Instagram 3.2 Willow filter

Instagram’s new Willow filter

… But is it any good?

Instagram, for iPhoneThe new Instagram 3.2 update has just hit the App Store. For an Instagram update, it’s heavy on new features and light on the tweaks and bug fixes. It’s not a bad update. I’ve got more after the jump.

If you really use Instagram’s TiltShift feature, you’ll want to read this post before you update the app. >>>

Lots of new features in this update, including a slick new User Interface. Overall, I like the UI update. The size and position of the shutter button are improved on an iPhone 5. The advertised speed increase is really moot as Instagram is more of a shoot-then-process camera app. Visually, Instagram now looks more like a lot of other camera apps. Long-time Instagram users may not like the new look, but functionally the features of the app now look like you’d expect.

I don’t like the layout of the new import feature. Rather than a standard start-at-the-bottom of your camera roll like most photo apps, Instagram now flips the order of the images with the most recent images at the top of the window. You now have to scroll down to find older images. While the net effect is still that import functions the same way, the new import screen displays contents opposite the way nearly every other iPhone photo app displays them. Mentally, it’s a little jarring to make that switch.

Willow is the new filter in this version. It’s a medium contrast black & white filter — not as stark as Inkwell. It comes with a wide, aged, off-white frame. It’s not bad, but it’s far from the return of the classic Gotham filter. I like black & white. I may use it from time to time, but I’ll probably gravitate more towards Inkwell when I need black & white in Instagram (or use a third party app).

Instagram has a history of listening to their users’ suggestions sometimes. As a result of these suggestions, the tilt-shift feature was “improved” many updates ago. I thought Instagram’s original TiltShift filter was just fine for adding tiltshift and other depth of field effects. I’ve long thought that the “improved” tiltshift was too harsh with a very quick rolloff. Whether I liked it or not, Instagram’s tiltshift was a signature effect.

Instagram has “improved” the tiltshift yet again. The effect is not applied as heavy and there is a slightly more gradual rolloff. It’s now more like Instagram’s original tiltshift effect again. If you’re a fan of the old, hard-edged tiltshift, you won’t be pleased with this new tweak. Everyone else will like the more natural gradation and more subtle edge. It’ll save me a few trips to another app like TiltShift Generator.


The old Instagram TiltShift effect

Instagram for iPhone

Instagram’s new, improved TiltShift effect

One more feature/bug fix that isn’t in the App Store update description. Instagram now has better support for the 8MP resolution of the iPhone 4S and 5. Previous versions of Instagram saved imported images back to your camera roll in high resolution, but it was often around 1800-1900 pixels square — often less than a 4MP image on an iPhone 4S and 5. The new 3.2 update does a much better job of saving high res images. You’ll find that your full-res square images are now much closer the the 2448×2448 on the latest iPhones.

Overall, Instagrammers should be pleased with this update. Since the Facebook acquisition, solid updates have been rolling out at a much quicker pace and that’s good for everyone who uses the app.

Instagram is a free app. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. Sadly, this means the later updates no longer work on older iPhones like the 2G and 3G.


Left: Instagram’s Inkwell filter. Right: the new Willow filter