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Top 15 apps and tips to turn you iPhone and Android smartphone into a vintage camera


Ok. So you have decided to give up on learning how to use your dad’s or grandpa’s classic 35mm camera or Twin Lens Reflex. Far too much hassle you think (“aperture”, “shutter speed”, “exposure”, “ISO”… what are these???) though you think it would be great to look like one of those cool hipster, who carry their 1978 classic camera everywhere. Yep, probably not worth the pain of learning how to use it if you’re not that much interested, and the cost (around to have the negative of your 35mm/120mm film, developed – Polaroid films cost around for 10 photos…).

So if you still wonder if there are any alternative out there who could help you actually look cool with a camera, take real vintage-like pictures, whereas keeping your operating costs low and spend no more than 5 minutes to learn how to use your photographic device, then rejoice, because we have something for you.

The camera

vintage camera iPhone Emily in Paris
vintage camera iPhone Emily in Paris

As you are probably well aware, current generation smartphones are becoming very capable cameras. In fact, some of the more recent recent iPhones and top of the line Android devices equipped with a Zeiss optic, make it virtually unnecessary to carry around a typical point and shoot. However, while the camera’s technological sophistication may be there, smartphones tend to look a lot more like smartphones and less like cameras. But the good thing is that some smartphone case manufacturer like Gizmon have developed cases, that completely transforms a modern smartphone into an old fashioned camera.

The Gizmon iCA makes your iPhone 4 or 4S look a lot like an old Leica IIIf (and if you’re a fan of Robert Capa, be aware that the iCA Military Edition is also available). The case is made out of 32 different polycarbonate components, and even contains a lens mount that will allow you to use optional lenses for your iPhone camera. It’s even got a working shutter button and an optical viewfinder. So the case is not just for show (though the big fake lens in the middle is.) There’s even a tripod mount on the bottom of the case. They eventually plan on offering an external flash, a remote shutter and other accessories for the iCA as well.

And if you you love the retro flavor of 1940s/1950s cameras, be advised that this new Kickstarter project for an accessory called the Paparazzo Light (pictured above) has been launched. Featuring a 300 Lumen LED that’s powered by two CR 123 batteries, the Paparazzo Light will offer users three different modes for brightness settings used in photos and videos. Only for die-hard hipsters…

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The “films”

Should you have an iOS or Android smartphone/tablet, there are plenty of apps out there which will just give that perfect vintage-like flavor to your photos. Though it is not exhaustive, the list below showcases some of the most notorious apps that will give your high mega pixel cameras, the warm, grainy, imperfect effects from the era of analog camera and films. These apps make iPhone and Android devices the new Polaroid and Kodak Instamatic; and the best part is they cost next to nothing or are totally free.

For iOS

Camera+

This app costs only 99 cents but offers an amazing range of effects and features, such as exposure control, zoom, crop, miniaturise, image stabiliser, HDR, vintage style etc.

camera plus iphone photo app

“Downtown Dubai” captured using Camera+

Instagram

This free app has gained massive popularity and has become one of the best ways to share vintage-looking, hipster pics. After taking a picture with your iPhone, you select a filter to achieve your desired retro-feel, then upload the photo to Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr. Instagram features a feed similar to Facebook or Twitter, where all your “friends’” photos show up, and where yours will show up for all the people “following” you. Import your contact list from Facebook, Twitter, and your phone to see who is already using Instagram. You can also follow what sports teams, artists, and even restaurants post on their accounts. Many of the other apps listed here allow the photos you create on them to be shared directly though Instagram.

instagram photo app

“”Wedding Photos” captured using Instagram by Nick Karvounis

Hipstamatic

In their own words, Hipstamatic ‘ is an application that brings back the look, feel, unpredictable beauty, and fun of plastic toy cameras from the past’. At $1.99, it offers the ability to swap lenses, film and flash setting at one touch.

hipstamatic app

“Downtown Vancouver on Canvas” captured using Hipstamatic by Ken Shelton

CameraBag

CameraBag add retro effect to your photos by simulating styles and processes of old film cameras. At $1.99 it offers many cool filters, such as 1974, Infrared, Fisheye, Plastic, 1962 etc.

camerabag photo editing app

“Stones” captured using CameraBag by Jason Zahariades

Pinhole Camera

Compared to the other apps, this one doesn’t seem to offer much. At $0.99 you get three different films and the famous pinhole camera blurriness and dim edges to your photos. The unique thing is you can do double exposure, which means the dream-like, overlapping effect is at your fingertip.

