I said that the original Mattebox may be “the best iPhone camera app around, but then I went back to using the iPhone’s built-in camera for everything and doing the edits in post.
But Mattebox 2 has just launched, and it is certainly good enough to tempt me back. It keeps the same super-simple interface, and adds Lightroom filter export and exposure compensation.
Mattebox brings your iPhone much closer to the control you get with a regular camera. Even the shutter release has been rethought: you touch it to lock the current focus and exposure settings, and then slide to take the shot. It’s like half-pressing and recomposing on an SLR.
The new Mattebox adds a whole range of cool new filtering options, which you can save as presets and store in iCloud, or share with others. These include the usual vignettes, brightness and so on, but also a full color curves tool that lets you tweak all three RBG color channels. You can also add film grain, tweak color balance and a lot more.
But the real headliner is the filter sharing. You can browse other people’s filters from the app, or share your own, and you can send these filters to yourself to use as Develop Presets in Adobe Lightroom. That’s right: you can make a filter in Mattebox and then use that same filter in Lightroom.
Photoshop filters can be imported into Mattebox, too. The instructions are in the app, but the short of it is that if you add an adjustment layer to a PSD and import that file into Mattebox, you can use (and continue adjusting!) that filter on your iPhone or iPad.
There’s a whole lot more here. One-touch white balance makes it easy to manually set the color balance of your photo, and real exposure compensation lets you adjust the actual exposure of the image. Oh, and all your pictures are saved as TIFFs after being custom converted from the iPhone’s “RAW” data, along with proper metadata tags for when you get back to the desktop.
There’s only one thing I don’t like: no support for using the volume buttons as a shutter release. Then again, the two-stage shutter release is a much better system anyway.
I haven’t been this excited about a camera app for a while. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get started shooting some pictures.
Mattebox 2 is available now for $5, free for existing users.