Seven popular Android camera apps reviewed and rated

Summary:Seven popular Android photo apps go up against each other in a test to see who's hot, and who's not.

This may come as a shock to anyone that has an iPhone, but not everyone has an iPhone.

And if you don't have an iPhone then you missed getting your preferred username in Instagram and are sick of everyone's square pictures of their dinner turned all before-it-was-cool-antiquey with a droll filter.

Perhaps more importantly, you're arriving to the Instagram hipster party late and have had the time to actually try out and enjoy other camera apps.

Gallery: Seven popular Android camera apps (screenshots)

Which is why, like me, you may not be crazy-impressed with Instagram.

Android users (like me) have had a lot of camera apps to sift through and plenty of time to do it. I take a lot of photos with my phone in a variety of situations.  I've been testing and using Android camera apps diligently for six months; Instagram from when it opened to Android.

I'm currently enjoying a Galaxy Nexus on Ice Cream Sandwich and regularly use and test other droids, in addition to other operating systems.

(Disclosure: I partner with Nokia on occasion to test and promote phones for special events if I like the phone and OS).

There are seven primary, popular Android phone apps - below are my ratings and reviews.

Some people got tired of waiting for Instagram and joined the photo sharing community at MyTubo, a camera app that, well, is a bit like Instagram. It doesn't have critical mass, but is a simple and pretty app.

Pros: 15 easy to use filters, tons of sharing options including four Chinese social networks (Sina, RenRen, etc), users send each other "meows" for ratings, in-app social network is simple and easy to use, easy to switch cameras.

Cons: No nudity or "erotic content" (with ToS caveat they can "interpret" this at any time), nothing exceptional about camera use, can't change phone shutter location, no camera adjustment settings, average in-app camera no different than native Android app.

Rating: 4/10 = meh, not hot

  • Vignette (demo version is free; upgrade is $3.99)

No social network here, just a camera app with a healthy amount of control up front. A lot of people recommend this app for nighttime photos.

Pros: Photo can be taken by pressing pretty much anything, including volume buttons. Geotagging is opt-in only.

Cons: Buggy; I experienced intermittent crashes with each use, and opening the app pushed me through the welcome screen each time. No fine-tuning of camera functions and shot editing is pushed into the Android native camera app editor in the free version. Night shots are not impressive and the shutter is slow.

Rating: 2/10 = would not bang

This app is so fantastic in so many ways that the crucial way in which it fails makes the pain of disappointment more acute. LittlePhoto remains on my Nexus for the forseeable future for its outstanding post-shot editing suite (I also purchased the add-on plugin because it's so much fun).

Pros: Mind-blowing selection of post-shot filters, photo editing tools, lots of control over file saving, extremely easy to use, volume controls or screen takes photos.

Cons: Shutter is painfully slow - this app is terrible for taking pictures of cats. Not good for capturing photos.

Rating: 7/10 = always on my phone, but never the first app I reach for

A well-rounded camera app, Camera ZOOM has a full range of pre-shot camera settings and lets the user feel like they have more control over how the shot will be taken than other apps. Filters are limited, and unlike other apps, each shot's filter must be chosen before the shot is taken.

Pros: Lots of camera control in setup; stable shot function shows you when your hand is stable and takes the shot when you're holding still. Volume button control for shutter, all camera options are front and center so no hunting for the 'switch camera' button, etc.

Cons: Slow shutter; same delay as on native camera functions. Tough to get a good cat photo; doesn't do well with moving subjects. Bumpy getting from screen to screen, effects are selected in pre, not post.

Rating: 6/10 = All the things I want in a camera app and solid UI, but a too-slow shutter means too many blurry cat butt photos.

ProCapture easily overcame darkness and the squirming of a fat tabby into this small shoebox.

This has become my #1 go-to camera app on the Nexus. It doesn't do everything or have a billion filters or a social network tacked on, but what it does - it does the best. I often take a shot with ProCamera then open the image quickly in LittlePhoto for a grab-n-go effect before I share a photo.

Pros: Fastest shutter on the market, which I've set to my volume buttons. Preset modes for shoot setup are on a front-facing menu that includes white balance, exposure, panorama, scene modes, shooting modes, composition and more. Functions overall very well in all conditions.

Cons: No post-pic editing - this must be done in a different app or from your phone gallery's default edit menu. Muting shutter button doesn't work in ICS.

Rating: 8/10 = with a few polishes and accessories added to this app's suite of tools it would be marriage material

This app nails taking Android smartphone photos in low light, and has plenty of options to get the just-right nighttime shot. These people (Almalence) make the excellent HDR Camera+ app, which is fun if you want HDR-looking pics.

Pros:  Low light excellence is what this one's about, and I wish other apps would take lessons from Night Camera's low light features and options. The cons keep it from being a perfect all-in-one app, but ooh, they did one thing very, very well.

Cons: Shutter is screen tap only, no front-facing camera use, medium-slow shutter (even on fast setting), no post-pic filters (defaults to native app edit/share menu), free version hits you with ad interstitial each time, sometimes crashes between functions.

Rating: 5/10 = night shots are fabulous, but not enough of a draw to make it my date for every party

  • Instagram (free/actual cost: your soul, to Facebook)

The social photo sharing app acquired by Facebook is a pretty terrific photo app; not as much for its camera UI, but for its incredibly intuitive user experience. It's easy to take, filter and share photos here, and geotagging is a front-facing option for each photo.

Pros: Crappy photos look artsy and cool, your mom is probably already on the service, it's easy and fast - including the camera app. The shutter is quick.

Cons: Gated community - no one outside the network can see your photos unless you send them a direct link. Owned by Facebook. Camera is very limited. No alternate controls for the camera; no camera menu at all in pre-shot mode, only in post. Can't change shutter button, shutter sound, etc.

Rating: 7/10 = cute enough for a second date, but I wouldn't introduce it to my *real* friends

Topics: Social Enterprise, Android, China, Google, Hardware, iPhone, Mobile OS, Mobility, Samsung, Security, Smartphones

About

Ms. Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com, @violetblue) is a freelance investigative reporter on hacking and cybercrime at Zero Day/ZDNet, CNET and CBS News, as well as a noted sex columnist. She has made regular appearances on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show and is regularly interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of publications that inclu... Full Bio

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