Photogene by Mobile Pond $2.99 for iPad, iOS 4.2 and later
Version reviewed: 3.4 using iPad 3rd Generation
With the surge of tablets into the mainstream, app developers have had the opportunity to reimagine what a photo editor should be. While we’ve seen innovations that hit and miss, Photogene owes its strength in part to its tradionalism: it includes much of the functionality users are accustomed to in desktop photo editors packaged in an interface that, while touch optimized, will be familiar to anyone comfortable with the likes of Photoshop. Thus there are levels and curves adjustments, the ability to tweak both color temperature and color balance, and noise smoothing with separate luminance and chroma sliders. But the app is also in touch with mobile fashions -- there are plenty of the obligatory toy camera and vintage effects.
- Advanced exposure controls, including curves, levels and highlight recovery
- Dodge, burn, and blur with paintable masks and gradients
- Batch export with links to a range of photo sharing services
- Flexible photo viewer for selecting images to edit
- iPad with iOS 4.2 and later
Photogene gets off to a strong start with a slick image browser that makes it easy to select photos for editing from the iPad’s library or a specific album. Thumbnails load in a flash and scroll smoothly, which is not the case with all the apps we’ve seen.
Thumbnails can also be toggled between three sizes, with the largest showing enough detail to distinguish between similar shots in a series, especially on a Retina-equipped iPad. This is more functional than most apps that force a single thumbnail size on the user. Long-pressing a thumbnail brings up EXIF metadata, a nice touch.
Near-full screen browsing of photos from within the editing pane, a la Apple’s iPhoto, is also possible, but poking the tiny arrow keys to move between images is much less convenient than that app’s finger-flick navigation.
Photogene’s wide range of image editing features is its strongest asset. The basics are well implemented. Cropping is a cinch, via free-hand selection or with constraints to common aspect ratios or user-configured specifics. Preset and arbitrary rotation is also possible, though the fine-tuning straightening slider could be less twitchy.
Exposure controls are very complete for a mobile app. In addition to brightness and contrast controls, there are “Lighten Shadows” and “Darken Highlights” sliders that do a convincing imitation of Photoshop’s “Shadows/Highlights” function (minus the ability to fine-tune tonal width and with the addition of a subtle color shift). A levels control allows for adjustments to the white and black clip points and gamma, while a curve adjustment cleverly overlays the entire image.
Tweaking color is possible with not only saturation, temperature and tint controls, but also RGB balance sliders. The range of change on the color balance sliders could stand to be taken down a peg: tiny movements cause dramatic shifts in the image, so fine adjustments take a little patience.
Photogene lets users dodge (lighten), burn (darken) and blur parts of the image by painting a mask onto specific areas. The strength of the effect is tuned via slider independently of the painting of the mask itself, which makes it possible to fine tune the effect rather than relying on repeated tries and undoes to get things right.
There’s a reasonably effective spot healing tool that lets the user select where the healing sample will come from: it’s not Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill, but it’s more than many mobile editors deliver.
No mobile imaging editor is complete without a stable of canned effects, and Photogene offers plenty of one-click tricks under the Presets tab. Effects are organized into categories (including black and white conversions, vintage looks, and the dubiously named “Fun” section that includes offerings like “Psychedelic” and “Mars”). There’s also a handy My Presets category that lets users save any series of edits to be reapplied in a snap.
The restrictions of the iOS environment mean a photo must be exported to be useful (otherwise, it’s only accessible in the app that created it). Photogene can write edited files to the iPad’s Camera Roll, as well as a notably comprehensive list of photo sharing and social media sites, include Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Google’s Picasa web space, and Tumblr. It also lets users send the image as an email attachment, save it to Evernote, plop it on Dropbox, or copy it to the clipboard for pasting into another app. Images can be exported at any resolution up to that of the original file (likely to be the maximum supported by iOS during the import process), in contrast to many apps that export lower resolution images and give the user little or no control over image size. They can be sent individually from the editing screen or, handily, selected in the image browser and batch exported.
Photographers who are already comfortable with Photoshop-caliber desktop editors will likely find Photogene appealing. Its interface model will be immediately familiar, and the wide range of features minimizes (though doesn’t eliminate) moments of “I wish I could do that” frustration.
On the other hand, the traditional interface design doesn’t have the cool factor of something like Apple’s iPhoto, with its novel interface that strives for universal intuitiveness rather than catering to the expectations of experienced users. That said, elements like the transparent curves overlay do show attention to optimizing for the tablet rather than simply echoing what works on a desktop.
