Review: CameraBag 2 Photo editing

CameraBag 2 is a collection of filters and effects for photo editing. It’s easy to use, comes with a huge collection of presets, and offers total control over styles, adjustments, and borders. Although it can be used by just selecting a preset or recipe, you can create your own recipes from scratch. The possibilities are endless.

NeverCenter initially developed CameraBag as an iOS app. The app was so successful the company decided to release a CameraBag for desktops too. CameraBag 2 is the second generation of this app, and it’s the first version I laid my eyes on. The app offers 32-bits-per-component colour depth, non-destructible editing, adjustments that can quickly be shuffled from ‘position’ (and therefore achieved effect) in the workflow, and more.

At first, CameraBag 2 looks like most beginner-type photo editing apps: a big window in which you can drop an image, and a link to online tutorials. “As if you will need those,” was my first reaction, but on closer look I guess some people will indeed need them if they want to create recipes from scratch. The same goes for the moniker “consumer-type”: you can use the app as a novice, but there is enough power to satisfy professionals as well. The app will work with RAW images, as well as with many other formats.

The interface with 3 adjustment tiles at the bottom, and the adjustments list at right.

CameraBag 2 has Styles, Adjustments, and Borders — each category neatly organized under its own tab. Styles create an atmosphere, a feeling. Styles are really presets or recipes. Every style is made up of a number of adjustments and/or borders. When you apply a style to a photo by clicking on its name in the Styles list, all of these adjustments and/or borders are applied at once. You can turn off a Style with a tiny button that resembles a Mac’s On/Off switch. A cross icon lets you remove the Style. The adjustments and/or borders that make up a Style are not visible, so you can’t turn these off selectively. If you want that level of control, you’ll have to start from scratch.

Photo editing by slider, curve and color palette

Each Style, adjustment or border has sliders; most commonly two, sometimes, only one, sometimes three. Some adjustments also offer a colour palette, or a curve interface. In most cases, experimenting with these controls takes you a long way towards mastery. In some cases, however, you may achieve mastery but keep wondering what it is exactly that you’ve been changing. Unfortunately, the tutorials won’t tell you, and a proper technical explanation of what every control parameter does, isn’t available.

I went through all the available adjustments and have only one negative remark: the Saturation slider, when dragged all the way to the right (100%), will cause your image to actually become posterized. This could well be intended, but in my opinion it’s confusing to list Posterization and Saturation controls under the same adjustment. The same applies to the Exposure Adjustment. At 100%, you’ll find your image to have turned all white. 75% is approximately the boundary between a normal looking image and one that becomes posterized.

I can repeat the same remark for Contrast. Strangely enough, the Brightness, Shadows, and Highlights adjustments do not posterize your photo once a certain threshold has been reached.

To quickly see all variations of a style or adjustment, there's a QuickLook window.

I found all other adjustments to work really well, but I would have liked those adjustments with a colour palette to also have an eyedropper so that I can match some colours with others. As it is now, an adjustment such as Selective Saturation would work great for making the colour of a woman’s dress pop more — if I could sample the exact dress colour, which I can’t.

I did find a work-around, but it’s not elegant, and most people will balk at it as it requires another app: xScope. With xScope’s Loupe tool I can sample any colour, note down the RGB values and enter those in the CameraBag 2 colour palette.

The Borders tab holds some nifty borders from the days of analogue film, and you can create your own custom straight and rounded borders. Both thickness, rounding and colour can be changed.

CameraBag 2 has some very likable features that will appeal even to professional photographers. The precut Borders are certainly on the list, as are about 3 out of 4 of the adjustments. Some, however, lack what I consider to be an essential control — the colour palette eyedropper.

Overall however, CameraBag 2 is an elegant and a really nice tool, which allows you to quickly change the feeling of a photo completely. CameraBag 2 costs approx. €22.00.

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