Wood Camera (for iPhone) review

Pros

  • Simple, clear, attractive interface
  • More filters and tools than Instagram
  • Lots of sharing options

Cons

  • Missing basic photo adjustments
  • Lacks its own web presence
  • Some lack of feedback for operations

Wood Camera is regularly one of the most popular photo editing apps in the iTunes store, and it does offer more editing options than the wildly popular Instagram. Its interface is clear and usable, and you can see effect filters while you're taking pictures. However, Wood lacks its own photo-specific social network (let alone any web view at all), which you get not only with Instagram but also with EyeEm, BeFunky, and Flickr. Neither do you get any shooting helpers like those in Camera+. But enough about what you don’t get – let’s take a look at what you do get for your hard earned 69 pence.

Wood Camera is optimised for the iPhone 5, but runs on any device running iOS 5 and up. The app took up 37.6MB of my phone's storage, 2MB more than Instagram but 3MB less than BeFunky. When your iPhone is getting loaded up with photos and music, as mine is, these things matter.

When you first run the app, it asks to send you push notifications, something more and more apps are doing, meaning there's a good chance you'll be endlessly interrupted if every app you install wants to notify you constantly.

I'm not really sure I need notifications from a photo editing app, but I pressed okay anyway, for testing purposes. I also got the message asking me to rate Wood Camera – before I'd even started using it!

Interface

Wood Camera's interface is simple, clear, and well designed. The first screen shows you how to use it with overlaid instructions and arrows: Single tap for preview, double tap for editing – simple enough. There's also a Camera button at bottom centre – standard in iPhone photo apps.

Only two options flank this: Camera Roll and Photo Paste. Just three controls live at the top of the screen, too – a settings gear, thumbnail/full view slider, and share button. In short, Wood Camera boasts a completely clear and intuitive layout.

Shooting

Taking pictures using the built-in camera interface is different from using the default iPhone camera app, and from the current Instagram app. You can see retro effect filters as you shoot, and you can shoot in rapid succession. Instagram used to let you see the filters as you shot, but removed that capability; if you liked this aspect of Instagram, then Wood is a good fit in that respect.

One quibble with shooting in the Wood app is that there's no visual clue that you've taken a shot, like the default iPhone camera's animation of the photo flying down to the camera roll icon. You just hear the shutter click, but if you're in a noisy environment, you get no feedback. Also, the Wood filters are all named for world cities, which doesn't give you much of an idea of what they do. I prefer the straightforward effect names used in BeFunky, such as "Warming," "Cooling," and "LomoArt." Once you've shot a few pictures, you hit Done, and the app starts "importing them."

Editing photos

So as you've seen, an effect can be applied the moment you shoot your photo. So what else can be done afterwards? A lot! After selecting an image from the thumbnail grid of those you shot, hitting Edit allows you to rotate and straighten, crop, change the effect filter (it’s called a "lens" here), texture, tilt shift/vignette, and frames. Here, you can adjust the intensity of the effect filters, something not available in Instagram. Several of these tools aren't available in Instagram, but in Wood I still miss any basic photo corrections like brightness, contrast, and white balance. Apps like Aviary and BeFunky give you all this and more.

A nice selection of frames is available – film, print, and rounded borders among them, both dark and light. Unlike in Instagram, which ties borders and frames to each filter, you can use any frame border with any filter effect in Wood Camera. Another interesting choice not found in most iPhone photo apps is Textures – this lets you apply the likes of film grain and wrinkly paper texture effects (see the latter in the image below).

At first, I was concerned that once I tapped Done after making an edit, the photo was changed forever, but opening it back up in the tool which I used and clicking the None icon let me undo the effect. You can also choose a main setting to save any pictures you take in the app to your Camera Roll by default. A standard Undo arrow would be helpful, though.

I have to say that although Wood had more filters than Instagram, I didn't love the selections; most simply bumped up the warm or cool colours, some made the image monochromatic and maybe added vignetting. Both Instagram and BeFunky offer more striking options.

The tilt-screen effect is inferior to Instagram's, which lets you choose a linear as well as circular focus area and resize them. Wood only offers a circle of focus you can move around but not resize (see above). The preview thumbnails for filters use a stock photo, rather than your shot image, so you can't see what it looks like with your image until after you’ve applied the filter.

Sharing

Wood doesn't include its own photo-sharing social network – or even any web view for photos edited with it – such as those offered by Instagram, EyeEm, and BeFunky. That said, it does include more than the standard external sharing options. Along with the expected Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and even Instagram output options, you can save to Dropbox (if you have its app installed) or to other apps that can accept photos, such as SkyDrive.

In another example of lack of feedback, when I tried posting to Facebook, the app didn't notify me whether the post was successful or not. (Since my Wi-Fi and 3G connections were spotty, it wasn't a given that the photo made it to my page.)

Verdict

Wood Camera is a perfectly pleasant iPhone photo app, with a clear, usable interface and more photo manipulation options than some of its peers, including Instagram. But if you're going to build a photo app with more photo editing chops than the competition, you really have to include adjustments for brightness, contrast, and colour settings. You get these with many of our favourite photo editors, such as Snapseed and Adobe Photoshop Touch, as well as Aviary, Camera Genius, Camera+, and BeFunky.