App Review: CameraBag 2

CameraBag 2 for Mac/PC $29 ($23.99 in Apple App Store) / £16.99

CameraBag 2 for Mac takes the essentials from the popular iOS app and adds a lot more options, allowing you to take more creative control over images using the more powerful processing and bigger screen of a desktop computer. 

A stalwart in the photo category of the iOS App Store for a while, CameraBag from Nevercenter has been popular with lo-fi photo fans for years, thanks to its simple interface and effective 'one shot' filters. A version for desktops, CameraBag 1 proved popular, but with CameraBag 2, Nevercenter has completely redesigned the app from the ground up.  

CameraBag 2 has proven a huge commercial success already, and after its release earlier this year the Mac version briefly became the highest-grossing non-Apple app in the Mac App Store. CameraBag 2 is intended to be an all-in-one editing tool with a plethora of vintage effects paired with what Nevercenter describes as a 'full suite of photographic tools' such as exposure and luminance controls. It has an extremely simple interface, showing your selected image large in the window with all the available effects visible on tabs to the right of your photo. In any editing tab, you can choose the 'Quicklooks' view and see what your photo would look like with any of the pre-made filters added to it.

The 'Quicklooks' view allows you to see at a glance how your photo would look with any of CameraBag 2's filters applied. 

Key Features:

  • Over 100 adjustable filters.
  • Exposure, color balance, shadow/highlight controls
  • Batch editing. 
  • 'Quicklooks' and live previews. 
  • Fast processing.
  • RAW compatible.

Operating Requirements:

  • Mac: OSX 10.5 or newer, Intel CPU (Core 2 Duo or better)*
  • Windows: XP SP3, Vista, or Windows 7
  • 1GB RAM
  • 70MB hard drive space

At $29 from Nevercenter’s website (and $23.99 in the Mac App Store), CameraBag 2 is slightly pricier than an app like Nik Software's Snapseed, but still cheaper than Apple’s Aperture or Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. CameraBag also has an edge over one-trick apps like Snapheal or Photosplash as it features both filter effects and basic editing tools. For this review, I will take you though the steps of editing a photo in CameraBag from importing to creating a filter and batch processing.  

Importing

CameraBag 2 is compatible with JPG, PNG, TIFF, and most RAW file formats. For this review, I imported a .NEF file from a Nikon DSLR. You can read more information about file handling and compatibility in Nevercenter's FAQ, which is here.

You can import photos into CameraBag 2 by dragging them into the window, clicking the 'Load' option in the welcome page, or by going to File / Open. Once you have opened an image, you can browse through other photos in the folder within CameraBag 2 by using your right and left arrow keys. 

 

Styles

After loading your photo, CameraBag 2 with push you straight into the 'Styles tab where you can add various (an initially overwhelming) effects. You can choose to skip this step and move straight to the Adjustments tab if you only want to do subtle light and color adjustments. After you have made changes in the Adjustments tab, you can add a Style by returning to the Styles tab and clicking the '+' that will appear to the right of the filter name after a brief hover. Every time you hover over a name of a style, a live preview of the style’s effect on your photo will appear.

For this image I chose the delightfully retro “Light Leak” style.

 
I used the remix slider to make the photo appear as if the light was leaking from the right and left side of the camera, leaving my subject unaffected.

The 18 styles available in CameraBag 2 range from toy-camera effects like 'Plastic' to the more flattering 'Wedding' options and all are customizable using the 'Amount' slider to adjust the intensity of the effect and the 'Remix' slider to adjust the variation. The 'Remix' slider in particular is great for creating unique effects. For example, in the 'Hipster' style, the 'Remix' slider will adjust the vignette, color balance, light curves, and film grain size as you move from either end of the spectrum. For quick, batch editing of party photos, this could be where it ends - creating your unique effect and saving.

