Hipstamatic 300 Review

Hipstamatic 300, the latest update to the Hipstamatic phone app, was released this morning on iOS and I nearly didn't download it. It sounded modern and a bit generic rather than sticking to it's retro niche. Did they ruin it? Here's the blurb:

  • Professional grade photo editing suite
  • All new ProMode capture with manual controls
  • Native iOS camera roll support
  • Reprocess and change the lens/flash/film
  • Multiple aspect ratio support
  • See social media feedback right in Hipstamatic
  • Save and share favorite presets
  • Copy/Paste effects from one photo onto another
  • Order prints of any square photo in your entire library with redesigned PrintLab

Wow, that's a pretty major update. But can it really hope to compete with ProCamera as well Snapseed and most other editing suites rather than doing it's own retro thing? 

The first surprise is that it runs well. I'm still using an iPhone 4S and so far it seems to run fine. I do find that it can clash with other apps that are sitting in the background, but the old version did that too. Just close the others apps and it should be good.

The next reassurance is that the navigation isn't obvious. Just like the old version. It's not that it's difficult particularly, just quirky and takes a little time to find your way around.

Once you get the hang of the new screens though, you'll quickly start to appreciate just how much thought has gone into the design. The new camera, in particular, is extremely nice to use. Press the prominent 'M' button and you have manual controls for shutter speed, exposure compensation, focusing, white balance and ISO, as well as flash (or continuous 'torch') and aspect ratio. It's fast, easy and effective.

You also still have access to the your films and lenses, except that in the new camera mode they come in groups. So they are effectively filters, as per Instagram etc., except that you can create and name them based on your film, lens and gel selections. That makes total sense, and should be a lot quicker to remember and choose your preferred settings. So, for example, I might have my favoured John S lens and BlackKeys film saved as 'BW1' or whatever I choose.

The new camera mode shows on screen in real time the effects of the manual settings that you change, but not how it will look with the filter. Given the processing required I'm sure that makes sense. It still take it's time in producing the final 'print' too. Re-assuringly familiar.

One thing that seems strange, and is maybe only a 'feature' on the smaller screen of the 4S, is that the framing for a square image doesn't entirely fit on the screen. Annoying, but I suspect will be fine on the larger screens of the 5 and 6.

You can quickly access the 'classic camera', which behaves just as it did pre-upgrade, and switch to the front camera using the little camera icon in the top right. From the 'filter' selection screen you can also access the store to buy new items, check your existing purchases and access the shuffle mode that chooses a random filter each time.

In a way I'm sad that the new camera mode works so well because it might mean I rarely use the 'classic' camera. It's a shame that the new camera couldn't retain a little more of the traditional interface, but it's certainly well designed and effective.

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I've had no regrets now about upgrading, and the new Hipstamatic retains it's pride of place on my main homescreen, and on a 4S that's some pretty exclusive real estate to occupy.