App of the Week: Camera Awesome, the Most...Um...Awesome Photo App Ever

App: Camera Awesome Platform: iPhone, iPad Website: Awesomize.com Cost: Free

I've reviewed a number of camera/photography apps in this space. It comes with being a photographer who appreciates technology. I wanted a digital SLR camera as soon as one hit the market, and I enjoy shooting photos with my phone if for no other reason than the absolute convenience of it.

Phones, however, are limited in what they can do. Even with sharp new lenses, better (and more controllable) flash settings and fairly wide simulated aperture openings, there are just some things the camera on a phone (or iPad) can't and probably won't ever be able to do. But, for all the limitations, the tools for shooting photos with your phone are substantial. I recently advised a friend going on a trip to not bother getting a point-and-shoot camera and using his phone instead. I would never have said that even five years ago.

As the cameras in phones become more sophisticated, so too are the apps that use them. Whether it is photo editing like with Photoshop Express or sharing via Instagram, photography helper tools abound. But with Camera Awesome, you might just be able to ditch most of them.

He Shoots, He Scores The first thing that impressed me with CA was the ability to isolate and lock focal and exposure points in a shot. Essentially, with a simple tap of the screen, you can set your shot to expose for a certain point in the viewfinder and to focus on a single point. It gets you about as close to manual camera settings as any app has ever provided.

The app also has a number of quick settings to assist with shots like image stabilization, timer and even slow- and fast-burst settings for taking multiple shots with each tap. Add to that a host of composition settings that assist with everything from keeping your horizon level to square images to advanced composition tools like a grid for thirds as well as in-shot filters, and this is a powerful way to shoot photos and is fast enough to make it your default camera app.

Power Editing

Once the shot has been taken, there are a boatload of editor settings that make transforming your image extremely easy. Simple composition and enhancement settings are perfect for quick touching up. I've found the auto settings to work very well, but I have already dug deeper into them to adjust things to my liking.

With photo services like Instagram, most of them only accept square photos and this allows a very fast conversion from standard 2:3 size ratio.

Then there are the filters and effects and frames. It's an impressive list and, wisely, they give users the option of purchasing more. There are even filters available for purchase from the very well known Kevin Kubota collection. If you like the interesting filters and frames on Instagram and Hipstamatic, Camera Awesome leaves them in the dust.

Best of all, you can reverse any edits you made easily and even store the original photo alongside the edited version for later tweaks. Easy Share Once edits are done, it is super easy to share images with CA's built-in options for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, e-mail and the like. With Instagram, in particular, the folks who designed the app were clever enough to not just force an auto-post, but to allow the image to be opened inside the Instagram app so captions and locations can be added or filters applied if you really want to go nuts.

Bottom LIne To be honest, I was shocked after playing with this app knowing that it is free. Sure, you have to pay for additional filters and effects, but there are plenty to play with right out of the box and when you combine them, there is a nearly endless array of possibilities. This is certainly on my list of early favorites for best apps of 2012. If you like to take photos with your phone, get it immediately.

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