I've long been a fan of VSCO cam. It's been step one in my iPhotography workflow for basically forever, thanks to its good looks, ease of use, and most importantly: its truckload of available (VSCO cam ships with a nice assortment, but many more are available via in-app purchases) film emulating presets. With few exceptions, if I'm sharing a photo with the world, it's been edited in VSCO cam, and despite a willingness to try any serious contender, nothing has supplanted VSCO cam's permanent occupation on my iPhone home screen.
On the iPhone
Now iOS 8 ready with version 4.0, VSCO cam is better than ever. The "maybe a bit too hipster" UI has been tweaked, tailored, and improved. A "history" button now shows the chronology of edits you've made to a given photo (VSCO cam photo edits are non-destructive), allowing you to trash any given edit, tap into it to change it, or just "undo all". A new publishing feature has been added, "VSCO Journal," for creating and sharing your story with both pictures and words. It's a bit awkward on the iPhone, even on the iPhone 6 Plus which I'm using, (more on this in a moment), but Journal is great for sharing things like a vacation, your mini-portfolio, a set of thematically similar photos, anything really, where one image isn't enough to convey your vision.
Finally the "cam" of VSCO cam has been noticeably improved in 4.0. I've sort of blog-raged my disdain for manual control photo apps, but this is different, this is...better. Yes, you get the sort of less than useful access to shutter speed and ISO here, but it's the more aesthetically useful ones that I like having access to: exposure compensation, white balance, and focus. The implementation is a simple, but precise slider that makes for quick, painless adjustments.
There is one other nice addition to VSCO cam 4.0 that sort of changes everything for anybody already crazy about this app: a full-fledged iPad app that syncs, yes I said syncs, photos and edits between devices. Boom. Go get it. Review over. Right?
OK, some details on VSCO cam 4.0 for iPad
VSCO cam for the iPad isn't just a blown up version of the iPhone app's UI, The aesthetic remains, but the configuration has changed, along with the app's emphasis. On the iPad, photo-taking is possible, but not highlighted. Instead VSCO cam for iPad has you focused on exploring the "Grid" (VSCO's "not a social network" showcase for VSCO'graphers), Journals, and perhaps more importantly - editing your own photographs. For browsing the Grid and Journals, VSCO cam for iPad is leaps and bounds more enjoyable than doing the same on the iPhone. It goes without saying that creating your own Journals on the iPad too is a superior experience compared to the iPhone version (as in "not awkward", see above). It's the photo editing experience though that makes the iPad version such a welcome addition. Held in your lap, with giant pinch to zoom thumbnails (works in portrait or landscape), editing now feels more accurate, more personal. It also feels a lot easier, because in an iPad exclusive option, you can now view a live thumbnail grid view of all your presets, just scroll through, find the one that works the best, and tap.
Sync is everything
Having the app on two separate iDevices doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless you can get your images from one VSCO cam library to another and that's where sync comes in. Photos taken with VSCO cam or imported into the VSCO library from your camera roll can be synced by tapping a new and easily spotted sync button. Conveniently, images that you edit are automatically tagged for syncing, so you can start on the iPhone and finish on the iPad. So long as both devices are connected to a Wi-Fi network (and cellular, if turned on in VSCO cam's preferences), your iPhone and iPad will nicely sync images and all of their adjustments back and forth.
There are other cameras in this world
But what if you use a DSLR? Two words. Image uploader. Along with the 4.0 release of VSCO cam, VSCO has introduced a browser-based image uploader available at https://vsco.co/upload. It's drag and drop, so once you've dumped your images from your camera onto your computer, just drag them into the uploader. Moments later they show up, on both the iPhone and iPad, and just like that, you're editing your amazing photos from your "better than an iPhone camera" with VSCO's beautiful presets.
As great as VSCO cam 4.0 is, there's still ample room for improvement. For starters, VSCO doesn't currently do iOS 8 share extensions. Imagine the convenience of taking a quick shot via the camera.app's swipe up shortcut and adding your favorite VSCO cam preset. With apps like Afterlight, this is possible, not so with VSCO cam (though the language in this VSCO cam FAQ doesn't seem unfriendly to the idea). VSCO's second and ongoing weakness is its inability to save "formulas". Especially now with the iPad app and image uploader, it's time VSCO got more serious about photography workflow. Having to edit each individual photo in a series that you want to have the same "feel" is frankly painful. VSCO tries to accommodate photographers by letting you arrange preset and toolkit orders, but that only minimizes the pain that batch editing would easily eliminate. Finally, and most noticeably, VSCO cam for iPad has a bug problem. This is VSCO's first time on the iPad, and a quickly released 4.0.1 update did add some stability, but I'm still getting quite a few crashes on the iPad while editing in VSCO cam. I'm not going to let that damper my enthusiasm though, given the speed of the 4.0.1 update, I'm confident VSCO is working as quickly as possible on future updates to iron out the iPad app's remaining wrinkles.
I'm really excited about what VSCO has managed to do with VSCO cam 4.0. The UI improvements, the adjustments history, the nicely implemented in-app camera, all make an oft used app that much better, and that alone would easily make VSCO cam a must-have. But on top of that, VSCO has added an iPad app, with image sync between iDevice libraries. Take a photo with your iPhone, start your edits, then later, finish up those edits on the iPad. Check your phone, the image with edits is there. You can post that image to the Grid, sharing it with other creatives, or maybe group together several images into a Journal that starts on the iPhone, and is finished on the iPad while sitting on the couch. The app isn't perfect when it comes to bulk editing, and there remains a few bugs to be squashed in pending point releases, but VSCO cam 4.0 is an amazing app that should be considered essential for anyone minimally serious about photography.
VSCO cam by Visual Supply Company requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.