Tai Shimizu’s Filterstorm Pro is one of the first apps I bought when I first got my hands on my iPad 2, since I was amazed by the possibilities it offered. Despite the quite high price, I ended up using this app very little in comparison to others: this is due to the fact that Its interface never really got me and to the tendency to crash, which was quite strong in previous versions of the software.
For this review I decided to give Filterstorm another shot: I read and watched the tutorials and tried to understand the interface. Though I think there has been some improvement, I am still not completely convinced about the app’s usefulness.
This post will deal with both Filterstorm an Filterstorm Pro. Nowadays the basic difference between the two is that Filterstorm is a single-image editor: it doesn’t have its own library and once you can only edit one photo at a time. Filterstorm Pro, on the other hand, has its own library and a powerful batch engine that allows you to apply the same workflow to a collection of images. Also, the non-pro version is Universal (it runs on both the iPhone and iPad) while the Pro app is iPad-only. The latter has also a much higher price.
Here’s the Filterstorm Pro library: as you can see, you have access to both the local and the iPad’s galleries.
You can edit the thumbnail size, if you like.
You can import photos from the iPad to a local collection. Filterstorm Pro does not use the standard iOS interface, but a proprietary one: it’s slower and clumsier, but you can have bigger thumbnails.
If you open a photo that you had already edited in the app library, you end up with different versions of the same image. This can be a little confusing, expecially if the differences are minimal:
By tapping one of the images, you can, at least, discover if it is the “Original”, the “Final” version or something in-between:
Filterstorm calls “filters” what, in other apps, would probably be called “tools” or “adjustments”. This can be a little bit confusing, since one might think of Instagram-like filters, instead.
Curves and Levels are pretty good:
You can decide whether to apply an adjustment “as it is” or through a mask: in the second case you press the brush icon.
The masking interface offers several interesting tools. Personally, I don’t find the set of icons particulary intuitive to understand. Since there is no “mouse over” option, like on a Mac or PC, you will not know what those tools do until you actually tap them. If it’s not what you needed, you will have to go back.
You can decide whether to “see” the mask or simply have a blended view:
White Balance works quite well: you move the loupe to select the area that should be white.
Red Eye correction is quite fine even on pets. Something that is not that common.
You can tone-map an image. Since Filterstorm supports that, I tried to do it on a Canon RAW file. It’s quite ok, but don’t expect anything as good as high-end desktop software.
You can, though, add a different exposure to an image, and use masking to manually produce some natural-looking HDR. Since there is no automatic alignment, this works better if you had used a tripod.
Here is Black and White processing.
The Canvas section (here on the iPhone) is were you can crop the image, change its size, rotate it, add a basic border with optional text.
Layer-handling has another interface issue: it can take some time to understand that, in order to move a layer up or down, you don’t tap the layer itself but its name. Here I am adding a new layer:
One one occasion, Filterstorm crashed on the iPhone while I was arranging layers. Fortunately the app tries to recover the image, and it usually succeeds.
When you’re done working with a photo, you can save the workflow as an automation, to apply to other photos. This is particular good with Filterstorm Pro, since you can apply the same automation to many photos as a batch. Also, you can send Filterstorm’s automations to Filterstorm Pro. Unfortunately, the Filterstorm engine doesn’t offer much in terms of automatic correction, so batch processing works better with canvas tools and some basic filters. Still, this is a pretty impressive feature, and that´s Filterstorm Pro´s biggest selling point.
Filterstorm and Filterstorm Pro come with a couple of built-in automations, and you can download a few more (mostly user-submitted) from the developer’s site. Unfortunately, most of these automations don’t work at all within the current apps: you launch them and nothing happens. The developer should have some quality checks on what is currently available on the site. As for those ones that work… well, I personally must say that I might not dislike one or two, but most of them are quite bad or produce a good result only in particular situations.
None of these automations include textures. So you might have to “layer in” some from other sources.
If you try to apply any of these automations to just one layer, you will end up with a flattened image anyway. Not too exciting.
Finally, this is something that puzzles me. You can save an image workflow as an automation, but, when you reopen a version, its history is empty. If Filterstorm Pro keeps track of the changes for automation, why can’t it show that in the history?
All in all, Filterstorm (both versions) is a good editor with some limits and some good strengths. The interface is far from being perfect and not immediately intuitive.
The Pro version has some really unique features. Still, I’m not sure I would recommend buying this app, if you don’t specifically plan to use batch processing a lot at some point: the price (15$) is high, and there are photo editors that are, in my opinion, nicer to use and easily provide better results. Also, when it comes to batch processing, you might consider some cheaper alternatives with a dedicated interface: I have used OneEdit a lot for this blog, and I would definitely suggest to get that one instead.
|Compatibility||Universal (Filterstorm), iPad Only (Filterstorm Pro)|
|Price||3.99$ (Filterstorm), 14.99$ (Filterstorm Pro)|