App Review: CameraBag 2
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.|
- Over 100 adjustable filters.
- Exposure, color balance, shadow/highlight controls
- Batch editing.
- 'Quicklooks' and live previews.
- Fast processing.
- RAW compatible.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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