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App review: 645 Pro for iPhone

5

645 Pro for iPhone ($2.99 in the iTunes App Store)

Compatible with iPhone 3GS and later, iPod touch (5th generation) and later, iPad (3rd generation) and later. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. 
Version reviewed: 2.12 using an iPhone 4S

645 Pro calls itself the 'photography professional's iPhone camera' -- but is it?

I love my DSLR. I love the way it feels in my hands and the way I can, with just a few twists, turns, and touches, capture a unique exposure. When I took up mobile photography earlier this year with my iPhone 4S, I was struggling with mixed feelings. Sure, the photo quality of the 4S is great, but I just didn’t feel comfortable using it for my “serious” photos. Part of what gave me a thrill in my DSLR photography was the complete control that I could achieve with my manual settings. Where was the challenge in mobile photography if everyone is using the same automatic settings with the same native Apple camera app?

In my search for the best native camera app replacement, I found Jag.gr’s 645 Pro. Everything about 645 Pro is designed to make the SLR photographer feel right at home. Starting from the user interface, all of 645 Pro’s settings are accessible from the viewing screen. There is no menu to open up, you just have to know which button to press and you can change your shooting options while viewing your scene.

Key Features:

• High quality JPEG and TIFF saving options

• Night Mode allows for exposures up to one second long

• Histogram visible live while shooting

• Seven medium-format “backs” from square (6x6) to panoramic (6x17)

• Seven film filters inspired by classic film

• Focus, exposure and white balance controls.

System Requirements:

• iPhone 3GS and later, iPod touch (5th generation) and later, iPad (3rd generation) and later

• iOS 5.0 or later

Android Alternative:

Try Shot Control

First, some background on app updates and Night Mode

A recent update for 645 Pro left many fans confused. When I first upgraded, the app would crash upon opening. After a reinstall, it worked fine. Jag.gr has since released a newer version that fixed this major bug as well as optimized 645 Pro for iPhone 5 users.

On Jag.gr’s website, 645 Pro developers give an interesting but wordy explanation of what the iPhone 5’s low light capabilities mean for 645 Pro. I’m going to do my best to explain this concisely, but you should read Jag.gr’s explanation for more in-depth knowledge.  

Basically, the iPhone 5 has better processing power and uses it to get up to 3200 ISO out of its 8-megapixel sensor. After ISO 1000, instead of amplifying the sensor, it combines pixels through a process called “pixel binning.” In 645 Pro’s Night Mode, it keeps the ISO low while slowing down the shutter speed, but in its Day Mode, it will keep the shutter speed fast while upping the ISO. iPhone 5 users can choose whether they want a still frame with digital noise (in Day Mode) or a noise-free photo with the risk of camera shake (in Night Mode).

Display

To enjoy all that 645 Pro has to offer, you first have to gain an understanding of the app’s interface. Visible on the bottom of the viewing screen is your current ISO, shutter speed, whether you are in Day or Night Mode, histogram levels, current back and film selection, viewfinder style, timer, metering mode, white balance, flash, JPEG and TIFF settings and battery level.

645 Pro's plethora of options can feel daunting.

Some of these options remain automatic. Your ISO and shutter speed will adjust automatically and change their parameters based on whether or not you are in Night Mode. Night Mode will lower your ISO and lengthen your shutter speed. To change your films, backs, image ratio, viewfinder style, time, metering mode, white balance, flash and file settings, you must tap or hold the correlating buttons. While many of these buttons are obvious to DSLR users, some require a bit of explanation. 645 Pro has a user manual inside the app that is accessible by tapping and holding the arrow-shaped icon on the bottom left of the screen. 

Film and Dimensions

While 645 Pro feels somewhat akin to Hipstamatic with its selection of film filters available before you shoot, 645 Pro’s filters are subtle and designed to make your photos look like they were taken on an old medium format camera instead of an old toy camera.

You'll use the Back Selector dial to select image ratio and the Film Mode Selector dial for film filters.

