Everything in photography is a tradeoff

Or things I love about my new iPhone 7.

I’ve had my new iPhone 7 almost a week. So far I’m pretty happy with it. Some of the things that have impressed me so far are; battery life, the haptic feedback, and of course the camera. So far I have gotten a sold 24 hours out of each charge. The haptic feedback is simply a nice touch. The camera, I am now really putting through its paces.

First a caveat. This is by no means an indepth or scientific assessment of the files created. For example ideally nothing would change in the scene to give erroneous results if I could lock the cmaera down to a tripod, this is not easy with iPhone. Not impossible either, but I have better things to splash my cash on than an array of iPhone accessories. So I just eyeballed the scene as best I could. I shot in auto mode for all apps to keep things on an even and comparable keel. The controls the two apps offer are first rate and will be uesd and tested extensively over the coming weeks.

I am currently testing the default camera, HDR on, off and auto. I am also testing two apps that allow me to shoot in RAW unlike the default camera. Those apps are, ‘Manual’ and  ‘ProCamera‘. [I have no affiliation with either company that makes these apps. ‘Manual’ is free, ProCamera is not and costs $7.99 Aus in Australian app store.]

Manual on the App Store
CameraPro on the App Store

The apps themselves may form another post in the future. To keep things simple, I’m taking pictures in ‘Auto’. Both the apps give me a jpeg and a RAW file. The differences between the apps is noticeable and pronounced compared to the default camera. None are perfect. I was fortunate this afternoon in that the contrast wasn’t too high, this means jpegs are more than useable.

Both apps lean towards under exposure and this means noise in the midtones, I have yet to apply much post to these files so this maybe an easy fix.

Other differences are there is substantially vignetted in the raw files, again some post production may solve this issue.

A screen grab from Aperture, of the default camera; HDR off

As expected in a photo such as this, some clipping of the highlights has occurred but noise is minimal and the file reasonably exposed. Made more manageable by shooting with in late afternoon light facing south-east. The middle value on the Kodak Gray Scale is giving a reading with a Luminosity of 71.

A screen grab from Aperture, of the default camera, HDR; auto.

As expected the file is a little flat but retains more detail in the highlights, with some lowering of contrast, and slightly underexposed compared to the jpeg. The middle value on the Kodak Gray Scale is giving a reading with a Luminosity of 61.

A screengrab from Aperture of the default camera jpeg; HDR on.

I am quite disappointed with this file only marginally better than the jpeg. The clipping in the highlights are irretrievable. The luminosity value is at 70 here on the Kodak Gray Scale. First lesson then is use HDR auto, if the light permits it. Fortunately I have set my camera to keep both files, and so was able to view the final file, with HDR on.

A screen grab from Aperture, of the default camera, HDR file  with HDR on

This file is much more usable and has a lower Luminosity reading of 60, but some general muddiness in toanlity lets it down.

A screen grab from Aperture, of the raw file created by the App Manual

This file has plenty of data to work with, it’s a raw file afterall, but the noise and vignettes bothers me. I had only used the Auto exposure mode to keep variables to a minimum, so with more attention paid to exposure I may have been able to lower the amount of noise in the mid-tones. I am an advocate of ETTR. So this with some work could become a good file for printing, it is 12 mp afterall.

A screen grab from Aperture of the RAW file created by ProCamera app

The ProCamera app file is noisy and has the darkest Luminance value of all the files, vignettes are pronounced but again with some post processing these things could be potentially fixed. The file size here? 12 MP as well.

A screen grab from the finder on my Mac showing the file name created by the app, ‘Manual’

The interfaces of the two apps are quite different, to make matters worse, the ‘Manual’ app, creates a raw file with unique file name, that has no relation to the file names already created by the phone. This over time could be a problem, my workflow does not involve changing file names, so names that are non sequential will over time present  problems. Not an ideal situation.

Finally when it comes down to it I always like to have the most data I can at capture and use post production techniques to overcome the shortcomings of the two apps. What is really going to decide for me which app is best will come down to ease of use and usefulness. A subject of a future post, I hope.