What’s the best camera app for iPhone? Is the native iPhone camera app good enough? Or do you need more powerful manual camera controls like shutter speed and ISO? In this comparison, you’ll discover the features of the 4 best camera apps for iPhone. Read on to find the best iPhone camera app for you.
1. Native iPhone Camera App
The native iPhone camera app is perfect for most shooting situations. It has a lot of great features, and it might be the only camera app you need.
What the native camera app doesn’t have is DSLR-like manual controls. For example, you can’t set the shutter speed, ISO or white balance. If you want manual control of these settings you’ll need to use a third-party camera app.
You’ll learn about these third-party camera apps later in this article. But first let’s explore the iPhone camera features of the native camera app.
1.1 iPhone Camera Shooting Modes
The native camera app has several photo and video shooting modes. You can access these modes along the bottom of the screen.
For traditional still images, choose Photo mode. If you prefer to shoot in square format, use Square mode. Pano mode is for capturing super-wide panoramic photos. This mode is fantastic for landscape photography.
Portrait mode allows you to create a shallow depth of field effect. It keeps the subject sharp while the background appears blurred.
Video mode lets you record movie footage with your iPhone. Slo-Mo captures incredible slow motion video. And Time-Lapse mode records video over a period of time and then speeds up the footage.
1.2 Portrait Mode
Portrait mode allows you to create a shallow depth of field in your iPhone photos. It’s perfect for portrait photography. But you can use it to make any subject appear sharp against a beautiful blurry background.
Portrait mode also includes a Portrait Lighting feature. Use it to apply studio-quality lighting effects to illuminate your subject.
Portrait mode is available on the new iPhone XS camera, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. You’ll also find it on the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 7 Plus. Note that Portrait mode isn’t available on the iPhone 8 camera, iPhone 7 or older.
1.3 Live Photos
In Photo mode, you can create wonderful moving images using Live Photos. Switch on Live Photos using the circle icon at the top of the screen. When you take a photo, the camera captures a 3 second video including the moments before and after you press the shutter.
Once you’ve captured a Live Photo, you can apply a Loop, Bounce or Long Exposure effect if you wish.
Loop turns your Live Photo into a continuous video loop. Bounce is a fun effect that makes your Live Photo play forwards and then in reverse.
Long Exposure creates a beautiful slow shutter effect, blurring any movement. Waterfalls and rivers will appear silky smooth. Fireworks and car headlights will become light streaks across the scene.
1.4 Focus & Exposure
Setting focus on your subject in the native camera app is easy. Tap the screen to set focus on that part of the scene. To lock focus, tap and hold. You can now take many shots without having to reset the focus point each time.
To adjust the exposure (brightness) of your photo, swipe up to make it brighter or down to make it darker.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It’s a useful tool for creating better exposed images in high contrast scenes. For example, when you have a dark or shaded subject against a bright sunny sky.
Switching on the HDR iPhone camera setting allows you to create a well-lit photo with better color and detail. Without HDR, you’ll likely end up with an over-exposed sky or an under-exposed subject.
But when you use HDR, the iPhone camera takes three photos at different exposures. It then blends the best parts of these images to create a single photo that has good exposure throughout.
The clock icon at the top of the screen lets you switch on the timer. This sets a 3 or 10 second delay between pressing the shutter button and taking the photo.
The timer is useful when you want to appear in the shot yourself. Mount your iPhone on a tripod or steady surface, then set the timer. When you press the shutter, you’ll have time to move into the frame so that you can be in the photo.
The flash icon (lightning bolt) lets you turn the flash on or off. If there’s not enough light in the scene, you could use the flash to illuminate your subject.
While this can be useful, it doesn’t always create a flattering light. So use it with caution, and switch off the flash when you don’t need it.
1.8 Burst Mode
If you’re photographing a moving subject, try using burst mode. Hold down the shutter button to capture many photos of the scene in quick succession. You can then choose the best shots and discard the rest.
Burst mode is fantastic for action photography. It’s also great when photographing children who won’t keep still. You could also use it for street photography to capture a subject walking through the scene. Fire off a series of shots and you’re bound to get at least one perfect image.
1.9 Filters & Editing
The filters icon at the top right of the screen lets you shoot a photo with a different color tone. You can choose from color or black and white filters. If you change your mind after taking the photo, you can always remove the filter from the image.
