Windows Phone Central App Roundup: Photography Apps
While it may be a coin toss as to which genre of apps, weather or photo, are more numerous in the Windows Phone Store there is little doubt that we are fortunate to have plenty of quality choices with both.
I have got several photography apps installed on my Windows Phone and this week's roundup is going to focus on some of my favorite photo editors. These are photo apps that I have found helpful for quick fixes of photos as well as apps that can add a creative flair to images.
Now before you pass out the pitch forks and torches, there are plenty of photo apps out there that are solid Windows Phone apps such as Fhotoroom, Nokia's Creative Studio, , ProShot, Phototastic and even Fantasia Painter. While these are all quality apps, the apps in this week's roundup are ones that I currently find myself using with regularity.
A lifetime ago, when I started using a camera for more than vacation snapshots, black and white film was what I cut my teeth on. It was cheaper than color film and not too expensive to process in a basement darkroom. The Windows Phone photo app Black hopes to deliver the Black and White film experience to your digital photos.
Black greets you with a main menu that displays a gallery of your most recently edited images and a "+" button to add images from your Pictures Hub to edit. Tapping a thumbnail image will give you the option to edit, eliminate or save the image back to your Pictures Hub.
Black has options to apply black and white filters to your photos that are patterned after several popular (could I say historic?) film brands that include:
- HP5 from Ilford
- FP – 3000B from FujiFilm
- Tri-X 400 from Kodak
- Lady Grey 400 from Lomography
- Neopan 400 from Fuji
- APX 400 from Agfa
- GP3 100 from Shanghai
You also have a generic grayscale filter available. Once you have a filter selected, you can fine-tune the application of the filter by adjusting the fade, vignette and curves of the image. Saved images retain their original resolution.
What I like about Black is the simplistic layout and that it has a curve adjustment tool, something you don't see often in a mobile photo editor. The curve editor allows you to manipulate the images tonal range of the available pixels. While it's nice to see a curve editor, I do think the app needs a crop tool though.
What I don't particularly care for with Black is the navigation controls. The layout isn't very cumbersome but some of the navigation controls can be a little stubborn. For example, to move from filter to filter you have to swipe at the listing at the top of the screen. You cannot just tap on the name of the filter to slide it into place. It's not a deal killer but I would have liked to have seen a more user-friendly interface.
Once you get used to moving around Black, you will find it to be a very nice and capable black and white converter for your Windows Phone. It nails down a Windows Phone Store rating of 5 Stars, which I see as spot on.
- Black – Windows Phone 8.x – 2MB – Free – Store Link
Adobe Photoshop Express
When you think of editing your digital images, Photoshop is a name that often comes to mind. It has become the standard in imaging editors for your PC and now you have a version available for your Windows Phone. Photoshop Express may not be as feature rich as its PC counterparts but for mobile editing, it does a nice job of things.
I've been using Photoshop Express as my main mobile photo editing workhorse for some time now and find it to be a very capable mobile photo editor. The main menu for Photoshop Express has options to launch a scaled down Windows Phone camera app (no lens support) or pull up an image from your Pictures Hub to edit. You also have the option to log into your Adobe Revel cloud service and have access to images store on your Revel account.
Editing tools are broken down into five groups along with an option to choose a quick fix that lets the app do all the editing for you. Editing groups include a core set of features with premium tools available through in-app purchase. Edited images can be saved to your Pictures Hub, shared or uploaded to your Revel account. Unless you change the resolution through cropping, images are saved at their original resolutions.
Photoshop Express's editing tools include:
- Looks – This group includes a collection of effects filters that include vibrant, autumn, spring, B&W, memory and others. The core collection includes 23 filters with the premium set adding 20 more for $2.99.
- Adjustments – Here you will find your image adjustment tools that include clarity, sharpen, exposure, contrast, highlights, temperature and more. A noise reduction tool is available as a premium tool that will cost you $4.99. It may sound like a steep price but it is a very nice noise reduction tool.
- Borders – A nice collection of borders, edges and frames for your images. Thirty-two in total if my count is correct.
- Crop – This is your basic crop tool that has the ability to flip and rotate the image as well as select from ten preset crop ratios.
- Red Eye – This automated tool detects red eye and wipes it out.
What I like about Photoshop Express is that it has a friendly user-interface and a healthy selection of editing tools. The Adobe Revel integration is also a nice touch as well. The editor isn't overly complicated but has a strong enough tool set to satisfy most users. The premium features aren't necessarily must-have items and the need solely depends on your needs. I will say that they do open up the app's capabilities rather nicely.
I really cannot find much to complain about with Photoshop Express. I wouldn't mind seeing the ability to stack filters and adjust how much of a filter is applied come to the table. It may be wishful thinking but being able to process and edit RAW files would also be a nice touch.
