Android owners are blessed with a great operating system, which many feel is better than iOS. I think even the most ardent Google fanboys would have to concede though, that photography is one area in which Apple’s App Store holds many of the trump cards. Whilst Instagram has made its way over to Android, many brilliant photographic apps like Afterlight and Hipstamatic have not.
Where Instagram leads, though, some others have followed, and with the increasing competence of Android device camera hardware, it’s little wonder that the quality of the photography section of the Google Play store is on the rise.
Looking to add to that trend is Camera360, which has just been updated to version 4, known as the Ultimate edition. Camera360 looks to provide a complete photographic package, from the taking of a photo through to sharing, with a few edits along the way.
But is it just another generic snap-and-filter affair? It’s time to find out…
It is evident from first use that Camera360 has plenty of features on offer. Some, like the self-timer and flash controls, are easy to understand, mostly relying on icons. Other areas of the app are a little more confusing – well, they are if you don’t speak Chinese. Camera360 has only been partially translated from its native language, and even the areas in “English” require some guesswork to find their true meaning.
The look of Camera360 is clean and well-ordered, though, and the initial tour is comprehensible enough to get you going with the app’s basics.
The assortment of shooting options within Camera360 isn’t particularly inspiring, in part because many of them can be found in the default Android camera app. Camera360 does, however, provide a usable form of digital stabilization, and an adjustable ISO setting.
Additionally, there are a couple of extra options to be found, hidden away, in the pop-up menu which emanates from the right-hand side of the shutter button. The tilt-shift effect provides a good impression of the real thing, and its plane of focus is adjustable, both in terms of size, and positioning. Also available is the colour-shift tool, which provides the ability to add a nice, post-capture, colour-popping style. There’s a wide range of colours to choose from, and the accuracy with which colours are picked out is impressive.
Effects are the priority in Camera360, and it does them pretty well. Accessed by pulling the shutter button to the left, the Effects menu features 14 different modes, ranging from Magic Skin (“For girls, make your skin looks rosy and glossy” – according to the in-app instructions) to highly styled options, like Dreamy and 1839.
Many of these titles aren’t just freestanding effects. Choose B&W or Retro, for example, and you’ll be presented with a range of related effects, which can be applied, Instagram-style, once you’ve taken a picture.
Those who like a distorted colour balance and a strong vignette will enjoy Lomo. The Retro effects, in particular, really shine, and provide some degree of fading and colour-warping, whilst remaining tasteful. Other modes, like Ghost (inserts a hazy figure into white areas of your photo) and Big Head (you can guess), are just for laughs, while the Enhance menu provides simplistic, one-click edits.
Pull the shutter button to the right, and you’ll find 16 different pre-taken images, which are named within Camera360 as Scenes. Each of these contains a designated area for your snapshot to be slotted into, and in many cases, your image is placed within a picture frame or a billboard. Some Scenes even include an artist “drawing” your photo onto a canvas.
The concept of these Scenes is quirky, and for a brief period, curiosity forces you to try them. Finding any kind of ongoing use for them, though, is a thankless task.
Even once you’ve taken your picture – and styled it, if you feel like it – Camera360 still has a little more to offer.
Many Android users will be familiar with Google+’s Instant Upload, which automatically backs up images to the cloud as soon after you’ve taken them as possible. The Camera360 alternative is called Photo Bank, and it also stores images in the cloud, although it is limited to a maximum dimension of 2000 pixels. It works nicely as an online library, allowing easy access to your images, which are displayed in a calendar-type view.
The sharing controls in Camera360 highlight the app’s Chinese bias once again – how many western users will want to share images on the likes of QZONE and TencentWeibo, I’m not entirely sure. Happily, the more mainstream networks like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Evernote are included, and sending out images from Camera360 is a pleasantly friction-free process.
For me, Camera360 is a mixed bag. It doesn’t bring many aids to the actual image-taking process, but the functions it does bring — tilt and colour-shift — are of high quality. Equally, the Effects are not in the same class as Instagram’s, but they perform perfectly well for jazzing up your snaps. Camera360’s sharing controls are also worth mentioning in a positive light – although the number of services supported is limited, the actual process of sharing is as simple as it could be.
The biggest downside of this app is the Scenes menu, which is both bizarre and dysfunctional in equal measure. It’s also a shame that some good quality Chinese to English translation hasn’t been utilised in the making of this app.
As an overall package, however, if you like adding a filter or two to your snaps, and you don’t fancy using the Facebook-owned Instagram, Camera360 represents a competent home for your image editing and sharing needs, at the cost of nothing more than a free download.