Once you’ve taken a photo, you can make changes using the Edit option. Here you can crop, rotate, apply filters, and adjust color and exposure. Edits are non-destructive so you can always revert back to the original image.
2. VSCO App
VSCO is a great option if you want to capture high-quality still images. You can’t shoot video with this app, although it does have a DSCO mode for capturing moving GIFs.
To access the camera in VSCO, swipe right or tap the camera icon at the top left of the screen.
In camera mode, you’ll see a row of icons along the bottom of the screen. These icons give you access to the manual camera controls when shooting. Swipe over the icons to access more settings.
From left to right these icons are: RAW, Grid, Flash, Exposure, White Balance, Manual Focus, ISO and Shutter Speed. The last icon allows you to tap the screen to take the photo, rather than using the shutter button.
2.1 RAW Image Capture
VSCO has the option to shoot in RAW format as well as standard JPEG. RAW files are better quality than JPEG images. Shooting in RAW preserves the image’s original data and captures it at full precision. It allows the camera to capture a wider range of colors and tones.
RAW capture allows for more creative control when editing. For example, it’s easier to recover lost highlight detail. And you have more control over the final color balance in your image.
To shoot in RAW format, tap RAW in the row of icons near the bottom of the screen. You’ll see the word RAW at the top of the screen.
Keep in mind that RAW files are much larger than JPEGs. You may find your iPhone storage gets full if you shoot a lot of RAW images.
2.2 Separate Focus & Exposure Points
In the VSCO camera, tap the screen to set your focus and exposure point. A red circle indicates this point, and you can drag it around to focus on a different area.
But you can also separate the focus and exposure points by tapping with two fingers. Now you’ll see two red circles – one for focus and one for exposure.
You can drag these two circles to any position you want. Drag the focus point to the part of the scene that you want in sharp focus. Drag the exposure point to the area that you want to expose for.
To exit the separate focus and exposure mode, double-tap the screen or drag one red circle onto the other.
2.3 Grid & Tiltmeter
The second icon at the bottom of the screen lets you display gridlines on the screen. These are helpful for composing your shot and ensuring everything is level.
Keep tapping the Grid icon to toggle through the different gridline options. The grid is especially useful when composing your shot using the rule of thirds.
As well as gridlines, there’s also a handy tiltmeter. This is ideal when shooting landscapes to ensure the horizon is level. The tiltmeter turns green when your iPhone is straight.
The lightning bolt icon lets you turn the flash on or off. Keep tapping the icon to toggle through the different flash settings. You can set the flash to off, auto, on, or torch (continuous light rather than a single flash).
2.5 Exposure Compensation
Tap the sun icon to adjust the exposure (brightness) of your image. Drag the slider left to make it darker, or right to make it brighter. Tap the “A” to the right of the slider to return to the automatic exposure setting.
2.6 White Balance
The white balance setting lets you fine-tune the color temperature in your photos. Tap the WB icon, then drag the slider left to make the colors cooler (more blue) or right to make them warmer (more orange).
Use white balance to correct unwanted color casts in certain lighting situations. Or use it to change the general mood of your photo.
2.7 Manual Focus
The plus (+) icon opens up the Manual Focus slider. This lets you adjust the focus to your precise requirements.
Manual focus is useful when photographing close-up subjects. Drag the slider until the area you want is in sharp focus. You can also use Manual Focus to force the camera to blur your subject. You can use this technique for creative effect.
ISO controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. It’s useful in low light as it lets you capture a brighter exposure without using long shutter speeds.
Tap the ISO icon, then drag the slider left or right. The higher the ISO number, the brighter the image will be.
There is a downside to using high ISO settings though. Your photo can appear grainy, especially in the darker areas of the scene.
2.9 Shutter Speed
Shutter speed controls the exposure time for the image. Slowing down the shutter allows the camera to capture more light and blur any movement. Speeding it up captures less light, but also a sharper image as it freezes motion.
Drag the Shutter Speed slider left for a faster shutter speed, or right for a slower shutter speed.
Long exposures are great for night photography, blurring movement and capturing light trails. When shooting long exposure photos, keep the camera still to avoid camera shake. Use a tripod for the best results.
2.10 Full-Screen Trigger
The last icon in the row of VSCO camera settings is for turning the entire screen into a shutter button.
