Germany’s Ashampoo is one of those lesser-known software makers with products in just about every category you can think of—security, image editing…there’s even an Ashampoo Office suite! We really liked the company’s disc-burning software, Ashampoo Burning Studio and screen capture software, Snap, so let’s see if it has another winner with ImageFX, a free download from the Windows Store.
I tested the app on a Microsoft Surface Pro running Windows 8.1. Installation was quick and painless and doesn’t require you to create an account or any other such nonsense. Another plus is that it works on both Intel and ARM-based Windows 8 devices like the Surface 2. It’s a mere 1.1MB program, and as we’ll see, that portends its limited functionality.
When you start Ashampoo ImageFX, the interface couldn’t be simpler or clearer. Two huge buttons are your only real choices: Load from File (sporting a folder icon), and Take a Picture (with, of course, a camera). When I tapped the first, the standard Windows 8 new-style file picker appeared, defaulting to the Pictures folder; I could switch to any folder on the PC, however. One thing to note here is that the app couldn’t open raw camera file formats, like the .CR2 files from Canon SLRs or Nikon’s NEF. Another Windows 8 app I’ve used, Photastic, doesn’t have this limitation. I did like ImageFX’s Effect History tool, which offers many levels of undo and the ability to reset the image.
You get the view modes you need from a clearly marked button—Fit into Screen, Fill the Screen, Stretch to Screen, and 1:1. The Orientation button lets you rotate and flip your photo, and from the Basic FX button, you can choose not only basic editing functions like cropping, brightness, and contrast, but when you swipe right, you also get fancy effects like oilpaint, blur, water, pencil, emboss, and pixelize. The crop tool is basic, and nearly identical to the one in Windows 8 included Photos app, which actually beats ImageFX by offering fixed aspect ratio cropping options.
Effects like oilpaint and pencil were indeed effective, but the blur tool lacked even Instagram’s selective focus option (aka, tilt-shift). One important effect that was missing was Autocorrect. Nearly every piece of photo editing software includes this, so I was surprised to see its omission. I’d also have liked to see shadow and highlight corrections.
The second and final effect button, Color FX, offers a baker’s dozen tools like Solarize, Invert, and even good old black and white. Most of these offer sliders for adjusting the intensity of the effect, but I was surprised that Black-and-White and Grayscale don’t, considering the degree of effort some photographers go to to get their monochrome images just right.
You can shoot photos through the app, though it doesn’t add much to the experience you get when shooting from the default camera app. Strike that: It doesn’t offer anything over the built-in camera app, and in fact takes away that app’s cool panorama capability. And it doesn’t let you see effects during shooting, as some of the cooler mobile photo apps do.
Output and Sharing
Whether you get your photo from the camera or a folder, once you’re done embellishing it, you can set it as your Windows account picture, copy it to the clipboard, or simply save it to a folder. Sadly, Ashampoo ImageFX doesn’t support printing at all.
The app has no built-in sharing tools (Flickr and Instagram would be good candidates for this), but when you choose the Share Charm from the app you’ll get Mail and any other apps that offer sharing. This is actually one of the beauties of Windows 8 and 8.1—an app needn’t build in its own sharing features; for example, once you install the Twitter app, any other app gets tweeting capability.
The Desired Effects?
Ashampoo ImageFX for Windows 8 and 8.1 seems more like a software company’s getting-to-know-Windows 8 test app than a commercial product. But its free price makes that a forgivable sin, barring any crashes or a complete lack of functionality—neither of which ImageFX is guilty of. If you have a little time on your hands, you might want to see what kinds of interesting looks you can give your photos, there’s no harm in installing this teeny 1.1MB app. If you want more power over your digital photos on a Windows 8 tablet, though, look to a somewhat beefier app like Aviary or Camera Studio+.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc