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Apple would have us believe there’s an app for everything, and that’s true more often than not. But can an app successfully emulate the experience of old-school photo processing once done only in a darkroom? Although it can’t reproduce the sounds or smells of classic developer, stop bath, and fixer chemicals used for processing photographic prints, Koloid is a mostly faithful interpretation of the 19th-century collodion procedure, where a flammable liquid was used to create wet-plate images within minutes of being taken. Think of it as the precursor to Polaroid, but a whole lot messier.
Like making prints in the darkroom, Koloid offers the user complete control over the final black-and-white image (sorry, no color here). The longer you rock the device back and forth to spread virtual chemicals across the image, the more “developed” it becomes – areas untouched by liquid wind up underexposed, but keeping it in one place too long creates a burned effect instead. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it does deliver on the developer’s promise that no two pics are ever alike.
While earlier versions of Koloid only worked with images taken with the camera, the latest release allows any photo on your device to be processed, complete with options to include date, title, and even your signature on each “print” you make, although the name field is a little too small for beefier fingers. Koloid includes an in-app gallery to save your work (with the option to also save to Camera Roll) and share via email, MMS, or social networks (including Facebook and Instagram). Aside from no native iPad version, our only real complaint is that the “liquid” effect is a little slow to respond to the iPhone’s movement, so it takes longer than it should to actually process a shot.
The bottom line. If you love black-and-white photography and miss being locked up in a darkroom, Koloid is a nice throwback to a bygone era. Its unique images are a refreshing change of pace from the same old filters everyone else is using.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Faithful reproduction of classic collodion technique, without the mess. Images can be taken with device camera or imported. Creates more unique photos than competing apps.
On-screen “liquid” slow to respond to iPhone movement. No native iPad support. Signature field too small for bigger fingers. No iPhone 3GS or fourth-gen iPod touch support.