Review: Photogene


Well-known member
Jul 5, 2008
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Photogene is an iPhone "touch up" utlity that can be used to touch up or enhance photos you take with your iPhone.

First, what Photogene isn't. It isn't simply a series of filters that you can apply to photos. There are lots of apps out there that can apply a huge range of filters (oil painting, cartoon, black and white, sepia, posterize, etc). I have reviewed a couple of them. This app does have a few filters, but it is more about touching up photos (fine-tuning them, if you will) rather than simply applying a filter to make it "art".

When you start the app, you can choose to take a new photo, edit an existing phot, or continue a previous session. This last option is particularly nice, it means the app "remembers" where you were and what you were doing. If you get interrupted, you don't need to start over. One cool little thing is when you start the app, a "tip of the week" appears about taking photos with the iPhone. Normally I don't like tips that appear like this, but I like it here because the tip is specific to using the iPhone camera (not just a general photography tip).

I was using a general photo of some mosquito cages when testing this app. The touch up features include a crop option, rotate option, three filters, color adjust, symbols, and frames. When you finish with your editing, you can save the photo or start over (take a new photo or edit a new photo). There is an undo button to undo the last edit, but there isn't a complete "reset" button to undo all adjustments. I would like to see that in a future release. So let's talk about the touch up features.

With the crop feature, you can choose to crop it with a specific ratio (3:4, 9:16, etc). The area that will be cropped appears highlighted on the picture, and you can resize it or move it around. One nice thing is that as your resizing the crop, you can see the pixel size that the new image will be - very useful. You can't do a free-form crop however.

The rotate allows you to rotate the picture by 90% or flip the picture on an axis. If your image is at an angle, you can also do some slight angle adjustments to make it level.

The app comes with three filters - sharpen, pencil, and effect (which includes sepia, night vision, or infrared (heat vision). With sharpen and pencil, you can adjust the level of effect as well. Pencil is sort of cool, making your picture look like a pencil drawing. But as I said, this app isn't about having 30 filters - it is mostly about touching up photos to make them as nice as possible.

Next we move onto color adjustment. Here, you can see the color histogram and either adjust it manually or automatically for the best color image. You can also adjust the exposure, contrast, saturation, color temperature, as the actual RGB levels. These are, in my opinion, the best features of this app because this is the area that really helps you touch up a picture to optimal quality.

You can add symbols like stars, word ballons (with text), arrows - about 13 symbols in all. These aren't anything really that help the picture, but they can make a picture a little more entertaining.

Lastly, you can add a frame - ranging from a "blurred" frame that doesn't have a distinct edge to more tradition picture frames to a stamp border or photo album "taped on the corners" frame. There are about 15 frames in all to choose from.

Working on a couple sample pictures, I was able to make some nice adjustments and really make some of the pictures shine. You are still working within the limitation of the iPhone camera, so pictures that are outdoors or in bright light are going to be the best, but you can really enhance some pictures that you might have throught were lost. The features like frames and symbols aren't really that necessary, and I would have preferred more filters instead of having those, but they can be fun to add to some pictures.

Pros: Touch up iPhone pictures to make them shine

Cons: Some features don't really add anything, no ability to completely reset a picture

All in all, this is a good, all around photo touch up tool for the iPhone. Rather than just rely on applying filters, you can make some manual adjustments to thingsl ike saturation and exposure to try to bring out the best in your pictures. Some of the effects don't really add anything to the picture quality, but they might be fun to include in some pictures. There is no way to remove all the touchups at one, however - you have to reset each feature individually. But the color adjust can really make a picture shine. The app is $2.99, so the price is great if you use the iPhone camera a lot. Four and a half out of five stars.

Rating scale:

* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.

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