Adjustments

Not all of the tricks in CameraBag 2 are meant to make your pictures look like they were taken using a 19th-Century pinhole camera with a scratchy lens. Under the 'Adjustments' tab, you can crop, straighten, and control the levels of your photo using exposure, contrast, and saturation options. Under the 'Light' controls, you can adjust the RGB and Luminance Curves as well as adjust the shadows and highlights. The 'Color' controls let you do everything from color correction to split tone and selective saturation and the 'Photographic' effects add options like vignetting, film grain, and discoloration.

Every time you add an effect, a tile appears at the bottom of the screen. Here, you can return to your affects at any time to edit, change the layering of your effects, click the power-button to hide your effect, or the 'x' to remove it.
This screengrab shows my photo with the “Light Leak” tile deactivated. In the Crop/Straighten tab, a slider will straighten and auto-crop your photo. If you want to crop further, you can use the manual cropping tool with a rule-of-thirds grid built in or choose on of the many, pre-made ratios.

Adjustments is where you will also find the 'Constrain Size' option for saving your file - a rather strange place for it, as most photographers would expect to see this option somewhere in the file save dialog. This option appears as a tile next to your other adjustments and will be applied to all photos during batch editing.

Adding a Border

After you are done styling and adjusting, you can add a border. Options here range from simple, customizable borders to elaborate film-style frames. While some of these borders are subtle and only add a texture on the edges of the image, the bigger frames will auto-crop your photo.

Finishing Up 

Once you have created the perfect look for you photo, its time to save it. And I don't just mean save your image - a feature I really like is the ability to save the effects that you've applied to an image as a filter, which you can use again in the future. Whether you design your own filter or use one of the 'pre-baked' options, you can give a large folder of photos the same, distinct look by using the 'Batch Process' option.

If you like what you've done so much that you want to process other images in the same way, you can save your adjustments as a new filter. Simply choose the 'Add Current…' button and choose a name. CameraBag 2 will add your adjustments to the Favorites tab.  If you want to apply your choice of effects to more than one image, you can batch process entire folders of pictures very easily. Just go to 'Batch Process Folder' in the File menu....
...and add a 'postfix' that you want added to the filenames of your processed images.... ...create a new folder for the processed files, and you're done. 

Batch processing takes a little time but will move much faster if you use the 'Constrain Size' option found in the adjustments tab. To give you some idea, batch processing a folder of 70 photos totaling 449MB took nearly 10 minutes  on my Mac when set to export at full size, and 5 minutes using the 'Constrain Size' option to limit the width to 1200 pixels.

Conclusion

CameraBag 2 is great for batch editing photos, but I would not recommend it as a primary photo editing program as the tools and adjustments are not quite as precise as they should be. The sliders are great for quick editing, but for the perfectionist, it can be draining trying to toggle your way into the perfect light/shadow mix. You also cannot zoom in to see the details of your photograph during the editing process. Your photo will only ever be as big as your window will let it get which was fine for me on my large iMac, but an 11-inch Macbook Air user would be out of luck. This seems such a glaring omission that I'd be surprised if Nevercenter didn't fix it in an update. 

Although CameraBag 2 is lacking in a couple of areas, its redeeming features far outweigh its weaknesses. The live previews and Quicklooks make editing photos extremely fast and easy, its many pre-made filters and styles are all customizable (which saves on the 'my photos look like everyone else's' effect), and the quick and easy batch processing is great.

In the future, I would like to see a customizable watermark feature as well as zoom-able viewing controls, but for now, CameraBag 2 has rightfully earned its place on the top of the App Store photo market.

We like: A ton of customizable filters, easy interface with effects tiles for quick revisions, live previews, quick processing, batch editing.

We don't like: Somewhat imprecise adjustment controls, no zoom control.

Comments

Total comments: 49
spidercho
By spidercho (Apr 28, 2012)

I like and use CameraBag. It saves time. I don't have to be creative with every pictutre.

1 upvote
Peter McNeill
By Peter McNeill (Apr 24, 2012)

VirtualStudio seems to do most of this and it's free.

