Hands on: Koloid brings mobile photographers back to the darkroom
Kids these days. They don't know what it's like to labor over prints in a darkroom. They snap away with their smartphones, unconcerned about film limits or post-processing labor. A new app for iOS gives users a small whiff of the chemicals of photography's past.
Koloid (available for $0.99 in the iOS App Store) is inspired by 19th century's wet-plate collodion photography. The app creates a unique texture and exposure on a black and white image. Koloid takes a little longer than most camera apps but it also gives the satisfaction of using something other than a one-touch filter.
Koloid prompts users to take a photo within the app, using facial recognition to highlight possible subjects with a green box. If Koloid is not focusing where you want, a simple tap-to-focus will get you there. In the capture screen, you can turn flash on or off, and access options for a grid, geotagging, square or rectangular format, and whether or not you want to save it in Koloid's gallery.
After you take the photo, Koloid asks you to shake the phone in order to move forward to the exposure screen. Here, you will see the virtual developing liquid. You expose the image by tilting your phone and moving the liquid across the composition. The longer the liquid stays on a part of the photo, the darker it will become, creating "burned" areas as well as underexposing parts of the image.
The whole process of using Koloid is a bit of a spectacle. You will not be taking any subtle snapshots with it, but it is a fun way to involve yourself more in the creation of your photographs. While obviously not as involved as 19th-century wet plate photography, it does recreate a bit of the anticipation of a darkroom as you watch your image start to bloom.
After you are finished with your photo, you can upload it straight to your favorite social network or send it to friends via email or text message. All photos taken with Koloid are saved in their edited form (no option for saving originals) and include a date stamp on them.
On first use, Koloid is a fun photo app. It didn't crash once, despite being version 1.0, and it had enough manual features to make it fun, but not so many that it became confusing. My only issue with Koloid is that it doesn't let users save an unedited version of the photograph.
We recommended trying it out for a trip back into the darkroom, especially if you like the look of black and white iPhone photography.