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Home / Reviews / Apps and Games / iPhone & iPad / App of the week: Filmborn review

App of the week: Filmborn review

This excellent camera app wants to make you love film and become a better photographer

There’s a hint of the obsessive about Filmborn. Like creator Mastin Labs’s Adobe Lightroom presets, Filmborn emulates film. But unlike contemporaries that deluge you with dozens of overblown filters, here you get only nine, each painstakingly recreating the real thing.

This might sound limiting, but it proves to be a revelation. Rather than have you idly flick through dozens of interchangeable and overblown filters, Filmborn wants you immersed in the world of photography, taking notice of how each stock affects what you shoot.

It’s about blurring the boundaries between digital and film.

Snap happy

Snap happy

You can use Filmborn as a camera or an editor of shots taken with other apps. Either way, the icon-heavy interface takes some getting used to.

Spend time familiarising yourself with where everything lives and what it does, though, and the app soon becomes second nature.

Along with the usual flash and focus buttons, the camera provides access to a grid and two levels indicators (one horizontal and one vertical – the latter being handy for shooting straight up or down). The best bit, though, is the blown highlights preview, slathering your display in red if your image will look like blown-out garbage.

School days

School days

Tapping the settings button opens the camera kit. Here, you choose an aspect ratio and lens, and then a stock from the nine on offer (three each from Fujifilm, Ilford and Kodak). A favourite set-up can be saved, and two additional slots can be unlocked via IAP.

You might think this feels a bit regimented, and you’d be right; but Filmborn isn’t about randomness and play so much as intention and education. This becomes even more apparent when you tap-hold a stock and an info page springs up, outlining strengths, weaknesses and uses for the stock, with tables about skin types, edit styles, lighting and subject matter.

Filmborn doesn’t just want you taking more photographs – it wants you to become a better photographer and, once bitten, perhaps seek out the real thing.

Close to the edit

Close to the edit

The editor is similarly impressive. You can switch stocks, make adjustments (including a best-in-class curves tool, which is another IAP), and use crop/skew transform tools.

Integration with Photos is smart – Filmborm saves shots and edits directly to your Camera Roll, but everything is non-destructive. Revert a black and white Filmborn shot in Photos and you’ll see the vanilla photo Apple’s Camera app would have taken.

All of this is free, which seems insanely generous. Presumably, the developer’s banking on those with a more professional bent buying the IAPs, or has plans to later add more stocks to purchase.

The lack of a price-tag for the bulk of the app isn’t the best thing about Filmborn – it’s that the results you get really do look like film stock, and not like someone’s just slapped a filter on a photo shot on a smartphone.

Filmborn is available for iOS.

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

A must-download for iPhone photographers with any interest in film emulation

Good Stuff

The results you get are superb

Great camera and editing tools

You get an awful lot for free

Bad Stuff

Icon-heavy interface is a bit unfriendly

No RAW support (although it’s coming)

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.

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