SLIDESHOW

The Best Mobile Camera Apps

The cameras on mobile phones may not be anything to write home about, but these new photo apps and the filters they provide can help you take great pictures even on a cell phone from last season.

High-Quality Camera Apps

Though camera-phones have come a long way in recent years, they still have a long way to go. But instead of lamenting your smartphone’s deficiencies, why not put some funky style on your shots, and make the image quality look intentional? Both iOS and Android have a bunch of apps that do just that in some very cool ways. Let’s look at some of them.

Polarize

One of the first popular camera apps for the iPhone is Polarize. You can either shoot a photo from the app directly or import a shot from one of your albums, and Polarize will instantly apply a filter to achieve a classic instant-camera frame. Photo: © 2011 Stefanie Daehler (shot with an iPhone 3G)

Polarize Captions

What sets Polarize apart from the pack is that it lets you add a short, seemingly handwritten caption to the frame itself. Polarize is not as feature-rich as many other camera apps, and it has very few options, but it’s a free download from the App Store. Photo: © 2011 Stefanie Daehler (shot with an iPhone 3G)

Instagram

Also for iOS (and coming soon to Android), Instagram is blowing up right now. As with Polarize, you can either shoot directly from the app or choose a shot already on your phone; but Instagram gives you fifteen different filter/frame combinations to choose from. The Lomo-fi filter is shown here. Photo: © 2011 C. Bay Milin (shot with an iPhone 3G)

Instagram's X-Pro II Filter

This art piece was shot with the X-Pro II filter. Instagram’s popularity is partly due to its deep integration with social media. It links easily to your Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Posterous, Tumblr, and Twitter accounts: A single click uploads an image to all of them. Photo: © 2011 C. Bay Milin (shot with an iPhone 3G)

Pros on Instagram

Even professional photographers are jumping on the Instagram bandwagon. Photog wunderkind C. Bay Milin (baystar23 on Instagram, if you want to follow) was kind enough to lend these pics. This blizzard shot was taken with the Earlybird filter. Instagram is a free download from the App Store. Photo: © 2011 C. Bay Milin (shot with an iPhone 3G)

Retro Camera

For Android, Retro Camera is a simple way to give your shots a vintage look, with filters inspired by the Hipstamatic, Holga, Lomo, Polaroid, and others. The app gives you five filters to choose from (plus B&W options). The Bärbl filter is shown here. Photo: © 2011 Brent Rose (shot with a Motorola Droid)

Retro Camera's Pinhole Filter

The Pinhole filter (shown here) is my favorite Retro Camera filter. Unfortunately, you can use these filters only when you shoot directly from the app--you cannot import.The software is also slower than the others. It’s available free (or in a $2.99 ad-free version) from the Android Market. Photo: © 2011 Brent Rose (shot with a Motorola Droid)

Camera 360

Camera 360 Ultimate (for Android) has some truly incredible filters and effects. Reversal Film - High Contrast (shown here) is among the dozens of options. If you have a decent camera on your phone, Camera 360 will take full advantage of the resolution it offers, which is a welcome change. Photo: © 2011 Brent Rose (shot with a Motorola Droid)

Camera 360's Line Sketch Effect

Camera 360 can produce mind-bending alterations like this Line Sketch effect in just seconds. I also recommend the Surrealist Painting modes. The multitude of effects makes up for the fact that you can’t import photos into this app (though you do have the option of automatically saving a “clean copy” with each shot). Photo: © 2011 Brent Rose (shot with a Motorola Droid)

Back to 1839

This is the “Back to 1839” effect in Camera 360, and if you didn’t know better...well, you be the judge. Camera 360 also takes gorgeous “clean” shots, and it’s fast, making it a good all-around camera replacement. It’s free in the Android Market, with more filters/options available in the “Ultimate” version for $3.99. Photo: © 2011 Brent Rose (shot with a Motorola Droid)