The premise is sound: you have a hugely powerful, internet-connected computer in your hand that you’re taking photos with, so you should harness some of that power to analyse the scene you’re shooting, optionally tweaking the picture with filters or manual controls for brightness, colour temperature and more, all live.
Tap a button in Blux Camera Pro, for example, and the app will work out where you are and pull the current local weather, then also look at the scene it's shooting and make a mode recommendation and optionally reading out the info that gets displayed on your screen complete with fake keyboard noises. Sounds like at least somebody’s idea of cool, right? And now for the caveats.
First, of course, this requires an internet connection, which could get pricey if you’re abroad. Second, you have to manually tap a button to accept its recommendation. Third, the whole process takes about 20 seconds, and that’s in addition to the five seconds the app takes to start from cold - even on an iPhone 5. But perhaps worst of all, the recommendations aren’t even consistent.
When we tested it on a rainy day, for example, it sometimes recommended we try its 'rainy' preset. That did indeed punch up the colours and contrast for a more impactful photo. But other times it seemed just to give up, saying there was 'sufficient light' and recommending an apparently random Instagram-like filter.
Besides, knowing the weather (even assuming the information it gets from the internet is accurate) isn’t enough. Recommending you try Rainy when it’s raining outside, for example, isn’t helpful; and the effect of each preset mode isn’t always pleasant.
You can pair it with a separate 69p app called Blux Lens running over Wi-Fi on another iOS device so you can control its camera remotely; a fine idea, though Wi-Fi’s limited range means this is possibly not ideal for, as the screenshots on the App Store suggest, taking photos of a pack of wild lionesses.
The interface is controversial, too. Features are highly undiscoverable, with hardly any clues or visual cues in place to help you remember what things are or even where to find them. And that’s a shame, because there are some excellent features here. One of the two semi-circles framing the centre of the viewfinder lets you easily tweak the colour temperature of the shot and see the results update live on the screen, which is particularly useful since in our experience the iPhone’s standard auto white balance often gets it wrong.
Swipe in from the left and you get sliders for saturation, contrast, brightness and sharpness, and swipe in from the right to get picture-taking modes optimised for portrait, landscape, snow and so on, as well as special-effect filters, all of which also affect the picture live as it’s shown on the phone’s screen. You can personalise the controls that are shown on screen too, rearranging them, hiding ones you don’t like (including, um, the shutter, which seems crazy since you can’t use the volume-up button to snap a shot), and adding more from a tray of widgets; you can add an artificial horizon, a live histogram and some rule-of-thirds dividing lines.
There are other quirks – sharing feels like an afterthought; the interface only works in a single orientation, and you can’t tweak photos after they’re taken – but we’ve made our point. Its gesture-based and flexible interface are cool, and its developers are clearly proud of what they’ve created. These days, though, the built-in Camera app is enough for most people, and if you want a little more flexibility, an app such as Camera+ will serve you better than Blux Camera Pro.
You'll find this review, and many more, in Tap! Magazine issue 29.
- Works with: iPhone, iPad, iPod
- Price: $2.99/£1.99
- Version: 1.0.7
- App size: 8MB
- Developer: YIN XUE
- Age rating: 4+