Review: RNI Flashback (iOS)

Hey folks, keep in mind that our Kickstarter now supports both iOS and Android. Help us out!

For a long time now, I was an Alpha tester for the latest app from Really Nice Images. Back then, it was codenamed ChemEngine, and today the company is releasing the app to iOS. So what is RNI Flashback? In some ways, I want to call it the Tinder of photography apps–but with less of the swipe left or right mentality and more of the “what’s next” mentality. In this case though, you’re choosing photo filters and each is random. And just like Tinder, it isn’t all awful–but it’s more about adding selections of those that could potentially be “the one” to your stable of choices.

Overall, it’s fun and allows you to have lots of interactivity and versatility with each photo filter. But as with all things from RNI, these aren’t ordinary filters–they’re based off of the company’s careful research into various film emulsions.

Features

  • This app fights the blandness of digital photos by producing strong and pronounced film-based looks.
  • It has no filters. Instead it runs a photo-chemical simulator and generates a new and unique look with every tap of the main button.
  • This allows users to give emotional impact and sophisticated look to their photos with an unprecedented ease of use. And a lot of fun. Many beta-testers mentioned that the app is addictive.
  • Unlike RNI Films, Flashback does not simulate any film brand in particular. But simulates the fundamental principles of negative film technology by modelling the way four layers of colour film would respond to light.

Ease of Use

“Also wanted to give you a little bit of suggestion about choosing the test photos: the more ‘bland’ they are – the better Flashback works. I mean it is best for the photos that have not too much contrast and haven’t been processed in other apps before loading into Flashback. Just attached two examples: one taken with DSLR, another with my iPhone.” says Oliver from RNI, and who has been my rep for a while now.

My response, which I didn’t send him, is that I tend to not take bland photos.

IMG_2165

RNI will sort you through a faux user agreement and give you a tutorial in a couple of steps that teach you about what the app actually is. However, it does very little in explaining what each button does. To be fair though, there aren’t a lot of buttons.

IMG_2178

This is the interface. For photographers all of this will seem simple enough. The top left is cropping, top right is settings, bottom left is your albums, rewind left goes to the previous emulsion, fast forward  didn’t really do anything to me, then export then a heart to keep a stable of your favorites. The film button gives you a random film emulsion and look. After a while, you’ll notice the very tough to reach arrow on the bottom.

IMG_2185

Said arrow brings up more editing options with your images. If you’re used to RNI films, this will be much more familiar. When you’re happy, you can save your preset. Best of all, it includes RNI’s dust simulation! This works very well on black and white images though Flashback tends to make most black and whites look rather odd. I uploaded some scans of Agfa APX 400 to the app and the images look a way that I couldn’t quite embrace personally.

In my testing, what I found to be necessary is importing from your camera roll vs your photo stream. Otherwise, photo stream can work with older photos.

IMG_2183

Another complaint that I have is about the cropping. I prefer to crop my own way vs a bunch of preset crop factors that they give me. Seriously, why can’t I just do it the way I want to? I don’t want to adhere to a specific format!

It’s not all bad though, it’s rather fun and if you’re a film nerd or someone that really uses Presets in Lightroom you’ll understand all of this. To my knowledge, lots of folks quite literally mess around in Lightroom until they get an image that they like. They don’t embrace reasoning the way some of the more knowledgable folks do.

RNI Flashback kind of appeals to that person by giving you random presets, and then lets you adjust them. At first, it’s going to be tedious until you find presets you really like and save them. After this, it’s not going to be so bad at all.

When you’re all done, you can export to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your camera roll, etc.

Image Quality

Here are a few samples I’ve created.

IMG_2179

IMG_2180

IMG_2181

IMG_2182

IMG_2184

IMG_2186

Conclusions

If you’re not the person that hates editing on the phone, then you’ll love RNI Flashback. It’s fun, emphasizes it, and can really surprise you. Personally, RNI Films is still my favorite photo editor and I’ve gone ahead and bought a number of emulsions from them. RNI Flashback though may not be for me because of the fact that I really know what I want.

But for those of you who tend to go to the bar or restaurant and ask the server to surprise you, then check out RNI Flashback.