For some reason, there’s still no official Instagram tablet app, despite the number of people who like to snap and view photos on their larger mobile appliances. Fhotoroom (free) is a twist on the super-popular photo social network that’s at home on both Windows tablets and phones. Not only does it feature pretty much all the social features—liking, following, commenting—but also boasts stronger photo editing chops than Instagram. And while its community can’t match the size of the better-known network, it does number in the millions, according to its maker, Supporting Computers.
Setup and Signup
Fhotoroom runs on both x86 and ARM-based Windows 8 PCs and tablets, but makes more sense on a tablet than on a desktop PC: The controls are all eminently “touchable.” It’s a svelte 16MB download, and on first run it asks permission to run in the background. The Windows 8 tablet version of Fhotoroom has what I consider to be a big benefit over its Windows Phone sibling: You don’t have to create an account on the service before you can start using the app as a photo editor. Of course, if you want to share your photos to and participate in the Fhotoroom community, you will need an account, which requires a username, password, email address, and user photo.
A major difference between the Windows app and the Windows phone version of Fhotoroom is that there’s no camera feature: Instead, you’ll have to take a picture with another camera app, such as the default Windows 8 Camera app, and then open it in Fhotoroom from its folder. Another important difference is that the Windows app lets you work with raw camera files, which usually makes for more powerful corrections of lighting and color. For example, you can get more detail from overexposed areas of a photo when you’re working with a raw file.
The typically Windows 8 tile based home screen lets you open photos from local PC folders or browse through the community’s recent, popular, and interesting submissions. You can also browse based on popular tags:
The editing interface also differs from the phone app: You can unpinch to zoom, or use several extra buttons for zooming, for 100 percent view, and to Auto Fit. I do wish the app told you the percent zoom you’re at, however. A Before/After button is handy to show you how the photo started compared with your edited version.
Fhotoroom adds a whole extra set of photo editing tools to what you get in the Windows Phone version’s Editing set, called Pro Tools. These actually include some of the tools in the phone’s set, like tilt-shift (which actually lets you do selective focus on oval as well as rectangular areas), ColorSplash (which can turn all but a specified color black & white), and light-leak effects. But it adds appealing capabilities like noise reduction, geometry distortion effects, and local edit brushes for exposure, saturation, and more.
Even the basic editing tools in this app offer more options than the phone app does: In addition to the Correction tool’s brightness, contrast, white point, and black point settings, you get Shadow, Highlight, and Gamma adjustment sliders. You also see a histogram that changes as you change these settings.
One key correction option is missing, however: there’s no autocorrect! Even Instagram has its auto brightness and contrast boost button, and, for an app with so many adjustment options, it would be nice to have the software suggest a starting point for corrections. Adobe’s free Photoshop Express app does a good job at auto-correction if you insist on having the feature.
Oddly, the interesting double-exposure effect found in the Windows Phone Fhotoroom app is missing in the tablet app. The tilt-shift is well implemented, however, letting you precisely adjust the focus area. Impressively, the same tool can be used to create a selective focus effect, too, since you can choose a circle or oval as well as a rectangular focus area. Another tool it offers that I rarely see in a mobile app is simple resizing, which lets you choose new pixel dimensions.
As if all those options under Editing weren’t jazzy enough, there’s a whole Styles group of filter effects, as we move closer to Instagram territory. I should note that for both the editing and styles tools, the sample thumbnails are not of your own image, but of a stock photo of a statue—I prefer seeing them use the image I’m working with. As in Instagram, clever names are used for the filters—Americano, Tsar, Kapla, and so on. The 26 filters (compared with Instagram’s 19) range from high-contrast monochrome to punchy warm or cold emphasized look, with a couple of film looks thrown in (Velvia X and Classic Pro). These effects can hold their heads up proudly against those of Instagram: many of them are indeed quiet effective, and unlike the more famous app, Fhotoroom lets you adjust their strength with a slider.
The final effect category is frames, and you get a generous 19 choices, from basic black or white borders to film proof sprockets to linen and glass backgrounds.
Sharing and Community
Once you’ve prettied up your photo just how you want it, tap the share button. This takes you through a couple of steps to get your image to the Fhotoroom community, with options to share to Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter (and VK) along the way. You can add a text message, optionally with #hashtags, though there’s no help choosing the latter. You can also save your editing image to your local Pictures folders.
Tapping Share adds your image to the Fhotoroom community, with an option for only showing it to followers. The photo-sharing community strongly resembles Instagram: You can “heart” and comment on photos, and follow users. If you haven’t heard of Fhotoroom, you might be surprised how large and active the community is: Just hit refresh while viewing recent images, and notice how a lot of photos have a good number of likes—some in the hundreds. Much of the community seems to be based in Europe, where it’s perhaps better known than in the U.S.
One thing I like in the Windows Phone app is missing in the Windows 8 app: You can’t zoom in and full-screen the pictures. This isn’t as big a deal on a PC or tablet, since the screen is larger, but I still like to be able to see nothing but the photo on the screen. The app shows you the number of likes and comments in a sidebar. I do, however, like how you can swipe through photos in your feed or in the recent, popular, and interesting groups.
Your Room for Photos?
Fhotoroom’s community may not be Instagram-sized, but the app offers strong image-editing and enhancing tools, and the community is large enough to be interesting. I know, there are so many photo communities that vie for our attention these days—Flickr, Instagram, 500px…the list goes on. But since Fhotoroom is a free app, you’ve got nothing to lose taking Fhotoroom out for a spin. You may find you like what it can do with your pictures, which is more than just about any free app for Windows tablets I’ve seen.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc