Review: Fotr Camera App (Apple iPhone)

The idea behind the Fotr app isn’t really a new one; but it’s one of the latest options out there that takes the conveniences of digital photography and tries to apply film-analog ideas to it. No, we’re not talking about vintage looking filters, we’re talking about taking your images and not being able to see them until after a development process has taken place. That’s part of the excitement of film–and as I type this article up I’ve got at least seven rolls on my desk that I need to take to Lomography for developing.

Fotr has loads of potential, but I need to be completely honest here: this app is hands down the biggest waste of money that I’ve spent this year.

Ease of Use

chris-gampat-the-phoblographer-fotr-app-review-product-images-2-of-6iso-4001-50-sec-at-f-2-8

Fotr is an app that, like we said before, tries to bring analog values to digital images. You download it for your iPhone and then purchase packs of film, then shoot. The film is configurable, you get to pick from three different color emulsions, three different black and white emulsions, two different print sizes, and 24 or 36 frames. Then you load the film up on your app. Don’t wory, you can switch between films with ease.

When you’re all done, you upload the images and then Fotr mails you a package with your prints.

chris-gampat-the-phoblographer-fotr-app-review-product-images-3-of-6iso-4001-50-sec-at-f-2-8

The camera interface is very simple. There is no manual adjustment of your exposure but you can focus and use exposure compensation with ease. Plus there is a little counter on the bottom to tell you how many images you’ve got left.

Why no manual camera control? No idea honestly. Thankfully, what helps me out a bit more is using my Zeiss ExoLenses.

chris-gampat-the-phoblographer-fotr-app-review-product-images-5-of-6iso-4001-50-sec-at-f-2-8

Here’s what the purchasing screen looks like. In order to make a purchase, Fotr recommends PayPal. If you have the PayPal app on your phone, it’s even more straightforward.

chris-gampat-the-phoblographer-fotr-app-review-product-images-4-of-6iso-4001-50-sec-at-f-2-8

When you’ve got everything shot and uploaded, you can set up your delivery address and mess around with a number of other settings.

But that’s all pretty standard. My bigger problem here is that the digital files that I took are lost. I don’t have them on my phone and Fotr stores them in their app/cloud. However, I can’t access them. This fact absolutely infuriates me especially as I get to the next part of the review.

Print Quality

chris-gampat-the-phoblographer-fotr-app-review-product-images-6-of-6iso-4001-50-sec-at-f-2-8

So when the prints had finally come in, Fotr put them all into a package that excited me. I tore it open and looked at the images. The colors are pretty great: I purchased a film emulsion designed to look like Velvia and it did a great job rendering the look of that film. But the quality of the prints overall is pretty crappy. Part of this can be blamed on the iPhone, but even so I’ve seen some spectacular prints from the iPhone and if I were able to keep my files, I’d be able to print them out myself with my Epson or Canon printers in the office.

It’s not that there’s detail loss: there’s tons of that. But they’re riddled with noise and grain that you never see in Velvia. Considering the prices of up to $34, I’m extremely disappointed. I would’ve loved the option to see the images beforehand, then edited them and then figured out which ones I’d print in the same way that I would when I develop film.

Further, Fotr plays off the idea that people don’t really understand prints–and it’s honestly a very true one. Folks in general like looking at these small 4×6 prints. But the really good stuff that all photographers know of comes in large sizes. Quite honestly, I’d argue that printing anything smaller than 8 x 11 is completely worthless. All the prints in my apartment and office are that size at a minimum. If they’re smaller, they’re done on canvas which is a whole different beast. And if you’re going to go as far as printing an image in the digital world, you should do it right. You should get (and pay for) a big ass print to put on your wall. Or a few of them! I own photo prints from various photographers and lots of them are on my walls. They’re a reminder to be inspired by what’s around me and they’re just solid decoration pieces.

Fotr, however, doesn’t really do that. I’m not going to put these in an album, or in a coffee table book. Quite honestly, I just want to throw them out and accept that I spent money on this as a learning experience.

Conclusions

For the first time, I’m not giving stars to a reviewed product. Not because I don’t want to, but because it doesn’t deserve it. There is no manual control, the prints are crap, I can’t get my digital negatives back, and its way too expensive. In fact, film is cheaper. I can go to Lomography, pick up one of their house brand films, shoot it with my film camera, bring it back, get it developed, and get prints and scans sent to me for cheaper. Those prints will also be a far superior quality.

Fotr doesn’t deserve your time of day. Just move on.