The Cameleon Camera App for iOS Review


The Cameleon camera app for the iOS cameras including the new iPhone 5 was released (version 1.2) August 13, 2013 for $2.99. (Does not work on the iPhone 4S).

Who is Cameleon For?
My initial impression is that this app is not a “toy camera wanna be” This is a tool for the serious photographer and the first proof is the viewfinder. The layout has minimal clutter with the image area taking up most of the real estate. Three buttons including: 

  • The shutter/capture, which is in the center located right above the iPhone home button.
  • To the left is access to the camera roll.
  • To the right are the presets.

The top menu has two buttons one for flash (On, Off & Auto) the center button for Low Light Boost (On, Off).

How Cameleon Works
When Cameleon is activated by touching the screen with one finger, the photographer activates a cyan square and yellow circle that can be swiped and placed anywhere on the image to lock focus and exposure. Tapping with two fingers separates the square from the circle to have an independent focus and exposure points.

The power tool for Cameleon is located on the lower menu. The Preset button (shaped like a gear) fans out when pressed and offers photographers seven choices. The top one in red is “Normal,” the camera’s default setting, which is helpful for going back to baseline quickly. Six buttons (1- 6) allow for customized settings, including Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness and Hue. Sliders with corresponding numerical values control these adjustments; they can be edited, reset and saved.

1. Flyout Presets Edit Panel (set to Normal)
2. FlyoutPresets Edit Panel (set to #4 B&W) with live preview of effect
3. Flyout Presets Edit Panel (set to #6 COLOR HI SAT) with live preview of effect

1. View of Focus and Exposure in default capture mode
2. View of (cyan) Focus Square and (yellow) Exposure Circle separated and placed for their specific attributes
3. Presets Edit Panel Levers

The photographer can select a preset and then in real-time see their adjustments applied to the scene before pressing the shutter/capture button. Four important features for us “control freak” photographers.

  1. You can pre visualize the effect you have selected.
  2. You can switch between the presets before you capture.
  3. You can adjust the settings for a preset as you go.
  4. You can also edit the images after capture accessing the images using camera roll button.

1. View showing the Flash setting on the menu top left and Low light boost top center. The menu bottom left is the camera roll, center is the capture button and to the right is the Flyout Presets.
2. View of the Camera Roll

Having control of those basic photographic image controls without having to choose between bubblegum colors and plastic lens filters; being able to see the adjustments applied to an image and then being able to customize them on the fly prior to capture is the game changer.

1. Flyout Presets Edit Panel (set to #1 B&W LO CON) with live preview of effect
2. Flyout Presets Edit Panel (set to #3 COLOR LO CON) with live preview of effect

1. Flyout Presets Edit Panel (set to #4 B&W HI CON) with live preview of effect
2. Flyout Presets Edit Panel (set to #6 COLOR HI SAT) with live preview of effect

I personally set my 6 presets to Low Contrasts Black and White, High Contrast Black and White, Low Contrast Color, High Contrast Color, Super Sharp High Saturation Color and High Contrast Super Sharp Black and White. The setting are nondestructive and correspond to the approaches I take with my film photography, and they work as starting points for my cameraphone image.

1. Shot at NORMAL
2. Shot at #3 COLOR LO CON
3. Shot at #6 COLOR HI SAT

1. Shot at #6 COLOR HI SAT
2. Shot at NORMAL
3. Shot at NORMAL

1. Shot at #1 B&W LOW CON
2. Shot at #3 COLOR LO CON
3. Shot at #6 COLOR HI CON

1. Shot at #5 B&W NORMAL
2. Shot at #4 B&W HI CON

Social Media Integration
Although the linkages to Email, Tumblr, FaceBook and Instagram are built-in, I rarely post images directly from Cameleon. Like my film and D-SLR photography, I find that I must tweak here and dodge there. I use the iOS Snapseed app as it corresponds to my particular stylistic approach very well. Since I have been using the Cameleon app camera, though, I rarely have to mess with the basic adjustments in Snapseed, focusing instead on selective adjustments, cropping to square, vignetting and adding borders and/or frames in my distinct way. As a matter of practicing safe social media sharing, I add a small watermark using the Marksta app and then upload to my favorite image sites.

1. SNAPSEED Import

2. SELECTIVE BRIGHTNESS adjustment #2 multiple points

1.CENTER FOCUS tool OUTER BRIGHTNESS vignette setting
2. CENTER FOCUS tool BLUR setting

1.FRAME tool add white frame #5

2. MARKSTA watermark tool
3. MARKSTA IPTC metadata tool

My apps photo folder on the iPhone 5 screen

CAMERA ROLL shot of IMAGE ready to post

Wish List for the Next Version
In future versions of Cameleon, I hope to have the ability to use a grid for composition and to be able to shoot square format in the camera. I would also like to see my presets as little icons or pictures or even the ability to call them something other than numbers 1- 6.

I consider the Cameleon to be a professional tool and I would like to be able to add an IPTC metadata template with my contact and copyright information. I appreciate that Cameleon is one of the few iOS cameras that do not record the GPS data for the location of the camera. From the standpoint of personal privacy, this is really appreciated, but it might be nice to have the option to turn that on or off only for future captioning reference purposes.

For the photographer who cares less about toy camera filters and wants a solid capture camera, this is the camera phone app for you. I have replaced the Apple Camera on the main menu with the Cameleon.

I have used this camera app almost exclusively since its launch, and the images have blown me away; so much so that last week, one of my first Cameleon images that I photographed of my neighbor’s house and then sent to him via text message was printed using a Fuji Frontier to 8×8 inches of which he framed and then asked me to sign. I have printed a number of camera phone images over the years, but the combination of the iPhone 5 and Cameleon’s nondestructive editing create image files that print superbly without excess noise or banding. I may put down my compact camera for good.

For Android Cameraphone users, there is version on the drawing tables for you.

For more information on how to download Cameleon, click here.

Richard Dale Kelly is a photographer and educator living in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He is the former President of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) as well as the 2011 recipient of the United Nations’ International Photographic Council’s Leadership Award. He has over 15,000 camera phone images in his archives and posts them regularly to Pressgram, Eye EM, and Instagram. Follow him at @richardkellyphoto.

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    • It really sounds a lot like a Camera Awesome clone to me.  Just a different way to do more or less the same thing.  Except I think Camera Awesome offers more choices...more filters, more presets, more crop options, and more frame choices.  And it's low light setting rocks.

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    • For iPhone 4s users, Camera+ gives excellent camera control of focus and exposure. Extensive after capture options are available in Snapseed, an excellent processing app developed by Nik (Control Points!), now given away by Google. They also have a pretty nice desktop version... t

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    • Cameleon crashes upon attempting to take a picture. No image is saved.  iPhone 4S, running iOS7.


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