You would usually take a photo by pressing the shutter button at the bottom of the screen. But for tricky angles you might find it easier to tap anywhere on the screen to take the shot. It’s also perfect for street photography as it allows you to be more discreet.
To activate full-screen trigger mode, tap the icon on the far right of the VSCO camera settings. A red border around the screen indicates that the entire screen is your shutter button. You can now tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo.
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3. Camera+ 2 App
Camera+ 2 ($2.99) is the faster and more powerful rebuild of the popular Camera+ app. It offers the same manual controls as VSCO, along with the ability to shoot in RAW. But it also includes some other shooting features, such as Portrait mode and Macro mode.
Camera+ 2 isn’t only a camera app. It also has a built-in editing suite for enhancing your images in post-processing.
In camera mode, you’ll see a row of icons along the top of the screen. And you can access more settings at the bottom of the screen. Below you’ll discover how to use each of these settings.
Tap the lightning bolt icon to access the four flash options: on, off, auto and torch.
3.2 Macro Mode
If you’re shooting close-up photos, tap the flower icon to switch on Macro mode. Using this mode helps you achieve better focus and sharpness in your close-up shots.
3.3 Portrait Mode
Portrait mode is available on iPhones that have the Portrait mode option in the native camera app. On these phones, you’ll see the Portrait icon at the top of the screen.
Using this mode is like using Portrait mode in the native camera app. It’s used for capturing a sharp subject against a blurry background.
But the Portrait mode setting in Camera+ 2 allows you to go further. When you take a picture, the depth information saves alongside the image. So you can use the Camera+ editor to apply selective adjustments to close or distant subjects.
3.4 Aspect Ratio
The white rectangle icon at the top of the screen lets you choose an aspect ratio for shooting. Choose from normal, square or wide format.
3.5 Lens Selector
The iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X have a dual lens. On these phones you can shoot with either the wide-angle lens or the telephoto lens.
If you have a dual lens iPhone, you’ll see the Lens Selector icon at the top of the screen (second from right). Tap the icon to choose between the wide and telephoto lens.
3.6 Separate Focus & Exposure Points
Like the VSCO app, Camera+ 2 lets you separate the focus and exposure points. Tap once on the screen to set a single focus and exposure point.
To separate them, tap the plus (+) icon on the focus indicator. You can now drag the focus and exposure points to different areas of the scene.
3.7 Exposure Compensation
After tapping to set focus, the EV (Exposure Value) slider appears at the bottom of the screen. Swipe left or right to make your image darker or brighter.
3.8 Shooting Modes
Tap the plus (+) icon to the right of the shutter button to access a range of shooting modes. Swipe across the icons at the bottom to select a shooting mode. From left to right the modes are: Timer, Stabilizer, Normal, Burst, Slow Shutter and Smile.
There are also four icons above the row of shooting modes. From left to right these let you switch on the Grid, Tiltmeter, Geotagging and RAW Capture.
In most shooting situations, select Normal shooting mode. If you’re photographing moving subjects, try Burst mode. This lets you take many shots in quick succession by holding down the shutter button.
Timer mode lets you set a timer delay of up to 30 seconds. If you’re worried about getting camera shake, choose Stabilizer mode. This ensures the camera only takes a shot if your iPhone is steady enough to produce a sharp picture.
Slow Shutter mode lets you shoot long exposure photos of up to 30 seconds. Use this mode to create silky smooth waterfalls, or light trails at night.
If you’re photographing people, you could try Smile mode. In this mode the camera shoots for you whenever it detects that a person is smiling.
3.9 Manual Controls
If you want complete control over your shots, you can use Camera+ 2’s advanced manual controls. Like the VSCO app, these include Shutter Speed, ISO, White Balance and Manual Focus.
To access the manual settings, tap the screen to set focus, then tap the plus (+) icon on the focus point. Three icons will appear along the bottom of the screen.
The square icon on the left is Focus. The round icon in the middle is Shutter Speed and ISO. And the WB icon is White Balance.
3.10 Manual Focus
Tap the square Focus icon on the left. Drag the slider left or right to adjust the focus in your image. Tap Auto to return to autofocus.
3.11 Shutter Speed & ISO
Tap the round Shutter Speed/ISO icon in the middle. Drag the slider left for a slower shutter speed, or right for a faster one. You can use slow shutter speeds to create long exposure photos.
To access the ISO settings, tap the plus (+) icon to the right of the slider. The ISO slider appears on the right. Swipe left for a higher ISO or right for a lower value.
