Exploring Hipstamatic – Neutral lenses and films, a starting point

I’ve owned Hipstamatic for quite awhile now and just never quite got it. Despite that it’s always been on my phone and I’ve eagerly downloaded every expansion “Pak” they’ve offered since I’ve owned it. I’m a sucker for photo filter apps but the thing that has always put me off using Hipstamatic the most is the large number of lenses and films (not to forget the flashes too, but I just don’t use those). How to make sense of all of those combinations?

Duh…Google. Why I had never thought about searching on this stuff I can’t say but I do know that I just picked up Hipstamatic again recently and let my fingers do the walking for some guidance. There is a lot of good guidance out there too but the most important thing I was wondering is: what films and lenses are considered neutral? You know what I mean if you’ve ever used Hipstamatic. Every lens and film combination seems to have some effect on the final picture, some of them quite…uh…interesting. What I was most curious about though this time is what combination will get me closest to the standard iPhone camera app? That would be the best place to really start because then the image experiments could be methodical. The answers I found were interesting.

First though I want to talk briefly about what lenses and films actually do to an image in Hipstamatic.

Lenses do one of two things: affect focus or affect color. In the color realm that means effects like light leaks (Buckhorst), color casts (Adler, Tejas), etc. Focus effects include things like tilt-shift effects (Loftus and Americana). Some lenses will also produce vignettes (Tejas).

Films also have an affect on the final output of Hipstamatic. Films generally are responsible for borders, contrast, and texture effects. Many are border-only with no other effect on the picture (Blanko, Blanko Freedom 13). There are also some really nice black & white options (Rock, BlackKeys Supergrain). Good examples of texture effects include BlackKeys B+W and Salvador.

So back to the original question of what combination will get me closest to the default iPhone camera app?

In my experiments and research the lens that has the smallest affect is Lowy. In some comparison shots between the default iPhone camera app (set to square mode) and Hipstamatic with Lowy the result is sharp images with color saturation boosted a bit. I like the look. Its very slight but the boost in color saturation a bit means the picture generally looks better. It’s a great lens to use to get a good idea of the effect a film will have on the final output.

Similarly the film I found that has the least effect on anything is the borderless Blanko Freedom 13. The only thing this film does it put a tiny red, white, and blue stamp in the corner of the photo. It’s so tiny I never noticed it until the other day when I was playing around and it’s easily cropped out of the final image. Because there is no border this film is the best choice to do some lens experiments.

I had planned on putting up a few samples here to show the difference between the lens/film combos but during my research I found a fantastic resource for anyone interested Hipstamatic: Hipstamatic Guide and Combo Compare. The person running that website has gone to great lengths to provide just about every possible way of viewing the different lens/film/flash combinations you can think of. It is updated regularly (a new Pak – the Bushwick Pak was just released and the website had the film/combo up on day one) so give it a look.

I really wish I had done more of this research sooner. I’ve always had a soft spot for Hipstamatic and have always wanted to use it more. I haven’t because its basically WYSIWYG (in this case what you shoot is what you get)…there is no post processing available in the app. Because of this you really need to have an idea of what each lens and film does. Knowing that many films are actually only putting a border on the image cuts down on the combinations quite a bit and makes me a lot more confident in using this app day to day. I plan on starting out my experiments using Lowy and Freedom 13. It should be fun.

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