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Actual Pixels - the pixel peeping app for iOS

33

The rise of smartphones and tablets has provided us with new options for image capturing, editing, sharing and viewing. Especially the latter has sparked not only amateurs' but also professional photographers' interest in mobile devices. After all, when showing off your portfolio to potential clients it's much cooler to elegantly swipe from one digital picture to another on the gorgeous high resolution screens of a latest generation iPad or Google Nexus 10 than carrying prints around in a bulky folder.

The latest generation tablets and even phones are great for presenting your images but if your workflow involves evaluating detail and critical focus on a mobile device the situation is less than ideal. This is because the standard image viewers, such as Apple's Photo app or Android's Gallery app, don't display the actual images but a version that has been reduced in size to maker better use of the mobile devices' limited resources.

This means images look great when viewed at screen size but quality suffers when you zoom in. The zoomed images look pixelated and the zoom factor is usually very limited too. You cannot magnify the images to a 100% view which makes it impossible to check focus and critical sharpness. However, as so often there is an app for that.

Actual Pixels is a great free app for checking the detail in dpreview studio shots. At screen size viewing there's no advantage over the standard Photo App but the difference becomes very obvious when you start zooming in. We've used an iPad 2 for this comparison.
This is the 100% view of our Nikon 36MP D800 Raw box shot in Actual Pixels.
In comparison in the Photo app you cannot zoom to 100% and even at the lesser zoom level the image looks soft which means you cannot reliably judge focus and critical sharpness.

Recent versions of more complex paid imaging apps such as Photosmith or Apple's iPhoto support 100% viewing of images but for those of you who really only need the ability to zoom in all the way there is now a free solution available in the App Store. Actual Pixels works on iPhone and iPad and is very simple. You select an image from the camera roll and can then apply any zoom factor using the pinch gesture. The app displays the image size in pixels and the current zoom factor. There is also a button to easily return to the full-size view.

Actual Pixels is very useful for checking the focus on portraits. However, on this 12MP shot from a Nikon D700 the difference to the default Photo app is not quite as huge as with the 36MP D800 picture above.
Zooming to 100% in Actual Pixels let's you see that the eyes in this portrait shot are perfectly in focus.
Because the original image is only 12MP the gap between the default Photo app preview image and the original file is smaller than in the D800 sample but still not good enough for assessing critical sharpness.

We used an Apple iPad 2 for the comparison between Actual Pixels and the default Photo app but the effect will be similar on other iOS devices. That said, the latest generation iPad with its Retina display will generate a higher resolution preview image for the Photo app, taking it closer to the original image size. Generally Actual Pixels is most useful when assessing high resolution images on low resolution screens but given it's free you can install it on your device without any risk and see if it satisfies your specific needs. You can download and install Actual Pixels from iTunes.

We haven't found an Android equivalent to Actual Pixels yet. Let us know in the comments if you use an Android image viewer that allows you to zoom in to 100% magnification and we'll have a look at it.


Comments

Total comments: 33
kniaz
By kniaz (Jun 3, 2013)

Hmm... but it is not FREE as it said here.

0 upvotes
Foolfully
By Foolfully (Mar 17, 2013)

Use the iOS app, layer lapse, to zoom in and compare the photos' pixels and have measurement numbers to show the actual difference.

www.layerlapse.com

0 upvotes
bpoooh
By bpoooh (Mar 15, 2013)

TO www.Miniaturist.com:
BIG PHOTO is not usable in comparison to Actual Pixels. Too complex for such simple functions.
I really like Actual Pixels for being close to original apple software. Clear and usable, that's what I'm talking about.

Looking forward for new version.

0 upvotes
Actual Pixels
By Actual Pixels (Mar 15, 2013)

Yes, we are working on a new version with quick navigation and other cool features.

Have any other ideas and wishes? Feel free to share them with us!

Actual Pixels dev team.

1 upvote
bpoooh
By bpoooh (Mar 15, 2013)

Whether to wait for updates? Scrolling needed.

0 upvotes
malcolml1
By malcolml1 (Mar 13, 2013)

Gallery on my Samsung Note 10.1 does show a 100% view, and the image dimensions are correct - 4896 * 3264 for my Fuji X-Pro1 files. What I found disappointing is Photoshop Touch and its limitations on the same device...given that Snapseed can also work with the full resolution file as well.

Malcolm

0 upvotes
schaki
By schaki (Mar 13, 2013)

Rather, Actual Nightmare, app, as it reveals just how bad NR in the Iphone 5 is ;)
Iphone 4 and and 4S seem to be better, not to mention the Nokia N8 and PV 808.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
TheProv
By TheProv (Mar 13, 2013)

Quick pic on android: double tap to fit screen, another double tap to 100%.

However, the fact that standard galleries on ios and android doesn't have 100% visualization is outrageous.

2 upvotes
www.Miniaturist.com
By www.Miniaturist.com (Mar 13, 2013)

Here is the link to BIG PHOTO: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/big-photo/id513663883?mt=8

0 upvotes
www.Miniaturist.com
By www.Miniaturist.com (Mar 13, 2013)

BIG PHOTO by Zynsoft (for iPad or iPhone) is much better for unlimited zooming to the pixel-level. It also allows you to browse through your library of photos via a convenient scroll bar.

0 upvotes
bpoooh
By bpoooh (Mar 15, 2013)

BIG PHOTO is not usable in comparison to Actual Pixels. Too complex for such simple functions.
I really like Actual Pixels for being close to original apple software. Clear and usable, that's what I'm talking about.

