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The best camera apps for iOS

Michael Simon | Aug. 10, 2015
Not only is the iPhone one of the most popular point-and-shoots on the market, if you had to pick one feature that sets it apart from its smartphone competitors, it would have to be the camera. The secret is in Apple's proprietary image signal processor, which handles things like autofocus, face detection, and noise reduction to reduce the strain on the main processor and optimize the camera for iOS.

The shutter button is flanked by shortcuts to the in-app editing room and its bountiful settings. Inside, you'll find tons of toggles that affect your shooting, view settings, and workflow, from how your photos are taken to where they're saved. It'll take some time to dig through all of them, but once you get it to your liking you'll have a veritable dream shooting machine at your fingertips.

Camera+ also offers a top-notch editing environment, with dozens of filters, crops, tints, and frames to perfect your masterpiece. It has a customizable Notification Center widget for quick photos, selfies, and pro tips, and an Apple Watch companion that works as a remote, like Apple's Camera does (though live previews will have to wait until watchOS 2). 

But what gives Camera+ an edge over its competitors is its tremendous versatility and intuitiveness. Whether you're into funky filters or exact exposure, you'll be hard-pressed to find a camera that offers a better experience and produces such consistent results.

Runner-up: VSCO Cam 

Back before it made one of the best cameras in the business, the Visual Supply Co started out offering presets for Aperture and Lightroom that emulated the look of classic Kodak, Fuji, and Ilford prints in an effort to bridge the worlds of digital and film cameras.

VSCO Cam (free) continues in that vein, offering an elegant, clean camera that puts a heavy focus on classic creativity and inspiration. It's this respect for photography that makes VSCO a standout, from the carefully crafted interface that gives photographers full control without cluttering the viewing area to its excellent array of filters that tastefully tweak your pictures with professional presets.

As a camera, VSCO's extraordinarily minimal interface has a somewhat longer learning curve than Camera+. It certainly stacks up when it comes to control--you'll be able to manually adjust white balance, exposure compensation, focus, shutter speed, and ISO--but figuring out how to properly use it requires a good deal of exploration. It's kind of like picking up a high-end DSLR for the first time: You can make a few minor adjustments and still take an excellent photo, but you'll be much better served by mastering its controls.

But once you understand the interface, VSCO offers an unparalleled experience for photographers. It's not just about toggles and sliders--from the precision adjustment controls to the "big-button mode" that lets you tap anywhere on the screen to snap a pic, everything is designed to help you turn what you see into a work of art worthy of Apple's "Shot on iPhone 6" campaign.

VSCO doesn't offer the usual editing and cropping tools you'll find in do-it-all camera apps. Rather, you can select from a dozen or so presets that do all of the fine-tuning behind the scenes. To call them filters would be underestimating their abilities. Where most apps apply a harsh overlay meant to conjure a specific style or mood, VSCO's effects are much subtler, bringing carefully refined adjustments that enhance the elements in your photos rather than apply broad visible changes. 


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