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Want to make the most of your Windows Phone camera? Read our guide on how to get the best shots possible and look like a pro!

While the camera on your Windows Phone may not have been a key factor in the past, with the HTC Titan II sporting a 16mp camera and the Nokia Lumia 900 using a Carl Zeiss lens these little cameras are being seen in a new light. Where in the past many saw the camera as a nice accessory or even a novelty, as technology improves the Windows Phone camera's performance it's becoming a more influential feature.

Additionally, as our Windows Phone camera evolves so does the software that drives it. You have more control over the camera these days along with special settings to use effects, adjust exposure settings, and program settings. From your children at play to a stunning sunset to your new pet the camera on your Windows Phone is a great tool for capturing and sharing memories.

With all the advancements we've recently seen with our Windows Phone cameras (along with a few suggestions from our readers) it's time to offer our guide to understanding the basics of your Windows Phone camera and a few tips on taking pictures.  After the break, we'll cover the principles of photography, the terminology involved, what some of your Windows Phone settings will do, and a few tips to take better pictures with your Window Phone.

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We last wrote about Boxfiles for Dropbox back in December. The app comes into two flavors (a free version and a paid one) and has undergone numerous updates since then.

The latest just hit the Marketplace and it brings a really neat feature that many of you may enjoy: automatic camera uploads to your Dropbox account.

This is very useful and desirable because although Windows Phone can do this for Skydrive, it re-scales images automatically leaving you with a "just good enough for the web" sized memory. That's a problem though if, like us, you want to back up your photos to "the cloud" but at their full resolution. Even more so if you have a device like the Titan II with a 16MP camera and photos averaging around 2MB in size.

Version 3.6 of Boxfiles brings this feature but we should point out that it's not entirely 100% automatic meaning you snap a shot and off it goes. Instead you do need to open the app for a few seconds as it will scan your camera directory on the phone and upload and new pics to your Dropbox account.

But once the queuing takes place (usually just a few seconds) you can close the app as it will upload the photos in the background, so you don't need to babysit the app. It's basically a one-touch app to upload all your latest camera shots.

You can also choose a specific directory (or create a new one) to upload the photos too and pick if you want WiFi-only or both WiFi/Cellular data usage. Our favorite part though is how it allows you to browse your photos via thumbnails in addition to just the obscure files-names. Finally, Boxfiles also integrates with your Skydrive account giving you the choice to manage those files from within the app. A nice bonus.

So far only the paid version has been bumped with this feature though we imagine the free one will get it at some point too. What can we say? Of all the Dropbox apps on the Marketplace, we happen to like this one the most and this new auto-upload features makes backing up and sharing our pics easier.

Pick up Boxfiles for Dropbox here in the Marketplace for $1.29 with a free trial.

Update: For those of you in Europe, the app is currently in certification so you'll have the update within a few days. Sit tight.

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Earlier today, we compared and contrasted the Nokia Lumia 900 and the HTC Titan II on AT&T and each featuring 4G LTE.  Both phones have their strengths and weaknesses but if there is one thing we can absolutely agree on is the impressive rear camera on the Titan II (review).

Featuring a back-side illuminated (BSI) sensor for excellent low-light performance, 16MP for high resolution, f/2.6 lens with dual LED flash, the Titan II has arguably one of the best cameras on a phone today (well, definitely on a Windows Phone). In fact, HTC in general has been investing heavily in cameras as of late, including their new flag ship Android phone, the One X (review), which has an 8MP BSI sensor with a jaw-dropping f/2.0 22mm lens.

There's no debate about it: the Titan II's rear camera crushes the Lumia 900's (review) That doesn't make the Lumia 900 a bad phone at all, in fact we find that the camera performs quite well in well-lit conditions and we're throwing down $450 on April 22nd for a glossy-white one to back up our opinion. But if photos matter to you, then the Titan II deserves a serious look. And if you have 4G LTE in your area to send those massive pics, it will certainly helps for those uploads.

Besides the exceptional camera hardware, HTC have done some really great work with the Titan II's camera software too. For instance, it's the first Windows Phone that we know of that has smile detection in addition to face detection. There's also an impressive red-eye reduction built in, burst mode for rapid shots and the familiar anti-shake option (ramps up ISO for non-blurred shots).

Those are very impressive and useful features but there's more. There's also 18 "scenes" including more obscure things like "Backlight portrait", "Night portrait", "Text", "Beach", "Foliage' and even a special setting for "Food". Yup, there's a pre-set mode for taking pictures of your latest meal. If you don't want to bother choosing your scene, just use the "Intelligent Auto" mode to automatically choose one for you (and yes, it's smart too). You even have some built in effects like "Vintage warm", "Vignette" and "Blue Tint" which can also be used for video. That's on top of what's built into the optional Photo Enhancer app by HTC.

