The App Store is awash with retro camera apps, little nuggets of software that’ll vignette the edges, wash out the colours and let you frame your snaps with any number of effects. But none can claim to be quite as much fun as SwankoLab.

The app opens to into a suitably garden shed themed virtual darkroom, complete with a soundrack of bubbling developing fluids. Tap a note pinned to the wall and you’re in business. That’ll take you off to your camera roll to select the image you want to ‘develop’.

Here’s where the fun begins. Picture selected, the shelf above your tray fills with bottles of chemicals – a choice of developing fluids, a series of fixers (with great names like Grizzle Fix and Flamoz) and effects (Vinny Vignette, Noir, etc). You drop a combination into the developing tray, pull a handle and wait.

The beauty of SwankoLab is its recognition of every photographer’s fascination with the darkroom. The unknown result is kept a secret until the reveal a few seconds after pulling that handle. Frequently, you’ll realise you’ve come a cropper and have to start over again. Or keep experimenting, looking for the perfect blend for your snap.

SwankoLab’s developer – the same team that brought us Hipstamatic – spotted that while retro results are all well and cool, there was a journey missing. By bringing that process back, it’s managed to cram the excitement of a darkroom into an affordable, mess-free app.

For a further £1.19, you can pick up a batch of new chemicals on a lifetime subscription; there’ll never be any hidden costs again. It’s yet another reason to fall in love with an app that’s been invested with real feeling. And that never grows old, unlike your freshly aged snaps.

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Stuff says... 

SwankoLab review

Impressive results aside, this virtual darkroom is a joy to play around in and won't get your fingers wet