Rafe Recommends: Camera Awesome is what it says

New iPhone camera app gives both casual and serious shooters incredible list of features wrapped in a nice interface.

Camera Awesome gives the serious photographer more control than the iPhone's own camera app. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

When you're in a hurry to snap a pic with your iPhone, there's nothing like a quick double-jab on the home button to get into the camera app right away. But if you have a second or two to spare, you'd be better served by using an alternative camera app, specifically the new and free Camera Awesome, by SmugMug.

The requisite filters and presets are here, too. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Camera Awesome has the requisite goofball filters that you can over-apply to destroy the color balance of your images after you take them. There are several filters included in the free app; others are available in packs for in-app purchase.

It also has a collection of image editing features for photo geeks: You can adjust color temperature, contrast, and sharpness manually, for example.

I am more enamored of the features it gives you during photo capture, though. With this app, you can set focus and exposure points on a photo independently, and there's a really clever interface trick to bring up the interface for that. You also get a level line, and if the rule-of-thirds gridlines aren't what you want for a compositional aid, you can also bring a Golden Mean nautilus overlay.

There's an image stabilizer function, two burst modes, a self timer, and other options buried in here, too.

This app gives you so much control, it will make you wish your iPhone took raw images.

On the video side there's a "precord" option that continuously records what the camera is seeing in a short buffer, so that when you press the "record" button you actually get a few seconds before that.

You hide and ignore all the fancy features, of course. For the simple shooter, Camera Awesome has something else: It does do a better job of sharing photos it snaps than the iPhone itself. Images can be shared straight to SmugMug (of course), or Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, or Email. Not Instagram, though.

It goes on. The thing is just ridiculously configurable. For example, you can have it store all your photos to you phone's camera roll, or just put things there when you say so.

Camera Awesome does reward some study of the app, since it is so rich, but it will not take anyone familiar with photography or using a point-and-shoot camera more than a few minutes to get up to speed.

It really is an awesome app, even more than Camera+, which I've been using so far and enjoying.

It's iPhone-only, however. SmugMug says it is working on an Android version. Having to support all the different phones is slowing them down, they say.

The endorsement: Camera Awesome
Platform: iPhone. Download here.
Price: Free
Company: SmugMug
Summary: Feature-rich, fast, fun, and easy-enough-to-use camera app is no-brainer replacement for the one that comes on your phone.

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