But enough talk, lets see some photos. We walked around the streets of Manhattan snapping a couple of pics as well as some macro and regular shots for you to peruse and yes, we're linking to the full resolution pics for your pixel peepers out there. These photos have not been altered in any way except to remove some EXIF info like GPS from our home pictures. The dual LED flash was not used for any pictures.

Jump past the break to take a look...

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Windows Phone Review: Photo Booth

Sometimes there's a lot to be said about simplicity and the Windows Phone app Photo Booth is definitely a simple app. Photo Booth is a photography app that helps you build the classic photo booth picture strips.

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Have some interesting and / or humorous Windows Phone fan art? Or do you simply have an awesome photo containing a handset that you wish to show off? If you share it on Facebook with the Windows Phone team, they may well include your submission in their album.

Checking out what has been added so far shows there are a lot of cakes around that have been Metro'd. From the previous competitions we've held here at WPCentral, we know our reader base is bursting at the seems with talent (we have to suck up to you guys at some point, right?), so it'll be interesting to see what you call come up with.

Source: Facebook

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When we first drew up the idea of the Nokia Lumia 710 Photo Contest, two things slipped our minds. First, a little event called the 2012 Mobile World Congress. Second, the vast number of quality entries we would receive!

Between Mobile World Congress and life in general, it took a lot longer than expected to judge all the outstanding entries we received. The good news is that we've identified our winner. The bad news is that you'll need to hit the break to see who won and who is our runner-up.

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Windows Phone App Review: Sketch Camera

Sketch Camera is a neat, simple photography app for your Windows Phone camera. Neat for the effects you can apply to your photos, simple for the layout.  The photography app allows you to apply six artistic filters to images as you capture them as well as apply the filters to existing photos.  

If you're a fan of sketch or drawing filters for your photos, Sketch Camera is worth a look at.

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Although Microsoft didn't have any big press conferences or news releases regarding the future of Windows Phone at Mobile World Congress that hasn't stopped them from throwing a little thank you party to all of their supporters (and if you remember we gave away some ticket to the exclusive event).

Held at the famous El Molino, the event was suppose to have 400 attendees but Microsoft was expecting many more and indeed as the night went on it was certainly packed (especially on the roof). With free drinks, thumping dance music, delicious h'orderves and contests, the night was quite a blast.

Speaking of contests, Microsoft had a few last night including a Twitter/Speed contest where you had to type and post a catch phrase with hashtag as fast as you can. The fastest 10 all won a Windows Phone and even had a choice between an HTC Titan, Radar or Nokia Lumia 800. There was also the favorite "Fruit Ninja" contest where users can play the game on numerous Windows Phones with the top scorer winning a new device.

All in all it was a great time and below we have a few photos of the event just in case you couldn't make it. (Oh and we even briefly ran into one of our readers there, which was very cool).

Remember, keep track of all of our Mobile World Congress'12 news here: wpcentral.com/tags/mwc12

Head past the break for some pics...

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PocketNow has published more images of the upcoming budget Windows Phone, the Lumia 610. The colour variations fit in with the colour selection process for the Lumia family of Nokia handsets, which was recently explained. Rumours are flying left, right and centre, but the specifications for the low-end device are set to sport a 3.2" display, 3/5MP camera, and 256MB RAM.

The 610 is rumoured to be available in magenta, cyan, black and white. We'll be sure to keep a watchful eye out for any lying around at MWC to get some hands-on action.

Via: PocketNow

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Windows Phone App Review: Cool Camera

Here's a short take on a new app for your Windows Phone. Cool Camera is a camera app that gives you an alternative to the native camera app.  Cool Camera is a decent camera app for your Windows Phone with some very nice features.  Not sure if it can overtake the native camera app on your Windows Phone but it's worth a try to decide for yourself.

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Windows Phone App Review: Image Map

Here's a neat Windows Phone app to help you remember where a photo was taken. Image Map will not only map out where your photos were taken but also display the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) information on your images. The EXIF information will reveal every little tid bit of information on your photo including the camera used, the camera settings, and software used to edit the image.

Image Map pulls everything together in a very nice package to give you a easy to follow road map for your photos.

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Good news for your shutterbugs out there, Aviary (Aviary.com), a photo-editing startup company will be releasing an SDK within the next two months for Windows Phone. The company specializes in image enhancements and providing effects for on-board photo editing on mobile phones. The system is already available on iOS, Android and web applications, so Windows Phone seems like the next logical step.

The company's decision was partially driven by Nokia's focus on photography, especially their use of Carl-Zeiss lenses. According to Paul Murphy, a vice president at Aviary, “At a hardware level they’ve just done everything right".

