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Why I swapped The Best Camera for Instagram

I’ve been resisting it for months. Instagram, the iPhone app everyone seems to be using at the moment. (I was tempted to say “Instagram, the latest fad” here, but I’m sure it would come back to bite my ass.)

I thought I didn’t need yet another photo app on my phone, yet another way of sharing my images. But a rapidly growing number of friends and online contacts have been using the app over the past few weeks and I was simply curious. I knew it combined the ease of use with a social aspect and some funky visual effects a la Hipstamatic. I also knew there were other similar apps like the Best Camera or Camera +, which offered similar functionality, but which never managed to achieve the critical mass Instagram has probably already achieved. And I was curious why the Best Camera, a precursor of Instgram, never really managed to do what the latter did in less than 6 months. So I installed it.

Do I need to explain what it does? Wired described Instagram as “Twitter for your photos” or “a mashup of Hipstamatic and Tumblr” last October and that was pretty much spot on. You sign up, you follow some people, or not, you take pictures, tag them, apply filters and publish. Then you also cross-post to other services like Facebook, Twitter, Posterous or Flickr, favourite other people’s images, leave comments and look at the most popular images from all over the world.

And that’s, pretty much what Chase Jarvis’s The Best Camera does too. I’ve been using this app for almost two years and enjoyed it so far. So why is Instagram better?

The most obvious answer is the social aspect, which is missing from The Best Camera. Chase Jarvis enabled voting, but that’s as far as the social aspect of that app goes. Instgram allows you to automatically follow all your Twitter and Facebook followers who’ve also installed the app, it scans your contacts to see who else has signed up. Comments, likes and the ever-changing sets of ‘popular’ images make the whole social experience complete. Pity Chase Jarvis didn’t add such features to his otherwise great app.

But the social aspect in itself is not the only reason why Instagram is spreading like wildfire.

The Best Camera offers users several simple filters. Each of them does one thing. One makes an image warmer, another increases saturation. Yet another allows you to add a vignette or crop your image. You can apply just one or a number of filters in many ways. Therefore, from my experience at least, the Best Camera has appealed to photographers or people who love experimenting with their images.

Instagram, like Hipstamatic, assumes you just want your image to look funky and simplifies the process by giving you a choice of filters. You choose just one, you can’t combine them. So, rather than thinking which individual aspects of the image to change, you are presented with several versions of the image and you just choose one.

The whole app comes with a visually pleasing interface, which also helps a lot. And its very easy to use. What not to like about it.

So, against my better judgement, I have just added yet another tool to my dangerously long list of social and/or photo apps. If you want to follow me on Instagram, I’m there as michald.

For now, at least.

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