X

Lenka for iOS review: A solid photography app, but the interface needs work

Lenka takes fantastic black-and-white photos using a simple approach, but its interface may be a bit confusing until you learn the ropes.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani

Jason Cipriani

Contributing Writer, ZDNet

Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.

See full bio
4 min read

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Unlike most photo apps for our smartphones, Lenka does one thing and one thing only: it takes black-and-white photos. Instead of piling on extra controls for saturation, brightness, filters, and similar options that can be found in basically every other photo app out there, Lenka focuses on simplicity. You have only two options available to control the look of the photo, which are limited to a "Normal" or "High Contrast" mode. That's it.

lenkapromo.jpg
8.1

Lenka for iOS

The Good

Lenka makes the process of taking black-and-white photos extremely easy.

The Bad

The interface is simple but lacks polish, and it's unclear at first what each icon represents.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a simple app for taking black-and-white shots using your iPhone's camera, Lenka is worth the price.

Lenka delivers on its promise of cutting out any unnecessary features, but somehow the user-interface is still confusing, with buttons that are far from intuitive at first blush.

Understanding Lenka

There's really no setup for Lenka at all. You launch the app and immediately you're greeted with a black-and-white viewfinder. Along the bottom (from left to right) you'll find a gallery icon, the shutter release button that more closely resembles a yellow kickball, and a somewhat odd-looking button that doesn't present a clear message stating its purpose (more on what it does below).

Lenka's interface is not just simple, but maybe too simple (pictures)

See all photos

Along the top in the same order, you'll find a button to enable subject illumination (not the same as a flash) and an "About" button. The ability to constantly illuminate an object instead of hitting it with a quick flash of light, and the absence of front-facing camera support "are creative decisions which speak to our artistic philosophy," according to the app's iTunes listing.

As for that strange button along the bottom, well, that's how you change between the two different shooting modes I mentioned at the beginning of the review. On one setting, it's a small circle that's half black and half white. Tapping it puts a red circle with a line through it around the icon. I have yet to actually figure out which mode is represented by which icon.

Crafting a black-and-white photo

When you're composing a photo you'll appreciate the fact the viewfinder displays exactly what your photo is going to look like once it's captured. Another nice touch is the ability for you to pinch on the viewfinder to switch from a longer, rectangular photo to a square one. The square photo gives you an even more realistic preview of what it will look like if you're planning on posting the photo on Instagram.

Once you've snapped your shot, it's instantly saved to your Lenka Gallery. That is to say, Lenka doesn't save photos taken within the app to your device's camera roll. Instead, it saves photos within its own gallery, freeing your iOS camera roll from clutter and letting you share or save only what you want.

I can appreciate this approach to managing content from a photo app. Often the first few shots taken with a new camera app are pointless photos shot only to figure out controls and settings. The end result is a messy iOS camera roll. With that said, I do wish there was a method for batch-deleting photos from my Lenka Gallery. As it is now, you have to manually delete photos one by one.

Sharing

Sharing your world through a black-and-white lens using Lenka is pretty simple. You open the app's camera roll, select the photo you want to share, and send it on its way. You can only edit the size of the photo via cropping, which the app helps you do, either freehand or by constraining the cropped area to a specific ratio.

You can export your image to any iOS app you have installed that supports it, such as Dropbox, VSCO Cam, Instagram, and so on. This is done via another icon the action for which isn't properly represented. The share button looks a lot like Instagram's icon, which, to anyone who recognizes it, would logically think it launched the shared photo in Instagram. Instead, it simply opens a share sheet where you can find a list of all apps you have installed that will accept the photo.

Another share button (that actually looks like a traditional sharing icon) simply opens the default share sheet on iOS. From there, you can send the photo to Facebook, Twitter, email, or save it to your iOS camera roll.

To be fair, I take no issue with the feature set for sharing and editing a photo. I just wish the user-interface (the icons) more closely represented their true actions.

Conclusion

Despite its issues, I still found I wanted to continue using Lenka. The simplistic approach to taking strictly black-and-white photos is addictive. For the current price of $2.99/£1.99/AU$3.79, I was disappointed by how easily an icon's action is lost in translation. Fortunately, with so few features, it doesn't take long to learn what each of the buttons does through trial and error.

In the end, Lenka is a solid option for black-and-white photography despite its inconsistent user interface. The quality of the end result outweighs the app's shortcomings.

lenkapromo.jpg
8.1

Lenka for iOS

Score Breakdown

Setup 10Features 9Interface 5Performance 9