iPhone + iPad Gems: ComicBook!, Halftone, Motion Pictures + PhotoToaster
Welcome to this special photography-focused edition of iPhone + iPad Gems. In this edition, we’re taking a look at the comic-inspired ComicBook! and Halftone, the time-lapse photography tool Motion Pictures, and the editor/filter app PhotoToaster.
Notably, every app in today’s roundup includes Universal support for the iPad, a trend we actively encourage, and all but one of the apps managed to earn our high recommendation. Read on for more details.
Motion Pictures (Free) by Cosmonaut Software has a relatively simple premise: to allow iOS users to create time-lapse videos directly on their devices. While it isn’t flashy, it does a fine job at what sets out to do.
For those unfamiliar with the term, time-lapse photography essentially has the camera take a series of photos at set intervals which are later stitched together to create a video. Using this technique, a photographer can illustrate the changes or activity in a scene over a long period in a fraction of the time; for example, the technique is often used with shots of the sky to represent the passing of time, as seen in this example taken using the app.
Upon opening the app, users are given the choice to perform a conversion process on an existing Video, or to shoot a new video. Choose an existing video, and it goes through a compression process before dropping users into a screen on which they can select a speed multiplier and see the resulting file’s runtime. Once again, the user must wait for the program to finish another conversion process before the video can be viewed. While the results are as expected, we preferred the output of Motion Picture’s new movie mode.
As expected, users are given a much wider range of options when choosing to shoot a new movie, as they can set the number of frames, seconds between frames, seconds before the start of recording - allowing for positioning of the camera - and playback frame rate, with an option to automatically stop recording should the device drop below five percent battery life, and readouts that show the resulting recording time and playback time. It’s worth mentioning that both the new movie and existing movie screens feature a small, unobtrusive iAd at the bottom, which is less off-putting than it might be considering the price.
Once everything is set up, tapping the next button in the upper right-hand corner will take users to the viewfinder, with buttons to turn the sound on and off, switch between the rear and front-facing cameras, and start the recording, while overlays show the time remaining until the next shot and the number of photos left to grab. Once finished, the app quickly saves the result out to the camera roll. As we said above, the interface is far from flashy - utilitarian would be more appropriate - but Motion Pictures does what it sets out to do, does it well—on both the iPhone and IPod touch as well as the iPad—and does it at a price that can’t be argued with. It earns our high recommendation. iLounge Rating: A-.
By comparison, PhotoToaster ($3) by East Coast Pixels is an extremely ambitious photo editing/effect program that aims to offer simplified, filter-style editing, fine-grained control, and something in between while appealing to novice and more experienced users alike. The app’s main menu is surprisingly cluttered considering the sophisticated UI within, immediately hitting users with options for choosing an existing photo from the library, taking a new photo with the camera, editing a photo from Facebook, pasting in an image from the clipboard, watching a tutorial video, emailing East Coast’s support team, viewing a slideshow of tips, viewing a web page showcasing the company’s products, visiting the company’s Facebook fan page, and viewing company news. This plethora of options makes this page needlessly cluttered and intimidating for first time users; luckily, it belies the competent program found within.
Once a photo has been opened and/or captured, users are taken to the main editing interface page, with buttons at the top for saving/sharing the photo—options include tumblr, Facebook, email, SMS, and the Photo Library—cropping the photo based on one of three shape presets, undo, redo, viewing the tips, and returning to the home screen. Buttons at the bottom offer access to global filter-like presets, brightness/contrast adjustments, effect adjustments, vignette adjustments, and border adjustments. It’s in this bottom row that the app shows its true colors.
The global presets are split up into three categories—Basic, Deluxe, and Supreme—each of which contains ten or more presets that represent combinations of settings from the various other adjustment categories. Each of the adjustment categories also offers up a nice selection of presets that handle only that function—such as Flood Light under brightness/contrast, or Desaturate under effects—as well as a slider button above the preset selector that gives users fine-grained control over aspects such as saturation, sharpening, exposure, temperature, and contrast. Notably, any user-defined combination of settings, effects, and vignetting/border can be saved within the global presets interface under “My Presets,” greatly adding to the app’s utility.
While there are numerous—hundreds, perhaps—of other photo filter/adjustment apps available on the App Store, few of them offer as much depth and variety as PhotoToaster, and even fewer offer full support for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad in a single Universal package. At its standard price of $3, it’s worthy of our high recommendation, though its home screen could use some simplification; it’s currently on sale for $1. iLounge Rating: A-.
Unlike the above examples, both ComicBook! ($2) by 3DTOPO and Halftone ($1) by Juicy Bits aim to do much the same thing: take existing photos and use them to create halftone-style imagery commonly seen in comic books, with or without the requisite framing, captions, and sticker-like overlays. While both do an adequate job, and duplicate some features, they go about their handling of the conversions in decidedly different ways. Both apps open upon first launch with a sort of brief tutorial, ComicBook! telling users to choose a layout, add photos, add effects, captions, stickers, and save—not necessarily in that order—while Halftone asks users to choose a photo, paper style, layout, captions and stickers—here referred to as “balloons” and “stamps”—and a font.
Notably, Halftone’s layouts only allow for a single photo to be used at a time, while ComicBook! allows users to place up to seven different images on a single “page,” each enclosed in its own frame. Since Halftone is only dealing with one image at a time, it provides a choice of different paper styles that not only provide texture and an added effect but also serve as a way to choose between image treatments, with properties such as contrast and vibrance varying by the paper style chosen. ComicBook!, on the other hand, offers a choice between nine styles that do much the same thing; it also offers a choice between large, medium, and small dots, while Halftone offers adjustment of dot size, strength, and gain, but from within its Settings screen.
Otherwise, the two apps offer a similar experience, with ComicBook! besting Halftone in the sheer number of comic graphics, but Halftone offering the ability to customize the color of the graphics; the caption offerings are also highly similar between the two apps, with ComicBook! gaining a slight edge thanks to the higher number of comic fonts available. It’s worth noting that while both ComicBook! and Halftone work on the iPhone and iPod touch, the complexity of their layout options makes them better suited to iPad use; luckily, both are Universal apps and therefore include this functionality at no extra cost to the user.
In the end, the choice between the two apps comes down to how much the user wants to spend and whether or not the extra features of ComicBook! are worth the extra expenditure. We tend to think they are; we preferred ComicBook!‘s interface and expanded options to those of Halftone, but both apps offer well polished interfaces with plenty of features for the price. As such, Halftone earns our general recommendation while ComicBook! receives our high recommendation; the former could improve with support for multiple images and more stamp options, while the latter could expand its impressive array of features with support for multiple pages, taking it from a one-sheet app to a tool capable of creating a real, multi-page “book.” iLounge Rating (ComicBook!): A-; iLounge Rating (Halftone): B+.
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