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App Review: Camera for TouchPad
by Adam Marks on Monday, Aug 8, 2011

This review is based on the unreleased version 0.2.9 of the Camera app and contains many updates not in the version currently in the App Catalog

NOTE: You must be running webOS 3.0.2 in order for Camera to function properly. You should check your current webOS version and if you are running webOS 3.0.0, open up the "System Updates" app and spend the next 30-45 minutes updating to the latest version of webOS.

Sitting atop the TouchPad's screen is a 1.3 megapixel camera that blends nicely into the bezel of the device, but is basically useless unless you decide to load up a Skype Video call on the device. You have no native access to the camera, therefore there is no way to take any kind of pictures or videos with the TouchPad. That is, until now. Keen Studios, developer of the popular Checkers app, has released an app for 99 cents simply titled Camera for TouchPad that allows you to take photos using that front facing camera.

Upon loading up the app, you are presented with a splash screen giving the user a little instruction on how to use the app. To take a picture, you can either press the shutter icon on the bottom of the screen or press any of the volume keys (this is new in version 0.2.9). You can also tap on any of the recently taken photos on the bottom-left corner of the screen to bring up a separate card that lets you view your pictures. That's about all you need to know, as it’s a pretty straightforward app. From here, just tap the screen to get started using the camera.

Once the splash screen disappears, the screen will be replaced with a "viewfinder" for the camera. You will quickly notice that the frame refresh rate of the camera is pretty slow. You will see a lot of blurry and choppy images as you move the TouchPad around or if the subject is moving, but this is a limitation of webOS, not the app. It just means that you need to make sure that your subject is relatively stationary if you want any kind of decent picture. Once you are ready to take a picture, just press the virtual Shutter button or the volume keys. While using the volume keys works to take the picture, it will also adjust the TouchPad's volume as well; there is currently no way for the app to tell webOS to ignore those volume changes.

As soon as you take a picture, the screen will freeze for a moment to show you the photo, and then resume as the viewfinder for the camera, while also adding a thumbnail of the picture on the bottom-left of the screen. Tapping any of the thumbnails will open a new card with the resulting photos. You will notice that the quality of the picture is actually a bit better than what showed up on the screen (which is a good thing), but it's also important to note that the photo is actually a mirror-image of what you saw in the viewfinder. This is a result of the fact that we have a front-facing camera so it's just like looking in a mirror. The developer is trying to automatically flip the image up-front in the viewfinder, but this appears to be yet another webOS limitation (although it is important to note that even the iPad shows the mirror-image in their Photo Booth app, too). Either way, from this photo review app, you can swipe through all the photos you have taken with the Camera, delete a photo or set it as your wallpaper. There is also a "Back to Camera" button that will bring the Camera card back into focus. You can also use the Photos & Videos app to find all of the pictures you have taken within the "Camera" folder.

It's disappointing that HP did not include a stock application to access the camera, but Keen Studios has taken a nice first pass at filling that hole. There are still improvements that the developer is working on, such as adding landscape support, the ability to tap anywhere on the screen to take a picture, photo filters (to be applied after you take the picture, due to a webOS limitation), and even Video capture support. He is even looking to add some photo sharing options, just like in the stock Photos app. While it is often awkward to hold up the touchpad at just the right angle to get a good picture and the lack of a flash means you need to ensure you have plenty of light, it is nice to have access to the camera. However, the biggest improvement needed is by HP itself to improve the performance of the camera (this is also needed for Skype video calls). But for now, if you do not have your webOS phone or a camera handy and need to snap a quick picture, at least the option is available!