Interestingly, Paul Murphy is also an ex-Microsoftie and used to work under current Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, so we imagine having some of those connections played a roll too. The SDK will be free to anyone for all Windows Phones but will be first "showcased" on Nokia to show the potential of their software. While the SDK is free, the company brings in revenue by offering more premium features at a cost to developers. Finally, the company has close to 400 partners which they hope to leverage in getting more Windows Phone photo apps created.

Good news all around and we look forward to seeing Aviary tech in future software packages from devs.

Source: GeekWire; Eiffel Tower image via Shutterstock; Thanks, Stephen M., for the link!

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There has been a recent upsurge in interest for an official Instagram client for Windows Phone recently. The desire for the popular photo-manipulation and sharing app has been driven, in part, by numerous developers working on unofficial apps for the service. We first reported one in development by Bil Simser called 'Metogram' (later renamed to 'Photogram') and since then, two other apps have hit the Marketplace, Metogram and Instacam. The problem, however, is two fold:

  1. Instagram does not allow 3rd party access to photo uploading APIs
  2. Instgram does not allow one to register via the website, only by the official iOS app

Simser has been in contact with the head honchos of Instagram in an effort to get special permission for photo uploading. At the time, Instagram cited a somewhat dubious reason for denying such an API, namely an effort to reduce spam and low-quality images. However, Simser was determined to see if an exception could be made in this case seeing as Windows Phone users do not have any options.

That request has now been denied by Instagram. In an email to his beta testers (we're amongst them), Simser notes that since Instagram is not allowing uploads:

"I made a plea to Instagram and got a response in the form of a few email exchanges with Kevin Systrom the CEO. Unfortunately they are still taking the high road and not offering upload capabilities or white-listing any application at this point. I have my own thoughts around why this is but the short of it is that they are not white-listing at this point but Kevin did tell me to “keep in touch”."

More importantly, Simser notes that there is no way for new users to even join the network for voting or commenting on photos. These are deal-breakers for him as it would severely limit Instagram functionality in his client. Due to those reasons, Simser has decided to pull the plug on Photogram.  However, he will continue to make apps that are currently missing on the Windows Phone platform:

"I’m all about “filling the gap” on Windows Phone and want to create apps that will either be better than the “official” ones or give users the experience that a non-existent official app would. I will continue to do that (as I’m working on something right now but won’t say for whom) and you can follow that on Twitter via @bsimser or @simstools. We’ll also announce new apps on http://www.simstools.com as we complete them. Shameless plug, please check out my other apps and feel free to continue to support myself and all the independent developers out there. I, as always, am available to help out so if you have an idea for an app or are looking for some help with your own app please don’t hesitate to contact me."

So bad news for Windows Phone users but perhaps Instagram will surprise us with an official app sooner than later.

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Windows Phone App Review: Pictomaphone

There are several, several photo editing apps available for your Windows Phone. Some cover the basics while others provide you with everything but the kitchen sink to edit your photos with. Pictomaphone falls somewhere in between the two extremes.

Pictomaphone has about twenty adjustments, filters and editing tools to fine tune your photos. You can edit photos captured by your Windows Phone camera or already on file in your Pictures Hub. Interface is fairly simple and Pictomaphone can help bring your photo quality up a notch.

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Nokia has published a number of photos in an album on their Facebook account. The album ("Nokia Lumia Production") allows the viewer to see how the Lumia family of Windows Phones are produced before heading out to owners across the world. 

The workers who make all this magic happen were also in the spotlight at Nokia World 2011 with a live feed being broadcasted to the audience. Check out some more shots from the album after the break.

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Although we have wait on the fate of Metrogram, the unofficial Instagram client for Windows Phone announced this past weekend, FastCompany is citing an unnamed source that Microsoft may have worked out a deal with the developers behind Instagram for an official, certified Windows Phone version. For those not familiar, Instagram is a extremely popular photo sharing app with kitsch filters on iOS. Instagram have acknowledged that they're working on an Android version, but now we're learning that Windows Phone may get it first.

Windows Phone boasts Metro UI which has been positively received by most and is a unique experience available on a mobile platform. This, added with the quick camera functionality and consistent quality across hardware, will ensure that an Instagram app would look (and feel) fantastic. Even though Windows Phone is still picking up steam with market share, Android suffers from fragmentation which could have a negative impact on the user experience.

Instagram would be a worthy addition to the Marketplace, a popular app that many smartphone owners on a competitive platform use, and the software giant is looking to spend to get the apps people want.

Source: FastCompany; thanks Lucas for the heads up! For more info on Instagram, check our iMore's coverage.

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Okay folks, now that it's Monday morning afternoon, we have the skinny on Metrogram, the Instagram client for Windows Phone that we learnt about late last night. The app is being developed by Bil Simser and should be available in two or three weeks.

