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Early Review of Facebook's Camera

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Facebook launched its own version of Instagram Thursday -- just weeks after spending $1 billion to own Instagram.

    As Facebook gets larger, the amount of spin-off apps grow, too. Released Thursday, Facebook Camera is the social network's third iPhone app. Facebook Camera borrows heavily from Instagram, despite the fact that it was created before the now infamous $1 billion acquisition.

    So, how does it stack up?

    A Simple UI That Works Well And Looks Great

    Overall, the app is not too heavy. It's only 4.9MB and it's very minimal. Once you give the Facebook Camera app access to your camera roll, it'll populate the top row with thumbnails of your snaps. Click on any of those thumbnails and it'll open up all your pics. Here you'll be able to select as many photos as you like to crop, apply one of 14 filters (Instagram-style) to and then batch upload to Facebook. That's right: all at once.

    The second half of the app is split into a "Friends" and "Me" tab. We're sure you can guess what each of those do. "Friends" will show photos shared to Facebook from all of your buddies and "Me" will display all of your uploads.

    The app is mostly responsive, snappy and very easy on the eye. I say "mostly," because sometimes the app will just buffer for a bit too long while loading thumbnails. Some of the subtle animations even have that slight bounce that you find on an app like Path. That's a good thing.

    A Few Bugs Still Need Sprayin'

    Of course, this being version 1.0 of the app, there are still some issues. For starters, I found uploading photos to be a bit slow over 3G, even failing to complete a few batch uploads. Interestingly, it doesn't just fail entirely. The app is smart enough to remember at what point it failed, so if you were uploading a batch of four photos, and it failed at after uploading two, it'll just continue to upload photo three and four. I didn't find any duplicate pics after this process.

    Uploading to a specific album is something we're hoping will make it into Facebook Camera in a future update. For now, photos just post directly to your wall.

    I do like that you can tag friends in photos, "Like" photos and even add a comment, but why can't I add individual captions to each photo when batch uploading? The app only lets you write one description for the entire set of selected photos to upload. Of course, you can upload each pic with a caption separately, but that defeats the entire purpose of batch processing.

    According to AllThingsD, Facebook Photos product manager Dirk Stoop said "Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom and his team had nothing to do with building Facebook Camera."

    Still, you can't say that Facebook wasn't at least somewhat influenced by Instagram during development.

    Not An Instagram Killer

    You might read on the Internet (I won't say where) that the Facebook Camera app will kill Instagram. That, or Facebook will completely absorb Instagram's technologies and eventually rebadge it as Facebook Camera. Those are possibilities, but for now, let's give Mark Zuckerberg's statement on the acquisition the benefit of the doubt:

    "...we're committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people."

    I can definitely see the Facebook Camera app becoming the default camera for many iPhone users, because let's face it, after we take pictures, we usually end up sharing them to Facebook anyway. So why not just cut the bouncing between multiple apps and go direct? That's what Facebook Camera is.

    The 14 generically named effects (Cool, Contrast, Bright, Rouge, Highlight, etc.) don't have quite the punch that Instagram's filters do, but they're good enough to give your snaps a lo-fi/vintage look.

    Facebook Camera is a solid foundation, and one that we imagine can only get better as it incorporates lessons learned by the team of mobile photo app veterans at Instagram.

    iTunes, via AllThingsD

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