0 upvotes
orangermac
By orangermac (Mar 13, 2013)

An Eye-Fi card with JPEG proxies makes the transfer time to an iOS device not so bad. I agree with gl2k that this is not an ideal usage scenario. The D800 can be set to zoom into pixel level with the center button on the directional pad. That is a much quicker way to test critical focus and iterate as needed.

Still, if you are post shoot and want to find the best of a burst to edit/share, this could be useful.

0 upvotes
Daboos
By Daboos (Mar 13, 2013)

Really useful app. But as for me, it's better to view small images (icons, logos and etc) than big. In this case you will see real advantages of this app.

0 upvotes
bpoooh
By bpoooh (Mar 15, 2013)

Agree with you. Still would like to be able to scroll through the images.

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
webrunner5
By webrunner5 (Mar 13, 2013)

Trust me the Retina display is a HUGH thing. It will change your life the way you see things. You can not live without it once you see it.

1 upvote
Mike Walters
By Mike Walters (Mar 13, 2013)

Oh no, I have seen one and do not have one....am I gonna die???

3 upvotes
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (Mar 13, 2013)

Trust me, you are wasting huge amount of money on this over-hyped display. You won't see the difference in a 7 or 10inch display.

0 upvotes
robogobo
By robogobo (Mar 13, 2013)

I don't trust either one of you.

5 upvotes
RunningTurtle
By RunningTurtle (Mar 13, 2013)

Pixel peepers & Apple fan boys rejoice.

1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Mar 13, 2013)

"Pixel peeping" is only a bad thing if the person doing it doesn't understand the implications of what they're looking at. Apple is only a bad thing if you're incapable of distinguishing between a tool's usefulness in a given application and your own emotions about how that tool was designed and built.

2 upvotes
gl2k
By gl2k (Mar 13, 2013)

Hard to imagine that any serious pro photog would ever use an iPad for assessing critical sharpness.
I mean ... even the process of uploading a full 36mp image to the iPad takes an eternity. Not to mention you wanna download 200 images to pick the best one.
The iPad is a nice toy but definitely not more, when it comes to photography.

3 upvotes
robogobo
By robogobo (Mar 13, 2013)

You have no idea what you're talking about. Don't be a kit snob. To each his own. I'm a pro photog and I use ipads in the field to check focus, and allow clients and crew to review, each handheld rather than 20 people crowded around a laptop. Get bent.

3 upvotes
TimR-Niagara
By TimR-Niagara (Mar 14, 2013)

we pros don't use the actual raw 36mp photos on ipads.. we send the jpgs to the ipad to check color, focus, framing etc and clients can review the photos live as they are being taken..(the 36mp raw photos are kept in another card for post viewing when we return to the studio).. ipads can also be used to remote control the settings, snapping the photos directly from the ipad and using the ipad as a livescreen monitor in tight situations where you can't see the back of the camera's lcd.. there are many uses for ipads with cameras where you have no idea to begin the many opportunities ipads can do for any photographer be they pro or amateur.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Artak Hambarian
By Artak Hambarian (Mar 13, 2013)

Another Android app, importantly free, is the QuickPic. At one touch it resizes to the window, at next touch to 100% view. Very very convenient IMHO. However bit length seem to be a bit less than a pro will desire.

2 upvotes
JackM
By JackM (Mar 13, 2013)

I have an iPad with Retina display. The benefit of Retina display is very real, it's about 266 ppi. It is like holding a print in your hand. The photos app that comes with the iPad will display images at 100%. The view is the same size as with the Actual Pixels app. However the pictures are slightly sharper when viewed in the Actual Pixels app, which makes me wonder if it is also doing some sharpening of its own. I wonder which app is really displaying the actual pixels.

0 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (Mar 12, 2013)

You may need special app to zoom image to 100%. But then is your eyes capable of telling the difference at the pixel density of today's smartphones? I never bought the idea of Retina display. It is far more comfortable to zoom in beyond 100%.

It is pretty sad that you need an app to zoom image to 100%. But I have a feeling that stock image viewer / browser may be able to do just that with some tricks.

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Mar 12, 2013)

It doesn't really matter if your device has a pixel-dense display or not. The problem is that the default photo app doesn't actually display the original image but a smaller version of it.

2 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (Mar 14, 2013)

I can confirm that Google Chrome (the browser) can zoom in on image beyond 100%. Use file:///sdcard/ to browse for photos

0 upvotes
VladimirV
By VladimirV (Mar 12, 2013)

Best Android app or general app for photographers on any mobile system is Photo Mate, you should definitely check it out. Not only does it allow 100% focus but it can also convert fullsize RAW files from quite a lot of different formats to JPG, read and display large TIF files, compare two images side by side, allow you to rate images and more.
While not free it's worth every penny.

If you really need free, get Photo Editor on Andoid, free and can also display and edit pictures at 100%.

Comment edited 10 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Mar 12, 2013)

Thanks, I'll have a look at those.

0 upvotes
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (Mar 12, 2013)

Just to be clear, pixel-peeping app for non iPhone pics otherwise you will see the most horrible pixels out there. =D

4 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Mar 12, 2013)

Well, it's still pixel-peeping, even if the pixels don't look so great :-)

2 upvotes
robogobo
By robogobo (Mar 13, 2013)

Meh, I've seen worse.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 33
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