updated 07:56 am EDT, Fri June 14, 2013
The new iOS Camera and Photo apps value add to iPhone appeal
The iPhone has long had a reputation as having an excellent camera and image processing combination. According to Flickr, the iPhone 4S, 5 and 4 models hold the top three positions of the most used cameras on the site, highlighting the enduring appeal of the iPhone for casual photographers. At WWDC, Apple gave the audience a quick run through the beta version of the revamped Camera and Photos apps in iOS 7, highlighting some of the new features in both apps. So is there more to their new 'flatter' app icons and visual redesign?
Although a work in progress, the iOS 7 beta and its revised apps give iPhone users a good sense of what Apple has in stall for the final release due in the fall. While we can expect that the new software will debut on the next-generation iPhone (which will undoubtedly have improved camera optics and a new sensor) it is still very useful to see how it might benefit the many millions of iPhone 5 users as well. It is sometimes the case that new hardware is required to see the full benefits of new software, but it seems that iPhone 5 users will certainly see many improvements to the Camera and Photo app experience when the finalized iOS 7 upgrade eventually arrives.
The new Camera app looks very neat and tidy in its presentation. Perhaps the most notable difference, however, is the removal of the skeuomorphism reflected in the use of a faux camera shutter. The noticeable lag between the appearance of the shutter and the ability to shoot a photo has also been dramatically reduced in the new app, which just jumps right into the photo you want to shoot. A significant improvement that results from the design new layout is that key functions are now in direct view, rather than being tucked away under the Options button as they are currently in iOS 6. The Video mode, Photo mode, Panorama and the new Square photo mode are clearly visible, as is the option to set the camera to take HDR photos. Additional settings like the grid function are now placed in the general app Settings section. Also new in the Camera app is the ability to add lens effect filters directly to still shots, without having to defer to third-party apps. These can also be now be added in the Photos app, after the shot has been taken during editing.
One key improvement to the Camera app is that the video camera can now shoot in 60fps, up from 30fps, with the current hardware in the iPhone 5. This means that footage will playback at a higher quality, while post-production slow motion effects will also be improved where applied. One function that might have slipped under the radar is the added ability to zoom in and out in Video mode; something that the Camera app in iOS 6 does can't do. I've captured this in a short video clip embedded below. It is a small addition, but one that caught my wife's eye who has been continually frustrated by her inability to zoom in on our kids when shooting video of them during performances on stage. Also new is the ability to take still shots while shooting video.
The new Photos app in iOS 7 also includes some significant tweaks that take the pain out of organizing images. Photos are now automatically sorted into Moments, Collections and Years. The smart groupings rely on date and location metadata already embedded in your photos to make finding photos easier than they have ever been on any smartphone, in my view. Users can now also share grouped Photo Streams with friends. The new app also adds a social dimension to the photo sharing by allowing friends to post additional photos, videos and comments to your stream, automatically syncing these across devices. These can be seen in the new Activity view.
While the new Camera app in iOS 7 doesn't take any dramatic strides forward at this point in time, the changes that Apple has made are certainly beneficial and I hope that they continue to develop the app further before its release. As it stands, the changes brings it on par with camera apps in high-end Android devices from a purely software perspective. Where Apple has a distinct advantage over Android and other platforms is the integration of iCloud services in the Photos app. Always being able to have access to your last 1,000 photos, share streams and have them automatically organized underscores the benefits of Apple's massive investment in mega iCloud data centers.
By Sanjiv Sathiah