3.12 White Balance
Tap the WB icon on the right. Select the white balance preset most appropriate for the lighting conditions. For example, if you’re shooting in the shade, select the Shade preset. If you’re shooting indoors with the lights on, select Incandescent.
If you prefer to adjust white balance using a slider, tap the plus (+) icon to the right of the presets.
4. ProCamera App
ProCamera ($5.99) gives you amazing control over your camera settings. It includes manual controls such as shutter speed, ISO and white balance. It also has handy features like a histogram and anti-shake setting.
To access ProCamera’s advanced tools, tap the Control Panel icon (three lines) at the bottom right. A green icon shows that a setting is switched on.
If your iPhone has the dual lens, you can select the lens you want to use via this control panel. At the top of the screen you can access the flash, shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO.
4.1 Shooting Modes
ProCamera has seven shooting modes: Video, Photo, HDR, Lowlight, Lowlight+, Selfie and Scan. Access these shooting modes by tapping the double arrow icon to the left of the shutter button.
You’ll likely use Photo mode in most shooting situations. But if you’re shooting in low light conditions or at night, you could try Lowlight mode. This mode shoots with longer exposure times, allowing the camera to capture more light.
Lowlight mode can result in noisy (grainy) images though. If you want better quality low light photos, you can buy the LowLight+ mode for $3.99.
HDR mode is also available to buy for $2.99. This mode is great for landscape photography and other high-contrast scenes. It combines several exposures to create a single well-exposed image. HDR photos will have more color and detail in both the highlights and shadows.
4.2 File Formats: JPEG, RAW, TIF & HEIF
Like VSCO and Camera+ 2, you can shoot in RAW format as well as the standard JPEG. But ProCamera also has the option to shoot in TIF format and the new HEIF format.
HEIF images are better quality that JPEGs, but almost half the file size. So you can store almost twice as many photos on your iPhone at an even higher quality level. HEIF is available with iOS 11 on the iPhone 7 and above.
To set the file format you want to shoot in, tap the Control Panel icon at the bottom right. Keep tapping the Format icon to select the file format you want to use.
Tap the Grids icon in the control panel to toggle through the different gridline options. Use the gridlines to help you compose your shot.
To ensure your iPhone is level when taking a photo, turn on the Tiltmeter in the control panel. When your iPhone is completely level, the lines on the tiltmeter cross turn green.
4.5 Aspect Ratio
Tap the Aspect Ratio icon in the control panel to toggle through the different aspect ratios. These include square (1:1), 4:3, 16:9 and more.
4.6 Focus & Exposure
Like VSCO and Camera+ 2, you can separate the focus and exposure points in ProCamera. Tap the screen to set a single focus and exposure point. Drag this point to separate them so that you can set focus and exposure on different areas.
To lock focus and exposure, open the control panel, then tap F/E Lock. When you tap to set focus and exposure, these settings will lock as soon as you release your finger from the screen.
You can tweak exposure with the Exposure Compensation slider at the bottom of the screen. As you swipe left or right, the EV (Exposure Value) appears at the top of the screen. A plus figure indicates increased brightness, and a minus figure indicates decreased brightness.
4.7 Rapid Fire (Burst Mode)
Switch on the Rapid Fire icon in the control panel to shoot in burst mode. Hold down the shutter button to shoot continuous photos in quick succession.
To avoid camera shake, which is especially common in low light, switch on Anti-Shake. This is an effective way to stabilize your shots.
When activated, the Anti-Shake icon appears to the right of the main shutter button. Tap this icon instead of the shutter button when you’re ready to take a photo. The camera will wait until your iPhone is steady before taking the picture.
To set a timer delay when taking a photo, tap the Self-Timer icon in the control panel. When activated, the Self-Timer icon appears to the right of the main shutter button. Tap this icon instead of the shutter button when you’re ready to take a photo with the timer.
To change the self-timer settings, open the control panel and tap Settings. Here you can set the amount of delay in seconds, as well as some other shooting options.
4.10 White Balance
The White Balance feature in ProCamera is more advanced than VSCO and Camera+ 2. As well as adjusting color temperature, you can adjust the color tint.
Color temperature makes the colors cooler (more blue) or warmer (more orange). Color tint adds more green or magenta (pink) to your image. These two settings give an incredible amount of control over the final color tone of your photo.
