Takayuki Fukatsu has just released an update to his popular OldCamera app (version 3.50). As it so happened, this update coincided nicely with a three-day getaway my family and I had planned at our cottage. As a result, I was able to spend the weekend doing two things I thoroughly enjoy: being around my family and taking pictures with my iPhone.
Application Description (from App Store):
OldCamera “provides several mono-colored old style photo effects. The effects are randomly added to the photo from your custom effect set. OldCamera is focused on a very simple but fun experience. There are no complicated settings. Just take a photo, and you get the result.”
- Random filter application (on or off).
- Six filters: Rick Black &White, HiCon Black & White, Silver, Platinum, Kallitype, Cyanotype (blue print)
- Ability to turn each filter on or off. If off, it will not be used in Random mode.
- Vignetting (on or off).
- Square Mode (on or off).
- Image Size (six selections ranging from 320x427 to 1200x1600).
Trying to explain to my in-laws why somebody would want to make new photographs look old was quite amusing. My father-in-law was going on and on about his 14 MP Canon, and there I was not only snapping photos with my 3 MP iPhone, but…gasp…I was using a program that intentionally made the photos appear as though they were taken decades before I was born. Before I continue, it is worth noting, that the filters affect the contrast, tone, and brightness of the photos. They do not add grain or noise.
Where my father-in-law used his light meter and constantly sought out perfectly balanced shots, I was shooting pictures with an app that purposely produced overexposed and underexposed photos. And though he was ultimately impressed with some of the photos produced using the OldCamera app, my overall reaction to the app is a bit mixed.
Arguably, the most important feature of the 3.50 update to OldCamera is that users can select which filters will be used for the random application or simply turn random off and shoot with a specific effect/filter. And though I would eventually turn the random off and shoot samples with each specific filter, I shot most of my photos with the random on.
The app itself is very simple to use. Once opened, you’re ready to take a photo or can “cancel” out to reach the settings. But is it too simple—are the options too limited? And herein lies my most significant criticism of the app, you never know what you’re going to get. Now, I realize that some will suggest that this problem can largely be avoided if I turn the random off. However, it is still difficult to predict the results and, by shutting random off and selecting a given filter, it becomes difficult to take pictures on the fly—to capture those moments that we often seem a couple seconds too late for. If I have selected HiCon BW as the effect to be applied to all pictures, but Kallitype would work better, I would most likely miss the opportunity to capture the picture I wanted during the time it would take me to access the setting menu and change the effect being applied.
This problem could be entirely avoided if there was an option to apply these effects to photos in my Camera Roll. Sure, some may say that takes away from the fun and diminishes the “authentic old camera” feel of the app, but I would beg to differ. One of my favorite apps for the iPhone is ShakeItPhoto. The latest update of ShakeItPhoto provides users with an option to shoot directly from the app or apply the Polaroid effect the app produces to any photos in the Camera Roll.
However, since this is not an option in OldCamera, I found myself waiting for the random filter to be applied and hoping that the pictures would turn out. Even though most photos were taken outdoors in ideal lighting conditions, the resulting pictures were often too dark....
....or too bright
Now, I realize that the potential for a lopsided balance between black and white are part of the old camera aesthetic. However, sometimes the given filter simply did not work for the photo that was taken and, as a result, ruined a potentially good picture.
That said, the application did produce some great photos. It’s rare that my wife is happy with any picture I take of her, but even she was a fan of the picture I took of her getting ready to take a picture of my son.
I’ve also included a series of test shots with each filter to provide some additional comparison:
Creator Takayuki Fukatsu has also posted some examples here.
- Can produce some unexpectedly beautiful black and white photographs.
- Random option (and I say option because it can be turned off in the settings menu). Both a positive and a negative. Simply put, I would have never applied some of these filters to the photos I took and, as a result, would not have captured some great photos. However, this random option is as equally frustrating as it is inspiring.
- No access to the Camera Roll (i.e. you cannot apply these filters to pictures you have previously taken). As much as I wanted to love this app, this is an egregious omission. I’m not sure if this option was purposely left out to better mimic the “feel” of having an old camera and “getting what you get” after you take the picture, but the absence of this option will drastically limit my future use of this app.
- Sepia toning is listed as a filter in the App Store description. However, this effect is not included in the 3.50 version. A separate SepiaCamera app is, however, available by Takayuki for $0.99.
- I also have one other, very minor gripe. The app icon for OldCamera is almost identical to Takayuki’s ToyCamera app. Though this will not affect those who only have one of the two apps downloaded, on more than one occasion, I did find myself opening ToyCamera instead of OldCamera. Again, a very minor complaint.
Takayuki Fukatsu has admittedly designed this app to focus on “a very simple and fun experience.” In this he has succeeded. But the degree to which he has succeeded is debatable. These filters do an effective job of mimicking old camera photographs, with the Rich BW, HiCon BW, and Silver often producing the most interesting results.
However, the Rich BW and HiCon BW were also frequently responsible for tarnishing otherwise great photos. Again, if only the option to apply these filters to the Camera Roll was available.
For $0.99 (£0.59), this is an app that I see myself using on rare occasions. However, when I am taking photos on the fly or wanting to make my new photos look old, I’ll stick with the iPhone camera and apps like ShakeItPhoto and CameraBag that let me apply filters after the photo is taken. For its ease of use, quality of effects, various options in vignetting and photo size, OldCamera earns a 3 out of 5. This app would earn at least a 4 out of 5 if application to the Camera Roll was an option.
AppStore Link: OldCamera - Price £0.59/$.99
Note from Editor: If you would like to give OldCamera a go, then the good news we have 4 promo codes up for grabs, so to be in with a chance of winning one just post your request in the comments section below and I will randomly select 4 winners.
Please note: as with all promo codes you will need a US iTunes account to redeem these promo codes.