Obscura 3 has launched with a wide range of new camera features and an updated design that makes accessing its pro tools more intuitive and visually appealing. It also adds more features, a better library interface, and improved performance.
Obscura originally launched in 2015 and Obscura 2 came out in 2018 which was downloaded more than a million times.
The app’s third iteration is focused on adding more powerful features while also making them more pleasant to use. The app’s creator Ben McCarthy says it offers a wide range of camera features but squeezes them into a well-designed, simple control system that he says anyone can master through a balance of aesthetics, ergonomics, and intuitiveness. All the camera controls can be reached with one thumb, and gestures and haptics combine to create a tactile experience that allows photographers to stay focused on their subjects.
Obscura 3 features a new camera interface along with five new modes: Photo, Pro Photo, Depth, Live Photo, and Video.
Photo Mode is designed to be fast and uses the virtual camera (the Dual or Triple Camera system), which allows for rapid zooming between lenses in a tradeoff that precludes features like manual focus, white balance, shutter speed, or ISO.
Pro Photo Mode is the default and is described as the evolution of Obscura 2’s interface. It uses only a single camera at a time, which allows for manual control of focus, white balance, shutter speed, and ISO. It also allows for RAW and ProRAW capture on supported devices.
Depth mode is for capturing Portrait Photos (or any photo with depth data) using the same format as Apple’s camera app, so the effect can be altered using the Photos app’s editing tools.
Live Photo is a lot like the Photo MOde, but just for Live Photos. The aspect ratio can’t be changed in this mode.
Video mode separates video features so that the other modes don’t become too complicated or convoluted. This mode also uses the cameras individually and allows for manual focus and white balance.
Obscura 3 features more intuitive controls, which McCarthy says means fewer dials in lieu of more buttons while still taking advantage of gestures for access to quick shortcuts.
“Obscura 2 was overly reliant on the control wheel and lacked hierarchy,” McCarthy explains. “We wanted to make it much more explicit that some features would preclude others from working. It had to be more flexible to account for the different camera modes and their varying features. It had to work not just on a flat background, but also when overlaid over the viewfinder, to support video and alternate aspect ratios. It should be easier to learn, without sacrificing the speed and utility for pro users.
“I’ll let our users be the final judge, but I think we did a pretty good job evolving the design without losing the Obscura feel.”
Many controls are more easily accessed and changed without requiring multiple taps, which include exposure and focus. Obscura 3 has much more robust white balance controls which allow for not just presets but also manual setting of temperature and tint, and a gesture shortcut to quickly set temp and tint via gesture.
McCarthy says that many other features are tucked into the “Camera Settings” button, which includes Primary and Secondary photo formats (which can be set independently), Histogram (now in two sizes and can display a color or a monochrome histogram), spirit level, grid, flash, and alternative aspect ratios.
Redesigned Library and Image Viewer
McCarthy said that one of his biggest personal gripes with Obscura 2 was that the library interface never supported landscape orientation. That has been addressed.
“The library view is no longer just a list of your photos, instead we display a small number of recent photos, and quick access to important photo albums, like Favorites and RAW photos. And by not fetching data on thousands of photos at once, performance is massively improved,” McCarthy says.
Obscura’s image viewer is also completely revamped along with a new Triage view that features a rating system for photos (stars or flags) and a new filter picker in editing. More editing features are promised for the future as well.
Enhanced Support and a Higher Price
Obscura 3 ships with an Apple Watch companion app and game controller support (photographers can take photos with a connected controller). Widgets will be added soon and iPad support is also coming.
The app is available for $10, which is double Obsura 2’s price of $5. McCarthy says the increase in price is due to significant improvements over the previous app, as noted above. It is available to download from the App Store.