Review: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) snapshot editing software
Giraffe at the Zoo, San Diego, California, 2008.
Filter: "Portrait III" (Vignette, Dye, Luminance Curve, Color Corrector), adjusted.
[This review is based on the Windows/PC version. There may be some differences in the Mac version.]
CameraBag 2's user interface (UI) is generally simple and straightforward, but there are parts that aren't so simple and parts that are better characterized as "primitive." CB2 started life as an iPhone app, then graduated to the Mac, then to the PC, and its heritage shows in the UI. The problem areas are mostly in dealing with stuff outside of the CB2 program (loading and saving files, for example), and in not adhering to UI conventions. As long as you're working inside CB2, it's pretty easy.
System-standard UI — not!
CB2 doesn't seem to have heard of the CUA user-interface standard that Windows programs almost universally adhere to. The mouse is treated as a single-button; right-click doesn't do anything except usually mimic left-click, and double-click isn't used at all. Most of the standard keyboard operations are missing, although Ctrl-O, Ctrl-S, and Ctrl-W are still there for opening, saving, and closing files, and Ctrl-Z is Undo. Tab does take you to the next enterable field, but if you try to use a Shift-Tab to go back to the previous one, you'll instead be toggling the screen layout.
CB2 has some keyboard shortcuts, but they tend to be a bit on the loosey-goosey side. You can open a file with "O" or Ctrl-O, and you can save with "S" or Ctrl-S. If they'd stuck with the standard Ctrl-S, they could have used "S" for the Style Quicklook, but instead they used "C" for that.
There's no button for rotating the image 90° left or right. You'll either have to pick that off of the Edit menu, or use the L and R keys. See the Quirks and Bugs section on page 8 of this review for more information on rotation.
The pop-up dialogs show their Mac heritage by having the OK and Cancel buttons reversed for Windows users. Similarly, the "x" (delete) button on various items often appears in the top-left instead of the top-right. But sometimes it's in the top-right; go figure.
I don't think I've ever seen another Windows program that doesn't have a Preferences dialog at all. There are two items in the View menu that function as preferences.
CB2 doesn't maintain a list of recently-opened files, and it uses the plain system dialog for opening files. So you need to know the name of the file that you want to edit — there's no way to preview multiple files at once and pick one.
There's no Save button — you'll have to do a save either from the menu or the keyboard. There's no Print capability at all, nor is there any facility to upload files to file-sharing sites.
CB2 does remember which folders you were loading images from, saving images into, loading filters from, saving filters into, and running a batch conversion in. It remembers these separately, so it won't automatically save your edited file in the folder you loaded picture from, but rather in the same folder that you did the previous save into.
When you're saving files and filters, CB2 sometimes remembers the name of the last one that you loaded or saved. If you're not careful, you could overwrite the wrong file or filter with your new one. More likely, you'll store the file or filter with the wrong name.
CB2's installation process doesn't give you the option to associate CB2 with photo files, so that if you double-clicked on one it'd automatically open in CB2. You probably wouldn't want CB2 as your default photo editor anyway, but if you do, you can make the association yourself in Windows Explorer through the Folder Options menu item.
Since CB2 stores its few preferences into a file, and doesn't automatically associate photo files with itself, I don't think CB2 interacts with the Windows Registry in any way. That's a Good Thing, in my opinion.
Working Inside the Program
The interface for doing the image editing works pretty smoothly. There's a tabbed toolbar down the right-hand side, and mousing over the buttons gives a large fly-out preview of the approximate effect of that button.
After a while you get used to the little differences between the tabs. When you mouse over a Style, a plus sign pops up on the right side that allows you to add the style to the current filter instead of replacing the current filter, and hovering over the plus sign shows the approximate effect of adding that Style. There isn't any such plus sign for Adjust tools, which always are added except for Crop/Straighten and Constrain Size which have dedicated slots. There also isn't a plus sign for Borders, which have a dedicated slot. When you mouse over a Favorite, you get both the plus sign and, in the upper-left corner of the button, a tiny dark "x" that allows you to delete the filter from the Favorites list.
A Quicklook lets you see previews of all of the items in the currently selected tab (Styles, Adjust tools, Borders, or Favorites) at one time. Well, you'll need to do a bit of scrolling. If you want to see a Quicklook for Styles or Favorites where the item has been added to the filter, you can either click on the plus sign at the right of the Quicklook button (which only appears when you mouse over the button), or use the undocumented keyboard shortcuts Shift-C and Shift-F.
