The Demise of the Camera Roll

It was quite jarring when I used the camera app for the first time after upgrading to iOS 8. Everything seemed fine until I tapped the camera roll button to see an overview of the photos I had taken during my family’s annual apple picking trip. I happened to notice that the navigation button in the upper left that used to give me a thumbnail view of my camera roll was now labeled “All Photos.” I didn’t know what to expect until I tapped it — I was pushed out of the Camera app and into the Photos app displaying the “Moments” view of the Photos tab. This isn’t what I expected or wanted to happen.

For seven years that navigation button took you to a thumbnail view of your camera roll. And, now it’s a glorified shortcut to the Photos app. After some poking around in Photos I did find an album named “Recently Added” that closely resembles the camera roll. But, inside was not what I would have expected. There were photos that I assumed would be in my camera roll but there were also photos that I had taken and already removed from my camera roll using iPhoto. The “Recently Added” album was displaying photos that were taken within a period of time, not photos that I hadn’t dealt with yet — which in this case means pruned, edited, and imported into iPhoto.

What an incredibly confusing change for someone who has grown used to the camera roll’s existence over the past seven years. And, I’m not the only one that finds the new setup a bit confusing and annoying. There’s a (currently 14 page) thread on Apple’s support forum filled with complaints by users many of whom would prefer Apple bring back the camera roll.

I would love to see Apple reinstate the camera roll in a future version of iOS, but it isn’t going to happen. People (including myself) are complaining about the change because it has disrupted our workflow and left us confused about where our photos actually are. In time we’ll get used to it or at the very least learn to live with it. And, once Apple releases Yosemite with the new Photos app many of us will transition into saving all of our photos on iCloud and never have to worry about whether or not they’ve recently dumped their camera roll into iPhoto.

My biggest concern about moving to the cloud, though, is pricing. My current iPhoto library is nearly 40GB and I don’t know how I feel about paying Apple $3.99 a month to store it for me. I like the idea of having all of my photos backed up in the cloud, but I already have a pretty good backup solution that includes off-site backups and doesn’t cost me a dime (trading backup hard drives once a month with a family member). Time will tell how this all pans, but for now I’ll be missing the days when my iPhone had a camera roll and I had a better idea of what photos I still needed to process into my iPhoto library for long-term storage.