Technologizer

Camera Awesome: A New Camera for Your iPhone

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Harry McCracken / TIME.com

Clarification appended: Mar. 1 2012

Apple’s iPhones have some of the best cameras on any phone, with some of the best software. That hasn’t stopped a bunch of companies from trying to build even better, more feature-filled iPhone camera apps–Camera+ probably being the preeminent example.

Now photo-sharing service SmugMug is getting into the game, with an iPhone app it calls Camera Awesome. Unlike Camera+, it’s free. I’ve been playing with it for a few days, and it’s excellent–a rich, well-designed program that makes the iPhone feel less like a cameraphone and more like a phonecamera. It’s already replaced the standard iOS Camera app as the program I turn to when I want to take pictures.

Camera Awesome has so much stuff that I won’t even try to enumerate it all. But here are some highlights:

It’s fast. You can snap photos more quickly than in Apple’s Camera app, and there are two burst modes.

It has a bunch of special modes. Such as an image-stabilization option and “Big Button,” which lets you take a photo by touching anywhere on the screen. Oh, and it shoots video as well as stills.

You can set the focus anywhere you want. And then change the composition.

It can auto-upload your pics to a bunch of sites. SmugMug, Flickr, Picasa, PhotoBucket and (for video) YouTube. (If you auto-upload to SmugMug, it’ll archive all your photos at resolution; you always have the option to upload full-res photos to other services, although some crunch them down on the server side.)

It has composition aids. It can help you keep the horizon level in your photo, for instance, and can overlay thirds, the golden curve and other visual guides.

It has basic editing features. Such as an instant picture enhancer called “Awesomize” and cropping.

It has a gazillion fancy filters. These don’t interest me personally that much–the only place I like to share photos with fancy effects is Instagram, which this app doesn’t (and can’t) support. But they’re there if you want ‘em. And you can set things up so they’re applied automatically.

Why is SmugMug giving away such a feature-packed program, in a category that lots of folks seem to be willing to pay for? It has two ways of making money from the app: Many of the filters are extra-cost options, as is the full-resolution upload-to-SmugMug feature. But even if you don’t pay a nickel, Camera Awesome is…awesome.

(MORE: 50 Best iPhone Apps 2012)

Clarification appended: The mention of uploading in this post was revised to indicate that Camera Awesome can upload full-resolution photos to services other than SmugMug.

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