Due to the overwhelming popularity of Instagram and its current 80 million users, an industry of third party apps and services has sprung up to enhance the Instagram experience. Among the popular are the third part Instagram companion apps — photo apps that have new and unique filters and effects which integrate directly with Instagram. I call them an Instagram front end.
One of the newest of these in InstaGenius by the developer of Camera Genius. It’s a straightforward IG front end that adds easy to use tools, filters and frames to add flair to your photos before posting to Instagram.
InstaGenius has no camera. You import images directly from your photo library. InstaGenius uses the cool Camera Genius style thumbnail previews. By adjusting the dial at the bottom of the import screen, you can adjust the size of the thumbnail previews to give yourself a better look at an image before importing. This feature is a great help in finding the right image when you’ve taken multiple similar shots. Ditto when those shots are halfway down your camera roll. This feature alone saves time and trouble in importing images.
Images need to be cropped to square format before you import them. The tool behaves more like a traditional crop tool. It’s responsive and gives you better control over the pinch and zoom method. An onscreen indicator shows the final trim size of your cropped image.
InstaGenius has 20 Editing one-click presets to start from. The intensity of each is adjustable. You can not only adjust for contrast, brightness, hue and other settings, but you can also adjust for a wide range of not-so-standard settings like red, sepia, grime, goth, Lomo, and others. Many are like another set of filter effects, but they can be adjusted slightly.
The app has 23 Effects presets spanning the gamut of Grunge, 70’s style, Lomo and Cross Processing to Flash, Cinema, and Pseudo HDR. Effects can be stacked. The quality of the effects are better than most of the Instagram companion apps. Color saturation is good and eyecatching. There are even a few fairly unique effects in the selection.
The app has over 30 built in frames. few are basic. Most look like Rich Kids of Instagram. Easily add bling to your Instagrams without the distraction of adding fake glasses and a moustache. I’m not a fan of wooden frame type borders, but there are many on Instagram who are. I found these to be distracting at times as many of the app’s filters already have a frame edge. If you have to use these frames, use them appropriately.
InstaGenius has a built-in Collage features with similar tools found in many commercially available multi-frame photo apps. It launches into its own module and with a few taps and pinches you can easily create your own multi-frame collage. Border color, width, and corner radius are all easily adjustable in app. It’s easy to use and handy to have in one app, but collages save at the lower 612×612 resolution found in most Instagram companion apps. I’d recommend using a dedicated collage app such as the excellent Diptic until this is fixed.
InstaGenius has two simple sharing options — Camera Roll and send to Instagram, making this an easy to use, uncluttered sharing experience.
I have a few nags about InstaGenius. In its filter effects, there is no way to edit intensity or elements of frames or remove the effect’s border. Once you apply an effect, there is no easy undo without going back to the original image — always a frustrating omission. There are Undo panels in the app’s one-click effects, but they don’t remove an effect that’s already been set.
Also, the app saves at a maximum of 1224×1224 pixels — about 1.5 megapixels. That’s four times better than the super low 612×612 px resolution of most Instagram companion apps. It’s a good balance between conserving bandwidth and printability. Examining the images in Photoshop reveals that the frames lack sharpness when viewed at high magnifications. This won’t be visible at Instagram’s native 612×612 display resolution, but may become apparent if also shared on Facebook or Flickr. Collages, however, save at a much lower 612×612 resolution — barely usable for anything other than viewing on Instagram. I realize that most people who use this app will be sharing to Instagram without enlargements in mind, but I’d still like to see higher resolution in the app.
Overall, InstaGenius is a smooth, easy to use, straightforward alternative to Instagram’s now ubiquitous filters. It’s a fast workflow that offers superior tools, new effects and features than other apps in its class. It’s one of the better, dedicated Instagram front end apps. That said, because of the resolution issues in this first version, I wouldn’t recommend this app for everyday processing. InstaGenius is worth a look if you’re a regular Instagrammer looking for an improvement over the myriad of other Instagram companion scattered throughout the App Store.
InstaGenius is introductory priced at $0.99. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 4.0 or later.
UPDATE 01: Corrected terminology from “straight to” Instagram to “send to” Instagram