By Graham K. Rogers
I have enough photo apps to last a lifetime for my own purposes, but I cannot resist looking at new ones. A recent arrival in the New & Noted listings for Thailand is Camera 500. This stands out a bit: it is free for the moment; there is a good range of filters and options shown in the screen shots on the iTunes App Store; and also because this was put together by a Thai developer.
Many apps created here are shoddy: poorly checked and with ghastly English. Several fail to work like anything near the developers' claims. I am pleased to say that Camera 500 does what it claims to do and does it well. It is currently free, but would be good value at $1.99 or even $2.99 although there is much competition in this rich field. I tried this in the main on the iPhone 5s.
The basic controls are simple. Displayed at the bottom of the screen are 4 icons (plus text): New, Edit, Save and Settings. The first of these, "New," is straightforward and allows selection of input from Camera or Library. Likewise, "Settings" is basic and has links to About, "Knowledgement" (sic) - a number of external links that open in Safari - and "Tell a Friend" which sets up an email.
The core of the app is in the Edit section where there is a wide selection of effects available, each with its own set of tools:
- Filter contains some 30 filters, cleverly arranged in two overlapping sections. The output here is not overdone and each creates a pleasing new image: less is more. The second filter section here - Overlay, Soft Light, Screen, Multiply, Hard Light, Lighten, Darken, Color DodgeColor Burn, Color, Luminosity, Difference, Exclusion, Hue and Saturation - also has a slider on each panel for adjustments
- Lab applies filters that are a little more experimental. To my mind these need really careful choosing as a user can spoil an otherwise good picture with over-use of filters like these. Like the Filters section (above) there is a second identical section with the additional lighting effects, each with a slider.
- Effect provides a large selection of ways (11) to alter the original image each with a slider (or two in some cases)
- Spot, which provides an adjustable circle effect like a large vignette,
- Highlight, with two sliders
- Bloom - two sliders
- Gloom - 2 sliders
- Pixelate - easy to overdo this effect
- Color & Light has a color selector ring and two sliders for adjustments, as well as the lighting filters also available above (Overlay, Soft Light, Screen, Multiply, Hard Light, Lighten, Darken, Color DodgeColor Burn, Color, Luminosity, Difference, Exclusion, Hue and Saturation)
- Texture has a series of 23 background effects, each with a slider, but even at the maximum setting, the texture is applied quite lightly and does not lose the intention of the original image. As with other filters, there is the second section with the additional lighting effects.
- Adjustment has three sliders, to the left, right and beneath the image used: brightness, contrast and enhance (saturation).
- Blur & Focus gives three options: Normal (for the whole picture); and Circle or Band for a tilt-shift effect. The circle or band may be enlarged or made smaller with the pinch. The band may also be rotated.
- Resize offers the user the original image size; 8 presets (240, 320, 480, 640, 800, 960, 1024 and 2048); or the option to enter specific dimensions for an image, which may either be linked (a proportional change) or unlinked. For example, I changed the original 1536 x 2318 image to have a width of 1111 pixels and the height was automatically changed to 1676. Unlinking allowed me then to enter an arbitrary figure (1222).
- Rotate gave me 3 fixed options: 90 degree rotation (180, 270, 360); left - right; and invert. A slider also allowed smaller straightening increments to be applied.
- Crop has the usual cropping options of 1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, as well as Custom, each providing an adjustable grid. An icon also allowed the proportions to be switched (i.e. from 3:2 to 2:3). As with other options when applied there is always Cancel at the top of the screen.
- ToneCurve provides a graph format (also called Curves in other applications, such as Aperture or Graphic Converter) allowing specific color areas to be refined or changed.
- Text gives the user a box into which characters can be typed and then adjusted for size. The default font is HiraKakuProN-W3 (A Japanese font), but there must be a couple of hundred or more available from AcademyEngravedLetPlain to Zapfino: I counted to 100 and had still only reached font names with the letter D. The Text option also worked well with Thai characters and the selector gave me a full range of fonts to choose from.
Some apps I have downloaded may only give the user one or two of these options, but Camera 500 allows a wide range of editing options, filters and effects: each of these options is almost an app in itself.
Exporting from iPhone
Exporting an image gives a number of options including saving to the Photo Library and sending via email, plus to Twitter and Facebook. Also shown were Print and AirDrop options.
Sending a photograph taken within the app by Mail gave me image size options of Small (38.9 KB), Medium (99.8 KB), Large (484 KB) and Actual Size (1.2 MB), but when it arrived it showed 1.3 MB. An image that I took in landscape mode was exported (via Mail) with a size of 1.6 MB.
I feel that there are limits with the editing of images in landscape as the app can only be used in portrait mode, so the image worked on is displayed (in landscape) in a smaller box in the editing panel.
There were three other shortcomings that occurred to me while I was using the app: the original image was not saved when taking a photograph with the iPhone; there was limited metadata with the saved image; and editing changes were not remembered.
If a user left the Tools (perhaps by mistake) none of the changes were saved or remembered. A minor criticism is also the shadowing round the otherwise-nice looking app icon.
Photographs from iPhone (left) and iPad (right), Edited in Camera 500
I also tried this app on the iPad where it worked just as well. The larger screen of course made it easier to examine the images and the sizes compared well with output sizes of 1.05 MB (3602 x 2646) for a library image (9.5 MP) and a smaller 1.51 MB (1936 x 2593) and 1.21 MB (2592 x 1396) for photographs taken with the iPad camera: both 5 MP.
However, while I was pleased with the way the editing worked and the final products, I was less confident of the camera. On one or two occasions, when this was selected, the screen was black. The controls were available, and I was able to take a photograph of the scene I was aiming at, but there was a certain randomness to this. Images taken when this happened, also disappeared when editing, along with the controls.
A restart of the app fixed this briefly, but then it happened again. Restarting once more seemed to clear the problem. As a test, I cleared the app from memory but there were no more problems. Perhaps this was related to the fact that I had only just installed the app on the iPad, but there had been no such problems on the iPhone 5s I use.
Photograph from iPad, Edited in Camera 500
Version 1.0 of this app was posted at the beginning of March and there have been a couple of updates since, with the current version shown as 1.41 (posted 26 March).
The developer, Chamnarn Suksai, who has a few other apps listed in the iTunes App Store, has created an unusually good app here. He appears to come from Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand, but may not have a specific website. There is a link for his Earthquake Tsunami Pro app and a fairly sparse FaceBook link. Other links access a number of basic social networking sites. Perhaps the best would be the WordPress page of IOS Development.
This is one of the better apps currently available for applying effects to, and basic editing functions of images on the iPhone. Despite some minor niggles and the odd behaviour of the camera on the iPad, Camera 500 is highly recommended.
Photo Library Image from iPad, Edited in Camera 500
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. 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. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.