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A 14–500mm f/1.0 lens. 1/8000 of a second shutter speed. Perfect sharpness. No aberrations.
There’s only one place in the world to find a camera like that—only one place you could find it—and it’s not in our world at all. It’s in a video game. Gran Turismo 6, to be exact.
Of course, taking photos in video games is nothing new. Pokémon Snap, the Fatal Frame series, and Beyond Good and Evil all involved photography as core gameplay elements. But recent popular titles have gone further, featuring robust camera modes that allow players to capture that perfect gaming moment, dress it up with lighting effects, vignetting, and Instagram-style filters, and quickly and easily share it.
It’s not just photography in video games—it’s photography of video games, and it’s a far cry (pun intended) from just taking an old-fashioned screenshot.
Steven Hansen of Destructoid points out that these new photo modes are, at their core, marketing tools. They encourage players to post pictures to social media, creating free advertising for the games. However, he also notes that it leads to some very, very cool player-created content.
Here are some examples of what cameras can do when they're unbound by the laws of physics.
The series brands itself as "the ultimate driving simulator," but it's also the ultimate photography simulator. The in-game photo mode mimics a real camera's interface, including everything from focal length and aperture to shutter speed and exposure compensation.
(Sadly, that's more control than many real-life cameras give you.)
The camera in Gran Turismo 6 is inherited directly from the very similar mode in GT5, and takes full advantage of the newer title's added eye candy. The super-realistic interface is an obvious nod to the pro sports shooters who toil trackside, and it can be incredibly addicting.
And the results? Well, they're stunning.
Another racing game, Forza Horizon 2 has an open world and ever-changing environmental conditions that make it perfect for in-game photography. The tone of a photo can greatly change at night or in inclement weather, and this game lets players set up those kinds of dramatic shots at will.
Though the controls aren't quite as fine-grained or realistic as those in Gran Turismo (vital settings like aperture and shutter speed are on 0–100 scales), the results can be just as gorgeous.
You might not expect to find a camera mode in an action game set in a fictionalized Seattle, but it works to spectacular effect in inFAMOUS Second Son. Particle effects from the player's and enemies' various superpowers and weapons make for some compelling subject matter, and the open world and superhuman protagonist mean you can shoot from almost anywhere.
Though it's a little less advanced than the modes in the racing simulators above, Second Son lets you change aperture, focus, and color grading to create some pretty neat looking shots.
The only high fantasy game on this list, Shadow of Mordor has players killing legions of orcs in brutal ways. The game often slows down (purposefully, not because of framerate drops) moments before the player's character delivers a lethal blow. That provides the perfect opportunity to open up the in-game photo mode and capture every savage detail.
Again, Shadow of Mordor doesn't get as in-depth as GT6 or Forza Horizon 2, but players can mess with zoom (aka field of view), aperture (depth of field), filters, vignetting, frames, and more.
This high-definition remake of Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic masterpiece is probably the reason some of you own a PS4 in the first place.
Its Photo Mode lets you apply color filters, vignettes, and custom frames to better capture the desolate, hopeless atmosphere that permeates throughout much of the game. You can also change zoom and depth of field settings. Or you could make something like Ellie's Super Selfie Collection, if that's more your style.
The Grand Theft Auto series has been accused of inciting violence against police and women, glorifying organized crime, and propagating racial stereotypes. Perhaps its latest installment's biggest offense, though, is promoting selfie culture with its built-in smartphone camera interface.
Called "Snapmatic," it's basically an in-game version of Instagram, which players can use to capture all the weird things going on in the fictional city of Los Santos.
Did we miss any of your favorite in-game photo modes? Let us know in the comments!
Hero image: Flickr user “TransformersMan” (CC BY 2.0)