Photo fx Ultra Takes Digital Filters On iOS To A New Level

The Tiffen Company, developer of Photo fx Ultra, has over 70 years of association with professional and amateur photographers. It is with this long legacy of providing optical filters, that allows them to be perfectly suited to deliver digital optical filters to devices such as the iPhone, or in this case the iPad.

However, one area of concern is the lack of pinch and zoom functionality.



Photo fx Ultra has a plethora of features that will apply to many users. Some of the key features are:

  • Choose from 77 filters organized into 8 different filter groups
  • Try one of the 65 different color or black and white film looks
  • Add realistic diffusion to photos using a library of 50 interesting textures
  • Create natural lighting effects using 117 different patterns
  • Choose from 27 grain presets to simulate popular motion picture film stocks
  • Paint on the image using Color, Clone, Blur, Black and White, Mosaic, Red Eye, Repair, Scatter and Eraser brushes
  • Crop, Rotate, Straighten
  • Zoom into the image with the Close-Up Lens filter
  • Add multiple filters without saving
  • High resolution support up to 3072 pixels
  • Edit in portrait or landscape mode
  • Compatibility with the still image editions of the Tiffen Dfx Digital Filter Suite

Using Photo fx Ultra

With such a wide range of features you may wonder how easy it is to access all of the features on the small screen of the iPad.

Tiffen has succeeded in utilizing the iPad screen real estate perfectly. Filters and effects are segregated into eight easy to access groups located at the bottom of the display, whilst preset options for each filter or effect are presented on the left hand side of the display.

As you select one of the eight filter or effects groups, you will be presented with thumbnail images of the available preset options. Despite their small size, the real-time rendering quickly gives users an example of the expected visual outcome.

Key control elements such as full screen mode, rotate and crop, and exporting options are all located on at the top of the display.

The full screen layout in landscape mode.

Each specific filter or effect has a subset of options once selected. This allows for fine detail changes to the intensity, location, and overall effect. It is this fine detail control that makes this application stand out in its field.

Whilst these options do consume additional screen real estate, users can simply tap the associated buttons in the Menu Bar to remove them from view. Throughout the entire process the photograph does not change perspective. With the ability to edit in both portrait and landscape modes, most of your requirements should be covered.

Basic image manipulation tools are available such as crop, rotate, and straighten. Presets are available for cropping, allowing users to chose from a list of common photographic dimensions. Alternatively, you can enter the crop size manually by pixel dimension. Even rotational angels can be given a numeric value.

More detailed techniques such as layering and painting of effects to specific areas work without problem. This allows you to easily paint a flower red whilst leaving the rest of the scene black and white for example.

The only limitation to painting effects, is the accuracy of your finger. Options do exist to refine the brush size, softness, and opacity.

There seems to be no restriction on the number of layers you can assign to a photograph. Although, it is important to note, you will experience a slowdown in rendering performance should you exceed more than a few.

If you know of a specific filter or effect you wish to use, but can not remember its location, you will be pleased to know a search bar is available. Simply start typing the name and a series of possible matches will appear. Tap on one of these matches, and you will be able to instantly apply it.

The app doesn’t offer a side-by-side comparison with the original photograph versus the edited version. Although, you do have a button option that will showcase the image prior to the latest applied filter or effect.

Each filter or effect has additional fine detail control.

Photo fx Ultra even has basic photographic levels control. It is nice to have this functionality, but it should be noted that the iPad still lacks system wide color calibration. Some options do exist, but all current solutions only work within their associated apps. Depending on how you plan to use your photographs, this may be an area for concern. Online delivery should be fine, but printing options may present with undesirable results.

Users have several export options that include email, printing, and sharing on social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, and Flickr. The Sincerely Print and Ship service is also included for those wishing to get high quality prints delivered straight to their door.

An interesting export option allows users to take the edited photograph and open it in another app currently installed on the device. In testing, Camera+ was supported, but PhotoStudioHD was not.

What I Did Like

The level of customization is simply amazing. Filters and effects don’t only apply to the photograph in a non-destructive manner, but they can be fine tuned, saved, and shared.

The sharing of filter effects and settings will appeal to users of Tiffen’s desktop product Dfx v3.

The cross iOS app capability is a nice addition that allows for further experimentation and image management.

Support for the Retina display on the New iPad, along with compatibility with all iPad models running iOS version 4.3 or later.

What I Didn’t Like

The omission of pinch and zoom is cause for concern. Whilst there is the ability to use a lens filter effect to zoom into the image, it is limited. The zoom is taken directly from the center of the photograph, and you are unable to change the placement of the photograph within the zoomed area.

When applying an additional filter, the zoom effect is removed. The only way to retain the zoom is to create an additional layer.

When editing photographs it is important to be able to zoom into a specific area in order to assess how the applied effect or filter will alter an the photograph. With no pinch and zoom functionality, the user will have to rely solely on the visible area that is generally less than a 1:1 ratio. Especially, when editing in landscape mode.


Photo fx Ultra will amaze and encourage post processing techniques. The layout is superb, as is the fine the detail control users have over specific filters and effects.

It is disappointing that no pinch and zoom functionality exists. It is far too simple a concept to be left out by an app that, for all intents and purposes, ticks every other available box.

Regardless of your photographic experience, Photo fx Ultra will appeal to both the professional and amateur photographers. Photo fx Ultra is well priced and good value if you are after photographic enhancing tools for your iPad.

Product: Photo fx Ultra

Company: The Tiffen Company

List Price: US$4.99

This app is compatible with all models of iPad running iOS 4.3 or later.



Level of customization, non-destructive editing, reasonable price, compatibility with desktop application, and Retina display compatibility. 


The app is missing pinch and zoom functionality.