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This review is part of a series on Android camera apps.
Increasingly powerful smartphones are pushing the freedom available to digital photographers. Gone are the days of waiting to run your images through Photoshop to tweak them; powerful processors and 5+ megapixel cameras let you take decent quality photos and edit them right on the phone, publishing them to the web within a few minutes of snapping the image.
At $3.99 Camera 360 is among the most expensive options for a paid camera app, and while it’s good it doesn’t live up to the price tag. There is a free version available, allowing users to test out functionality without ponying up the cost up front, but the free version is limited to screen resolution as max image size and plagued by irritating nag screens pushing you to buy the full version.
Beefed up versions of standard photo tweaks such as saturation, contrast and black & white are available, but where Camera 360 almost earns your money are the editing effects. High tech photographers who want to conveniently emulate popular low tech effects will enjoy the best faux Lomo filter out of any camera app I’ve tested. The subtle cyan of a Lomograph shows up nicely, without the exaggerated cross-process effect a lot of camera apps stick you with. As a Lomo fan who refuses to give up the convenience of digital photography just for a certain look I really appreciate how Camera 360 gets this right.
Other effects where Camera 360 shines are 2 levels of HDR, one for general photograph and a more intense version for landscapes or photos where you want a higher degree of variance in your colour range. Camera 360 is also the only app I’ve tested with a low light mode, making it appealing to photographers rocking a phone without a flash (such as my otherwise awesome HTC Hero). The tilt-shift modes let you fake a smaller focus range and really emphasis your chosen focal point in an image.
Other than the photographic effect options there are several novelty options, such as adding a ghost or placing yourself in one of several “hilarious” scenes. Your mileage may vary, but not a single one of these options appealed to me at all.
So with (mostly) great image options, and a max resolution only limited by the resolution of your phone’s camera (tested up to the 5 megapixel resolution on my own phone) what are the drawbacks that make this an unappealing choice? Well I actually like to use my phone as something other than a camera, and Camera 360 pillages your battery life faster than a starving Viking could rip through a granary guarded by nubile girls on a healthy dose of ecstasy. I get that the image processing takes a lot of battery power, but even with a task killer I went from full battery to dead by dinner time when I was testing Camera 360. For a point of comparison I’ve gone 2 days on a single charge while pushing other camera apps.
The interface is unfortunate to say the least, ugly and more clicks than it should take to change most options. You can select a golden ratio grid for photographic composition, but there is no option to alter the image or even just composition guide dimensions. If you want to take a square photo you’ll need a separate app to crop it before uploading.
Image effects are added immediately after the photo is taken. You do have a chance to view the processed image and decide whether to save it or not, but even though you can save an unprocessed version as well there is no way to re-process the original version if you decide a different filter or option would have looked better. You can re-take it, of course, but since the app fires the shutter the instant it gains focus, rather than focusing on button press and shutter on button release, good luck lining up exactly the same shot. As with the square photo, if you have an additional editing app you can always fuss with the unaltered original in a second app.
Unless you’re a mobile photography geek like me, who just has to have every possible option available, there’s no reason to spend your money on Camera 360. Other paid apps are comparable, if not better. The free version is a total write-off, even if you were happy with the highly restricted max image size the constant nag screens trump the lousy UI for a wretched user experience.