Mountain Lakes, Nature Preserve, Princeton

The iPhone 6 has an 8 megapixel (3264 x 2448 pixels) camera with a fixed aperture 4.15mm f/2.2 lens, a shutter-speed range of 1/2000 of a second to 12 a second and ISO range from 32 to 2000. With the crop-factor, the lens is equivalent to a 29mm f/15 lens on a full-frame 35mm camera. That's a fairly wide lens with very little depth of field which in my opinion is best suited for landscape photography.

When you save a photo on your iPhone, either at the time of shooting or after editing, the app you’re using determines several factors that affect image size and quality. And not all apps are made equal. How Different iPhone Photo Apps Affect Image Quality

After reading that article, I wanted to do my test of the camera apps I have installed on my iPhone 6. I recently

For the test, I set up my iPhone 6 on a tripod near a window. I set up each app to record in its highest quality mode. For some apps that meant a TIFF formatted file. Some of the apps capture in JPEG format only. Some of the apps can do both. JPEG is a lossy compression format. This means that the JPEG algorithm makes decisions and removes information it deems irrelevant. This compression varies between apps. TIFF files may or may not be compressed but the compression is lossless. TIFF files sizes tend to be larger than JPEG.

The camera apps that I tested include the native iPhone Camera app, Camera+, ProCam, Manual Camera, Slow Shutter Cam, Manual Camera, and VSCO. Most of the apps on the list are ones I actually use to capture images. Some of the apps, like Enlight and Adobe Camera, are the ones I use mostly for filters or editing my images. I have a few other apps with cameras but these apps included so little data with the image that I removed them from the test.

This table is a comparison of the file sizes shown in megabytes (MB) and the resolution of the images that I shot with these camera apps.

AppFile FormatResolution (WxH)File Size (megabytes)GPS Data
Adobe Camera 1.0 (from Lightroom Mobile)JPEG3264×24481.78 MBYes
iOS 9.2 CameraJPEG3264×24482.1Yes
ProCam 3TIFF3264×217728.4Yes
EnlightJPEG3264×24482.0Yes
Manual CameraJPEG3264×24484.6Yes
Camera+ 7.1.1 TIFF3264×24489.6Yes
Slow Shutter Cam by Cogitap SoftwareTIFF3264×244824Yes
VSCOJPEG3264×24481.7Yes

The iOS 9 native camera app, Adobe Camera, Enlight and VSCOcam have the smallest file sizes. The smaller the file size, the poorer quality of the image is likely to be. Since doing this test, I have switched to using Camera+ as my default camera app. Camera+ features a widget that I installed in my iPhone’s Home Screen Notification Center. From there, I simply press “Take Photo” to go straight to Camera+. However, if my iPhone is locked, it will ask me to unlock it before taking me directly to Camera+. It's not as quick to get access to as the native camera app but is still faster than unlocking your phone, finding Camera+, opening, and going to the access screen.

I discovered that editing TIFF files were a challenge for some apps including the native Photos apps. Every crop edit I made I resulted in my image turning black. Once it turns black it stays that way in every other app. Instead of the Photos, I now use Photogene for cropping and minor editing of TIFF images. Fortunately, Photogene makes non-destructive edit and exports images in TIFF format as well as JPEG and I can specify the image size on export.

Since I started using Camera+ I have made some changes to why mobile editing workflow. I capture images with Camera+. Camera+ is set up to save all images in TIFF to my image catalogue. From there I open the image in either Photogene to make crops and edits or Prime or RNI Films to apply a filter. It's an efficient workflow.

However, I am considering switching to using the ProCam app. It can also be accused via the iPhone lock screen, saves in TIFF format, allows manual controls of ISO and shutter speed, but also has some of the functionality of Slow Shutter Cam by Cogitap Software. ProCam app could replace three apps. However, I'm reluctant to switch because it means learning a new app and my fingers are already tuned to one way of working. But I expect I'll switch eventually.

