Hipstamatic ($1.99)  

Platform: iOS

Hipstamatic encourages the idea of "shooting-from-the-hip" by allowing you to choose a film type and lens before shooting and hoping for the best. This image was shot with the John S lens and Ina's 1969m film. Both of which are available by default in the app.

Incredibly popular with casual iPhone photographers, Hipstamatic is designed to emulate the entire experience of shooting with toy cameras. Its slogan 'Digital Photography never looked so analog' sums up the company's aims fairly concisely. Hipstamatic features virtual interchangeable lenses, film stock and flashes to approximate the classic toy cameras of the past. It is possible to purchase additional packs that include more 'lenses' and 'film stocks'. Each film type and lens have their own unique look. 

To further replicate the toy camera experience, in 'classic' mode the 'viewfinder' preview only shows a small magnified view of what you are pointing the camera's lens at, and as with the viewfinders found on many old toy cameras, what you see is not necessarily what you get in the final image. 

Hipstamatic can save its images as 1936 x 1936 px files (3.7MP), but the files take quite a while to process, sometimes up to a minute, even on the most up-to-date iPhone 4.

The 'front' of the camera is where you can make lens, film and flash changes before shooting.
The default purchase of Hipstamatic comes with 3 types of 'film stock'. More packs can be purchased through the app itself.
Once you have taken a photo and it has finished processing, it can then be shared on many different social networking sites.

Hipstamatic's drive for authenticity is evidenced in the functioning of its flash switch. Once it has been turned on it cannot be turned off until you take a photograph. If you change your mind, and decide you don't want flash you can always put your finger over it, which in itself can create some very interesting effects.

Plastic Bullet ($1.99) 

Platform: iOS

Plastic Bullet allows you to quickly add one of a very large number of basic filters to your image. Control over the effects is non-existant but the filters are effective, very varied, and very numerous.

In complete contrast to Snapseed, Plastic Bullet is a fully automatic app which allows you to apply one of a huge number of filters to your iPhone photographs (either already saved to your camera roll or 'live' from the camera app) which replicate a number of 'retro' effects. The breadth of filters contained in Plastic Bullet is impressive - everything from lomo-esque light leaks to outdated and cross-processed film effects. There are filters for color and monochrome, and a wide range of filters that incorporate frames and edge effects as well, which can be previewed either individually or in groups of four. Plastic Bullet's developers are fond of claiming that the possibilities are endless, and after using this app for more than a year, we'd be inclined to agree. 

The appeal of Plastic Bullet is twofold - firstly, there are a crazy amount of filter effects to choose from, so you're bound to find something that appeals - and secondly, the 'shuffle' approach to selecting your desired filter is effortless and fun. Addictive in fact. 

Filters can be previewed either individually or in groups of four (iPad users have the option to view nine filter effects at a time). If you like a particular filter, just click to make it full-screen, and press the heart icon at the top of the display...
...at which point you'll be prompted to either save the image, or share it via Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook or Flickr. Developing (saving) takes time though, especially if you choose to save at original resolution. Even on the powerful iPhone 4S, it can take more than 30 seconds. 

That said, because there are so many options, it would be great to see them grouped, however basically, into general filter 'types' and some control over the intensity of effects, or a toggle for border effects on/off would naturally make Plastic Bullet more versatile. Overall though, for the price, it's a bargain, and assuming you have the patience to preview it's enormous range of filters, you'll be rewarded with some of the most interesting and convincing 'retro' filters that we've seen. 

Snapseed ($4.99) 

Platform: iOS 

For me, this image was more about color and pattern than subject and composition. So I first applied the 'Drama' filter to increase contrast and saturation and really bring out the vibrancy of the balloon, then added a grunge filter which overlaid the texture and blurred out the edges.

Originally exclusive to the Apple iPad, Snapseed is now available for the iPhone. Although not specifically a 'retro' photography app, among Snapseed's most interesting features are a range of fun 'lo-fi' filters and special effects. 

Operation is based around the idea of selecting control points that can be individually adjusted to give you more control than would otherwise be possible with a blanket adjustment. For a more in-depth look at the features of this app please read our Snapseed for iPad review. 

All of the editing features in Snapseed are available through the left-hand menu. From here you have the option to perform basic tuning adjustments like brightness, contrast, white balance and color or to apply pre-designed filters. You can also use the 'Selective Adjust' feature to change specific parameters on select areas of your image.
In Selective Adjust mode you place points on the image where you want to apply the adjustment. Once a point is set you can change its parameter by clicking it and scrolling up and down. By scrolling left and right you will adjust the intensity of the parameter. Using a 2-finger pinch you can also adjust the range of the effect (shown as the red area around the selected point)
For a quick edit you can also apply vintage, grunge, drama and black and white filters to your shots. Just like in the selective adjustment mode you can adjust the intensity of the filters by scrolling left and right as well as scrolling up and down to change the parameter you are adjusting.

Compared to the experience on the iPad it can be somewhat more difficult to achieve the same level of fine control on the smaller screen of the iPhone, however it is still quite easy to use and images process reasonably quickly. Unfortunately, the iPhone does not support the iPad's camera connection kit so you will only be able to edit photos taken with your iPhone (unless you copy them to your phone using an alternative method).

Other apps to consider...

We've covered some of our favourite retro photography apps here, but there are many more available. Here's a list of other apps to consider. 

Luminance ($0.99) - iOS

Luminance gives you basic control over brightness, contrast and tone curves. Each parameter can be adjusted individually or you can apply a pre-defined effect filter to your image. After the effect is applied you can still tweak the individual adjustments to get your picture just the way you want.

PhotoForge2 ($2.99) - iOS

PhotoForge2 provides more minute control over image adjustments than many other apps currently available. With this app you can edit curves, apply effects, crop, rotate and apply layers.  It is possible to purchase additional automatic vintage camera filters that can be integrated into the app.

PhotoToaster ($0.99) - iOS

PhotoToaster allows you to add retro-style filters to you images by either applying a pre-set filter or by adjusting settings manually. You can also crop, rotate and straighten within the app. All editing is non destructive, which means that you can go back and change your settings no matter how many adjustments you've made.


In the next part of this 3-part series on 'lo-fi' photography we'll take at computer software, and software techniques.