Photo App Review: CameraBag 2 Is One of the Best Freemium Apps Available
Version reviewed: 2.0.0
Price: Free, with an in-app upgrade
Bottom Line: Highly recommended. One of the best “free” apps available. An available Pro upgrade significantly improves an already great app
CameraBag was the original, premium iPhoneography app. It was the first photo app with a full set of filters that replicated several different camera, film and paper styles.
The app has been updated. The update is so significant that it’s an entirely new app. CameraBag 2 is the successor to the original CameraBag. It’s now also a “freemium” photo app, but it’s excellent as is without any add ons. Without the upgrade, it’s a fantastic app on its own, but you may still want to keep a copy of the original handy.
The original CameraBag was the very first photo effects that really got me excited about iPhoneography. With the camera on my original iPhone 2G, it was really nice having a camera with me at all times to capture images and moments that would otherwise be lost. But CameraBag was the first photo app I had that applied really cool effects to my images. It was the first photo app that made me start to realize the potential of the iPhone as a camera and creative device.
CameraBag 2 borrows many of the same filters and looks from its predecessor, a few frames from its cousin Infinicam, and adds many great new looks of its own. The app now comes standard with 23 presets, most of which replicate vintage and current analog film styles. There’s also a Basics setting which lets you manually apply several effects to the raw image. for $1.99, you can upgrade to Pro and get over 30 more.
CameraBag 2 has much more functionality than its predecessor. You can adjust the intensity of each filter as well as several other settings for each effect. There are also several crop and frame styles that Classic CameraBag doesn’t have.
Like CameraBag and Infinicam, the filters and looks are incredible. The classic effects are authentic looking recreations. Many of the newer effects like Blueburn, Forest, and Slide look like cross-processed film. Others look like LOMO variations. There are a few new retro film styles as well. And that’s just in the basic, free version.
CameraBag 2 sports a new hi-fidelity 32-bit rendering engine that is supposed to reduce the banding in gradations that are found in many other photo apps. Although many of the effects are very much lo-fi, images pop. Colors are vivid and lush, contrasts are stark. The effects look like the films and print styles they were created to emulate.
The app is more powerful than the classic version, but is still easy to use. Tools are hidden away with flyaway access from the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. CameraBag 2 gives you way more editing options than the previous version has. All of them are customized and relevant to the current preset.
The Pro upgrade not only includes over 30 more filters and borders, but also lets you save customized looks like Infinicam’s presets and gives you the ability to import styles from the desktop version of CameraBag. The additional film styles of the Pro upgrade are worth the two dollars alone. There’s a greater assortment of vintage photo styles as well as a very nice selection of retro analog film recreations. On of the best is the Leaky Helga which combines excellent lofi retro color and tones, great vignette, and killer randomized light leaks.
The Pro upgrade also restores the excellent randomizer that the original CameraBag has. After upgrading, many of the filters, including the standard ones, let you tap the screen to randomize subtle details of shading, vignettes, light leaks and other qualities, helping to make each image unique. Both of these extended features make the upgrade well worth the purchase.
If you’re not planning to upgrade, you might want to keep the Classic CameraBag on your iPhone. Several of the original versions filters are only available as part of the Pro upgrade.
CameraBag 2 supports the full 8MP resolution of the latest iPhones. There is a bug (or a feature) that only saves up to 4MP when adding a frame to the image. The app strips out EXIF data including Geotags.
Even without the Pro upgrade, CameraBag 2 is one of the best free apps available in the App Store. This is a full-featured app; there’s nothing limited about it. There are no banner ads and very few subtle nudges — more like reminders — to get you to upgrade. The upgrade adds a lot of function and value and is reasonably priced. This is the model that all freemium apps should follow.
The original CameraBag is still available in the App Store for the same $1.99 that gives you so much more in this latest version. No word on how long the original version will be supported. Quite honestly, any functionality that didn’t make it to the upgrade (I couldn’t find any) shouldn’t be missed with all the great new features the app now has.
I have a nostalgic soft spot for Classic CameraBag, but CameraBag 2 gets me excited about the app all over again.
CameraBag 2 is free and comes very nicely stocked. There’s a $1.99 in-app purchase that adds even more to the app. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad (3rd generation), iPad Wi-Fi + 4G, iPad (4th generation), iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (4th generation), iPad mini and iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.