I’ve been following Ben McCarthy’s journey with Obscura since the app first launched in 2015, watching the app as it has evolved alongside changes to Apple’s camera hardware. Camera apps pose unique design challenges, especially for camera apps like Obscura, which has consistently aimed to deliver pro features that can be used one-handed on an iPhone. Those challenges have only continued to multiply since I wrote about Obscura 2 and its innovative Control Wheel.
With Obscura 3, which is a brand new app, McCarthy and the Obscura team have taken a new direction with the app’s design that’s better suited for the capabilities of Apple’s modern camera hardware. It’s a direction that remains true to the app’s historical design aesthetic and user experience while making changes that I expect will provide greater flexibility to quickly adapt to future camera innovations.
I’m going to focus on Obscura 3’s design because I haven’t tested every possible combination of features the app offers. It’s winter in the Chicago area and not the best time for photo walks. Still, I’ve spent enough time with the app to know that the new design works well, allowing users to step through its myriad of features with ease, so let’s take a closer look.
Pixelmator Photo has long been one of my favorite iPad photo editing apps. The app makes great use of the iPad’s large screen, which provides space for tools alongside the image you’re editing. Reducing that experience to even the largest model of iPhone is a tall order, but from my preliminary testing, it looks as though the Pixelmator team has pulled it off.
Pixelmator Photo on the iPad offers an extensive suite of editing tools that strike a nice balance. The app makes it simple to apply the app’s machine learning-based tools for quick editing and sharing, but it also includes fine-grained controls for when you want to more finely tune a photo. The same is true on the iPhone, but the design tilts in favor of quick access and edits, which I think is appropriate on a device like the iPhone. The deeper tools are still there, just beneath the surface and easy to access when you need them, but on the iPhone the emphasis is on accessing frequently-used tools quickly.
Last week, Apple announced two new child safety features coming this fall that stirred up controversy in the security and privacy world. The first is a technology that scans photos that are uploaded to customers’ iCloud Photo Libraries for digital fingerprints that match a database of known Child Sexual Abuse Material or ‘CSAM’ that is maintained by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a quasi-governmental entity in the US. The other is a machine learning-based technology used by Messages on an opt-in basis to alert children, and if they are under 13, their parents, of images flagged by the system as potentially pornographic.
The two technologies are different, but by announcing them at the same time in a way that wasn’t always clear, Apple found itself embroiled in controversy. The company has since tried to clarify the situation by publishing a set of FAQs that go into more detail about the upcoming features than the initial announcement did.
Then today, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, sat down with Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal for a video interview to explain the two features and how they work. Stern’s interview is well worth watching because it does more in just under 12 minutes to clarify what Apple is doing, and just as importantly not doing, than anything else I’ve watched or read.
One of the greatest advantages of the iPhone’s camera hardware is that it’s easy to take photos wherever you are. That’s also a bit of a curse because there’s probably no greater friction in managing a photo library than sifting through a large stack of images looking for the ones you want to keep. The convenience quality of the iPhone’s camera means that I take more photos than ever, many of which aren’t shots I want to keep long-term. With today’s release of Darkroom 5.2, the photo editor that we’ve covered on MacStories before takes a significant step forward in making the process of culling the best images from an extensive photo collection easier.
As reported today by Juli Clover at MacRumors, Apple is now allowing iCloud Photos users to transfer a copy of their data to Google Photos. This joins the growing suite of tools provided on Apple’s Data and Privacy webpage, which also include downloading copies of your data, correcting your data, and deactivating or deleting your account.
As described in a new Apple Support document on this topic, the iCloud Photos transfer process does not delete your photos and videos from iCloud, it just copies a duplicate of the data to Google Photos. Clover notes:
The transfer process takes between three and seven days, with Apple verifying that the request was made by you. To do the transfer, you must have two-factor authentication turned on for your Apple ID account and you must have a Google Photos account with enough storage to complete the transfer.
Further details over at MacRumors.
BestPhotos is a streamlined photo management app for iOS and iPadOS, which we last covered a couple years ago. The app seeks to help users clean up their photo libraries using smart searches, photo comparisons, and metadata edits. Today marks the release of BestPhotos 3.0, a major update in which developer Eric Welander has added a variety of useful new features and improvements.
Pixelmator is one of the few apps I’ve used longer than anything else. Over time I regularly change up task managers, email clients, note-taking apps, and more, but nothing has ever come close to replacing Pixelmator for me. In fact, last summer I had to try living without it for a time while the app was briefly incompatible with the iOS 13 beta. Try as I might, I could find no replacement for the excellent layer-based image editor.
Not even Pixelmator Photo, the more modern photo editing tool, could replace the original Pixelmator. It wasn’t exactly intended to, since the apps specialize in different areas, but the standard Pixelmator nonetheless felt light on meaningful updates even before the release of Pixelmator Photo. My fear was that eventually the app would be discontinued.
Pixelmator 2.5, launching today, is strong evidence that that’s not going to happen. By transitioning the app to the Files document browser, designing an all-new photo browser, and adding a rich collection of new image size presets, Pixelmator’s team has crafted the app’s biggest leap forward in years and set it up for a strong future.
The Gnarbox 2.0 is ruggedized, portable SSD storage designed with photographers and videographers in mind. I’ve tried lots of different portable storage solutions in the past, and what distinguishes the Gnarbox is its ability to operate as a standalone device and as an accessory to a computing device. The mix of fast, rugged storage, an onboard operating system, wired and wireless connectivity, and complimentary software isn’t cheap. The entry-level Gnarbox is $499. However, the Gnarbox offers both the peace of mind of in-the-field backups and image and video pre-processing, making it a compelling choice for anyone who captures lots of photos and video while away from their main computing device.
Versatility and reliability are what you’re buying when you get a Gnarbox. I’ve tried other WiFi-enabled backup solutions, including Western Digital’s My Passport Wireless SSD, but in the weeks that I’ve been using a 256GB Gnarbox 2.0 that the company sent for testing, I’ve found that it’s built better, is more capable, and is easier to use than any other portable storage I’ve tried.
About this time last year, Apple announced its first-ever ‘Shot on iPhone’ photography challenge judged by a panel of professional photographers and Apple employees. Apple is back with a new contest app this year asking users to submit their Night mode photos.
Through January 29th, Apple is taking submissions on Instagram, Twitter, and Weibo. To qualify, post your photos on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #ShotoniPhone and #NightmodeChallenge and Weibo using #ShotoniPhone# and #NightmodeChallenge#.
Five winners will be picked by a panel of judges that include:
plus the following Apple executives and employees:
- Phil Schiller
- Kaiann Drance
- Brooks Kraft
- Jon McCormack
- Are Duplessis
The five winning photos will be announced on March 4th on the Apple Newsroom. Apple says the images may also be used in digital campaigns, at stores, on billboards, and in photo exhibitions.
Night mode photography was a big part of Federico’s story on iPhone 11 Pro photography called Eternal City, Modern Photography: The iPhone 11 Pro in Rome. Here’s an outtake from that story that Federico submitted for the challenge:
For more on the contest and tips on shooting Night mode photos, check out Apple’s press release.