AMITIAE - Saturday 16 February 2013
Useful Photography App for the iPhone: Wood Camera
By Graham K. Rogers
BackgroundWhere the smartphone has the real advantage is the software. With the number of apps available for working on image output on the iPhone for example, it is like carrying a digital darkroom in your pocket. There is little doubt that if I want to create massive posters (as I do sometimes) one of my Nikon cameras with its good lenses will provide far better results.
Most of the time I neither want nor need such high quality and the iPhone will suffice, also allowing me to edit before I upload to Facebook or my website. I am not alone in this. The apps used for output carry a greater importance, particularly if special effects are desired.
On Friday a number of sites were reporting on the latest update to a photography app for iOS devices, called Wood Camera: so named because the developers have a soft spot for the output of older devices. The app itself is quite a reasonable solution for image manipulation, and the latest issue (version 2) has many new features.
One of the reasons the app has had such a good first day in the various sources I saw may lie in the excellent Press Kit that was available and from which I have borrowed. Information concerning the release of an app along with a selection of pre-prepared images of the app as well as samples of output is almost unprecedented. All of the package, including the text information, was well-thought out. The developers, Bright Mango, are serious about this.
Wood CameraInitially, after an opening screen, the app library is shown. The first time a user accesses any of the pages a series of help instructions is displayed. Before users are able to work on any image, it must be added to this, either by selecting an image from the Photo Album or by taking a photograph. When the camera is used, there are 32 filters (or "lenses") available to the user. When taking a photograph, a button to the right hides the lenses so the user has a full screen to work with. An image shot with the camera is added to the app library screen when the Use button is pressed.
There are three on-off settings: GeoTagging, which retains the coordinates for any captured photo; Camera Roll, to add any images directly (minus lens effects) to the Photo Library; and Capture Mode, which access the camera instead of the library, when the app is started. At the bottom of the Settings screen is a button to reset all tutorials.
Tapping an image in the library panel brings it up full screen. To the top left is a Close button and to the right, a button marked Edit. At the bottom of this Detail screen are buttons for Export and Trash.
EditingWhen Edit is pressed the photo is available for adjustments to be made. Top center is an eye icon (faintly marked fx) which turns on and off any effects added, so an image taken with the camera and a lens, can be viewed here as it was originally.
At the bottom of the screen are 6 controls. The first (on the left) is a dual control for rotation (in 90 degree increments) and straightening, with a slider. A Crop button gives four options for crop shapes plus None. The lens access displays all 32 options, a well as 6 sliders to adjust Intensity, Brightness, Contrast, Sharpening, Saturation and Hue, giving an unusual level of control to each image output, but in a basic, easy-to-use way. There are also some 28 filters that add distressed effects to an image (see my review on DistressedFX), along with a slider to temper the effect.
An icon like a loupe provides Tilt-Shift adjustments and Vignetting. Both use sliders to adjust the intensity but the area (round or horizontal) that Tilt-Shift affects may be adjusted using a two-finger pinch. Finally, there are 16 frame options, two of which add flying birds to the image. I am dubious of the value of such frames.
As each effect is used, so the icon that accesses the options changes from white to orange.
Exporting and CommentsWhen adjustments are done, we are returned to the Detail screen. We may Export (or Trash) from here, or press Close and return to the Library screen from where it is possible to export one or a selection of images.
When a user exports images, there are several options: camera roll, email, Twitter, Facebook, Fickr, Instagram, as well as "Dropbox and others". Selecting this last option crashed the app the first time I tried it, but the next time I was offered 12 apps that were available on my iPhone for me to use, including the print apps (Epson, and HP) I have.
I saved images both to the camera roll and via email. The best email option I was given was 2.3 MB (actual size) for a photograph taken in Wood Camera. Another a short while later with several adjustments was 1 MB. Both the JPG and a full size 8-bit TIFF image - exported from Aperture after transfer from the iPhone Photo Library via Photo Stream - were shown as 27.8" x 45" with a resolution of 72 dpi.
I did install this app on the iPad, although I rarely use this device for taking pictures. Many do, though, so this makes the app relevant to them. The rubric in the iTunes App Store does mention the iPad but tells users that Wood Camera is optimized for the iPhone 5. It displayed on the iPad that I use in the x1 and x2 screen sizes. It is easy to use because of the bigger screen, but its real home is the iPhone.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.
For further information, e-mail to