Capture

I discovered the ProCam app earlier this year. I had seen it reviewed and praised on some websites and decided to give a try. Within a few months, I realised the reviews were not hyperbole. The ProCam is one of the handiest iOS camera apps I have ever used. The ProCam 3 app replaced several apps on my iPhone 6. I no longer use Vivid HDR, Manual, Camera+, and Slow Shutter Cam. Other than the native camera app I have no other camera apps on my iPhone. I made a comparison of the output quality of various camera apps, and the TIFF images produced by the ProCam app were better in quality. ProCam app has a slow shutter mode for timelapse, star trails and long exposure photography. I have manual control over exposure, shutter speed, ISO, focus point, and white balance controls. And focus peaking. Yes, the same focus peaking function that can be found in modern high-end digital cameras. ProCam 3 also does Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) for creating High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. The app supports JPG and TIFF. I tend to treat the TIFF files as RAW. iOS 10 supports RAW images in the iPhone 6S, iPhone 7 and 7S so I may soon give that a try.

Processing

After capturing images with my DSLR, I import them into Adobe Lightroom for editing and post-processing. I have always post-processed my iPhone pictures, using various apps over the years including Adobe Lightroom Mobile. However, I recently started using an app called Polarr.

Sunrise at Rodanthe Pier, Outer Banks

Polarr allows me to edit every aspect of the TIFF images I shoot with ProCam 3 including:

  • Exposure
  • Brightness
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Saturation
  • Vibrance
  • Perspective
  • Contrast
  • Dehaze
  • Split Toning
  • Vignette
  • Tint
  • Colour temperature

Whew! Just like in Lightroom (desktop) on my iMac, I can pretty much adjust everything about an image via Polarr for iOS. In fact, Polarr has more adjustment features than Lightroom Mobile. Polar comes with many free filter packs to emulate vintage and modern file types, and I can purchase additional filters via in-app purchase. But Polarr offers one feature that I wish the Lightroom Mobile app also had. All the adjustment I make to an image can be saved as a preset. I can reuse those changes on other images. I can also share my presets on social media. Polar creates a QR code which I can post to Twitter or Facebook. I can reuse filter presets created by other Polarr users simply by import a QR code.

Stabilization

I’m pretty good at holding my iPhone 6 steady while taking photos but long exposure and HDR require that the camera remains stationary. Earlier this year I bought a small Manfrotto tripod that I use to use with my iPhone.

Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve

The tripod is lightweight, portable and rugged. It’s small enough to fit inside a long coat or small backpack. The tripod has a push-button locking adjustment, so I can position the tripod head just where I need it.

Complete Kit

The Manfrotto tripod and two camera apps are all I need to create compelling photographs with my iPhone.

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 1/2 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.

App File Format Resolution (WxH) File Size (megabytes) GPS Data
Adobe Camera 1.0 (from Lightroom Mobile) JPEG 3264×2448 1.78 MB Yes
iOS 9.2 Camera JPEG 3264×2448 2.1 Yes
ProCam 3 TIFF 3264×2177 28.4 Yes
Enlight JPEG 3264×2448 2.0 Yes
Manual Camera JPEG 3264×2448 4.6 Yes
Camera+ 7.1.1 TIFF 3264×2448 9.6 Yes
Slow Shutter Cam by Cogitap Software TIFF 3264×2448 24 Yes
VSCO JPEG 3264×2448 1.7 Yes

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.