Fstoppers Reviews Obscura 2: A Superb iOS Photo App that Rethinks the 'Interface'

Fstoppers Reviews Obscura 2: A Superb iOS Photo App that Rethinks the 'Interface'

Obsura 2 has been out for a while, but somehow I missed it. Now that I've connected to this photo app I'm happy to sing its praises. 

Obscura 2 ($4.99 at the iOS App Store) can be best be thought of as a camera app, rather than an editing app. If you think the built in iOS camera app from Apple is sufficient, a minute or two of running Obscura 2 will relieve you of that misconception. 

Designed a bit like a physical camera, Obscura 2 has its interface designed around mode wheels, and they can all be operated with one hand. 

On the main screen you'll see your live image, a shutter button, and a wheel controlling Camera (wide angle, telephoto, front-facing), Grid, Spirit Level, White Balance, Flash, Timer, Format (Camera (wide angle, telephoto, front-facing), Grid, Spirit Level, White Balance, Flash, Timer, Format (HEIC, JPG, Raw, Depth, or Live), and Filters.), and Filters.

The operation wasn't immediately obvious, but it took just a couple of minutes to figure out I could rotate various icons to select adjustment modes, then move the main wheel to vary those adjustments. The first controls you'll see are focus and expose. Rolling the mode wheel changes exposure or focus, or in auto mode you can tap and have the software figure it out. 

I expect most of our readers will want to use this app the way I do, getting manual control to get the image exactly as they want. White balance is set automatically by default, but I liked the ability to tune white balance without being a slave to automatic settings. In most cases, i could make better choices on my own. You also will have control of ISO and shutter speed. 

In almost every case I could get better images using Obscura 2 than I could with the built in camera app.

Obscura 2 also creates its own camera roll, and it can access any photos that are already on your device. The metadata display is first rate, with all the information you'd want about your photos. That information can even be copied to the clipboard for export. 

There are some other nice features including a built in spirit level, and a large page of options which lets you fine tune how the app works, even assigning functions to your phone volume buttons. Obscura 2 also offers about 20 filters to further tune your images, and there are more as in-app purchases. The filters feel sort of slapped on, but some will like them.

The only thing I found wanting was the lack of real editing tools. I would have loved to adjust shadows and highlights, saturation, and a host of other things I usually do with my photos. Absent those controls, I usually scurry off to Snapseed (Android download) (iOS download) or one of the Adobe iOS apps. 

What I Liked:

  • This app is about control, and in a short time one handed adjustments become natural
  • The screens are uncluttered and well designed
  • One handed, one finger operation
  • Ability to save in other formats besides JPEG, i.e. HEIC, RAW, Depth, or Live
  • Works in landscape or portrait or landscape view

What could be added/improved

  • Other than filters, there are no editing controls

I really enjoyed using Oscura 2 on my iPhone. It let me feel more like a photographer, stripping away the automation on many iOS camera apps. It's the kind of app that I think will appeal to our Fstoppers reader universe.

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Great article. Love the idea of the Obsura 2 app. Will definitely check it out, thanks for sharing.

If you -- for example -- make a white balance setting, does that make a difference in how the RAW file is saved in the camera? If so, then it isn't a RAW file anymore. Or does it save a real RAW file AND also the processed file in a different format?