The nostalgic longing to re-create the pre-digital photography experience only seems to get stronger. For evidence of this, you need look no farther than Instagram (Free, 3 stars), which Apple named the top app of 2011. What does this app do? It re-creates those blurred, heavily vignetted, unsaturated colors of snapshots taken in the 1960s, as well as other retro effects like lomo and B&W. It also lets its users easily share these degraded images in its own surprisingly popular social network. Hipstamatic has a similar mission statement: "The Hipstamatic for iPhone is an application that brings back the look, feel, unpredictable beauty, and fun of plastic toy cameras from the past."
But these two are hardly the only iPhone apps that can fade and decolorize your photos: image powerhouse Adobe's Photoshop Express has done the same for a few years, as have several lesser-known competitors with names like Vintage Camera, Camera+, Snapseed, and Retro Camera Plus. The need for Hipstamatic, especially at its premium for (iPhone apps) price of $1.99 would seem questionable, given the crowd of such apps. But it does add some unique twists of its own, including a nifty old-camera-style user interface and group albums.
Setup and Interface
When you first run Hipstamatic, you'll be asked to allow it knowledge of your location, which I did. Geo-tagging of photos can be very handy and helpful. Then you'll see its most unique interface?it's the spitting image of a 1970s-era Kodak Instamatic camera, complete with faux black plastic texture. A curled arrow icon lets you switch between viewing the front of the camera (where you can set the lens quality) and the back (where you see a viewfinder, shutter button, and flash switch).
Also see our Best 50 iPhone Apps
With my iPhone 4S, Hipstamatic's interface is upside-down compared with the default camera's operation. It also didn't let me use the Volume Up button to snap a picture, as the built in Camera app does. Nor could I use the face-facing camera. There are, however, some clever details, like when you turn on the flash, there's a high, rising-pitched sound that used to accompany turning on a flash (though it's not actually an Instamatic detail, since that used actual bulbs).
Unlike other fun photo apps, Hipstamatic doesn't let you apply effects after snapping, but you choose a "film" and a "lens" before shooting, which affects the look of your resulting "prints." One drawback of this is that you can't apply the effects to photos that were already in your Camera Roll before you installed Hipstamatic.
A few of the camera app's settings from the front view are less than completely intuitive: To change the "lens" you swipe on the front-view lens. To change "film," after touching a film icon, you swipe up or down for another choice. One of Hipstamatic's more clever (from a marketing standpoint) concepts is that of "HipstaPaks," which let you buy more film, lens, and flash types for different effects. The Portland HipstaPak, for example, cost 99 cents and added one lens and two film types.
After you take a shot, a "winding film roll" message sometimes blocks the viewfinder, and as in the old film cameras, a slit window peeks at the film cartridge showing the film type. The only other icon in camera view besides camera itself is postage-stamp-style square, which opens "Recent Prints." This view has four other icons?Stacks, Family Album, Contests, and My Account (a cloud icon). When I opened this view right after shooting, I'd see a "1 Print Developing" message.
I must confess that the app did add a lot of interest to my photos, with jagged edges and faded colors, though I'm generally more concerned about getting accurate images. Another annoyance was that I couldn't view the photos in succession, in slideshow fashion?I could only go to a photo's detail page, and then enlarge it, then repeat the process for the next image I wanted to view.?