Lightbox, a two-headed photo beast | Download Product Review - CNET Download.com

Lightbox, a two-headed photo beast

Lightbox for Android is a camera replacement and social photo browser app that automatically syncs all of your pictures to your Lightbox.com account.

Lightbox for Android is a camera replacement and social photo browser app that automatically syncs all of your pictures to your Lightbox.com account. If you like, you can even choose to make any of your photos publicly viewable on your Lightbox.com photo wall as well.

When you first download and install Lightbox, you'll notice that two new icons pop up in your app drawer: Camera by Lightbox and Lightbox Photos. Don't freak out, though. These are just two different entry points to the same app--one brings you straight through to the photo browser, while the other fires up the Camera. Since Lightbox is essentially a dual-purpose app, it's actually pretty convenient to have two shortcuts provided.

First, let's take a look at the camera. It's pretty basic, as it comes with only your standard flash controls and a nifty switch camera button. The switch camera button toggles between front- and rear-facing cameras (when available). Most camera apps don't have one, but in our opinion, should.

After you snap your pic, you'll find the usual suspects of filters like Lomo, B&W, Retro, Sepia, Fisheye, and 8 Bit, among others. Choose any one you like, but beware, because once you apply a filter, it's permanent. The app doesn't save an original, unmodified copy. Sure, doing so would take up a bit of extra memory, but in our opinion, it would've been worth it. We would've enjoyed the ability to switch out filters and share differently stylized photos.

Once you apply a filter (or apply none at all), you'll be sent to the sharing screen where you'll be able to add a description, geo-tag your photo, and post to any of your connected social media profiles. Here, you can also make your photo public on your Lightbox.com Wall. If you uncheck the option, the photo will still be uploaded to your Lightbox.com account; it just won't be made available on your Wall. Also, it's important to note that all uploaded photos are at a medium resolution. The upload time is shorter, but of course, you're not backing up the best possible pic.

The beauty of Lightbox is truly its worry-free, automatic syncing. For instance, if you take a photo, share it to Facebook, and post it to Lightbox.com while you don't have an active Web connection, the app will simply queue up the commands and complete all the necessary uploading as soon as one is available. And of course, all updates will propagate across all of your Lightbox-equipped devices automatically.

Lightbox's other, arguably more important half is its unique social photo browser. This is what makes the app unique. When you fire up Lightbox Photos, you'll see three tabs across the top: My Lightbox, Popular, and News. My Lightbox is, in our opinion, the most useful. It shows all the latest photo updates from your friends on Facebook and Twitter in a single gallery. You can swipe through them seamlessly, share, retweet, Like, and Add comments to them right from the Lightbox interface. And again, you can do it all without an active Web connection because the app will go to work fulfilling all of your commands as soon as you do have one.

The Popular tab lets you browse through popular public photos posted on Flickr, while the News tab pulls photos from stories on news outlets around the world.

Overall, we think Lightbox is a nice camera app with, more importantly, a uniquely powerful social browsing experience. Its camera and sharing components are certainly not as robust some competitors' features, but its social aspects absolutely put it in a category of its own. If you're looking for a powerhouse photography app, Lightbox probably isn't it. But if you love browsing through photos on Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook, simply for the joy of discovery, Lightbox should be your number-one choice.

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