AMITIAE - Friday 30 December 2011

Grid Lens: An iPhone App for Multi-Image Output in a Matrix

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

It is not often that testing a new app can produce a spontaneous laugh, but that was what happened when trying out Grid Lens, a new app from Bucket Labs. This is is so nicely put together -- with some unusual interfacing -- that a user might miss the wider value of such software.

When I first looked at Grid Lens, I was reminded vaguely of the artist David Hockney. He went through a period when a work would be assembled from multiple polaroid photographs of a scene, giving a composite rendition of a subject. One of these is shown on the copyright page of his website.

Grid Lens

When the app is opened the user is offered a grid view of the camera input, each cell using the same image. Initially an overlay offers some useful instructions in a simple style. These instruction headings are so clear and the app so useful, that the screen only needs to be seen once.

Grid Lens Grid Lens

At the top of the screen are three icons: flash (on or off); Options; and Camera (front or back). Within Options there are three simple controls to change the grid: color, thickness; and grid aspect ratio (like 1:1, 4:3). To the right is a gearwheel icon for the Settings and it was this screen that made me laugh, with its animated titles and tools that appear suspended on a clouded background. A lot of love went into this.

Those settings include About; Autosave (on/off); Rate/review in the App Store, Tell a friend; as well as settings and login for Flickr and Facebook. There is also an item that allows users to turn on Tool Tips. The developer name, Bucket Labs is at the bottom of the screen. This developer also produces the interesting Phoster, which I had earlier reviewed positively (on my previous site). The review for Phoster is now available again on eXtensions.

The bottom of the main panel has several tools. At the far left is a link to the Gallery (initially empty of course). Beside this is a Grid icon, giving access to 17 grid style options. Some of these were reminiscent of Comic Life which I have used to good effect on the Mac and latterly the iPad. Although a number of grid formats are provided, a feature in the app allows us to split any cell with a simple tap. When first accessed, instructions are displayed on the screen.

At the bottom center is a camera icon which can be used to take photographs, but there is an interesting option in that tapping the screen in each cell will also take a photograph. Beside the camera icon is a small manual/automatic switch so that the image is captured either one grid cell at a time or in a rapid-fire sequence. With the Manual selection, it is possible that by moving the iPhone the resultant image will have a slightly altered cell by cell output, which was why I thought of Hockney.

As well as the whole image, a pair of controls to the right of the screen at the bottom toggle between a whole screen view (the grid separating parts of the whole) or a view in which each cell shows the same image.

Grid Lens Grid Lens

Image Options

Once the image is taken, the Gallery icon animates showing chewing teeth and a large eye. In the Gallery there are some more surprises available using the slightly faint icons at the bottom of the screen. The first (to the left) saves the selected image to the Camera Roll. An Export icon gives the usual options of Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instapaper and email.

When using the email option we are prompted to choose one of three sizes Small (41.9KB), Medium (107KB) or Large (729KB). Those file sizes may be larger or smaller depending on the grid type or aspect ratio selected, but in my tests, images sent by mail were larger than those saved in the Photo Album and imported to the Mac. The images sent by mail opened as 22.5" x 15" JPG images.

The penultimate icon is a bonus in that having created the image in its grid format, we are also able to apply a filer -- there are 8 to choose from including monochrome, sepia and no effect. As each is applied, so a speech balloon, with YES! appears. This may be a little overkill but fits with the app fairly well. A final icon enables a user to trash any image creation that is not wanted.


Apart from the small size of exported images, which is not going to concern most of the users this app is aimed at, Grid Lens is a really satisfying creation for getting that bit more out of the basic camera installation on the iPhone.

The freshness of the screens, with their animations, makes the app delightful to use, which may conceal the interesting nature of experimental images that users can now create with just a tap of the finger. The $0.99 price tag makes this an easy decision for most users who are interested in that little bit extra from the cameras in their iPhones.

Like Phoster before, this comes highly recommended.

Grid Lens

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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