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Camera + 2.2 adds Clarity feature, UI improvements, more

Tap Tap Tap has released Camera + 2.2 (US$0.99) today, which includes some nice UI changes, automatic saving to the iPhone's camera roll (yay!) and a hot new feature called Clarity, which is Tap Tap Tap's answer to Apple's HDR photo feature. I spent the morning shooting photos with Camera + 2.2, and here's what I found.

UI

Camera + hasn't received a complete UI overhaul, but the changes are quite welcome. Transition animations are smooth and pretty. For example, tapping the Edit button while viewing an image full-screen first pulls the shot forward, than sinks it into the edit window as the tools appear. Tap the Done button when you're finished and the editing tools fall away as the image slides back into the foreground. Each transition is smooth and pretty with no stuttering.

The info panel has been updated with the Tap Tap Tap gang re-ordering a few buttons. Now you get a thumbnail at left, the time stamp and date stamp, size and resolution. Beneath that, you'll find EXIF data and flash status at the time of exposure (on or off). Lastly, a pin identifies where the shot was taken on a Google Map. Give it a tap to open the Maps app.

Finally, you'll find buttons for the camera, editing tools, save options, sharing options and finally a delete button.

Use

Adding effects is greatly improved. They render noticeably faster than before, and some even look a bit different. For example, the edges of Vintage Border (one of my favorites) look more clearly defined.

A fantastic feature lets you save images to the iPhone's Camera Roll as you shoot them. To turn it on, tap the Settings Menu icon and then AutoSave. You'll find three options: Lightbox, Camera Roll and Lightbox & Camera Roll. I can't tell you how many times I've opened up the Camera Roll to search for a certain picture, only to remember that I shot it with Camera +. I've opted to save to both the Camera Roll and the app's Lightbox.

Speaking of Geotagging, a new menu item lets you turn it off. Now, let's talk about real-world use.

Clarity

Now for the big guns. This update's marquee feature is Clarity, which at first glance is much like the HDR functionality Apple introduced to the Camera app with iOS 4.1. Its primary function is to intelligently compensate for over- and under-exposed photos. We've all made the mistake of shooting a portrait of someone who's terribly backlit or been disappointed when a bright sky full of fluffy, white clouds ruined an architectural shot. Doesn't a one-tap solution sound nice? It sure does, so let's try it out.

I went extreme and took a shot of my dog, Batgirl, sitting in direct, harsh sunlight (as she is wont to do). You can see the results above: Clarity significantly enhanced the dark areas, especially the upper left-hand corner. Some of the white became a little washed out (note her left elbow), but that's about the only complaint I have. Not many people would take this shot anyway. Let's move on to a more typical example.

Here's my town's General Store (I'm a country bumpkin). At left you see the original image, and on the right the same shot processed with Clarity. The area on the right, around the SUV, is much more clearly defined, and you can even see the light fixtures inside the store through the windows. Finally, notice the beige Inn to the right of the store. It's much brighter.

By contrast, here are two more images of the store, shot within a minute of the preceding exposure, processed with Apple's HDR technology.

Both Apple's Camera and Tap Tap Tap's Camera + brightened the exposure, and maybe washed out the white of the store a bit. So why would you want to use Clarity vs. HDR? The big selling point is motion.

If you've tried to capture fast motion with Apple's HDR, you'll often end up with an odd image like the one at right. HDR really isn't meant to capture fast motion, as it actually makes two exposures and blends them via a bit of elven magic into the final image (which is why you always get two shots on your Camera Roll). Clarity, on the other hand, is a filter applied to an existing image (you can't shoot in "Clarity Mode"). So that's not an issue.

Of course, photography purists will balk at the idea of one-click image improvement. And that's fine. Most of us aren't photographers. We're Snapshotters. I know I am. If you're like me, give this update a try. It improves on an already nice app with a tidier UI, faster performance and a bit of one-tap magic called Clarity. It's not perfect, but it's better than what I'd shoot on my own.

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