Your current filter appears across the bottom of the image as a series of "tiles." Each tile has a small "x" in the upper left corner so you can delete it from the filter, and a small on/off symbol in the upper right corner so you can disable it without deleting it. You can select a particular tile for adjusting by clicking on it — it'll turn orange, and adjustment controls will pop up over the bottom of your image (provided your mouse cursor is in that vicinity). To select a different tile, just click on it. To deselect the current tile, click away from all of the tiles.
The customization controls are pretty large, so they're not finicky to work with. Sliders are big, and to speed things up you can click on the spot you want the slider set at — including clicking on either end of the slider — rather than dragging, or you can directly enter the desired value into the data box. The color pickers also allow directly clicking on the desired positions, and direct entry of values into the R/G/B boxes.
The curves behave a bit oddly, but I quickly got used to it. The mouse cursor doesn't exactly drag a point. Rather, it's used to indicate a general direction of movement. The mouse ends up covering a lot larger area than the curve itself, so it's not so finicky. But if you move the mouse too far, the point gets deleted from the curve. Furthermore, the curve doesn't necessarily go through the dot. From what I can tell, the position of the dot is just a control point while the effect is defined by the curve. So the dot doesn't stay under the mouse cursor and the curve doesn't stick with the dots — the link between mouse cursor and curve is rather... elastic. There is no place to directly enter values into the curves.
The Remix slider on Styles also behaves in an unusual way. In order to let you go beyond the initial range of -50 to +50, when you "let go" of the Remix slider, it re-centers on the new value. I saw a YouTube video by someone who complained that the slider wouldn't stay put, and he thought that it wasn't doing anything. Look at the numerical value that's reported above the slider "button," and you'll see that even though the button has returned to the middle, it's brought the new remix value with it. So if you drag it to 40 and let go, the Remix slider now has 40 in the middle, and the left end will be -10 and the right end will be 90. (The endpoints are labeled simply "-" and "+", without numeric values like you'll see on other sliders.) The Offset slider on the Grain Adjust tool works the same way.
For some reason, there are no buttons for rotating 90° left or right. You have to do that either from the Edit menu or by using the L and R shortcut keys. Similarly, the "random remixed filter" feature is only available from the Edit menu or by using the space bar.
In the bottom left corner of the screen are three tiny icons. One hides and shows the filter tray, one turns off the main part of the filter (not Crop/Straighten nor Border) so that you can see what you started with, and one deletes everything in the filter. That last one takes multiple clicks to delete everything because the first click only deletes the main part of the filter.
The Insanity-Inducing Crop Tool
Yes, everything's pretty smooth inside the program... until you use the crop part of the Crop/Straighten Adjust tool. Cropping in CB2 makes me crazy.
The big problem is that you can't reposition the crop area until after you've adjusted at least one crop limit. When you move your cursor around, as you get near a crop limit, the limit line will turn red. When a limit line is red, you can click and drag the limit line. If you click inside the cropped area after moving a crop limit (without any red lines present), you can move the cropped area around. If you click anywhere before moving a crop limit, CB2 thinks that you want to drag out an all-new crop area. This is disturbing when you're just starting to crop and you've selected a specific aspect ratio, and now you want to position the crop — but you can't. But it's really infuriating when you've already had a crop going, then decide you want to move it a bit (maybe to fit inside a border), and when you click in the crop area, the crop completely goes away. Also, CB2 doesn't provide a way to reposition the crop area from the keyboard.
A lesser annoyance occurs when you've selected a specific aspect ratio but the current crop limits don't match that ratio. CB2 sets up the crop between the narrower limits, centered between the wider limits. That's fine. But now if you move the wider limits closer to the crop area in order to get them more "correct," CB2 moves the crop area to keep it centered between the two wider limit lines. After a while you get used to that, but it's still a bit strange.
The Crop/Straighten tool is also the only tool in all of CB2 that has Apply and Cancel buttons — or any buttons at all, for that matter. The Apply button does exactly the same thing that clicking off of the tiles does: it activates the crop and deselects the Crop/Straighten tile. The Cancel button does what you'd expect: it restores the Crop/Straighten to whatever it had been, and then deselects all of the tiles. The thing is, after you've spent some time working with CB2, your natural reaction would probably be to reach for the Ctrl-Z "Undo" instead. Big mistake: Ctrl-Z in Crop/Straighten has a tendency to crash CB2, losing any unsaved work (it usually takes at least two Ctrl-Zs to trigger a crash). Use the Cancel button.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.
- 1 Playing with snapshots: A review of CameraBag 2 (Desktop) editing software
- 2 Editor structure: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) review
- 3 Toy-camera looks: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) review
- 4 Vintage looks: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) review
- 5 Snapshot enhancement: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) review
- 6 Color tools: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) review
- 7 User interface: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) review
- 8 Limitations and quirks: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) review
- 9 Conclusion: CameraBag 2 (Desktop) review