First the bad news. Indeed, as per Instagram's API requirements, the app is read-only. Still, it offers a lot in terms of functions e.g. browse tags, search for pictures, view details, profiles, leave comments, like pictures, etc.

Now the potential good news. Bil is in contact with Instagram and is trying to get a waiver on their read-only policy and to allow the app to post. If that permission is granted Bil tells us "...a full client will be about 3-4 weeks off (including photo effects similar to the iPhone client)".  However, if Instagram does not grant an exception, Bil may try other means by which to get photos up, perhaps something analogous to the MetroPandora SDK i.e. look for workarounds.

Instagram claim that they don't allow 3rd party access for uploads to  “fight spam & low quality photos” which at first makes sense until you realize no one is monitoring photo uploads to their service, making it a hollow promise. Surely safeguards could be put into place to prevent spam, such as limiting the amount of uploads over a given time-frame.

We'll definitely keep you posted on what happens with Metrogram and what Instagram has to say about it. One way or another though, we'll get this service on our phones. Just take a look at Pandora. For more info on Instagram, read here at iMore.

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Details are a bit fuzzy on this right now, but developer Bil Simser has been working on an Instagram client for Windows Phone called Metrogram. Instagram is an extremely popular photo client on iOS, analogous to BubbleGum for our phones, that allows users to apply somewhat kitsch filters to their photos and share them within the Instagram network (and Twitter/Facebook). File it under "arbitrary but must-have apps" for Windows Phone.

What's interesting is how quickly Simser coded the app, once again demonstrating how easy it is to write apps for Windows Phone. According to his Tweets, it did not take very long at all:

"58 minutes later an a new wp7 Instagram client is born. I think that's a record for me" "Writing the Instagram client for #wp7 has been so freaking easy. 2 hours and I have a fully functional client"

By the sound of it, this isn't just a viewer of Instagram photos but rather something to create photos with directly. However, we're not sure if this is official (and Simser was hired as a contractor) or this is just a side project. Looking at the name Metrogram, we're betting unofficial. We've reached out to Simser to hopefully find out more info, so until then, just relish those screenshots.

Update: Developer M.Saleh Esmaeili chimes in that this is just a viewer-only, as Instagram APIs restrict access (though some sites do interact with Instagram). Hopefully we'll hear from the developer soon.

Source: Twitter; Thanks, Amir, for the heads up!

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We managed to sit down with HTC to go over their new flagship Windows Phone, the TITAN II landing soon on AT&T. The 4G LTE device sure caught a lot of us off-guard specifically due to the inclusion of a massive 16MP camera. The meeting was very productive as not only did we get to play with the phone more (always an exciting "geek moment") but we found out some other relevant information that we hope you folks will find interesting:

  • The TITAN II is not replacing the TITAN. The plan is to sell both phones in the same market with the TITAN II augmenting AT&T's offerings to customers with different price points and features. In other words, the TITAN II is the high-end, premium version for customers who want that feature set. The TITAN will be a lower-priced offering for those who are okay with HSPA+, etc. It's an interesting and we think smart move for both HTC and AT&T.
  • As we mentioned in the video test, the TITAN II features a secondary processor for the camera--we're a little fuzzy on the exact details but it explains why shooting at 16MP feels no different than shooting at 8MP, with zero lag
  • We passed on the info about the SRS stutter bug as well as the microphone/sound issue that quite a few of you have reported. That info should get to their engineers for further investigation.
  • No word on those docks for the Radar and Titan, in fact, it's probably best to forget those
  • On HTC using but not always announcing Gorilla Glass--in short, they want some wiggle room in case of during production they switch to an alternative scratch-resistant screen due to cost or supply issues. What you need to know is that basically all high-end HTC phones have Gorilla Glass or its equivalent on board.
  • The HTC TITAN II is an AT&T exclusive. No word on world-wide release though we can expect some announcements at Mobile World Congress (MWC) next month in Barcelona--as HTC considers that to be one of their big events. Perhaps an international version of the TITAN II will be announced or something similar.
  • The push for 4G LTE devices is driven a lot by AT&T wanting to get people off of their overloaded 3G network, so devices like the TITAN II and Lumia 900 are highly welcomed by the carrier
  • Like Nokia, HTC doesn't seem keen on 32GB memory devices. Everyone is pushing for the cloud.
  • The HTC TITAN is selling very well world-wide and they're very happy with its performance

And what about our second experience with the TITAN II? If HTC and AT&T are aiming for this to be a premium version of the TITAN we think they did a pretty good job as the new changes really give the device a more classy feel to it. The curved glass near the bottom is a really excellent engineering feat and the Super LCD on the TITAN II is even better than the TITAN I (better contrast, brighter). We're pretty excited about getting our hands on this as our daily driver--that LTE is quite the blast to use, especially when web browsing.

More pics after the break...

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