I edit a lot of images on my iPhone 6. Most of them are images taken on the phone with the native camera app or imported and then edited in one of the several apps. Sometimes I used the non-destructive editing tools and the "Edit In.." feature to edit my images via third-party editing tools that I access right from the Photos app.

The challenge is that only a few of the popular third-party editing tools or filter apps support this feature. Here is the list of third-party non-destructive editing tools and filter apps that support "Edit In..".

  • Afterlight
  • Photoshop Express
  • Litely
  • Camera+
  • ProCam

Here are the other apps I have installed in a "Darkroom" folder on my iPhone.

If more apps were supported, my iPhone editing workflow would be simple. I would snap an image in the native camera app, then use the "Edit In..." feature of Photos to non-destructive edit or apply a filter.

But instead, my workflow involves snapping a photo in the native camera app, launching one of the filter and editing apps, opening the image in that app, making changes, and exporting a JPEG version of the edited image to Photos. If I want to use multiple apps to edit images, I end up importing and exporting copies of each successive image.

iOS edits JPEG images only. JPEG is a lossy compressed image format. Did you know that each time a JPEG image is edited and saved, it's re-compressed and image detail is lost? Only a few iOS photo editing apps — Afterlight and Darkroom are the standouts — use the “Edit in …” share sheet for non-destructive editing. Doing more than minimalist editing on an iPad or iPhone requires repeated import/exporting of JPEG images. I end up with several copies of the same image in various Photos folders.

Some editing and filter apps, such as Snapseed, Darkroom and Prime, allow the user to do non-destructive editing of images. However, the images have to be opened from Photos directly via those apps. Other than these three apps, I don't know of any other apps that allow this.

The situation is worse if I want to edit images taken with a DSLR or other interchangeable lens camera. The Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader will import standard photo formats, including JPEG and RAW, but iOS doesn’t allow the photographer to edit RAW images. Just JPEG. I shoot images in RAW only. That makes the iPad almost useless to take on a photo excursion. Unless I set my Nikon to capture images in RAW and JPEG, I will not be able to make edits in the field. I guess Apple expects me to buy high-capacity SD cards or assumes that users only shoot JPEG. What's the point of editing the JPEG version of a RAW if I can't sync the changes back to the RAW image?

So I solved this problem by first importing my images to Adobe Lightroom on my iMac and then syncing them over to my iPad for editing in Adobe apps.

Here are the three Adobe iOS apps I use for photo editing RAW DSLR image on the iPad/iPhone.

The workflow is simple. I copy the DSLR images I want to work on into a specified collection in Adobe Lightroom. I then wait for the photos to sync to Adobe Creative Cloud. When I feel that the images have been copied, I launch the Adobe Lightroom Mobile app on my iPad. I wait for the photos to sync down to the iPad from Creative Cloud and then start working on minor edits and adjustments. If I need to do a bit more advanced editing — remove objects, work with layers etc. — I push the image to Adobe Fix or Adobe Mix. Adobe Fix/Mix pulls over the image with all current Lightroom edits. When I have finished my edit, the changes are synced back to Adobe Creative Cloud and available in Adobe Lightroom on my iMac.

Using these apps to edit the images in Adobe Lightroom requires a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud and sufficient storage on an iPad or iPhone. On a 64GB iPhone, this isn't a problem, but I have already exhausted the storage on my 32GB iPad. Before I start editing images on my iPad, I spend some time, removing unnecessary synced folders and images from Adobe Lightroom Mobile.

I can use the share sheet to export images from Adobe Lightroom mobile to other iOS editing apps, but none of the changes syncs back to Lightroom. The "Edit In..." feature only works with other Adobe apps.

If the photographer is willing to shoot and edit JPEG images only, is happy with reduced image quality, doesn't mind the extra administrative tasks of removing old edits, then the iPad and iPhone could be used as a mobile editing studio. But for me, using my iPad or iPhone as a serious mobile editing platform has too many limitations.