The 10 best new photography features in iOS 7

One major reason—maybe the reason—to snap up iOS 7 is the new photographic capabilities built into the Camera and Photos apps. The new features expand the range of photos you can take, and most are accessible and easy to use. iOS 7 works on the iPhone 4 and later, the iPad 2 and later, and the fifth-generation iPod touch, though you’ll see some variation in features depending on the model you have.

Shooting

1. The Camera app’s new vision: Apple completely overhauled the Camera app’s interface in iOS 7, giving it a different look, feel, and style of operation, with slick performance throughout. Using the text-based swipe interface is much easier than poking at tiny buttons, as in previous versions, and it lets you access the different camera types much more quickly and easily. Just swipe to the Photo camera and tap, and you have a picture. Do it again, and you have a video, a square image, a panorama, or (if you have the iPhone 5s) a slow-motion video.

Slo-mo (iPhone 5s only) and Square are the new cameras added to the revamped Camera app.

2. Slo-mo camera: Slow-motion videos play back to the viewer at a speed slower than the one they were shot at—we’ve all seen sports video replays where the action is slowed dramatically so you can get a better view of a brilliant play. With the iPhone 5s (but not with any other iPhone), iOS 7 lets you use one of the built-in video cameras to shoot a video and then choose which parts to slow down. Designed to capture quick-action shots, the camera shoots at 120 frames per second, but you can use built-in software to slow down the playback at the points you choose while keeping the rest at “normal” speed.

Slo-mo video shoots at 120 fps, but you can later trim the video and choose the precise portions that should be slow.

3. Bursting at the seams: Nothing is simpler or more useful than the new Camera’s burst mode. Burst mode functions here just the way it does on your DSLR. You hold down the shutter button, and the camera captures 10 frames per second. It’s a great way to catch fast, full-resolution action without having to shoot a video.

Burst mode lets you take many images in sequence to capture just the right instant.

4. It’s hip to be square: The new Square camera is Apple’s answer to the Instagram-style cam that has become ubiquitous since Instagram arrived on the scene and square photos became uber-cool to a generation born too late for the original Polaroid era. With iOS 7 anyone can take a square photo—with or without the obligatory filter. For some snapshooters, that capability may be enough to entice them away from Instagram altogether.

Organizing and sharing

The Years pane takes some getting used to. You can tap to see a larger thumbnail of a particular photo, but it's hard to aim.

5. A photo finish: Apple overhauled and simplified the Photos app’s interface, with three major panes: Photos, Shared, and Albums. Within Photos, the Years block shows what looks like a computer-generated collage, except that it consists of each photo you took with or synced to your phone. Each year shows up as its own block, with a general location. This looks extremely cool, but it takes a little getting used to and would benefit from some refinement. If you tap a block lightly, you get a thumbnail of the image you’re touching—but because the thumbnails are so tiny, it’s difficult to aim precisely. Thankfully, tapping inside the Years block breaks it out into larger, more usable thumbnail sets called Collections, each labeled with date and location. Tap again and you get the precise image or Moment you want to see. From there you can edit or share your picture.

6. Filter finesse: About 100 million photo filters, available from countless iOS apps, will give you any special effect you choose. So you might say it’s about time Apple got on the filter bandwagon (or you might say “why bother?”). Apple provides only eight filters—three of them monochromatic—but they’re arguably the ones whose effects photographers use most often, and some might even improve on auto-enhance button. If you’re the kind of iPhoneographer who tends to default to the native camera, Apple’s new filters will give you yet another reason not to leave the app.

Built-in filters give you three monochrome settings and five popular camera-based variations to apply before or after taking your shot.

7. Map this: When you’re constantly snapping images, remembering where you took each shot in the Camera Roll becomes a chore. Although iOS 6 did have a photo mapper, that mapper wasn’t nearly as specific as the new Collections feature. Collections sorts through all your photos and organizes them by date and location. When you tap the location, it automatically moves you to the map.

Tap the location in a Collection or Moment, and it will automatically map your image set.

8. Better albums: The Albums pane is more granular than in the past, but in a good way. The Photos software  separates your panoramas and videos from the rest of the images on your Camera Roll, making them easier to find in a hurry, but retaining them in your main Camera Roll with all your other images.

Global controls

Swipe up, tap the camera icon at bottom right, and shoot. What could be faster?

9. Control Center launch: iOS 7 gives you a new, super-quick way to launch the Camera app and to access the Camera Roll: the new Control Center. Unlock the phone, swipe up to access Control Center, and tap the camera icon. That’s even easier than searching for the Camera app’s icon on your home screen.

10. Shared streams: iCloud has always let you stream photos, but now you can have a shared photo stream that selected people can contribute to and comment on. It’s still limited to the most recent 1000 images uploaded, but you can restrict who has access to or can comment on your photos. This feature is especially useful for sharing a group activity—letting multiple people add shots to the shared photo stream can lend various perspectives to the same event.

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