Photo Stream is one of the signature features of Apple’s iCloud initiative. It allows you to automatically sync all the photos you snap on your iOS device with every other iOS and Mac you own. It’s a smart system that makes managing photos across multiple devices a bit easier. With Carousel, however, Adobe has developed a set of photo sharing and editing applications for iOS and the Mac (with Android and Windows version coming soon), that easily rivals Apple’s efforts and easily best it in many areas. Carousel, just like Photo Stream, automatically keeps your photo libraries in sync. But unlike Apple, Adobe also includes numerous editing features (using the processing engine found in Photoshop Lightroom) and makes sharing your photos with friends and family members a lot easier.
There is one caveat, though: using Carousel will cost you. You get a free 30-day trial once you install the app, but after that, you will either have to pay $59.99 per year or $5.99 per month (this is the introductory price, valid until January 31, 2012).
Editing: Unlike Photo Stream, Carousel puts a lot of emphasis on editing. This isn’t Photoshop, by all means, but you do get access to 17 Instagram-like filters, the ability to edit exposure, white balance and contrast, as well as the usual crop and rotate functions.
Syncing: What also makes Carousel stand out is that the syncing between albums is almost instantaneous. If you apply a filter on a photo on your desktop, for example, that edit will be pushed to your iPhone just a second or two later. The same goes for albums (or carousels in Adobe’s parlance) that you share with friends.
Sharing: Indeed, sharing is one of those areas where Apple’s Photo Stream can’t quite compete. Apple doesn’t allow you to share specific albums with friends, while Adobe makes it easy to let others subscribe to your photos. Simply type in the email address of the person you want to share with and that person (assuming they use a Carousel app as well) can then see you photos right away and even edit them with you. These users will not have to subscribe to the service to see your images, by the way.
Given that Apple hasn’t quite perfected Photo Stream yet, I think there is an opening in the market for a service like this. I wish it was a little bit cheaper, but you do get to transfer and store an unlimited number of photos in the cloud with Carousel.
While it’s great at sharing and editing, though, Carousel does have one Achilles heel: importing photos. On the desktop, where most of your photos will likely be, you can only import directories or your complete iPhoto library. It’s a relatively slow process and you can’t just connect your camera and import and manage your photos in Carousel. That makes using iPhoto or Picasa a necessity still and as you’re doing that, you could just as well keep syncing photos the old-fashioned way, unless you really need the sharing and instant syncing features. To be worth the price (at least for me), Carousel would have to add more photo management features on top of the (admittedly great) feature set it currently offers.