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First look: Camera Noir for iOS is an elegant alternative for black and white photography lovers

From left: Lo filter, level to ground; Med, slightly angled; Hi, extremely tilted.

Small San Francisco-based studio Pacific Helm released Camera Noir on Tuesday, a simple black and white photography app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch that produces top notch images.

With just three filters — all monochrome — Camera Noir is seemingly taking a step in the opposite direction of most photo apps made for iOS, which contain an almost overwhelming number of image enhancement options.

The app feels stripped down and reminiscent of classic film cameras like Leica's M3 which are so intuitive and well designed that they just get out of the way, allowing photographers to focus on making great images.

Camera Noir has three contrast modes, or brightness filters: Lo, Med and Hi. Like a few other photo apps, a live preview of the chosen filter's effect is displayed on screen, and users can toggle between the three modes by tapping on a dedicated button at the bottom of the screen.

Focus and exposure adjustments are accomplished by touching on an area of interest, much like the implementation seen in Apple's iOS Camera app. With such an emphasis on light levels and contrast, it would have been nice to see a multitouch system that allows for discrete control over focus and exposure.

One of the few "modern" functions in Camera Noir is a digital level that changes from green to yellow to red as a user tilts their iPhone further from horizontal. The graphical representation is an extremely thin line that runs across the middle of the virtual viewfinder in both landscape and portrait modes.

Also part of the spartan preview window is a center mark and square framelines for composing Instagram-ready shots. Aside from a small area pushed to one edge of the screen, which holds buttons for shutter control, contrast control and photo library access, the display is dominated by the live scene.

Finally, Camera Noir has a feature to import and apply its black and white filters to previously snapped photos from a user's Camera Roll.

Of course, the app's output is not true black and white, as the iPhone uses a CMOS sensor with color filter array, but the desaturated results are still quite good. Blacks are inky, whites are rendered faithfully and intermediate grays are uncolored.

Camera Noir is priced at $1.99 and can be downloaded through the App Store.