pinhole app for iphone
Captured using Pinhole Camera App for iPhone by Roland Tanglao

Retro Camera Plus

Retro Camera Plus works in a similar way to Hipstamatic, but it is free. It offers 5 cameras, 5 sets of vintage vignetting, film scratch & cross processing effects to create the analog look.

retro camera plus app
Photo captured using Retro Camera Plus by Ryan

VintageScene

What makes this app stands out from the rest is it creates really vintage look that goes back to the beginning of photography, whilst all the aforementioned apps focus on 50′s to 60′s styles. At $1.99 it can fake old photos for graphic artists, photographers, & hobbyist who rely on a high quality end result.

vintagescene iphone app
Photo captured using VintageScene by Dionne Hartnett

8mm Vintage Camera

If you like the Hipstamatic app, you’ll love getting the same vintage feel for your videos from 8mm. Choose from settings like Noir, ’60s, ’70s, Siena, 1920, Sakura, and XPro to achieve your desired look. Decide whether or not to include sound; you may want to add some vintage Sinatra later. 8mm also gives you the option to import videos into the app so that you can give them vintage settings. Finished projects can be uploaded to YouTube or emailed. $1.99on the iTunes store.

PictureShow

If you mixed all the other photo apps on this list together, you’d get PictureShow. It creates both vintage pictures and black-and-white images and features a timer, editing tools, a lens kit, various noises and resolutions, and a fun shuffle option to randomize your photos. It takes a bit of time to sort through all of the app’s features and learn exactly how to use them, but once you do you’ll be creating professional-looking photographs and sharing them via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, and/or email. For customized photographs, this is your app. Upload your favorite pictures to PictureShow and try different filters for a new feel.

For Android

Instagram

This free app has gained massive popularity and has become one of the best ways to share vintage-looking, hipster pics. After taking a picture with your Android smartphone, you select a filter to achieve your desired retro-feel, then upload the photo to Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr. Instagram features a feed similar to Facebook or Twitter, where all your “friends’” photos show up, and where yours will show up for all the people “following” you. Import your contact list from Facebook, Twitter, and your phone to see who is already using Instagram. You can also follow what sports teams, artists, and even restaurants post on their accounts. Many of the other apps listed here allow the photos you create on them to be shared directly though Instagram.

mytubo (free)

Mytubo is a casual, fun app that lets you apply 14 toy camera effects to existing photos in the gallery or real time camera shots. You can then save the edited snap to your phone or to a mytubo account, and share it via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Email and SMS. The interface is fairly straightforward and the photo filters really do make your images eye-catching.

Vignette Demo (free)

Vignette Demo is a free version of the app Vignette. The app has a huge number of effects – 84 to be exact – and 54 photo frames. The paid version has the same features, plus it supports the phone’s resolution while the free version doesn’t. One notable feature is being able to “set” a photo filter before taking the picture with its built-in camera. Given so many of options for editing your photo, the process of choosing an effect can be sometimes tedious with its interface, but the quality of the filters are worth the effort.

Pixlr-o-matic (free)

Pixlr-o-matic is an attractive app with a darkroom effect designed to generate vintage-style photos. Choose from the filters (they’re named after people) and apply professional quality effects in one easy tap. There’s also another tab for adding layers of lighting effects such as street lights and glitters. If you’re particular with design quality and artistic effects, this app is the one to try.

Little Photo (free)

Little Photo is nifty app with a simple UI but a surprisingly large number of features – over 70 effects and tools. Simply take a photo or open an image from the gallery and tap on it to see the list of effects and tools on the right side of the screen. A unique feature is “Half Apply”, which lets you control the intensity of the photo filter you’ve selected.

Surely not all photos taken with a smart phone comes out perfectly. In fact, far from it. A mid-range digital camera is more capable of taking excellent shots compared to a phone, no matter how impressive its hardware is. However, if you are after the vintage taste the above listed apps can give your phone – and that you don’t plan to do prints above an A3 format – then you will probably be mostly satisfied with the result. And the best of it? Contrary to a classic camera, vintage photography apps for smartphones will let you share your best shots with your followers on any social network, at the very second they were taken. And that is priceless for the well-hidden hipster in every one of us.

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