On the heels of its $1 billion Instagram acquisition, Facebook rolled out Facebook Camera for iOS, an app with functionality almost identical to the former photo- sharing service. Expanding on the rather spare camera features integrated into the main Facebook app, Facebook Camera lets users add filters, edit, batch upload and search through friends' images. But is there any merit to Facebook creating a completely separate camera app, or did the company just come out with a subpar Instagram replica?
Upon first launching the app, Facebook Camera detects which Facebook account is already logged into and associated with the iPhone; all we had to do was confirm it. We tapped the big button in the center that said, "Continue as [our name]" and activated the app. While there is an Android version of Instagram, currently, only an iOS version of Facebook Camera is available.
It's worth noting that the first time we set up Facebook Camera, the app asked for access to location information in our photos and videos. If we blocked the app's access to these details, we could only browse our Facebook friends' photos and not upload our own.
At first glance, Facebook Camera appears very Instagram-like in its user interface, showing off a single stream of photos from Facebook friends--pictures that they had posted on their Facebook accounts--which you can quickly browse through by scrolling within the app. Each picture also includes Facebook's usual like and comment features along with the time it was posted, and double-tapping on any photo brought us into a full-screen view where we could add tags.
Facebook Camera is initially configured to show pictures from all your Facebook friends. However, right at the top of the stream, you can switch to the "Me" view, which lets you view the stream of photos that you either posted or those in which you've been tagged.
A strip of your most recent photos, from your iPhone's Camera Roll, sits across the top of your screen, along with a button that launches the app's integrated camera.
Apart from these highly visible features, we appreciated how Facebook Camera had some pretty novel gesture shortcuts. For instance, pulling down on the top of the app shows you your entire Camera Roll, where you can select multiple pictures to post at a time.
Like the standard iPhone camera app, buttons within Facebook Camera let us switch between the front-facing and back-facing camera, and set the flash to on, off or auto. A big button along the side let us take our picture.
After we snapped our photo, we tapped on the tiny thumbnail preview on the bottom right corner of the app to go into edit mode. Here, we could either crop the picture or apply one of 14 filters found within Facebook Camera, ranging from "Boost" to "Neon." (By comparison, Instagram has 17.) If we wanted to edit another photo within our Camera Roll, we simply swiped on the main viewer to browse to the particular picture we wanted to tweak. The ability to add borders was conspicuously missing, though.
When we were ready to post, Facebook Camera gave us full control over which groups of people could view our photos. We filtered out who could see our pictures using the Lists feature within our Facebook account.
However, we would have liked it better if Facebook Camera let us filter out the photos we could see using these lists too, instead of serving up all our friends' photos in a single stream. We also would have appreciated the option to post to other networks, like most photo apps (Instagram lets you post to Twitter, Facebook, email, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous and Foursquare, for instance). Then again, it's called Facebook Camera for a reason.
Facebook Camera is still in its embryonic stages, and thus performance was a bit inconsistent. When we tried to apply filters, sometimes there would be a lag, or we would have to tap on the filter more than once to get it to apply to the photo. Navigation was also glitchy at times; in particular, we had trouble exiting the full-screen view. We had to tap our screen multiple times before the app registered our touch and followed what we wanted to do.
However, we do acknowledge that this is version 1.0, and we're optimistic that Facebook will continue to improve upon future releases of Facebook Camera. There is no reason not to expect these minor issues to be resolved in the next iteration of the app.
Facebook Camera feels somewhat redundant in light of the social network's purchase of Instagram. Why not integrate Facebook Camera into Facebook's official app? By releasing a standalone program, Facebook inevitably draws comparisons to Instagram, and with less filters, no borders and no ability to integrate with other social networks, Facebook Camera falls short. Even though it's free, we see no compelling reason to download this app and have it take another spot on your home screen.