McLean, VA (written by Michael Ruhl/Reviewed.com via USA Today) -- If you need a versatile app that lets you do more than simply pile effects on top of one another, consider FX Photo Studio, available for iOS on the App Store for $0.99.
An iPhone 4S was used for this review, but the app is also compatible with other iPhones, iPod Touch, and iPad. Android users need not apply.
What FX Photo Studio Gets Right
FX tries to do a lot of things, and honestly, it does most of them well. It offers a wide range of effects and filters, and the option to hide the ones you don't like. They're arranged quite logically into categories, and you can randomly select one if you're not sure what you want.
What we like most is the ability to paint on all the effects, rather than applying them to the entire photo. Just swipe your finger across the image and you get a vintage camera effect, pencil sketch, wobbly mirror, and so on. Though not unique to this app, the Color Splash tool lets you turn your photo black and white then selectively add color back, which is fun. An adjustable brush size is handy for precise edits, as is the ability to pinch-zoom all the way to the pixel level. These are great functions if you have large, clunky fingers. With the different effects it offers, you can have a lot of fun and get really creative.
For $0.99, you also get standard editing tools (crop, brightness, contrast, saturation, hue), and you can take a photo from within the app. It's the little things that make you smile.The interface is fairly intuitive, and you have the flexibility to pinch zoom, pan the image with two fingers, and rotate text overlays using standard Apple gestures. Given this functionality, it seems perplexing that the developers would add a "Pan & Zoom" button on the screen, taking up real estate which could house another tool. We wouldn't say this is an annoyance, just an odd choice.
What FX Photo Studio Could Do Better
When you're navigating to an effect, there are too many menus to move through, so if you decide you don't want to apply an effect after all, you'll have to hit cancel/back a few times to return to the original shot. Apps like Snapseed let you snap back to the original shot with one touch.
There are tons of effects we liked, but the super-high contrast effects are headache-inducing. It also pulls the in-app up-sell seen in a number of other apps: At the initial purchase price, you only get some effects, but you'll need to pay $0.99 for each of the three additional effects packs.
When we first ran the app, there were a lot of tips popping up with functional advice. It took two clicks to no longer display them, which must be a bug. You'll also get ads popping up periodically for the add-on effects packs, which is off-putting, especially in an app you've already paid for.
Worth A Download?
For $0.99, FX Photo Studio proves to be a versatile app worth a download. It's not perfect, and we're not sure the extra filters are worth paying for, but it's a fun app that allows you to be really creative.