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Quick Look: Photogene2 for iPhone

Photogene2 for iPhone

If you take a look at screenshots of the original Photogene and then glance at Photogene2 (currently $0.99), the differences can be quite surprising. iPhone app interfaces have come a long way over the past few years, and Photogene is an excellent example of this. Menus feel a lot more dynamic thanks to their radial design and smooth transition animations, and the app as a whole is blazingly fast on my iPhone 4S.

But what is Photogene? It used to be a cute little tool for adding text to pictures and playing with a few image manipulation sliders, but this newest version has become so much more. Activate the radial menu (the wrench symbol) and the following options will fan across the bottom of the screen:

  • crop
  • rotate
  • adjust (read: sliders)
  • presets
  • retouches (read: touch-up brushes)
  • text
  • enhance (read: special effects, filters, and frames)

Tap on most any of those options and you’ll see more options to adjust contrast, add glows and reflections, and even paint blur effects right onto the picture (with live previews). The bottom-heavy toolbar design makes most of the controls very easy to access, and the UI does a good job of staying consistent, so you’ll always know where to confirm changes, or simply reset if you don’t know what you’ve done. There are, of course, the standard undo and redo buttons, but there’s also a handy “before and after” button that you can press to visualize differences between your current version and the master image.

So it should be obvious by this point that Photogene2 is plenty powerful, but is it easy to use, especially when compared to other apps like 100 Cameras in 1 and PhotoToaster? Yes and no.

It took me a good 15–20 minutes to get used to how Photogene2 was organized and what the differences were between “enhance”, “adjust”, and “retouches”, but I think the app could easily change for the better with a bit of re-ordering. I really liked the way that PhotoToaster tiered its interface to present global presets first, individual effects second, and then sliders third. This structuring eased me into how a few effects could drastically change the mood or quality of my pictures, and I think a similar tiering process could really help Photogene2 out – especially since it has even more options.

Photogene2 does seem to be one of those photo apps that has it all: great gallery previews for selecting a photo to edit, a nifty collage making tool, and a great editor UI for actually tweaking your shots. It also exports to all the standards – Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox, Picasa, and Instagram – for those of you who want to get sharing as fast as iPhoneably possible.

But there just feels like there’s something lacking here – a missing angle. The question here is how customers are supposed to distinguish Photogene2 from the competition in an already-crowded market: Instagram has quick filters and sharing, PhotoToaster has great tiered editing, and Camera+ has tap-to-focus and Lisa Bettany-powered marketing. In contrast, although I’ve enjoyed using Photogene2, even I feel hard pressed to sell it in just a sentence. The radial menus and photographic gene splicing are great and I don’t regret having made the purchase, and yet these features still don’t feel quite distinctive enough to warrant a glowing recommendation. Pick Photogene2 up if you were a fan of the original app, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it if you’re already happy with a different photo editor on your iPhone.

Photogene2 was purchased by the author for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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