One thing that's useful about mobile phones is the lack of never needing to carry a dedicated camera. In fact there are many camera apps that attempt to emulate a desktop photo editing experience by providing various filters that can be appliedto create instant effects. There are also apps that allow editing of brightness, contrast and other areas such as saturation. But what about an app that can provide both instant effects through filters but also allow you to finely tweak you images to your liking? That gap is filled by Magic Hour.
The main purpose of the app is to edit your image. On the Android Market the developer claims that the app can 'transform your ordinary photos to extraordinary ones'. Once you have launched the app you will be greeted by the main screen. From here you access all of the features. To begin you need to choose one of the 2 image options from the top. The choices given are either to take a new photo within the apps camera or to use an existing photo. The camera resolution can be set through the settings, however the obtrusive noise found in the stock Android camera is present here and can unfortunately not be disabled (unless you turn the device on silent mode). The option of choosing an existing image is simply a gallery browser and you folders are loaded relatively quickly.
After selecting or taking an image you are given the choice to 'Move and Scale' this is done so the image is cropped to a square so the effects are applied properly. On this screen you can also Rotate and Flip your image.
After scaling you have to 'Choose Filter'. There are two views available, list and thumbnail, each shows a thumbnail preview of what your image will look like with that filter applied. Filtering options are available as well so you can sort by 'Favourites', 'Presets', 'My Filters' and 'Download'. Alternatively you can start from scratch by choosing 'Make your own Filter'. What I particularly like about this screen is its simple design and ease of filtering Filters, so frequently used effects will be easy to find.
Once a filter has been applied you are given a preview of your image, unfortunately it's low-res so it's slightly unrepresentative of your final image. You are given options to save the image at this stage, share your image via social networks, email, web galleries etc. or to 'recreate' (symbolised by a magic wand) which actually means edit.
The 'Recreate' screen has two toolbars. The top allows you to undo, reset image to original state (only changes in this screen will be reset, the filter will remain), to convert to black and white and to save. Keeping the black and white option here will surely please some people as it has easy access, although if you want a true black and white image it would probably be more sensible using a filter and completely tinkering with the image. The bottom tool bar is the main editing one. You can adjust curves, saturation, brightness, contrast, vignette effects, textures and frames. The is the first app I have seen that gives such vast control over image editing tools.
- Curves: I was really impressed by this. Just like on a real image editor such as Photoshop you adjust the curve by dragging points on a line. Other editing apps often just give preset curves. However there is no option to edit individual channels.
- Saturation, Brightness, Contrast: Pretty simple, a slider for each option.
- Vignette: Can create a dark ring around the edges of the image or in the centre (light ring on outside). The intensity of this can be controlled through a slider.
- Texture: Adds a texture to the image to make it seem as if printed on a surface. There are many to choose from and a wide variety surfaces as well such as paper, stone, tiles etc. Once again, intensity of the effect is controlled by a slider.
- Frame: There are numerous frames to choose from, there are the common ones there such as filmstrip, and polaroid but also some other grungy looking and contemporary styles.
After pressing done the new screen will allow you to save your modified filter (which also allows you to upload to the market), share and also save the image. Holding down on the 'oringianl' button shows you the original images, without any processing (except cropping to the square).
To backup the main editing features a 'Filter Market' is built into the app, allowing easy access to download new filters. Best of all, the filters are user submitted and can be download free of charge. The market can be sorted by 'Featured', 'Popular' and 'New'. There is also a search field so if you know the name or the unique ID for the filter you can find it easily. A drop down menu at the top of the market allows access to the 'Manage Filters' screen where you can favourite and delete downloaded, self created and preset filters.
The app is well designed featuring a consistent, easy to use style with notable design features carried through into multiple elements of the app such as the sliders. This means using the features is easy as not many instructions need to be learnt. Also the apps theme is consistent, it makes it seem as if the whole thing is made from card and paper, even the logo looks like it's made from paper and hanging from thread. The font is in a childish hand written style which also matches the theme. I feel these design features will appeal more to some audiences but the fluidity definitely makes the app seem polished. Colour wise there are lots of browns and white to fit with the crafty theme but also some other colours such as blue, green and red which work well to offset elements and make items such as buttons stand out.
- The host of sharing services
There are a few settings for the app. The obvious such as seeing tutorials, image size and saving the original photo are there but also some surprises such as geotagging of photos and choosing weather to use the built in image picker or a separate app. You are also given the opportunity to sign into the accounts you wish to share with such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. These all seem fairly simple and easy to understand options so most user should be able to figure these out.
In my opinion this is the best camera and editing app available on the Android platform. Not only does it give you instant effects through the use of filters but it also allows you to fine tune them to your liking. There are many sharing options integrated into the app, but I would also like to see the regular sharing options menu (as in other apps) where you can share with apps other than those chosen in the app such as Dropbox. I also really like the consistency of the apps theme and style, it makes the app seem well made and polished.
My main complaints are some of the loading times when taking an image within the apps camera and also when applying some of the effects. Although loading times weren't too lengthy (and I'm sure on high end phones they would be shortened) they seemed somewhat usually long, especially for saving an image after using the camera.
Definitely worth £1.22 if you're looking for a camera effects and editing solution on Android. Also note there is a free version with a few less options and a limit on filter downloading, but it's definitely worth a try.