Camera Awesome by SmugMug icon

Camera Awesome (Free) by SmugMug is a fast and powerful camera alternative for your iPhone.

I know what you’re thinking – “another camera app?” Yes, but this one isn’t too bad. Well, except for one thing, but I’ll get to that.

Camera Awesome is extremely fast, and features a slick UI — I’m actually preferring this UI over my longtime favorite, Camera+.

Camera Awesome by SmugMug screenshot

The app starts up quickly (even more-so once you come back to it from earlier), and features everything you would need for a camera app: automatic or separate focus and exposure points, flash control, front/back camera toggling, image stabilization, big button, slow and fast burst, timer, and interval shooting modes. You can even access composition grids (Thirds, Golden, Trisec, and Square), enable automatic post processing presets, and instant sharing to your favorite social networks. All of this is right from the camera mode.

Oh, and one more thing: Camera Awesome can do video. Unfortunately, you can’t alter it in any way, and it can only record video in portrait mode. However, it’s still better than no video, like in Camera+.

Once you capture an image in Camera Awesome, the screen does not freeze, as you would probably notice in other camera apps. Instead, you will see a small thumbnail in the bottom left corner, but you are free to continue shooting as you please, with no downtime whatsoever. I loved that about the app.

Camera Awesome is more than just a simple camera app, you can do all of your post processing in it too. To access the “Awesomizer” part of the app, just tap on the last image thumbnail in the corner.

You can view a gallery of your recent images and video taken with Camera Awesome, or you can even import from your iPhone’s Photo Library. When editing a photo (again, videos can’t be altered), you get several options to “awesomize” your image and impress your friends.

The Awesomize functionality basically allows you to enhance the image with a slider, and you can even finely tune sharpness, temperature, vibrance, and contrast levels (also sliders). Other effects, such as filters, textures, frames and presets (combination of the previous three for an “artsy” look) can be applied and give you a completely unique photo.

Once you’re done making your photo awesome, make sure to save and share it! You can export it to your Camera Roll, and share to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, YouTube, and of course, SmugMug. If you have a SmugMug account, you can even enable automatic cloud storage and cross-posting to your other social networks. The app also allows you to sign up for a free two week trial of SmugMug, in case you’re thinking of switching over. I was actually quite surprised that I didn’t see Tumblr or Instagram support here, as I believe those are two pretty big ones that should be supported in any photo app. Maybe in the future.

Camera Awesome by SmugMug screenshot

Now, my biggest gripe with the app is that it is not actually free. It’s riddled with in-app purchases everywhere! For the initial free download, you get 36 total effects (presets, filters, textures, and frames). However, the app has a total of 297 effects, and the other 261 must be bought in sets of nine for $0.99 each.

If you do the math, that equals $29 worth of in-app purchases for you to have the “complete” package; this is almost as much as a basic account on SmugMug itself. I find this hokum to be truly ridiculous. I don’t mind supporting developers, but $29 for a camera app that should have these included in a flat price of say, $4.99, is a complete ripoff (in comparison, Camera+ is only $1.99 and only has a single in-app purchase of $0.99, so the total is $2.98).

In short, this is an awesome camera app that is tarnished with the stupid freemium business model. Of course, you can always just download the app and use what it comes with, but you’ll always be reminded of what you’re missing out on since those in-app purchases will always be shown to you (at least Hipstamatic only shows their add-ons in the Hipstamart).

I love the app itself because it’s so fast, but am extremely disgusted with the business model that SmugMug decided to go with. Since I’m not going to cough up $29 for everything, I will just use this for taking photos and basic post processing — everything else, I will use my other dozen or so photography apps for.