0 upvotes
spidercho
By spidercho (Apr 28, 2012)

seems, but in fact does not

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
rrr_hhh
By rrr_hhh (Apr 23, 2012)

With so many great new cameras around, I would prefer if DPreview was concentrating on speedy cameras reviews.

I remember a time when reading the reviews of my favorite photo amateur magazines it was all like déjà vu. But now it goes the other way around : their reviews are already out, but we are till waiting for the definitive review of DPreview for too many cameras. And what do you do in the mean time ? Review toy apps !

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Richard
By Richard (Apr 25, 2012)

Makes me mad too. For the amount of money I pay for DPReview they should have a huge staff to get any review out in a day or two. I think they should refund my money.

6 upvotes
Doug Pardee
By Doug Pardee (Apr 26, 2012)

Lauren Crabbe doesn't work for DPReview. Her review didn't take any time away from DPR's camera reviewers.

2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (May 2, 2012)

@rrr_hhh - at least read the bylines on these articles before criticizing us for misplaced priorities - they're produced by outside contributors.

1 upvote
BluegrassBoy
By BluegrassBoy (May 18, 2012)

Well thanks for letting us know why you're leaving the site. We'll all miss your insightful comments!

(BTW - what was the name of the site you prefer?)

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Apr 22, 2012)

Its a filter collection with tweaking possibilities, not a photo editor. Fun to play with maybe. Can produce some useful results maybe. This review really dont tell. The example above dont sell it to me.

2 upvotes
Doug Pardee
By Doug Pardee (Apr 22, 2012)

For a detailed review, including some of my own works as examples, see my nine-page review article here on DPR:
http://www.dpreview.com/articles/7572421651/
The final page (page 9) gives a summary of the pros and cons.

You probably need to be interested in lo-fi for CameraBag 2 to be worth purchasing. What sets CameraBag 2 apart from the "effects" and "filters" that other editors provide is the quality of the implementation. High-quality lo-fi sounds like an oxymoron, but there's a difference between "lo-fi" and "cheesy."

CameraBag 2 can be used as a basic photo editor, but Picasa generally does that better, and for free. I have, however, been impressed by CameraBag 2's ability to rescue botched or faded photos where the problems are with exposure, contrast, and color. It's that quality of implementation again.

Comment edited 12 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Apr 22, 2012)

OK - I missed the PC/Mac review.

Is the iOS app equivalent?

0 upvotes
Zebooka
By Zebooka (Apr 23, 2012)

Instagram :)

0 upvotes
Paul Farace
By Paul Farace (Apr 21, 2012)

all graphic arts have devolved in exactly this same fashion once they reached the end of their technical maturity cycle. Look at painting... once artists achieved near photographic reality, they devolved first into the IMPRESSIONISTS and then into CUBISM and sadly we ended up with blobs of paint and urine splattered on a canvas. Same holds true for sculpting... once you achived the near reality phase (Michaelangelo's DAVID), you slid down into a lump of marble with a stick in it. Photography is no different. With the millions of dollars spent on achieving the sharpest, best imaging system and digital convenience, you had the natural movement to make pinhole cameras and light-leak effects. It's the end of the world, I tell you!

9 upvotes
GaryJP
By GaryJP (Apr 22, 2012)

I work in both motion and stills capture. There is a point when you have achieved a perfect exposure, a perfect focus, a perfect handling of dynamic range, and you realise you have captured all the details but you have no mood or atmosphere. It can be a particular problem in TV production, where the hacks judge their images by histograms. I have, countless times, wandered around the set telling the lighting man to turn lights off, because it's not about capturing every detail but about capturing atmosphere.

Why do so many studio portraits look like waxworks?

Lo-fi tries to restore some of the process of memory and imagination, deliberately losing 100% accuracy to leave you something to add yourself in your mind. Just like chiaroscuro and deliberate shadows do.

