The iPhone 4S is equipped with arguably the best phone cameras on the market, but its native Camera application leaves much to be desired for the advanced shooter. While HDR was a nice addition, the iPhone’s Camera application is devoid of manual controls and digital image effects. But that’s what applications are for, right? I’ve spent a good deal of time playing with various camera applications for the iPhone, and these are my top 5 best iPhone camera apps that are truly trusty old standbys.

8mm-Icon8mm ($1.99)

If you’re nostalgic for Fellini and Hitchcock films of yore, 8mm is by far the best camcorder application you can buy for the iPhone. 8mm transforms the iPhone’s camcorder into a film camera with various film effects to choose from like 60’s, Noir, 1920, Sakura and XPro. You can also couple the film effects with various lens effects like a flare and pinhole, and the frame jitter level can even be selected. If you’re going for that old-timey look and feel, 8mm is the best option out there.


8mm in Xpro mode with Film Crop lens effect

Camera+-IconCamera+ ($0.99)

On the other side of the fence, Camera+ by tap tap tap is the best camera application I’ve found for the iPhone. Camera+ has image stabilization, a self-timer, burst mode, a bright recording light and instant Facebook/Twitter/flickr sharing. But that’s not all. Camera+ comes with Lightbox, which is a post editing program that allows users to set about 17 Scene modes that work exceedingly well. Add in 35 Digital Effects, cropping and rotating tools and 18 different borders, and Camera+ is the best you can get for still imaging software on the iPhone.


Camera+ interface and Lightbox

instagram-IconInstagram (Free)

Apple’s iPhone App of the Year is definitely a winner, but I’m not sure why it took top billing. Instagram is insanely fun because of all the wacky and artistic filters available, but it doesn’t offer any manual controls. You can add a border or change the focal point of images, but that’s about it. Instagram’s bread and butter comes in the form of a social picture-sharing platform that enables Instagram members to post their pictures within a network and like or comment on them. If socializing is not your cup of tea, then Camera+ is far more robust.


Instagram interface

NightCap-IconNightCap ($0.99)

NightCap changed the way I view lowlight sensitivity on a smartphone. NightCap actually extends the iPhone’s shutter speed to a full second, which is a major improvement over the camera’s slowest native speed. Thanks to that one-second shutter, I was able to capture images that were significantly brighter without using the flash. On the downside, it’s very difficult to keep the phone steady unless you have a tripod. Also, the slower the shutter speed, the more jittery the frame rate, so patience is required. Check out the comparison images below.


Without NightCap


With NightCap

Flare-IconFlare ($0.99)

I originally though Flare was the bomb to end all bombs when I first downloaded it, but Flare has since been trumped by 8mm. That’s okay, though. Flare is a great camcorder application that offers three simple filters: Soft, HDR and Solarize. The nifty thing about the filters is that their intensities can be adjusted. While 8mm is ideal for the nostalgic filmmaker, Flare is better for trippy Magical Mystery Tour-like scenes.


Solarize filter in Flare

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