magic of classic retro work of art.”

The app is easy enough and does what it says. It’s a still and video camera app — there’s no importing images from your photo library. I don’t have a huge problem with camera-only apps, but there are a half dozen other fauxlaroid apps that create similar effects that also let you import images as well. PolarCam lands on my iPhone with a disadvantage.

There’s only one retro camera effect and that’s a desaturated, slightly faded instant camera effect, much like a real classic Polaroid print. The effect previews live onscreen in real time. For a fauxlaroid app, it’s a cool but pointless feature.

PolarCam supports full resolution width of your iPhone — that’s 2448 pixels wide on an iPhone 4S. It saves most EXIF data, including Geotags.

Images save with a 7:6 aspect ratio which is similar to the Polaroid Spectra instant cameras. Colors are good for a fauxlaroid app and have color hot spots and anomalies in the image. Colors look like what you expect from an instant camera emulator. They’re a little on the magenta-side rather than going cold and blue — something I like in fauxlaroid. I like the images warm.

The frame is textured and looks well-rendered in high res and there’s good subtle shading around the edges. This dev took a cue from ShakeIt Photo. The frame is missing the classic tab of the Spectra prints, which for me is part of the charm of a Polaroid Spectra print. Many other fauxlaroids have this. There’s a weird bevel on one of the edges that I found annoying. It makes the frame look unnaturally thick.

The app also shoots video, but renders it with a frame and its 7:6 aspect ratio. This can be cool if you’re looking to make a picture that moves. However, there’s only the one effect and no way to turn off the frame.

PolarCam isn’t bad. Color is good and resolution is high. With all the competition for fake instant camera apps, it just lacks any compelling, must-have features that help it stand out.

PolarCam is $0.99 in the App Store. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 4.2 or later.

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