Top Five Image Creation Apps
Nokia has long since been associated with image capture on mobile phones. However, it's not just the likes of Damian Dinning who have been finding ways to get the best out of Symbian camera hardware. Third party developers have been busy creating applications to allow us to be even more creative with our photographs. In this top five, we have alternative camera applications, post-capture image processing software, and more.
[Editor's note: the quotes below are from the original reviews. Several of the apps have been updated since and some of their features have been rolled into the OS. Still, take David's picks as useful and interesting starting points]
1. CameraPro N8
All About Symbian score 77% | Store Link
The Nokia N8 is surely enough camera for anyone in the phone world? Well, yes, but the problem is that keen photographers want to go even further. To twiddle and tweak and experiment. Trying to facilitate this is CameraPro N8, from Tequnique, with 'raw' image capture and more settings than you could go through even if trying a different set for every day of the year. It also allows - wait for it - both pre-focus and continuous autofocus in video capture, the one arguable achilles heel of the current N8 camcorder set up. With a radical interface and ambitious features, CameraPro N8 is very much a swiss army knife for the N8 fan.
CameraPro N8 accesses the raw camera hardware (you can hear the motors in the camera mechanism ratcheting the lens backwards and forwards) to control focus and adjust it to achieve maximum contrast (crispness). Does it work? Kind of, the results are mixed so far - I've used several clips in the last two Phones Shows (watch for the close-up macro videos in show 134, for example), shot on the N8 using this application, but the auto-focus (as at v1.0.8) isn't very good for non-macro uses. For example, here's my first sample from the other day of more typical subjects in a rare moment of UK March sun. And apologies for the lens flare at the end, I ended up with the aforementioned sun behind me - a rookie mistake 8-)
All About Symbian score 78% | Store Link
Fresh from add-on application Camera Pro, we have another ambitious photographic add-on for Symbian^3 phones, this time not limited in effective applicability to the N8 and this time focussing(!) on stills only. ShutterPro Premium aims to extend the range of basic camera settings and then add a range of image processing effects, from tilt shift to 3D anaglyphs. There's quite a bit to take in, but I've put my thoughts down below. One thing's for sure though - ShutterPro Premium's for thoroughly planned shots and not for ad-hoc snaps.
There are two questions to answer here. One, is ShutterPro Premium worth £3 of your money in the Ovi Store? Absolutely - as the owner of an expensive smartphone, this is only a few pounds more and will give you a lot of fun trying the effects out and, who knows, you may stumble across a shot/effect that works out stunning and gives you a lot of satisfaction? There's also a 'Lite' version in the store, for free, letting you try out the interface and standard functions, though only the premium version has the effects reviewed above.
The second question is whether ShutterPro Premium is good enough to stick around on my personal Nokia N8? Reluctantly, no. The launch time, processing time and RAM restrictions all mean that it would get in the way too much, when compared to the far faster, more efficient and more nimble built-in Camera application. If I could think of a real world use for its effects, other than just 'fun' then maybe I'd change my mind - but ultimately, despite its mirroring of all the 'serious' camera parameters from Nokia's version, ShutterPro Premium boils down to its effects and there's just not a lot of call for tilt shift, LOMO or 3D in my world. HDR would be great if it was foolproof, but I'm sorry, I don't carry my tripod everywhere with me.
All About Symbian score 75% | Store Link
It's fair to say that 85% of SCam's menus and functions more or less duplicate those of the built-in Camera application. But then that's what we said about Camera Pro, and that ended up having a few neat uses.
The 'histogram' feature leapt out at me, essentially the same data that's part of the upcoming UI in the 808 PureView, which means that it's something that most keen Nokia camera phone fans should be taking note of. Essentially, a histogram in this context is a chart showing how dark or light the pixels in your current on-screen image are. The more pixels there are which aren't detecting much light, the more they register at the lower end of the histogram - the more pixels that are inundated with light, the more they register at the top end.
Overall, I didn't find SCam very inspiring, it's true, I'm firmly in the 'leave everything on default most of the time and trust my own eyes, skill and knowledge of lighting' camp, but at the same time, for the sake of £1, I find it easy enough to recommend that N8 owners, at least, add this to their ever-growing folder of camera applications.
All About Symbian score 78% | Store Link
The Nokia N8 is my main device and my main camera, so there was no shortage of test photos to try this utility on. Picking one with noise to remove was trickier though, because the N8's camera is so good that there's rarely any noise in the first place! Starting Noise Autofix places you straight away in your phone's Photos gallery:
So, we have a utility that works slowly but which really can help in processing noise 'after the fact'. Of course, you may well be back at your home or office by this time and there are any number of desktop applications which can do a similar job and do it much faster. But, should you need to reduce noise on the move, this is at least a valid option. For me at least, as a phone-based camera but, Noise Autofix is a keeper on my smartphones, a useful resource.
All About Symbian score 74% | Store Link
CameraFX is built around a set of filters and a set of effects. Any one of these can be applied, in real time, to the preview on-screen, and then snapped as a photo for saving or uploading. The range of filters/effects is quite diverse, as you can see from the samples below (I did seven, but this is only a fraction of the total number):
In addition to taking photos in real time, there's the handy facility to open images from your smartphone's Gallery (or from specific folders on mass memory or memory card) and use that as the source instead - explaining the 'Save' button on-screen as well, for saving the results of any processing. One curiosity is that image selection in each case involves double-tapping, i.e. no recognition on the newer Symbian^3 phones of the switch to a direct UI - I'm guessing the file routines are generic across all Symbian phones and thus had to be coded to the lowest common denominator?
Despite the undoubtledly clever wizardry that's gone into the real time effects, the overall score for CameraFX is ultimately limited by its usefulness. Unlike CameraPro, this title is unlikely to ever move beyond 'novelty' use - when was the last time you needed a mock 'thermal' photo of your dog, for example? This app might be a hit down the pub (and at least the purchase price is modest, around the cost of a 'half' of beer!) but don't expect to use it very often in normal life...
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Published by David Gilson at 15:26 UTC, May 4th