Following the App Store’s debut in 2008, a cottage industry for third-party iPhone camera apps began to flourish, a testament to how underwhelming Apple’s software was at the time. Over time, Apple started catching up, with the latest iOS releases proving the company now takes the Camera app as seriously as the hardware that drives it.
Third-party developers responded by finding new ways to differentiate their camera apps from the one already built in. The latest to face this challenge head-on is Filmic, virtually a brand name when it comes to shooting mobile video. Can the makers of popular video app Filmic Pro conjure similar magic with photos as well?
Filmic Firstlight is an iPhone camera app tailored to shutterbugs who want more control over how images are taken. Although the app offers automatic focus and exposure—one tap on the screen to set, another to lock—most everything else involves manual intervention. It’s great for capturing scenery and static subjects, but a little too fiddly for shooting fast-moving subjects like kids or pets.
Focus and exposure can also be independently adjusted with the swipe of a finger: left and right for the former, up and down for the latter. An RGB histogram dynamically updates with real-time exposure feedback, while analytics show peaks for sharp focus or zebra stripes for unruly highlight and shadow areas. There’s even a nifty loupe feature (tap and hold to summon or dismiss) to help bring a subject closer while making precise focus adjustments, as well as a lens selector for quickly switching between all available front and back cameras on your device.
Images are saved in your choice of JPEG or HEIC and with or without HDR (on supported iPhone models), with a full complement of additional options (burst mode, timer, flash, grid overlays, aspect ratio presets) available from the settings menu. A custom function button in the upper left corner defaults to opening Filmic Pro for shooting video instead of taking photos but can be configured to perform one of eight different tasks instead. And yes, the volume rocker acts as a shutter button, a convenience the creators of other camera apps sometimes overlook.
Beyond the basics, Filmic Firstlight can also enhance your photos with vintage simulations, film grain, and vignettes. Unlike Instagram-style filters applied after the fact, these are live, real-time effects, so what you preview on screen is precisely what’s captured. The downside is that Firstlight can’t apply looks and filters after a shot is taken—or…