I shoot Canon 1D, 5D, as well as Panasonic micro four-thirds amd compacts. And sometimes a Hipstamatic shot on my iPhone captures more of an aesthetic sense and atmosphere than any of them.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
10 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Apr 22, 2012)

You are finding the most extreme possible examples here. So we can only have a "David" or a stick in a rock? No middle ground at all? No room for pseudo-reality or minor interpretations on reality? We can only have Mona Lisas or urine on canvas?

It must be hard living in a black and white world.

2 upvotes
Paullubbock
By Paullubbock (Apr 26, 2012)

We have a long way to go before we reach the holy grail of perfect focus, perfect dynamic range photography. If we are lucky and work hard to stack, push and cojole dymanic range out of a picture it is more likely to end up looking fake and soulless. I don't like using flashes or extra lights because I to like to capture the natural atmosphere of the moment but it is rare when the camera has the range to do so. I want sharp buttery smooth detail that oozes in dynamic range in a handheld snap with no extra lighting. Someday my dream will come true but not yet.

0 upvotes
globethrottle
By globethrottle (Apr 21, 2012)

I just don't get the news, I can do all that on even my old PSP 8. Oh well, they prolly sell bucketloads anyways ...

1 upvote
Tape5
By Tape5 (Apr 21, 2012)

Well like Elton John said:

It's sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd....

3 upvotes
photowipe
By photowipe (Apr 21, 2012)

You should cut and paste this into about 80% of most of the forum threads here! Great response!

2 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Apr 21, 2012)

Interesting software I suppose for the price. However, when will DPR see fit to review some more mainstream PC photo editing software instead of just the cheap stuff..?

Eg. Nik's Suite (Color Efex, Viveza, Silver/HDR efex, etc), Alien Skin stuff, HDR software comparisons, etc.. Raw conversion software. Certainly we hear about lightroom and PS, what about the camera-makers' proprietary software (eg. guarantee everybody who has bought a new camera, owns one of these) comparisons.

6 upvotes
eopix
By eopix (Apr 22, 2012)

I absolutely agree.

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Apr 21, 2012)

Breaking News Alert!!!!

If you don't like these kinds of effects this software was not created with you in mind.

2 upvotes
Med Nierl
By Med Nierl (Apr 22, 2012)

I like the effects but there is nothing new that can do khis software

0 upvotes
Marty4650
By Marty4650 (Apr 21, 2012)

It really must be a matter of personal taste.

I wouldn't pay one cent to buy a program to make my photos look worse than they already are. They look bad enough without any enhancement!

I think this whole "lets make a horrible photo" fad was spawned by people who have pretty bad cameras. (Like... cameraphones.) They simply find it more artistic and satisfying to make a bad photo worse rather than trying to make a bad photo better.

I suppose it is possible to get a good photo from a really bad camera.
But only if you want something fuzzy and out of focus, and with colors skewed in every odd direction to make it look like a 40 year old faded polaroid.

Like I said, if you love this genre, then go for it.

Personally, I prefer photos that don't look like they are 40 years old and you found them in a shoe box.

7 upvotes
David Dolsen
By David Dolsen (Apr 21, 2012)

The filters on these apps have actually loosened up my style. I come from a 4x5 professional background and tend to be very tight and fussy, but these apps give me a fresh outlook and tell me that it's okay to "lighten up".

Can you get a good pic from a bad camera? Story: years ago I was on the go-see list for the local college's photography program. The graduating students would come by with their portfolios, the usual boring required shots. One day a young lady walked in and I looked through her port and came across a truly brilliant image that I would have loved to call my own.

She shot it with a disposable camera.

6 upvotes
Ben Raven
By Ben Raven (Apr 21, 2012)

Vintage effects can be useful tools in your creative quiver.
And to me,
ALL'S FAIR IN ART AND WAR.

Bear in mind, that I started out in film. I am not a digital newborn.
I saw most of these "effects" when they were not vintage, just flawed photos --tho sometimes accidentally and serendipitously beautiful flawed pics !