Adobe's Photoshop Express is a universal app and it's not a bad photo editing choice for those sporting a Windows 8 RT tablet. The app carries a 4 Star rating in the Windows Phone Store and a 3.7 Star rating in the Windows Store. Neither are far from the mark but I'd bump it up a tad for both versions.
- Adobe Photoshop Express – Windows Phone 8.x – 36MB – Free – Store Link
- Adobe Photoshop Express – Windows 8 and RT – 8.32MB – Free – Store Link
HDR Photo Camera
HDR photography (High Dynamic Range) can produce some rather stunning photographs. HDR is a technique in photography where you produce a greater dynamic range than possible with normal photography methods. It often works by capturing and then combining different exposures of the same subject matter into one photo. While there are a handful of HDR camera apps in the Windows Phone Store, I found HDR Photo Camera to be one of the more user-friendly offerings available.
One of the challenges with HDR photography is holding the camera stationary to avoid mis-alignment when the multiple images are merged into one. Often is the case where a tripod is required for HDR photography but the developers of HDR Photo Camera has done a nice job of tweaking the capture sequence to minimize the delay in between shots. You still need a steady hand but a tripod isn't always necessary.
HDR Photo Camera has the ability to adjust the exposure and fuse parameters and the option to save the individual shots that are captured during the HDR process. Images can be captured in the 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio. The 16:9 ratio yields images at a resolution of 3552 x 2000 at 96 dpi and the 4:3 ratio images are 3264 x 2448 pixels at 96 dpi (taken from a Lumia 925).
Once captured HDR Photo Camera has a decent photo editor where you can adjust the contrast, brightness and saturation of the image, share the image, save the image and apply effects filters to the image. HDR Photo Camera has fourteen filters that include several filters to adjust the HDR effect as well as a Sepia, Warm, Cold, Black&White, Invert, Film, Posterize, and Solarize filters.
What I like about HDR Photo Camera is that I can capture HDR images often on the fly without the need for a tripod and I like the HDR look. HDR photography isn't for photo op but it's nice to have a user-friendly option available for those times you want to give HDR a try.
What I wish HDR Photo Camera did better was handle close-up photos and, as with many of the photography apps that lack this feature, I think HDR Photo Camera needs a cropping tool. It would be convenient to crop a photo in HDR Photo Camera's editor to eliminate the need to open a second app to take care of things.
- HDR Photo Camera – Windows Phone 8.x – 1MB – Trial / $1.99 – Store Link
More times than not, I use Nokia Camera as my primary Windows Phone Camera app. I like the ability to shoot RAW images at times and the "zoom later" feature. But there are times I dabble with other camera apps for their creative capabilities. Camera360 is the app I find myself coming back to more and more.
The app has a user-friendly interface that uses a Creative Compass Tool to switch between the six camera modes (Auto, Portrait, Scenery, Food, Night and Microspur). Camera360 also has a wide variety of creative filters you can apply with live previews to allow you to see what your photo will look like before hitting the shutter button.
Other features of Camera360 include the ability to manually set exposure and focus, take double exposures and a Time Camera feature that captures images in the style of cameras from various time periods that range from 1837 to 1980. Images captured from my Lumia 925 were at a resolution of 2592 x 1936 pixels at 72 dpi.
While the camera aspect of Camera360 is fantastic, the app also has a decent photo editor and photo diary.
The photo diary lays out your photos by date and the editor has a healthy range of features to fine-tune your images. Editing tools include cropping, rotating the image, adding frames and adding effects filters to your images. Camera360 has eight frames that include movie, Polaroid, pinhole and 120 film frames. The creative filters are the same as those available through the camera's settings and include such effects as HDR, Lomography, Autumn, Black & White, Retro and more.
The bonus (if you can call it a bonus) is that you can pull any image from your Windows Phone Pictures Hub to edit in Camera360's editor. Some may not find this as a big deal but it does open up another source of creative filters to use with any of your photos.
Camera360 slams home a 5 Star rating with slightly under 16,000 reviews in the Windows Phone Store, a rating that we concur with.
- Camera360 - Windows Phone 8.x - 16MB - Free - Store Link
So what is your favorite Windows Phone photo app?
I probably have a dozen photo apps at any given time installed on my Windows Phone that I use from time to time. These four titles are the photo apps I currently use the most.
It's not to say HDR Photo Camera is better than 4Blend or Photoshop Express is better than Fhotoroom, it's just that I find myself using these apps more often. With so many quality photography apps in the Windows Phone Store it's hard to choose just one app to go with and often we drift towards the titles we are more comfortable in using. In many respects, it's a personal choice with no right or wrong.
Having said that, what is your favorite Windows Phone photo app? Do you have a collection of 'go-to' apps that fill your shutterbug needs or are you a one app kind of photog? Feel free to sound off below in the comments and please remember… if I didn't list your favorite app, there is no conspiracy afoot.