Photogene’s completeness puts it at the opposite end of the spectrum from dead-simple apps that offer only the most basic exposure controls and focus instead on speedily transforming images via preset effects. While Photogene will happily slap the color cast of badly processed 1970s film onto a fresh digital photo, users primarily interested in those effects might be better served by apps that cater specifically to that demand.
Considering its reasonable price, we’d recommend that anyone serious about editing images on the iPad give Photogene a try. At worst, you’re out the price of a lens cap. Some may even decide to splash out an extra $7.99 for the in-app “PRO” upgrade, which adds separate RGB curves, star ratings, IPTC batch editing, more customizable local adjustments and a few other extras.
We like: Very full feature set, interface intuitive for experienced users, slick import and export process.
We don’t like: A few twitchy sliders make some fine adjustments hard, browsing images at full screen is fiddly.
Peter M. Ferenczi is a freelance writer and avid photographer. He lives in Paris.
With card readers disappearing from MacBooks, USB-C card readers are now a necessity. Macworld's helpful guide compares five models and decodes the current mess of card speeds and certifications.
A Sony a7S II mounted on the outside of the ISS' Japanese Experiment Module (KIBO) for the last seven months has sent back some impressive 4K video and stills.
A Federal judge has refused to throw out a copyright case against controversial artist Richard Prince, who used an image by photographer Donald Graham in an exhibition.
Sony has teased its customers with news of an upcoming announcement: it will soon take the wraps off a new CineAlta motion picture camera, one sporting a 36x24mm sensor.
QuikStories is integrated into the latest version of the GoPro app and automatically creates 'stories' using the video clips you've shot during a day.
Journalists photographing a protest in the US Capitol building claim they were told by Capitol Police to delete photos and videos of arrests.
The Meizu Pro 7 Plus secondary display can be used for music playback, date and weather-related information, or as viewfinder when taking selfies with the rear cameras.
Nikon is marking its 100th anniversary in many ways, including the creation of a new scholarship program for 'future visual creators' in the USA and Canada.
Take one Digital ELPH (or IXUS), rotate it vertically, add a fully articulating LCD and a lens with a camcorder-like focal length, and what do you get? Why, the Canon PowerShot TX1, of course. In this week's Throwback Thursday we revisit Canon's one-of-a-kind hybrid stills/video camera.
Just in case there was any doubt in your mind, here's the definitive video proof that yes, a $50,000 cinema camera beats the pants off a $50 camcorder in a side-by-side test.
Photographers who fly frequently in the US may want to finally invest in that TSA Pre-check status: in standard security lines, cameras and all other electronics larger than a smartphone will need to be placed in a separate bin for screening.
Images have appeared which claim to show Nikon's forthcoming D850 DSLR, the development of which was announced this week. If genuine, the pictures indicate that the D850 will offer illuminated controls and a tilting LCD screen, but no built-in flash.
To celebrate the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 lens' successful Kickstarter campaign, Lomography has announced a chrome-plated version of the lens in Nikon and Canon DSLR mounts.
Nikon just released four new firmware updates, adding features and fixing bugs in the D600, D610, D750 and the KeyMission 80.
It probably hasn't made your landscape photography bucket list just yet, but there's a good reason to visit Idaho. Here are 9 must-visit locations in this beautiful state.
Oops... Adobe accidentally leaked their unfinished Lightroom-powered cloud-based photo editor 'Project Nimbus' to some Creative Cloud users yesterday.
Storm chaser and award-winning photographer Mike Oblinski just released his latest time-lapse, and it is absolutely stunning.
Looking to level up your video capture capabilities without buying a whole new camera? Blackmagic's Video Assist 4K is well worth considering, despite a few flaws and its lack of 4K/60p support.
We're big fans of Fujifilm's fast-growing GFX system, and the GF 110mm F2 lens is no exception. Positioned as the system's classic portrait lens, its optics are just as impressive with non-human subjects as well.
Nikon turns 100 years old today, and the company is celebrating with a wacky music video, some tributes to its history, and a new vision presented by president Kazuo Ushida.
Phottix just released the Premio Parabolic Umbrellas series, replacing their Para-Pro line with a stronger, deeper and better made set of parabolic umbrellas.
The Moto Z2 is Motorola's first dual-camera smartphone and, compared to its predecessor, comes with a number of improvements and new camera features.
Researchers at Stanford have revealed a new '4D camera system' built for robots. The system is based on the same light field tech that allowed Lytro cameras to refocus images after they were taken.
If you want 'beautiful rendition' from your lenses, follow this simple rule: only buy classic low-element prime lenses with lead glass elements—everything else is junk.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.