To choose your image ratio and film, turn through the dials on the right of the screen. To clear out all filters and go into “Q” (short for quick) mode, double tap the lower Film Mode Selector dial. You can change the color of the “body” of your camera from black to red by tapping on the Back Selector dial.

If you choose to save a TIFF version of your photo, 645 Pro saves the TIFF without any of the film filters or cropping in place—great news for mobile photographers who want to enjoy playing with a novelty film appearance with the security of retrieving their unfiltered photos.

I had a play with each of the film mode options 645 Pro gives you. Use the gallery below to see a quick comparison of each in the order they appear on the Film Mode Selector dial, starting from K14: 

645 Pro film option examples
1 / 7
Image 1
Image 1
Image 2
Image 3
Image 4
Image 5
Image 6

The Back Selector dial offers a variety of image ratios; again, these appear in the same order as the dial, starting from 6x17: 

645 Pro image ratio options
1 / 7
Image 1
Image 1
Image 2
Image 3
Image 4
Image 5
Image 6

Shooting

When you are ready to start shooting a scene, you can choose your composing aid by tapping on the grid button. Here, you will get a choice of standard crosshairs, rule or thirds, or an architectural composition grid. The halved circle in the middle of your crosshairs will tell you whether or not your iPhone is level based on your phone’s accelerometer reading.

645 Pro will autofocus your scene or you can tap to focus. At any point, you can lock your focal plane by tapping the AF-L icon near the shutter button on the top right of the screen. The focus lock is plane-based, so it will stay at a particular distance rather than readjust to focus on a set point on the screen. 

To choose your exposure, you must first decide if you want the auto metering to expose for the crosshairs of your viewfinder or for the entirety of your frame. Tap the Meter button on the left to choose between spot or full-frame metering. Once you have found your focal point, you can lock your auto exposure by tapping the AE-L icon next to the AF-L icon. You can zoom digitally by pinching.

The same scene can be exposed differently based on whether metering is set to multi-zone, above, or spot, at right.
When you have selected an appropriate exposure level for your scene, you can lock it using the AE–L button.

I found that when framing a mixed-light scene, the best way is to start by finding the light and color temperature that you want to capture. Tap the AE-L icon and the WB-L icon so that your exposure and white balance are locked. Next, frame your shot and tap to focus. To capture your photo, tap the shutter icon, or you can use the volume button (turn this on through the phone's Settings app > 645 Pro > Hardware Shutter > On).

Additional settings

Along with the shooting options visible in the app, 645 Pro has several options accesible through you phone's Settings app, then 645 Pro. Here you can activate the hardware shutter, lock rotation, turn your shutter yellow for better visibility and turn on AF assist to use flash to help focus in the dark.

This is also where you access TIFF export settings to auto-save TIFFs to the Camera Roll instead of 645 Pro’s documents file, and attach your name and copyright information to the file info of your photos.  If you happen to have an SLR lens attachment for your iPhone, you can activate the DSLR lens flip to readjust your image to accommodate for the reflection. 

Exporting

645 Pro allows you to export directly to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email, directly from the app’s review screen. You can also send it straight to other photo apps like Lo-Mob or Camera+ by tapping the export icon on the very bottom right of the review screen.

645 Pro lets you export directly to email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Flickr, as well as other apps.

One of the selling point of 645 Pro’s September update was its “developed RAW," or "dRAW," TIFF file format. The app maker says this file output is "as close to an unprocessed RAW image as you can get from an iPhone," and claims it is equivalent to a RAW file from a DSLR that has been “developed” into an industry-standard TIFF using the camera manufacturer’s RAW-processing software, or a third-party tool such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

When you choose to save a TIFF version of your photo, it will automatically save to a documents folder within 645 Pro. Because the app is saving the giant photos within 645 Pro, it doesn't take too long to save the TIFF photos. The app becomes a bit sluggish if you activate the save TIFFs to Camera Roll option in Settings and continue to take photos in quick succession.

