Twitter and Instagram want you to decide between the two of them. They used to be very different, but as of today, you can use them both to apply faux-vintage filters to your pictures. But only one can be the best.
It's not exactly a fair fight—Instagram boasts more than double the filters of Twitter (18 to 8), and is designed specifically for sharing photos, as opposed to just sharing whateverthehell on Twitter. But the new contender is taking this very seriously, and the photo app-within-an-app looks perfectly polished for something brand new. We put all eight of Twitter's new filters up against their closest Instagram competition so you can see for yourself, and then let your heart decide (Android and iOS owners only for now—sorry Windows).
For our competition, I used a scene that's a dime a dozen on any Instagrammer's feed: a potted plant next to a cup of water and a small novelty German flag, with late afternoon sunlight streaming in just so.
Vignette is the kiddy pool of filters, perhaps made for Twitter users who aren't totally comfortable with the idea. It barely changes anything. The contrast looks slightly bumped.
Instagram Rival: #nofilter Really, doing nothing with you Instagram shots will yield you essentially the same results.
Winner: Doing Nothing
Black & White
This removes the color from your picture, like so.
Instagram Rival: Inkwell
The pretentious cousin of Black & White, Inkwell also turns your images... black and white.
Some of these titles don't make any sense, so bear with us. Cinematic turns down color saturation and increases contrast, which might make your picture look more dramatic. It's a subtler effect, and Twitter pulls it off very well.
Instagram Rival: Lo-Fi
This is the closest, but it's by no means close. Lo-Fi has the contrast bump, but lacks the nice desaturation of Cinematic. Instagram just doesn't offer an option that does what Cinematic does.
Twitter didn't blow its wad on creative names. Cool makes your image appear cooler. In this case, really, just blue. It makes your picture blue.
Instagram Rival: Hudson
Hudson gives your snap a slightly cooler touch, without making it look like it came out of Mr. Freeze's lab.
Calling a photo filter "Vintage" is like calling a word processor template "stuff with letters," but this one just boils down to yellow. It'll make your image yellow like Cool made it blue, which sort of resembles a faded vintage photograph. Not subtle, but not bad.
Instagram Rival: None
There's nothing that looks like this on Instagram.
Winner: Vintage, by default
Unlike Cool, Warm doesn't just make your pic orange or something—it's a gentler change, and a cheery one. The sun in this scene really looks nice here, don't you think?
Instagram Rival: Rise
Rise... like a sunrise... a sunrise that is Warm. This filter also pushes the image temperature upwards, but just a bit. Compared to how dramatic Warm is, Rise looks kind of anemic.
Not sure why this is called Happy. It's just Warm, only warmer.
Instagram Rival: Kelvin
Both filters come on a little strong, but Kelvin looks like it spent too long fake tanning. Happy might be a little heavy on the Prozac, but it doesn't look as fried as the Instagram equivalent.
Gritty is Cinematic, only maybe a more violent movie. The saturation is turned down even further, lending your photo extra "grit."
Instagram Rival: Earlybird
It doesn't sound as intimidating, but Earlybird is about as bad. Actually, it looks worse—just blown out enough to make you question ever using it.
Winner: Gritty by TKO
Twitter isn't a photo app. When you launch Instagram, you're ready to start tapping, but Twitter requires you to compose a new tweet, hit the camera icon, then tell the app you want to take a new picture.
And then once there, you can see plainly above that Twitter shows more of each photo than Instagram—but we can't hold that against the latter, whose photos are cropped into squares by design. Twitter, on the other hand, shares your entire frame. This also means Twitter doesn't have the screen space at the moment to show proper filter previews, as opposed to Instagram, which gives you a hint with buttons along the bottom. This is fine, since there are probably only a handful of Twitter filters you're going to want to use anyway, but, if and when, the Blue Bird gives you new ways to augment your french fries, socks, and sunrises, you'll want a better way to plan your visuals. And at the moment, Twitter is mum about whether iPhone integration will mean we can do all this filtering directly via iOS, which would be pretty sweet.
Twitter's first try is a good first try. Some of the filters are silly or overdone, but so are a great number of Instagram's. The biggest visual demerit you can issue is that Twitter's take is simplistic. You've basically got blue-ish pictures, yellow-ish pictures, faded pictures, black and white, and some contrast changes. Nothing experimental. Nothing to excite the artist's loins.
It's also been an official feature of Twitter for less than a day. Give it time. Give it a chance. But don't give up Instagram's space on your home screen yet.
There's also the matter of audience. This isn't a small consideration if you actually want people to see your filtered masterworks. Now that Twitter and Instagram are rivals and won't play nice with each other anymore online, your friends might be segmented. The friends you want to share with. If you tweet a filtered picture you take, it'll be embedded in that tweet, and people are more likely to click. A tweeted Instagram is now just a boring link. But Instagram can also share to Facebook.