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App review: ProCamera for iOS

3

ProCamera for iOS ($2.99/£1.99 in Apple App Store)

Compatible with iPad, iPod and iPhone running iOS 4.2 or later
Version reviewed: 3.5.5 using iPad 3rd Gen and iPhone 4S

Tap the menu button to access grids that help align your photo, Expert Mode settings, anti-shake functionality and the self-timer.

ProCamera has been garnering rave reviews for awhile—with everyone from The New York Times to Apple itself heaping praise on the camera (and video) app.

On paper, the hype appears largely justified. First of the robust features sure to catch your eye is the 6X full resolution zoom. Using screen swipes, you can zoom in or out and snap a picture that’s at nearly the same quality as if you weren’t zoomed in at all. The zoom is augmented by an adjustable shutter timer, a rapid-shot mode and some other high-octane options. These features include everything from the ability to set and lock exposure and focus separately to one-tap color temperature control to an anti-shake mode (which doesn’t snap the photo until the camera is still) and the ability to shoot full HD video.

There may be a lot of apps out there pretending to hold the mobile photo throne, but with useful shooting features, an intuitive interface and more pro options that you would expect from an inexpensive app, ProCamera could just be the rightful king.

Key features: 

  • 6X full resolution zoom
  • Exposure, focus, color temperature and stability controls
  • Photo editing tools that include brightness, contrast and color saturation adjusters
  • Range of photo filters
  • Full HD video capabilities 

Operating requirements:

  • Requires iOS 4.2 or later
  • Works on iPad, iPod or iPhone; complete features only included on iPhone 4S and later

Android alternative:  

In this review, I’ll take you through the steps for snapping photos and editing them using ProCamera’s many customizable features.

Getting started

Click the ProCamera icon on your device’s home screen and you’re immediately ushered to the app’s nerve center: the photography dashboard. It’s nice to see such a frictionless interface. When you tap the app, you’re immediately ready to take pictures—and I’m a big fan of the intuitive menus and icons. Or, I should say, I’m a fan of most of the icons. Take a look at the ProCamera user manual before you dive in too deep—a couple functions are not readily apparent, even after you click the icon for them. (I’m looking at you, anti-shake button.) 

The three buttons at the edge of the ProCamera interface (shown on the left in this horizontal view, from top to bottom) include a button to switch between front and back cameras, White Balance Lock (which locks color temperature if the app is in Expert Mode) and the app’s flash options: auto, on and off, as well as the Steady Light, which illuminates your subject before engaging the flash for night, low light or backlit photos. 

Of course, you can simply tap the camera button (or tap and hold anywhere on the screen) to snap a photo. But where’s the fun in that? Let’s see what else ProCamera can do. 

Framing a shot

When you switch over to ProCamera’s Expert Mode, you can immediately start toying with the focus (represented by the blue box) and exposure (the yellow circle) of each shot right on the main screen. By tapping and holding anywhere onscreen, you can determine and lock both settings at the same time. For more control, drag the yellow circle anywhere onscreen to set the exposure. Do the same for the blue box to set the focus. 

Both the focus box and the exposure circle will “lock” independently after calibrating, allowing you to then move your device without losing your settings. Tap and hold the center viewfinder circle within either icon to default back to their original configuration.

The Pro Settings menu icon at the bottom of the camera screen includes some smart alignment options to frame your shot. You can overlay the scene with a virtual horizon to ensure your subject is level in relation to the frame, which helps align your shot when the phone in your hand tilts or to take intentionally skewed shots.

Three grids can also be projected over your shot to encourage healthy image composition. Options include a standard 9-box grid, an expanded 80-box grid and a grid specifically proportioned for taking photos of people. 

Composition guides are easy to switch between using clear menu buttons—and remain in place with the virtual horizon enabled.

 Stabilizing photos

The whole 'mobile' aspect of mobile photography can be a problem as holding a smartphone perfectly steady while you click the shutter can be challenging at times. However, ProCamera offers a few features that can help.

An anti-shake button, when toggled, will automatically delay taking the image until your mobile’s gyroscope functionality detects that the device is steady. Here, I’ve used the feature to ensure that shaky hands don’t ruin my picture.

You can alter the anti-shake meter’s sensitivity in the app’s “Settings” menu. 
The anti-shake icon changes to indicate just how shaky the device is, then snaps a picture automatically when it stabilizes.

Anti-shake is a great addition to the mobile camera experience. In fact, it’s so useful that it’s easy to see this becoming an industry standard on all types of mobile photo apps.

The app also features a timer that automatically takes a picture anywhere from half a second to 20 seconds after pushing the timer button. When paired with a stand or tripod, this too can help ensure a steady shot. 

Editing images

Once you’ve taken a photo, the transition from shooting to editing can be made by swiping your finger to the right, which shows the image you’ve just taken, along with the editing studios icon (a paintbrush and scissors crossed). You can also access these editing features by tapping the Pro icon to access your album and the app’s studios.

ProCamera offers Pro Lab, Pro Cut and Pro FX editing 'studio' to perfect your images post-capture.

