By Graham K. Rogers
It is odd, but sometimes when we are looking for one thing, something else appears that seems too good to miss. I had been searching the iTunes app store for a recently updated app, and the search terms I used, gave me a top hit of a free app with some nice looking features. As ever, I was also attracted by the app icon and the screenshots. These are investments for the developer and a signpost for the user.
The app I downloaded was a German-developed photograph editing app with the awkward name of TADAA - HD Pro Camera. Although it has not been updated since November last year, it may suit some users. I think this is a gem.
The opening screens have quality images as background: part of the care that some developers may not consider worthwhile (particularly when the app is free), but these are perhaps the apps most worth keeping. The second of the screens, with a background of the sea, outlined what I might expect: over 100 filters plus 14 tools including Perspective, Grading, Blur, Filter, Crop, Distort, Colorshift and HDR.
While some of these tools shown on that opening screen are expected in editing apps, a couple - particularly perspective and Distort - were unusual. Although some are in-app purchases, they can be tried in the free version.
TADAA - HD Pro Camera
Once I had passed the initial screens, the interface showed input from the camera. I was asked to allow access to photos and then an icon to link to the library was made available. At the top of the screen in this beginning state were 4 tool icons: the first allowed switching between wide and square image mode; beside this I found a control to toggle grid lines on and off; the third icon, looking like a series of files enabled me to switch between working on a photograph directly, or saving that to the Library for later. The fourth tool looked like a flower icon, but was greyed out initially. When available this allows manual focus. To the extreme right was a tool for switching between front and back cameras.
I selected an image from the Photo Library and began to edit. At top of the screen were an X to cancel any action and Next (taking me to some export functions). Below the image display were the tools. The selection was good, although I did find that some of these (like Perspective) were in-app purchases. I do not have a problem with this as not everyone will want all of the tools, while the developers have provided a generous selection in the free app. If I like an app (and I like this one) I tend to make an in-app purchase as a gesture of support, if nothing else.
Just to the left of the first tool (Filter) and offscreen, is a Manage button. I had not seen this before and was impressed with what this does. Pressing the Manage button on this initial screen, opened a panel with all of the tools icons displayed, allowing a user to change the order in which they are displayed, so if I am not going to use Perspective, I can slide that along to the end.
- Filters are a mix of what I would have expected along with some rather original ones. Of these, U-Bahn, Bronze and Lucy were my favourites. There was an additional wrinkle here as a slider at the bottom of the screen allows the effect to be graded. Instead of selecting the filters one by one, it is possible to scroll through (left-right). To the left of the Filters, is a Manage icon which allows the user to disable specific filters.
- Adjust provides three sliders: Brightness, Contrast, Saturation. As the slider is operated, so a percentage figure appears just above the image.
- Crop has four presets of Original, Square, 4:3, and 3:4. A More icon also allows 5;4, 4:5, 16:9, 3:2 and 2:3. There is no manual setting which I was slightly surprised about. This tool also provides a rotate option as well as the ability to straighten the image.
- Clarity is a slider tool that has a similar function to the Sharpen slider also available. I tried both of these, but was unable to discern any difference to the images I edited.
- Vignette is another usable tool that has two settings controlled by sliders: Intensity and Range. The first of these runs from Black (left) to White, while Range determines the size of the vignette on the image.
- Frame provides a selection of 22 frame options and finishes. These are always something of a personal choice and I tend to avoid these, but a couple, such as Tube and Skinny White caught my eye.
- Snapshot is a useful tool that allows the user to create a duplicate of an image at any stage of the editing (or before).
- Grading reveals three sliders for Exposure, Tint and Temperature.
The remaining tools all require in-app purchases before they can be used. They can be accessed so the user has a clear idea of the potential of each tool, but instead of the check mark to accept changes there is a box with the price in it.
- Colorshift ($0.99) provides two sliders - Red/Cyan and Blue/Yellow - which allow interesting color shift adjustments to the image.
- Distort ($0.99) provides a single slider which pushed the center of the image inwards when moved to the left; or when moved to the right brings the center outwards.
I found that the range of tools and filters available in the free app was greater than I have seen in some apps I have paid for. There were however, a number of additional filters available as in-app purchases as well as those 5 tools. Some of the filters and tools were offered as bundles. In the end, I bought the Colorshift and Perspective tools as I expect these would be of the most value to me.
When editing was done, an Export icon at top left allowed sharing with Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, however the edited image was automatically saved to the Photo Library. Using the Snapshot tool, I duplicated an image and applied a filter. The image, as it appeared in Photos on the Mac was some 2048 x 1781 and 1.2 MB, while the original was 2448 x 1961 (2.3 MB). The GPS metadata was not retained.
I am surprised that I had not seen this app before (I certainly wish I had) and this makes a good addition to the collection of editing apps I now have. Despite it not having been updated since last year, it loses nothing by this. I used it on the iPhone 6 I have and I was pleased with the results. It is easy to use, despite the range of tools and should find a home in many app collections.
TADAA - HD Pro Camera is highly recommended.
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. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.