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VSCO Cam for iOS review: A great minimalist photo editor gets even better

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The Good VSCO Cam has a cool interface layout for editing and putting effects on your photos. Fine-tuning capabilities with sliders for every effect help you get the look you want.

The Bad The Grid feed is curated and doesn't give you any way to post feedback or start a discussion. You can't break up the Grid by category to find photos that interest you.

The Bottom Line VSCO Cam is a great download for taking and editing photos, and with tools that take advantage of the iPad's larger screen and new Journal features, it's easy to recommend.


8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Interface 7
  • Performance 9

Editors' note, November 13, 2014: This review has been updated with new features from version 4.0.

VSCO Cam is an elegant photo effects app with a minimalist interface, which lets you create great-looking shots in only a few steps. Now with version 4.0, VSCO Cam is optimized for iPad and offers new tools for both devices in this universal update.

VSCO Cam has been available since mid-2013, with great tools for editing images and a social layer came later with a photo feed that's sort of similar to what you get on Instagram. Unlike Instagram, the news feed (called "The Grid") is curated by VSCO Cam and doesn't have nearly the user base of Instagram. But where VSCO Cam shines is in its delightfully minimalist interface that boasts several more photo-editing tools for better quality shots.

What developers Visual Supply Company have done in the latest update is add new tools for both the iPad and iPhone versions. Both get new manual photo tools for things such as focus, white balance, and exposure, along with a Journal feature that lets you pair words with your photo projects.

Getting used to the layout

The new version got some design changes since its launch last year, but VSCO Cam has mostly kept its minimalist look that makes all the app's tools only a couple of taps away. It can be a little confusing at first with unnamed buttons and only icons to guide you, but once you learn the ropes, the controls start to make sense. To get started, you can touch the camera icon to snap a fresh photo or grab one from your iPhone camera library by touching the plus sign.

The app has a sort of photographer's light table experience, where you import a photo from your library or the camera, then decide what to do with it. Touching a photo on your light table brings up a bank of buttons at the bottom for flagging it for later, performing edits, sharing to social networks, or deleting it.

Touching the edit icon (a combination of a paintbrush and wrench) gets you to a screen where you can choose between basic edits (wrench) or effects and filters (paintbrush). VSCO Cam's filter's are shown across the bottom of the screen on the iPhone, and down the side on the iPad, right withing thumbs reach. None of these filters have fancy names as you browse, and are instead just labeled things like B5, C1 and G3. Touching each button will show how the filter effects your photo, and each one has a slider so you can fine-tune the effect. On the iPad, you have the option to touch a grid-like button at the bottom to see how each filter changes your photo with big thumbnails.

More traditional editing tools such as brightness, contrast, and saturation are found behind the wrench icon, but you'll also find things like cropping and rotate tools.

On the iPad the controls are on the sides, right within thumb's reach. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Saving and sharing

When you're done adding filters and fine-tuning your image, you have a few options for sharing. You can post to Twitter, Instagram, Weibo, Google+ or Facebook, or you can simply save to your camera library, or send via e-mail. In the latest version you can also use VSCO Cam's Sync tool, that automatically syncs up your VSCO photos across your devices. In my testing it worked great, and synced images showed up almost immediately.

There's also a chance your photo will make into VSCO Cam's Grid (the social feed I mentioned earlier), but that is left up to whomever curates the feed. When you finish a photo, you'll see that it is pending for the grid, but it's pretty clear that the images that make it through are of high quality (judging from the feed), so you'll have to take a particularly nice shot and hope for the best.

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