Cropping photos

ProCamera’s Pro Cut tools allows you to manually crop, rotate and resize your photo. Or, you can use a preset template that offers aspect ratios from 1:1 to 9:16. You can also mirror flip the photo horizontally or vertically.

The crop tool will display the cropped area’s resolution while you adjust it.

Unfortunately, the “Rotate” slider is a little oversensitive and hard to fine tune on the small screen of an iPhone. I spent several attempts trying to move the slider to exactly the angle I wanted—and it’s easy to over- or under-shoot. Using this feature on an iPad should be easier, but isn’t: while many of the app’s features work on the 3rd generation iPad I used as part of this review, the app isn’t formatted for the iPad’s screen, giving you an iPhone-sized UI.

I would have also liked to see less friction between what a photo looks like in Pro Cut mode and how it looks when you save it. The content of your crop box and the final photo often seem to vary slightly. A preview before you save (or better consistency) would be welcome.

Brightness, contrast and other settings

Even if your picture is perfect, ProCamera can make it just a little better with its Pro Lab and Pro FX options. In the Pro Lab, you can toggle the brightness, contrast, exposure, color saturation and color temperature levels in your photograph.

The touchy slider that regulates color saturation makes it easy to over-saturate—and hard to hit an exact percentage of color saturation.

The Pro Lab features work well and help turn iffy photos into something with a little more panache. Unfortunately, it’s not easy with those pesky slider bars.—all the main features, except for the one regulating color temperature, use one. It’s easy to adjust or reduce each setting by a healthy amount, but if you’re looking to go from 20 to 23 percent color saturation, get ready to try it a few times.

Given that, individual “Undo” buttons for each slider allow you to restore each setting to its default with a simply tap. 

Applying filters

The photo filters in ProCamera’s Pro FX menu range from the fun to the functional. While you can turn a photo sepia-toned, make it look like a weathered historical photograph or apply night vision effects, the real value here is the “Retouch” category of filters. These brighten up photos, heighten the contrast and fix both yellow and blue color saturations in your pictures.

Filters can be applied with one finger tap, and previewed before you save them to your device.

Other highlights

ProCamera sports more functions that photo enthusiasts are sure to love. The Steady Light function illuminates your subject before the app’s flash goes off, helping you take pictures in dark conditions. Two other notables include a rapid photo shoot function, which lets you press and hold the screen to take photos in quick succession, and a low-resolution mode that saves those photos in smaller file sizes to avoid hogging your disk space.

Last, but not least, each photo comes with its own information page. Using iPhone geolocation capabilities, the app stores data on when and where the photo was taken. A companion information page gives you information about the photo itself—including details about the resolution, flash, aperture and exposure.

Conclusion 

ProCamera’s plethora of features and intuitive UI make the app a steal at $2.99. But it’s called ProCamera, not ProEdit, for a reason. While the app offers robust photo settings on the cheap, the editing capabilities are somewhat lightweight and pretty difficult to use for anything more than fun effects and basic editing. That’s probably to be expected, and what the app offers is nothing to sneer at. However, this isn’t going to be your primary photo editing app—not by a long shot.

Even with less-than-pro editing features, this app is a gem. Clear icons and an uncluttered UI make it incredibly easy to tell what you’re adjusting or doing at any given moment. Extra features that promote stable, well-framed shots are more than one would expect in an inexpensive mobile app. 

ProCamera is a well-conceived, high-quality app that would be well worth buying at twice the price. At $2.99, it’s one of the most comprehensive, reasonably priced photo apps on the market.

What we like: An easy to understand interface with boatloads of features for a great price, anti-shake capability and full resolution zoom.

What we don’t like: The sliders used to control several editing functions are difficult to use accurately, and full feature support is only available for the iPhone 4S and later.

Rating:


Logan Kugler is a technology writer based in Silicon Valley. He's written for more than 60 major publications. He's loved taking pictures ever since his parents gave him a giant plastic kid camera when he was 5. He vividly remembers the day he bought his first digital camera the very first year they showed up at Circuit City: a top-of-the-line Sony Cyber-shot with all of 2 megapixels.

Comments

Total comments: 3
Dbosch
By Dbosch (10 months ago)

I've been testing this app for more then a month now and comparing to other apps. I have a full 4.2 pro version.
It is a great app. and love button positionings.

Only issue I have with it its image stabilizer isn't working well for me. Regardless of the sensitivity slider option it fires with same delay and doesn't seem to stabilize the shot. This is kinda deal-breaker for me.

I've been testing this against Camera Awesome form SmugMug which has less features then ProCamera 4, but must say that its image stabilization is way better. I never get a blurry shot with it. But I still keep both in hopes for ProCamera 4 to improve the stabilizer.

0 upvotes
Erin888
By Erin888 (Jan 26, 2013)

Check out the CLIPCLOCK mobile app. The new social hub to discover and share the best video moments with your favorites!!!
Here is the link: http://www.clipclock.com/download/4977

0 upvotes
ElvisMoab
By ElvisMoab (Oct 19, 2012)

Please, no more photos of hipsters.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 3
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