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Hands on with Pris camera app for iOS

Thanks to our smartphones, many of us have a camera in our pockets at all times. And while you can take great photos with your iPhone using Apple's Camera app, there are alternatives that can offer capabilities you won't find in the stock offering. Digital Arch's new app, Pris, aims to make it easier to take better photos.

The first thing you'll notice about Pris is a dearth of buttons. When you first start up, an overlay clues you in to the gestures you'll use to control the app. For example, to take a picture, you tap anywhere in the viewfinder. Swiping to the left or right switches into a manual mode where you can control the focus and exposure--they can even be set independently by dragging their respective reticules to the desired place on the viewfinder. You can jump back to automatic at any time by swiping up on the viewfinder, or toggle between the modes by tapping the tab on the right hand of the viewfinder.

Pris provides a couple other handy tools for composing your photos--one is the grid that divides the viewfinder into thirds (a feature which Apple's built-in Camera app has, but squirrels away into a sub menu); the second, a live histogram at the bottom of the screen. A digital clock-style counter lets you know how many pictures you've shot with the app.

By default--which is to say, in portrait mode--Pris shoots in a 1:1 square ratio, instead of using the much more rectangular image that you get from Apple's Camera app. Flip Pris to landscape, though, and you'll instead get the widescreen 2.35:1 ratio. (The exact resolutions of those pictures depend on the camera of the iOS device you're using.)

While that widescreen mode is great for panoramas, it's even better when you realize that Pris does video, too. Swipe to the left on the bottom of the screen and you'll switch into video mode, with many of the same composition tools as in photo mode. Instead of the tripartite grid, though, you'll instead get a sort of "camera safe" outline, letting you know exactly what part of the image will be captured, and a runtime clock will replace the photo counter. But you still get access to the histogram as well as the manual focus and exposure mode.

Of course, once you've shot photos or video, you want to review your output. You can access the review mode by swiping to the right from the picture mode (or the left from the video mode). By default, you'll see your most recent capture, but you can swipe through them in either direction. Pris also provides you with a few pieces of metadata, including a timestamp and the image or video's histogram. For photos, you'll also get the exposure information, including f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO; for videos you get the runtime, and you can preview them right in that mode by tapping on the video.

While many other camera apps for iOS write their images directly to your device's Camera Roll, Pris takes a different approach. It maintains its own little independent library, but lets you send choose when you want to export an image or video to your Camera Roll. (Keep in mind that also means that if you delete Pris from your iOS device, you'll lose any videos or images you haven't offloaded.) You can also delete images you aren't satisfied with by tapping the trash icon. Both emphasize the idea of picking your best photos and videos before sharing them.

Speaking of sharing, Pris currently sports integration with only a single social network. Given the square aspect ratio of its default shooting mode, you'll probably guess correctly that it's Instagram. Tapping the Instagram button below any photo will prompt you to launch the service's app on your device, and it will automatically load in the photo in question.

Pris is $2 at launch, but will jump up to $4. It works on any iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, or fourth-generation iPod touch running iOS 5 or later, as well as on the second- or third-generation iPad in compatibility mode.


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