Review: Turbo Camera


I'm a sucker for a camera utility and, for once, not a silly set of filters - we're talking something interesting and unique here in Turbo Camera. Not perfect, as you'll see, but certainly worth grabbing if its two main features grab you - quick fire burst shots and time lapse videos. Both do work but are ultimately a little limiting and flawed.

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At its heart, Turbo Camera accesses your Windows Phone's camera hardware directly and enables functions which aren't possible in the standard Camera application. The attention-grabbing headline should perhaps be dismissed first - yes, Turbo Camera can indeed take 30 photos per second. But only at 640x480 pixel resolution, i.e. VGA, which means that yes, you could shoot something great and find a gem in amongst the mass of shots - but you'd only have it at VGA. It might do for Facebook inclusion, but not much more.

Screenshot, Turbo Camera

Screenshot, Turbo Camera

More useful is the ability to set a decent resolution, say 3 megapixels, and shoot at 4 shots per second. Essentially you focus as normal and then hold down the shutter key - as long as it's held down Turbo Camera goes to work, grabbing and saving as fast as it can. Here's an example (showing thumbnails, to give you an idea):

Example Turbo Camera sequence

Four shots per second isn't as impressive-sounding as 30 per second, but then again you get decent quality and, for a child's sports day triumph (for example) the chances are good that one of the four will be a gem and the one worth keeping. From the shots above, I selected this one (the original is at 3MP, but downscaled slightly to fit this web page and cropped for good effect):

Example Turbo Camera shot

As the photo above showed, having resolution to spare isn't about being able to print off photos at A4 size later on, it's about being able to do more with your shots - in this case, I could crop half the shot out and still end up with planty of quality.

Turbo Camera also allows shooting at your phone's full native resolution - in this case 8 megapixels, but this reduces the shot frequency to about one photo per second, which is slow enough that you might as well use the standard Camera application. The 3MP/4fps option is about the sweet spot for this application, in my opinon.

The interface is well thought out - the idea is to 'View' all your quickly taken shots in a browser and then 'export' (to the Camera Roll) any that you particularly like. This works well because it doesn't clutter up your main photo repository with a mass of 'also ran' shots.

The heart of Turbo Camera's control system is its Settings dialog - it would have been perhaps better to have some main 'mode' controls for easy switching, but I can work this way too. Everything from capture resolution, camera used, delay between shots and delay before shots, plus a dozen other parameters, are all up for grabs - impressively.

In fact, the Settings dialog introduces Turbo Camera's other main function, rather nicely. By setting a delay of (say) a couple of seconds, you can set up a time lapse sequence like this one:

Example Turbo Camera animation

This aspect of Turbo Camera is arguably more of a novelty because of most obvious method of getting time lapse content out of the application - constructing an animated GIF file that can be viewed in any Internet-aware browser or application - as above. There's an inherent limitation here in that making an animated GIF of (say) 500 3MP photos would require far more RAM and processor time than is available on your phone - plus the result would be a multi-hundred Megabyte monstrosity that you very definitely couldn't email to your friends and would leave you wishing you'd shot a standard MP4 video in the first place!

As a result, Turbo Camera limits long time lapses (over 25 photos) to QVGA (320x240 pixels), as per the road trip example above. The result is still fun - this road example only took a minute to generate and is only a 6MB attachment to a friend, for example. Or, as is supported here, you can upload the .GIF file to SkyDrive, for sharing from there, though do note the compatibility warning given within the application:

Screenshot, Turbo CameraScreenshot, Turbo Camera

Ultimately better if you're more serious about your time lapses (say, on a tripod, shooting cloud patterns or a sunset) is to set the resolution at full 8MP and then use the desktop 'connector' tools to suck all the JPGs off your phone and make a creative video using standard MP4 tools on the desktop.

So, plenty to like and plenty of accompanying caveats - but the overall score above is also infleunced by Turbo Camera's stability, or lack of it. Despite giving it over a year to mature, I still had my share of errors (some of which are shown here), plus numerous occasions where the application simply quit on me straight after launching:

Screenshot, Turbo Camera

Screenshot, Turbo Camera

These quirks and the hope of further development notwithstanding, I can still recommend grabbing Turbo Camera, if only for that once a year creative moment where you simply have to animate that fountain or for shooting a burst sequence at your daughter's running race or son's gymnastics event. 

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