How to: Upgrade your smartphone camera

Meanwhile, a good smartphone can almost keep up with SLR cameras. Thus, smartphone users can make more and more settings such as the aperture or shutter speed when taking pictures manually. The supplied camera apps are still quite limited with their on-board resources. With additional apps for a few euros, you can equip your phone so that it can compete with the features almost with the large DLSR.

Why should I upgrade?

Many mobile phone cameras deliver decent results when taking photos. So why load additional apps and deal with them? Well, if you have a decent compact camera, then you ask yourself why you should buy a heavy and complex DLSR now?

If you are satisfied with the pictures of the compact camera: all right, leave it at that. But if you want to bring certain effects into your photos, then you have to resort to individual and manual settings. Although many algorithms and pre-settings have become very good.

Focos: Bokeh effects and simulated lenses

Focos offers a whole lot of the usual gadgets: filters, effects – everything you see on Instagram and Snapchat.


Two things are interesting about focos in particular: the amazing bokeh effects and the use of numerous simulated lenses. Bokeh, by the way, is Japanese – and refers to the deliberate blur in the background or sometimes the foreground of a photo.

A small example: I took this photo at Frankfurt Airport’s long-distance train station with Focos. The image I have edited directly in the app and then saved there with the desired bokeh effects.

  • B1
    Before (Photo: Jakubetz)
  • B2
    After (Photo: Jakubetz)

Incidentally, the effects also create motion blur in images that have no motion at all. It will look like that:

  • B3
    Before (Photo: Jakubetz)
  • B4
    After (Photo: Jakubetz)

I do not know any other app that works just as intensively as simple with bokeh (however, as always, further hints are welcome). Of course you can do with Focos also normal photos without any effect, but especially here it plays its strengths.

Especially since she can not do other things like the iOS camera app. No pano, no video. So it does not replace the conventional app, but is a good supplement.

Focos is only available for iOS so far and is free in its very rudimentary basic version. In addition, you can buy them for a month, a year or a lifetime. The lifelong version costs about 10 euros. And: It requires dual-lens cameras and thus at least the iPhone 8.

Pro Camera: How the smartphone almost becomes the DLSR

If you finally want to pimp the smartphone for near-DLSR, especially Pro Camera is recommended.

Exposure, focus, shutter speed, white balance and sensitivity can be controlled manually. If you still use the automatic, the points to focus and exposure are very easy to select. Pro Camera can do everything like a DLSR: completely automatic, half automatic, fully manual.

In addition, the app offers a few other things that are usually reserved for large cameras – including the ability to save images as a TIFF (but beware, the images are about ten times the size of a JPEG and eat up space).

However, the descriptions and the resulting consequences quickly reveal that Pro Camera is not for smartphone users who want to have solid pictures quickly, reliably and without much of their own intervention.

But if you have the desire and especially the ability to create pictures individually, Pro Camera is a real pleasure. And yes, that too: another reason less to bring the DLSR with you. For me personally: My DLSR I have only on long trips or elaborate reports with me, which really require high-quality photo and video material. Everything else goes with the smartphone.

Pro Camera costs 6.99 euros (in-app purchases possible), both iOS and Android.

Also interesting: How to: Photos in unusual formats

Jakubetz recommends

There are now great camera apps. But the one who can do everything that satisfies me always and everywhere, I have not found yet. That’s why I have a total of seven different photo apps on my smartphone. Because every single one of them is superior to the all-rounder in very special situations.

In addition to Focos and Pro Camera, I still have Warmlight, Adobe Lightroom, Slow Shutter, Camera Plus and Photoshop Express.

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