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Review: Photo Studio HD for iOS

I had high hopes for Photo Studio HD, a universal US$1.99 app that provides an extremely wide selection of tools to edit and enhance photos.

The problem is, I really couldn't import any pictures and truly improve them using the app. The issues started when I opened a landscape image with the result that it lost most of its resolution and looked blurry and blocky. Not good for an app that calls itself Photo Studio HD.

In addition, the app's editing tools are difficult to launch. When you swipe across the scrolling list, sometimes a tool near your finger opens, instead of the expected movement to the next tool.

The sharpen tool made my picture look much worse. Few of the tools are subtle, and they can give you a garish image whether you like it or not. Even selecting frames was an odd experience. Most of the frames are garish and over the top. I was looking for a simple white frame and a matte, but couldn't really find something I liked.

Some aspects of the UI are confusing. If I want to undo an action, for example, the app sometimes offers a yes/no option, other times it has a button marked 'proceed'. It's not clear if that means proceed with the undo, or proceed with the effect. Contrast that with the free Snapseed app, which was able to improve almost any photo I threw at it, with no loss of resolution or quality.

The app does have extensive help, which links to YouTube videos showing the filters and effects in action, but generally, I didn't like any of the effects. Worse, when I clicked the instructional video on saving a photo, it played a video designed for another app!

The lighting commands just make my photo dark. Really dark. Saving is no picnic either. There are a lot of export options, including most of the social services and email, but there is no option I could find to just save to the camera roll. The app advertises a 'quick save to camera roll' feature but I could not locate it. An option marked 'gallery' saves a thumbnail, or a 360 x 480 pixel image. That's nowhere close to my original resolution.

The app crashed on me a few times while opening an image, which just added to my frustration. There's a kernel of a good idea with Photo Studio, but the execution seems flawed. With all the creative options and filters, this should be a great app. But the amount of creative control you could have is thwarted by filters that can't be throttled back lack subtelty. Performance is also pretty slow on my 3rd generation iPad, but was much better on my iPhone 5s.

Photo Studio HD requires iOS 6 and is optimized for the iPhone 5. I'll keep an eye on this app to see if it improves, but at this point I think there are many better paid and free options for iOS photographers.

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