The Best Mobile Imaging Apps of 2012

Getting great shots out of your smartphone

Beautiful things don’t wait until you’ve got your gear together; we all know how frustrating it can be when you see something worth shooting, and you don’t have your camera on you. Your smartphone isn’t a perfect substitute, but the cameras on high-end smart phones are becoming more and more impressive all the time. Here are some tools to give you quality photos and basic editing, all from your smartphone.

1. Camera Plus Pro (iPhone)

This app brings the quality of your iPhone’s camera features up a notch. For still photographs, Camera Plus pro provides Anti-shake, Burst mode, Big Button, Grid Lines, Geo Tags, and a Timer; for video capture, you get new features like filters, time lapse, and digital zoom. Probably the most interesting feature of this app is the touch exposure option—like a spot meter, you can touch the screen for correct exposure at the point you want. If you want just a few new bells and whistles for your iPhone camera, this is a convenient, easy-to-use app.

2. AutoStitch (iPhone)

This app allows you to take panoramic photos from your smartphone with relative ease. This app is capable of blending 20 images, adjusting exposure automatically. While it doesn’t support sweep panorama like a decent digital camera would, it’s straightforward to use—just select the photos you want to blend, and let AutoStitch do its thing. The app also allows you to share your work if you’re within your T-Mobile broadband coverage area, though it unfortunately does not support geo-tagging. Quality is somewhat dependent on a steady hand during capture, but if you’ve got a great panoramic shot in mind and nothing but your iPhone at hand, this app is your best bet.

3. 3D Camera (iPhone)

This app takes hold of a simple idea and executes it well. Take two images of the same object, slightly displaced, and 3D Camera will create a 3D image you can view with any pair of anaglyph 3D glasses. (Juicy Bits will even send you a free pair if you don’t have one.) It gets a little hard to handle when you switch to stereogram (glasses-free) or oscillating mode—people vulnerable to dizziness, nausea, or headaches should probably stick with the glasses—but overall it’s a fun, cheap little add-on for your photographic adventures.

4. Retro Camera (Android)

If retro, Instagram-style hipster photography is your thing, this free app will make it happen. Retro Camera comes with 5 vintage cameras inspired by the Lomo, Holga, Polaroid, Diana, toy cameras, and Shot quality is only limited by your phone’s camera—the effects are designed impressively well. You can also share your shots right away on Facebook. For a free app, Retro Camera is definitely worth getting for the amateur photographer who wants that old-school vibe.

5. Action Snap (Android)

One of the best features of modern digital cameras is the machine-gun speed with which they capture—you can take fifteen shots in a few seconds, and sift through them later to find one where nobody’s face looks weird. Action Snap allows your Android phone to do the same thing, taking four shots (or nine, depending on your settings) in rapid succession, so you can get your timing right for an action shot. Especially in nature photography, opportunities come and go in a moment, so it helps to have this app ready whenever you’re outdoors. You can change the interval manually, and Action Snap supports digital zoom and a variety of effects.

Bio: Jane Johnson is a writer for GoingCellular, a popular site that provides cell phone related news, commentary, reviews on popular providers like T-Mobile.