But reeeeeally, "Light leak effect" ?!?!?
You have got to be s'_ ing me !

What's next ? UNDEVELOPED FILM EFFECT ????

But hey, there's no accounting for taste -- if YOU like it, who am I to say--
Go for it !

6 upvotes
Doug Pardee
By Doug Pardee (Apr 21, 2012)

Yeah, if I wanted a light leak I'd buy a 5DmkIII! Just joshing, folks.

Light leaks can serve the same purpose as most of the other effects: to redirect the viewer's scan of the image, or to change relative emphasis. They often work better in B&W than in color, and at a reduced opacity. They're just another tool in the toolbox, to be used when needed.

The comment about the undeveloped film effect made me chuckle. Mis-loaded film (usually called "redscale") is becoming popular enough that it's now commercially available from Rollei. The redscale fans tend to look down their noses at anyone who imitates redscale digitally, though.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Ben Raven
By Ben Raven (Apr 21, 2012)

Doug,

Really, "redscale" ??
Just think of it, pre-misloaded film -- you don't even have to accidentally screw it up yourself!

No wonder you laughed at what I thought was my outrageously satirical "undeveloped film effect" !
You learn something every damn day.

Back as a lucky lucky kid, when my 2nd camera at age 11 was my uncle's old but virginal ROLLEI E with great CZ 2.8 Planar (yeah, I was spoiled stinkin' rotten for image quality right out the box) a misload (it happened a few times) was a thing of horror -- possible once in a lifetime shots ruined forever !

And now, through the wonders of whatever . . .
I guess I was ahead of my time back then.

2 upvotes
Tape5
By Tape5 (Apr 21, 2012)

Ben you were not ahead of your time, you can relax

What is missing from the current time fad is the human experience you are talking about

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
GaryJP
By GaryJP (Apr 22, 2012)

"Yeah, if I wanted a light leak I'd buy a 5DmkIII! Just joshing, folks."

And, joshing or not, you'd fail to get it. The light affects the exposure evaluation, NOT the sensor.

0 upvotes
neil bryant
By neil bryant (Apr 21, 2012)

Am i missing something here, because i can't seem to find any sort of sharpening tool.

0 upvotes
gteague
By gteague (May 14, 2012)

neither can i! if anyone knows if it exists and where it is, let us know.

0 upvotes
Superka
By Superka (Apr 21, 2012)

One more time I have to say about these unnatural making up about "How I''m gonna spoil my photo to make it LoFi". You soon would be tired of this process "this filter, or those or, may be that one?" Try film and you would never come back to these. Film gives you much more then "Over 100 adjustable filter". That''s why it become more and more popular again.

0 upvotes
wayoutwest
By wayoutwest (Apr 21, 2012)

I liked the first Camera Bag and will try this one. PhotoScape does a lot of the things I like as well and it's free but Camera Bag 2 is priced very reasonably.

I was doing pinhole, cross-processing and lots of other effects with prints in the late 80's, so this isn't a fad for me. I had one of the original Lomo Russian cameras that was very cheap. They're a rip off now but the lomography site has been around for years so this kind of photography style can't be called a fad.

0 upvotes
Ashley Pomeroy
By Ashley Pomeroy (Apr 21, 2012)

I would gladly pay *two* billion dollars for this. No, *five* billion dollars. Five *hundred* billion dollars. Five hundred billion *tonnes* of gold. The entire GDP of the Milky Way.

4 upvotes
steve_hoge
By steve_hoge (Apr 21, 2012)

Film vs digital aside, am I the only stick-in-the-mud who's already tiredtof these pseudo-vintage-film effects, ie. trying to emulate a "19th-Century pinhole camera with a scratchy lens"?

13 upvotes
Sam Carriere
By Sam Carriere (Apr 21, 2012)

You're not.

