Hipstamatic returns

You may have heard that Hipstamatic X has relaunched with a social network, and is now simply the de facto Hipstamatic app (the original is available as Hipstamatic Classic); completely ad free and user supported via an optional subscription, with a focus on very 2010 principles such as posting square photos only, a 99-person follow limit, and heavy filters that seem at odds with current aesthetic trends.

I’ve been in the beta for awhile but found it too similar to the original Hipstamatic X, and the added social network had little utility for me when it was in beta. Now that it’s out, and I’m in Japan on holiday, I’ve found it a fun nostalgic toy that recalls earlier trips when my iPhone was my main camera and I’d occasionally risk losing a few shots by choosing Hipstamatic over the regular camera app. That was back when the processed photo was all you got — these days the processed photo can be reverted to the original underneath, which is quite liberating.

I’ve been shooting regular old photos with my Ricoh GR III, which left my iPhone 14 Pro with an ambiguous role: better than nothing in a pinch but not good enough yet to rival an APS-C sensor, even with computational smarts, or perhaps because of them? So many photos look artificially sharp and HDR-like by default and don’t capture the mood accurately. I know it’s tuned on what most people want from a photo (brightness). But with Hipstamatic (and a complication shortcut on the Lock Screen that launches it immediately), the iPhone suddenly feels like a very different tool.

Hipstamatic acts like an intentionally inaccurate camera. Its lurid colors add a veneer of personality to mundane scenes, and if lucky, or carefully prodded via the paid darkroom editing mode, enhance good compositions and subjects by catapulting them into an attractive un-reality. They’re (somewhat) like William Shatner acting, like The Darkness’s I Believe In A Thing Called Love, like George Miller and Margaret Sixel going HAM with Mad Max: Fury Road. But the stakes are low. You just have to snap away and see where it takes you. It’s the very opposite of a GR or Q in your hand. Nothing matters except having some stupid fun — and if you care about the network, posting them up to see if anyone will put a skeuomorphic “yummy” or “that’s fire” stamp on the back of your virtual print.

Jose made a keen observation when I told him it was back and I was enjoying it. He said the original Hipstamatic was novel because its frames and filters were a throwback to analog prints and toy cameras. And now in 2023, it’s a throwback to the throwback that we’re enjoying.

Here are some photos so far.

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