With the camera functionality being one of the key uses of the iPhone, and a modest estimation of approximately 10,000 apps currently on offer in the App Store, most users probably have already had first-hand experience with at least one or two photo-editing apps tailored to meet just about every iphoneographer’s needs. That said, few of these mobile apps come close to VSCOcam’s impressive fusion between function, design and usability. Atop all the amazing features, VSCO is now free, removing the US$0.99 price tag attached to it before the latest round of updates.

Having undergone a complete overhaul in recent months, the latest update sees Visual Supply Company (VSCO)’s stellar film-emulating app for iOS devices receiving a slew of new features that go beyond the realm of cosmetic enhancements, landing the #1 spot on the Top Grossing charts in the category of photo editing apps.

Going by the fact that VSCO chose to release an entirely new application rather than a simple update, it’s evident that this re-creation reflects a shift in the culture of mobile photography, with purposeful vision and thought put into each element of the new program. Despite the sleek enhancements, this new version is free and comes with 9 filters, while it used to cost US$0.99 (SG$1.28) on the app store. Premium filters can be purchased for US$0.99 in 16 versions of smaller packs, or in the form of a value pack comprising of 49 presets for US$5.99 (SG$7.68) (for a limited time only).

Launching the app launches the in-app ‘capture’ function. Good as the iPhone’s resident Camera app can’t touch VSCOcam’s ability to lock focus and exposure in any 2 separate spots—a highly useful upgrade, especially for photos taken under conditions with larger variance in dynamic range. Clicking the ‘gear’ icon will also allow users to select other handy options such as ‘flash’, ‘grid’, ‘screen capture’, ‘low light boost’, and ‘white balance lock’.

Image capture made easy with focus/exposure controls

Delve into the ‘library’ button and you’re presented with a flat, minimalistic user interface, reminiscent of the recent iOS7 redesign. Clean lines segment each individual photo in an entire collection (complete with multiple thumbnail sizing options), allowing users to quickly scan through the vast amount of snapshots accumulated from daily usage. You can now organise your library snaps according to flagged/edited/all images, and importing pictures into VSCO is now comparatively faster.

On the left: importing into your library, on the right: your library

Packaged with the squeaky clean segmentation is VSCO’s answer to Instagram’s pervasiveness: the VSCO Grid—a mobile photography publishing platform that ties in with VSCO’s minimal aesthetic. You’ll find this by tapping the triple bar button at the bottom left of the screen of your gallery. Direct integration with the app allows for seamless publishing of photos, post-editing, to Grid as well as the standard social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. However, Grid is still in its infancy and not available to all for now. It’s only allowing a limited number of users to sign up via the app and help ‘test’ the program.




The ‘screwdriver’ icon leads users to manual editing

Like every other photo-editing app, VSCOcam comes with basic editing tools, but the delightful upside is the uncomplicated procedure and an option for backtracking, preventing users from having to start afresh upon making a mistake The intuitive vector icons for basic elements like exposure, temperature, contrast, rotation, and cropping are revealed with a click of the ‘screwdriver’. Apart from having a breezy learning curve, a range of numbers allow for crystal clear adjustments with regards to the intensity of the individual element you are editing.

On the left: editing temperature, on the right: editing contrast


On the left: ‘paintbrush’ icon leads users to the filter presets (as seen on the right)

A selection of individually colour-coded presets is presented in a swipe-able strip at the bottom of the screen, showcasing little previews of the effects of each filter. Certain filters make colors pop, while others mute, and tone down vibrancy without compromising on vividness. Each preset also brings forth a different visual effect to the image being edited. And if you prefer a little more control, double-tapping the preset allows you to manually adjust the intensity of the filter. VSCO has also included a myriad of marvelous black and white filter packs that exude an air of elegance or help to evoke that sense of nostalgia. Enriched color aside, details, too, are enhanced via tweaking the contrast in each preset, resulting in different parts of the image standing out. Ultimately, regardless of which filter is used, a once mediocre and stale image can easily be transformed into a strikingly beautiful capture with VSCOcam.

Filters C1, M6, B3—manually adjust the desired intensity of your image

Unsurprisingly, the sleek editing capabilities and visually engaging filters have already elevated VSCOcam to the peak of the Photography chart on the app store upon its release, hinting at how powerful an editing app this is. To Android users twiddling their thumbs, VSCO has already launched private beta testing in a bid to appeal to the Android market. No release date has been announced, but Urbanwire will go out on a limb and say it’s definitely going to be worth the wait.

Price: Free, Premium filters: US$0.99 (SG$1.28), Value pack: US$5.99 (SG$7.68) (for a limited time only).
Rating: 4/5
Operating system: iOS

VSCOcam can be downloaded for free in the Apple App Store. This app offers in-app purchases for a larger range of 48 filters.