While you can export the TIFF to your Camera Roll at any time, in order to get the full size file, you have to access it through iTunes when your iPhone is plugged into your computer. The files are huge (mine were all at least 20MB), but their overall pixel count was no better than the maximum-quality JPEG output. When I brought the photos up in Photoshop and performed identical basic editing (levels and color balance), the photos performed exactly the same. It made me wonder if there is really much of a difference at all. Other than file size, how different are the max-quality JPEG and TIFF?

My TIFF vs. JPEG example photo shows both photos, unedited, at 100%. There is no visible difference.

The only reason I found to use 645 Pro’s TIFF option is if you are shooting a lot of photos with 645 Pro’s film filters. If you are saving the TIFF version, then you can retrieve the high quality, unedited version of the photo after the filtered photo is saved.

Conclusion

645 Pro is great once you get the hang of it. It gives DSLR users a familiar interface and its “on-camera” controls make changing settings relatively easy. I like being able to lock the focal plane, exposure and white balance. It gives a more DSLR feeling to my photos than Apple’s native camera app or even Camera +. Without auto-processing, the blacks were deeper and the edges of silhouettes were cleaner. The few filter options available are subtle and the “backs” provide somewhat unique dimensions for iPhone photos.

While I enjoy 645 Pro for its unique DSLR-esque interface, it was hard to use at times. I found myself accidentally sliding the notification bar or holding a button when I mean to be tapping. My fingers are relatively calloused so perhaps they did not have precision required for this app. As a result, I can imagine myself missing special shots while fumbling with the interface. If you have a moment to frame and compose a photo, 645 Pro is great, but for a fleeting scene, I would stick to an easier app.

What we like: Perhaps the most control over your iPhone camera that any app can give, 645 Pro really does offer a DSLR feel to your smartphone. Photo quality was impressive.

What we don't like: Complicated interface that is not especially easy to navigate nor intuitive. 

Rating: 

 

 


Lauren Crabbe, @lcrabbe, is a freelance technology writer and photographer, specializing in photography applications for iOS and Mac. Her love of photography brought her to San Francisco to study photojournalism at San Francisco State University where she learned to combine her photographic skills with her passion for storytelling. She has traveled the world with her camera--studying journalism in Denmark, visiting in-laws in Ireland, and sourcing coffee in Guatemala. You can find her biking around San Francisco, drinking a lot of coffee, and capturing her daily observations with her iPhone on whatever app she is testing that day.

Comments

Total comments: 5
Bigger Tom
By Bigger Tom (May 16, 2013)

Great to see some serious mobile phone cam control apps out there which realise not all users want endless arty filter options. If you've got a list of apps you're planning to review, could you add Shot Control and Camera FV-5 (both for Android) to it - both seem to have similar "serious" aspirations and I'd be interested to see how they rate before I spend the money on one, or the other!

0 upvotes
cyprien78
By cyprien78 (Mar 3, 2013)

If you store the TIFF in the camera roll, it will get compressed using LZW, it is then more like 9MB.

Comment edited 11 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Deadcode
By Deadcode (Dec 22, 2012)

Only at high ISO settings can be a good idea to save TIFF images, the darker areas has much less color noise. If you like post-processing, the TIFF image has +1EV in the clipped areas, and the white balance can be fine tuned easily. (anyway, the iPhone pictures has very accurate WB)
Between ISO50-200 you don't really get the benefit of the less color noise. ISO400-800 could be much better.
Anyway, if you dont do post-processing, it is unnecessary to save 22-24MB TIFF files.

At low ISO the default camera app can save more "eye-candy" picture, with little more saturation, and sharpness.

0 upvotes
fuego6
By fuego6 (Dec 21, 2012)

Meh... offers not much more than most other camera apps on the market from the review... if it was free -perhaps .. but 2.99 - wouldn't use it much over the others on the market.

1 upvote
plasnu
By plasnu (Dec 21, 2012)

Now I need iTripod, a virtual tripod.

Comment edited 31 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Total comments: 5
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