To adjust white balance, open the control panel and select White Balance. Tap away from the control panel to close it. Tap the AWB (Auto White Balance) icon to display the Color Temperature slider.
As you drag the slider, the color temperature value on the screen changes. Color temperature is measure in Kelvin, so the value has the letter “K” after it.
To adjust the color tint, tap the value that has a “T” after it. Then use the Color Tint slider to add more green or magenta to your image.
4.11 Shutter Speed & ISO
When you want to adjust shutter speed and ISO, you have two options. Manual Mode lets you control both the ISO and shutter speed. The problem with this mode is that you have to balance shutter speed and ISO to get a good exposure. If you’re new to using these settings, you may find this tricky to get right.
So the second option is to shoot using SI Mode (Shutter & ISO Priority Mode). This lets you control either the shutter speed or the ISO. ProCamera then adjusts the other setting to calculate the correct exposure. This mode is great if you’re new to using shutter speed and ISO.
To activate these modes, open the control panel, then tap the ISO & Shutter icon. Keep tapping to toggle through the three modes. You can choose from Automatic Mode, Manual Mode, and Shutter & ISO Priority Mode (SI). Each mode displays a handy description above the control panel.
If you’ve chosen SI or Manual mode, you’ll see the shutter speed and ISO values at the top of the screen. Shutter speed is on the left, measured in seconds. ISO is on the right. Tap the value you want to adjust, then use the slider at the bottom of the screen.
A histogram is a useful tool for checking the light levels in your image. It’s displayed as a graph or scale at the top of the screen.
Red on the right side signals over-exposure (areas that are too bright). Red on the left signals under-exposure (areas that are too dark). Check the histogram, and adjust the exposure settings to avoid under or over-exposure.
To display the histogram in ProCamera, open the control panel, then tap Histogram. Keep tapping the icon to toggle through the four histogram display options. To hide the histogram, tap the icon until it turns white. See the other histogram display options below.
The first histogram shows a column graph in the black bar at the top of the screen. The second one is a continuous solid graph near the top of the viewfinder. The third is a very subtle scale of tiny squares at the top of the screen.
4.13 On-Screen-Display Mode
If you get distracted by the on-screen icons and values when shooting, you can choose to hide all or some of them. Open the control panel, then tap the On-Screen-Display Mode icon at the bottom right.
Toggle through the three options until you’re happy with the display. To ensure all display elements are visible, set it to Standard.
Tap the Flash icon at the top left of the screen to toggle through the different flash options. You can choose from flash on, flash off or auto flash.
Hold down the Flash icon to switch on Torch mode. In Torch mode you can adjust the brightness of the torch light using the scale at the top of the screen.
Best Camera App For iPhone: Which One Should You Choose?
The four iPhone camera apps that we’ve explored in this article are the best out there. But which camera app is best for you?
Native iPhone Camera App
In most shooting situations, the native iPhone camera app might be all you need. It’s easy to use, yet it’s full of great features. These include Live Photos, HDR, Burst Mode, Pano and Portrait Mode.
But sometimes you might need more control over shutter speed, ISO and white balance. And you might want the option to shoot in higher quality RAW format.
When this is the case, you’ll need to use a third-party camera app like VSCO, Camera+ 2 or ProCamera.
These three apps all have similar features. But they have different user interfaces and include their own unique settings. So how do you choose the best third-party camera app for you?
You may have already chosen which one you prefer after reading the information above. But if you’re unsure, I’d recommend starting with the free VSCO app.
VSCO gives you full manual control over focus, shutter speed, ISO and white balance. And the user interface is very easy to use.
If you find that you want even more control over your iPhone camera, you could then try Camera+ 2 or ProCamera.
Camera+ 2 has a Portrait mode that lets you make selective edits to the foreground and background. So if you have an iPhone with the dual lens this app would perfect.
It also has a Slow Shutter mode to help you capture stunning long exposures. And the Macro mode is great for close-up photography.
If you’re looking for a DSLR-like experience with your iPhone camera, then ProCamera is the app for you.
Its interface makes it easy to adjust shutter speed and ISO. And it has an advanced white balance setting for altering color temperature and tint. It even includes a histogram to help you get the perfect exposure.
As well as standard Photo mode, you can buy the extra HDR and Lowlight+ modes. These help you shoot in tricky lighting situations such as night or high contrast scenes.