Although iOS camera apps are a dime a dozen, there are few that strike the perfect combination of well-designed, gorgeous to look at, and truly useful. Fotor manages to carefully balance great camera enhancements with useful post-processing features, and then allows you to share intelligently via built-in social networking or sending your photos out via email or to your Photostream.
Fotor puts picture taking front and center, with a Camera icon right in the middle of the screen. The Camera takes you to an enhanced version of the iPhone camera, with options for showing/hiding a 3×3 grid, a burst mode for catching rapid action, a stabilizer that utilizes the built-in gyroscope to enhance sharpness, and an adjustable timer, which lets you choose a 5, 15, or 30 second countdown. The stabilizer is really the killer feature, allowing for reduced blurriness in pictures. All the features are excellent, though some icons representing them are a bit cryptic at first (you get a nice radial menu overlaid on the viewfinder showing your options).
To focus/set the auto-exposure, fotor allows you to tap on the image. The adjustment provides excellent feedback, so you can tap faces in a brightly lit scene to properly expose your subjects, and confidently capture them rather than silhouettes! There is even an HDR option (which is available to iPad 2 users, unlike Apple’s built-in HDR), and the results are exquisite…with one small caveat; as in true HDR photography, fotor captures two images—one over exposed, and one underexposed—and the app then merges them to capture a wider dynamic range. Although the app offers an anti-ghosting feature, the best results will be shots of completely still objects taken with a completely still phone. If you can find a suitable surface, use the timer and HDR together, to ensure your camera remains steady for the best HDR shots.
For starters, Fotor looks equally gorgeous on an iPhone or an iPad. The majority of the interface scales with no noticeable fuzziness, except a few places where Apple-standard interface elements are used (such as accessing the camera roll). Since the iPad’s camera is not the flagship of the iDevice line, and because it is wicked hard to take pictures with an iPad, fotor’s best use on the iPad really is as a photo editor. The app includes nine different modes with a multitude of options, many of which are surprising given the app’s $2.99 price tag. Some standout editing options available include:
- “FX” and Frames: “FX” may be more familiar to many users as “Filters,” but the general idea is still the same. Most FX are a combination of exposure, color saturation, and some texture (for instance Time Machine, which adds a starburst texture, vignetting, and some vintage ’70s color); the results look professional and a simple slider lets you adjust the intensity. The FX are grouped into categories like Analog, B&W, Art, and Vintage, so it is easy to find a particular “look,” ranging from a mural-on-concrete to vintage Polaroid. Framing options include everything from a simple black/white rectangle to wood grain and video film effects, so you can finish the look of your photo with a professional frame.
- 1-Tap Enhance: A real lifesaver for photos that are underexposed, overexposed, or just need a little pop. There are three levels of enhancement represented by three differently colors magic wands, and they really do work magic. Details are enhanced, shadows are preserved, and pictures look like you spent lots of time getting lens filters and exposure just right, without overblown details or obvious signs of enhancement.
- Photo Collages: You can create simple photo collages with anywhere from three to nine pictures. Layout options include stitching (regular sized boxes at set intervals), templates (arranged grid of predefined sizes), or Free collages, which let you adjust the size, rotation, and layout in freeform. Pros will want to stick with the stitching or template options, as the freeform collages include backgrounds that are cute but kitschy (mainly aimed at kids). Collages can be exported into an album, so you can easily scrapbook your adventures.
- Big Aperture: In one of the best implementations of faux tilt-shift photography, Fotor lets you twist and pinch your way to incredible depth-of-field. Two parallel bars control the bounds of the blur effect applied, and those can be twisted with a simple rotate gesture, or expanded/contracted pinching. At the bottom of the screen are a series of aperture sizes to choose from, which control the level of blurring applied as if you were stopping down the aperture before taking the picture (the blur is gaussian, so bokeh-crazed photographers look elsewhere).
As Apple showed us with the iPhoto app for iPad, tablets may be legitimate tools for content creation (within limits, of course). With Photstream integration and save options that include both Save-in-Place and Save-As, Fotor is an excellent tool for even pro photographers who want to do a bit of work on their shots while onthe go. Fotor earns its five stars for hitting just the right balance of easy to use, powerful features arranged in a logical, workflow-organized layout that makes it easy to snap pictures, edit them, and then either save for later editing or share immediately via email, Facebook, Twitter, or Photostream. Definitely among the best of the best photo editing apps, fotor deserves the full attention of both professional photographers who might want to do some preliminary edits before moving on to Aperture/Lightroom, as well as the amateur looking to up their photo game without investing in a big software package.