Photo App Review: Plastica 2.0 Redeems Itself
Version Reviewed: 2.0
Bottom Line: I like it. Not without its flaws, this is a greatly improved update with new features that differentiates from its obvious competition.
Plastica, by graf, the makers of the excellent PictureShow, is back in the App Store after a several week “hiatus.” After testing the new 2.0 update, I’m glad it’s back. It’s also FREE for a limited time. It’s definitely worth a second look.
The new re-release of Plastica isn’t perfect, but it’s now good enough to make me get over the first time it was released.
Plastica is another retro-analog-style app with a camera, lens and film type user interface. Sound like another app you know? I was extremely hard on Plastica the first time around, calling it (among other things) “a poor-man’s Hipstamatic, where Hipstamatic is the new Cadillac and Plastica is a used Ford.”
It’s back. It’s much better. The UI has been redesigned and now has much more of its own identity. Along with the makeover are a lot of new features — good ones that differentiate this app from Hipstamatic. This is the app that should have been released two months ago.
There are plenty of lens and film combinations in Plastica. Many look closer to the rich, saturated colors and tones of Hipstamatic than to the standard Instagram clone filters found in many apps.
The User Interface has been overhauled so Plastica now has an identity of its own, which is a good thing. Lenses and films are now stored in boxes and are easily accessible from the camera’s back.
Plastica comes nicely stocked with films and lenses. I’ve got the whole set in this version (I don’t remember buying them). There were a few $0.99 in-app purchase in the previous version.
In the expanded viewfinder, Plastica has separate focus and exposure targets that Hipstamatic lacks. They’re clearly labeled and fairly easy to move around the screen. The expanded viewfinder has been fixed in this update and now opens, shoots, and closes with ease.
Plastica has several tools available from the camera’s back, including a full-res digital zoom that Hipstamatic lacks, front camera and flash toggles, and a new randomize button which mixes up films and lenses with each shot. Especially with apps that have so many filter combinations, this is a great feature to use to discover “happy accidents.”
There is also a new TiltShift type blur, both round and square, that’s easily accessible from the collapsable menu bar. It’s less of a tiltshift and more of a really jacked up bad plastic toy camera lens. Fans of TiltShift effects will hate it. Fans of real-life plastic toy cameras, such as Dianas or some of the old Holgas, will probably like this lo-fi focus effect.
Plastica now supports full native square resolution on iPhone 5 and 4S devices — that’s 2448×2448 pixels. I suspect it’s also full square native support on an iPhone 4 as well. Sorry, 3GS users… you’re out of luck on this one. EXIF data? Some. Geotags? Nope.
Pro Tip: Before using this update, open the app’s settings and change them to your liking. Full Resolution, Save Original, and Auto Save all default to Off. Also, don’t forget to restore your purchases right away.
It now can also save your original image as well as the filtered one, an excellent feature that also gives you a raw copy of the image to play with.
Plastica now imports images from your iPhone’s camera roll — probably the biggest single feature the app could have to set it apart. Set your film and lens combination, import an image and the app automatically applies the effects. Hipstamatic users have been screaming for this feature for years. A big huge bug here that will hack many users off is that imported images don’t save at full resolution. Most of the time they saved back to my camera roll at 852×852 pixels, even with the high resolution setting turned on. Hopefully, this will be fixed soon. This will be a very popular and differentiating feature.
Plastica’s filter set is still similar to Hipstamatic’s, but not identical. I found them to be a little flat in comparison to Hipstamatic and other faux-LOMO apps like the old LOMO-LOMO/LEME-LEME apps. Vibrance and saturation is not as lush in many instances. For me, this works for several of the filters, but not all. This flatness and lack of punch gives many of Plastica’s effects a more accurate, lo-fi look.
It doesn’t support lens and film previews, which given the number of lenses and films, would be a helpful addition in keeping the filter characteristics straight.
In fact, even in its own Lightbox, there’s no way to tell which filter combination shot an image which makes it very difficult to turn “happy accidents” into favorite lens and film combinations. It’s buried in the EXIF data, but you’ll need a separate EXIF viewer app like EXIF-fi to find it.
UPDATE 01: Reader Robin E notes that “Double tap on an image in the gallery to get info like location, lens and film.”
I was surprised to see this app return to the App Store. After testing this new update, I’m glad it did. The developers took a beating with the first version of the app. They’ve gone back to the drawing board. This latest version of Plastica, while still not without its flaws, now stands pretty well on its own. This is probably the biggest turnaround of a photo app that I’ve ever seen.
As an app on its own, there are enough filters with good-looking lo-fi qualities that have earned Plastica 2.0 a slot back on my iPhone. If you’d given up on Plastica, it’s worth a second look.
Currently Plastica is free. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 6.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.