0 upvotes
Doug Pardee
By Doug Pardee (Apr 21, 2012)

Different people like different things. Photography is a *very* wide-ranging activity. Lo-fi is becoming fairly popular in advertising and, to a small extent, wedding photography. Is it a fad? Probably... almost certainly. But if lo-fi isn't your "thing", just ignore it.

Personally, I'm already tired of "perfect" post-processing with (what I consider to be) its dispassionate assembly-line look. But that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate that a lot of people like that look and that some kinds of photography virtually demand it.

Photography has room for a lot of different tastes. If every photographer liked the same thing, we might end up in a world where every photo was of a sunset. Personally, I prefer this world.

15 upvotes
PeterK70
By PeterK70 (Apr 21, 2012)

Well. You can be tired of the perfect photography but for my opinion the perfect photography is where the real good photographers (I'm not using a word professionals here) differ from snap shooters. So from my point of view there are two options. Are you good or a snap shooter.

In this case, why buying an expensive DSLR and lenses when you can do all with your phone.
This is exactly what I said to my brother who was trying to buy a DSLR. I said to him that for his needs a compact or a phone is more than enough because he will never need what a DSLR offers him.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Apr 21, 2012)

You surely are not alone in this. Seems that just anything can be considered "art", even when the final results don't have much to convey. It's the same with music, kids scratching symphony records to "create music" which has more in common with engines than anything worth listening. I only hope the fashion turns its usual complete circle, and photography returns to its initial purpose. In the meantime, all those "vintage", "lomo", "trash" and other attempts to glorify photographic misses will have to be patiently outwaited.

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Sam Carriere
By Sam Carriere (Apr 21, 2012)

Actually, I have shot digital since the days when my camera store only stocked three or four digital cameras, and I still agree with the gist of Superka's comment insofar as it concerns over-manipulation.
I also feel that there is enough photography software and hardware that is ignored completely by Dpreview that it could do better than to start to review apps.

1 upvote
Superka
By Superka (Apr 21, 2012)

I prefer shooting film. There is something unnatural in all this manipulations.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
eVaar
By eVaar (Apr 21, 2012)

And would you agree that a typewriter is a much more natural way to create a document than a word processor? ...oops, time to go churn some butter!!

9 upvotes
MIKE GG
By MIKE GG (Apr 21, 2012)

dont let the cow tit hit you in the face

4 upvotes
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (Apr 21, 2012)

Yes, Photoshop is the devil's spawn.

2 upvotes
Valiant Thor
By Valiant Thor (Apr 21, 2012)

Yes, I agree though none of my friends understand my unusual ways when I arrive at work and park my camel next to their Acuras and BMWs.

3 upvotes
WalterPaisley
By WalterPaisley (Apr 21, 2012)

Hey, eVaar, did you just create your DPR account to lamely shoot this guy down for having a dissenting opinion? Nice going.
Also I like the way you describe writing as "to create a document". I you'd call a photograph is visual facsimile.

1 upvote
DRNottage
By DRNottage (Apr 22, 2012)

Back in the late 70's, it was a struggle to get any kind of technically decent image from my good old SX-70. Later, it became a unique artistic tool, outstripping its consumer appeal. Ok, fine. But now, I find all of THIS endlessly amusing. Light leak?? Give me a break! It's just all about making money...
Well said, Mr. Farace.

0 upvotes
washyshots
By washyshots (Apr 24, 2012)

Personally I love the aesthetic of these tools.

I have always been attracted to what you can't see (and have to imagine) than what you can see (HDR as an extreme example). The theories of gestalt perception (closure for example) provides the reason why we often prefer to complete the picture ourselves and this is also the reason why many people prefer 'the book' to 'the film'.

Granted, you can achieve the same results in photoshop but having downloaded a trial it is actually very good. Of course graphic designers will love this kind of tool because it abstracts and dramatises images beyond what we percieve as normal.

Some like it and some won't. It certainly isn't for those who invest their interests in quality of sensors and so on.

And Marshall McLuhen so nicely stated:

"We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future."

0 upvotes
Total comments: 49