Hands on with Facebook Camera

From Instagram to Camera Awesome to Pixlr-o-Matic, every popular mobile photography app already offers the ability to share photos to Facebook--and Twitter, and a ton of other sites, for that matter.

Facebook Camera really wants to know where you are.

Nevertheless, if you'd like to sacrifice sharing versatility for a bit more Facebook-only granularity, Facebook Camera is a new photo app launched by the social-networking giant itself. In my brief hands-on tests, however, it came across as an app designed to harvest your phone number and current location rather than a compelling alternative to any other camera app that already exists.

Just getting the app on my iPhone proved to be more of a challenge than it should have been. At press time, a search for "Facebook Camera" on the iOS version of the App Store didn't bring up any results for the app. There are ways around that, though: You can enter your mobile phone number on the official Facebook Camera site to get a download link sent to your phone (no thanks), or you can open the same page in mobile Safari to get redirected to the download page in the mobile App Store.

Facebook Camera is getting creepy with all these location requests.

Once the app was installed, it didn't do much to combat Facebook's perception as a privacy troll. Right off the bat, the installed app asks you to turn on Location Services so that it can access your camera roll. In other words, it wants to know where you are so that it can access photos stored on your phone. That doesn't make sense. You can decline to turn on Location Services, but that means you won't be able to use the app to share any photos you've already taken outside of the app.

If you're OK with sharing your location or using the app's camera to take photos, there are benefits in using the app for hard-core Facebook users. One big advantage is the ability to tag friends in photos before they're uploaded, using the app's "tap to tag" feature.

Facebook Camera's best features are its friend-tagging and sharing controls.

When you select "Create a Post" after taking a photo, Facebook Camera also wants to know where you are. The constant requests for your location are annoying at best and creepy at worst. You can decline the request, and the "Create a Post" feature lets you add text to your post from a mobile device and pick more-granular Facebook sharing features than third-party apps; you can elect to share photos with you entire friend list, selected lists of friends, specific friends, or just yourself.

That's how it's supposed to work, at least. I tried several times to upload photos to Facebook with the app, and it failed repeatedly. I'm willing to chalk that one up to possible network and connectivity issues, but that sort of fit right in with the underwhelming nature of the rest of the app.

Uploading photos didn't work for me.

Beyond the deeper-dive Facebook features, there's not much here that doesn't already exist in other photo apps, and in most cases, other photo apps do things significantly better. Just like Instagram, you can view feeds of your own photos or see feeds of your friends' photos. You can crop and rotate photos, just like in the iPhone's native camera app. You can apply basic photo filters, but they're not as exciting or extensive as the ones you'd find in Pixlr-o-Matic or Camera Awesome.

Other than the integrated friend-tagging and Facebook share-control features, this just isn't a compelling camera app. It fences its users off from sharing photos on other social networks, and it feels like the photos are secondary to Facebook's desire to collect your location data. Instagram remains the best Facebook-owned photography app, and let's hope Instagram doesn't morph into something resembling the current iteration of Facebook Camera.

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