There are lots of retro cameras with real-time filter effects out there. But ca-mera is fundamentally different. And for all those math geeks out there, that little hyphen is a big clue as to why.
The app is ready to shoot as soon as it launches. It’s totally 80s retro from the get-go: the screen jumps with black and white streaks. Those pixel-heavy, monochrome graphics should bring back memories of old Macintoshes to anyone who has ever tried one.
All you need to do is tap the camera icon at the bottom to snap an image. Your last photo appears just to the left of the icon.
Also, you can tap the Reverse icon to activate the front camera lens for a tweaked and streaked-out selfie.
While focusing, the image’s subject constantly changes—glitching and flashing its granular pixels. The reason why the app is so special is the tech behind the effect. This is where things get geeky.
ca-mera uses a cellular automaton (also known as CA—get it now?), a discrete mathematical model that creates your image with a grid of small squares—or cells. Each adjacent cell’s state (black or white) varies based on those of its adjacent neighbours as determined by a specific set of rules. The main variable is light, or in this case, the brightness values coming in from your camera. These values are then distributed on the cell grid, resulting in those cool, complex patterns you see that are constantly changing and adjusting.
The core of ca-mera’s effect is built on Wolfram rule 126, one of the many elementary CA by mathematician and computer scientist Stephen Wolfram. Many of the parameters are adjustable. A quick tap can tweak resolution, input brightness, direction and CA fidelity, each a chance to produce an even more one-of-a-kind image. Now that you know the principle behind the patterns, it’s clear to see that ca-mera is one impressive little app.