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There's one good reason for Instagrammers to try Line's food-focused photography app.
I suspect the world does not need another smartphone camera app. Most built-in software does a fine job, and Instagram's filters take photos to the next level. Serious food photographers, always trying to squeeze a few more likes from their oozing cheeseburger pics, know to go to apps like VSCO and Snapseed for even more controls. So it was with great trepidation that I approached "Foodie" (whose name is another thing we need not ever see again).
The company behind the product, Line Corp., is a subsidiary of the Korean internet search giant Naver, and it already commands a huge audience: Line's messaging service reaches several hundred million users and it is the developer of the phenomenally successful B612 Selfie app, which has been downloaded more than 100,000,000 times.
At first glance, yes, Foodie appears to be just another Instagram accessory, available for free on the iOS and Android platforms. You start by taking photos in the app or by importing photos from your saved images, and then you apply any of 24 different filters. Sound familiar? But instead of having cryptic names like Juno and Valencia, these effects are labelled with cryptic culinary themes—abstract concepts like "yum" (and there are three yums to choose from), "chewy" (four variations available), "crispy," "sweet," "romantic," and "BBQ" (the only specific dish named).
Icons for each of the filters represent various food groups, though it's not clear why "fresh 1" is represented by herbs and "fresh 2" shows oranges. Might as well be Juno and Valencia. To its credit, the app lets you swipe through filters and see real-time affects quickly, freeing you from having to select each filter separately. But alas, you cannot adjust the intensity of the filter (if you wanted less crispy, I guess).
By far the most innovative feature is the "Smart Guide," which helps you shoot food from directly above a dish; the white bar behind the black shutter button turns yellow when you have perfectly leveled the lens over your food. And it works. No more bad angles. This, in addition to the usual image controls: the sliding of flash intensity and adjusting of frame from 1:1 to 3:4 aspect ratio (square to rectangle).
As expected, you can share images in the usual social environments: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, DropBox, Google Drive, email. The settings also allow you to turn the "Foodie" watermark on or off, though I don't know why anyone would want this.
Do any of these features, separately or in aggregate, warrant the download and real estate on your iPhone? Well, the smart guide is helpful, but the selection of non-intuitive filters feels like I'm being forced to learn a new language. I'll wait for version 2—not yet announced—and, in the meantime, offer up some wish-list functions:
It would be nice if I could arrange the order of filters so the ones I use most appear soonest.
It would be cute if the app offered themed frames ("Menu" at the top of a photo or "Grandma's Recipe").
It would encourage more use of the app if you could shoot multiple shots of a dish and group them into one collage while still in Foodie.
It would make sense for a messaging company that specializes in stickers to facilitate captions, text boxes or stickers over the images ("OK, now I'm full").
It would be impressive (and actually useful) if the app could count calories. Google's working on it.