With a thoughtful design and robust shooting and editing features, including one I've never seen before, Camera360 is much more than just another Instagram clone.
The camera and photo-editing app started on iOS, moved to Android, and finally made its way to Windows Phone in early April 2013. Now, Pinguo, the company behind the app, boasts that Camera360 has more than 10 million users. Remember, while Windows Phone doesn't have an Instagram app, it does have several third-party clients. You can't share directly to Instagram from Camera360, but I still recommend it for any Windows Phone user who likes to take photos.
When you first launch Camera360, there’s a colorful, if slightly over-the-top, animated introduction with music that shows off the app's most recently added feature. Based solely on that intro, Camera360 is one of the most beautiful camera applications I've seen.
Once you get past that spectacle, there’s a simple viewfinder with a few onscreen controls. The team behind Camera360 is really proud of that “less is more” user experience (their words), but it left me a bit dumbfounded as I tried to figure out what to do next. Sure, the camera shutter button, shown as a camera, is obvious, but the rest of the features, not so much.
At the bottom of the screen there’s the “compass,” which is what Pinguo calls the wheel around the camera button. That's where you'll find all of the camera filters and effects. On the rest of the screen, there are buttons for flash and to switch cameras.
The compass houses five scenes that help jazz up your photos based on the type of scene you’re shooting: portrait, food, night, landscape, and micro (for close-up shots). Nestled inside those scenes is where you find the filters, which alter the tones, lighting, and focus of your finished photo. When you swipe through each scene, the app makes a faint yet satisfying clicking noise, though you can turn this off in the settings if it bugs you.
At last count, Camera360 has 22 filters divided among the five scenes, far more than you'll find on Instagram. The filters have both descriptive (Black & White, Retro) and abstract names (Sweet, Elegant, Fall). Some of the filters look plain ugly to me (ahem, Sweet and Dream), but my favorites are HDR, Color Sketch, Sunny, and Foggy.
You can adjust the scene and filters before you line up the shot to get the perfect photo, something you cannot do with Instagram and other apps like it. If you’re in a hurry or just lazy, you can choose the auto shooting mode and the app will take a picture without any effects, which you can edit later.
Outside of the compass, there are buttons on the screen to change flash modes, manually focus the camera, adjust the exposure levels, and to switch cameras. On the lower-right side of the screen, there’s a button to choose frames for your photo based on types of film, such as such as Polaroid or Pinhole. I like these, because they remind of the frames in Instagram, but look a heck of a lot cooler.
The current starring feature of Camera360, which was introduced in mid-September 2013, is Double Exposure. This is a neat effect that overlays one photo on top of another to add texture and depth. Swipe up the camera shutter icon to get to the Double Exposure setting. You can then select a scene and filter, or just use the auto mode to take the picture.
It's a two-step process to take a double-exposed photo in the app. First, snap a photo of a pattern or scenery. The effect works best when you choose a bold pattern or something that has a lot of contrast or texture, like a plant.
Once you take the first shot, the viewfinder will display an opaque overlay of the texture or pattern of whatever you captured to help you take the next shot. Take another picture, this time making sure your subject has sufficient dimension. What I mean is that don't photograph a wall or flat surface. Instead try someone's face or another 3D object because the effect shows up best where there is both highlight and shadow. After you take the second shot, the app will save the finished image.