Full review: Excellent camera app ProCamera 7 released – with a heavy discount

Started Oct 3, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Menneisyys Senior Member • Posts: 1,458
Full review: Excellent camera app ProCamera 7 released – with a heavy discount

ProCamera (AppStore link) has always been one of the apps I recommended for generic shooting. While it lacks specialized stuff requiring sophisticated for example image stitching algorithms like panorama or true HDR shooters, it's still a very decent user interface built around Apple's Camera application programming interface (API), allowing for the manual configuration of almost all features configurable via the API. For example, it supports extending the shutter speed from the, by default, 1/15s minimum to up to 1 second, making it possible to shoot night shots of far better quality / exposure than with apps (including the stock Camera client) only going up to 1/15s to avoid camera shake.

A brand new, iOS 7-only, version of ProCamera, ProCamera 7 (AppStore link), has just been released. As I was perfectly happy with the old version and the current (heavy) discount to time out soon, I decided to review the new version promptly so that you can also see whether the app is worth purchasing until the discount is lifted.

1. Some generic features making this app great

First, let's see some of the excellent features even the old version had – painfully missing from the stock Camera client of iOS, even as of iOS7 and the latest-and-greatest iPhone 5s.

For example, here's a night shot (taken at my summer cottage in central-Finland this July) shot with 1s shutter speed:

And here's the user interface (UI) of the old version used when shooting the above shot:

(note that the icon behind the pop-up menu shows “1/2s”, denoting the shot will be made with the shutter speed of half a second).

The stock Camera client, as has already been explained, only allows for shutter speeds equal or higher than 1/15s. No wonder the exposure of the same scene but with the stock Camera app is far darker:

Lifting the shadows of the latter, underexposed, stock Camera shot, of course, results in major noise creeping in:

By the way, this was the configuration I used in the Preview app of OS X 10.8 to lift the shadows:

Of course, night photography is only one area where this app excels at – particularly now with version 7. (By the way, in THIS flickr group can you find a lot more night test shots of the same scene. Particularly recommended if you'd like to see how beautiful late-July Finnish nights can (still) be. As soon as I have some free time to, at last, make my iOS photography article series ready, I'll publish a full article on night shooting too, also explaining how all these shots should be evaluated. Sorry: I know I've been promising my article series for months – I had a lot of work to do; among other things, I've written an excellent map path finder application engine for iOS, running with acceptable speed even on the lowly iPhone 3G.)

2. Problems with the old version

No matter how excellent the old version was, it was severely hampered by the absolutely illogical GUI. Even I (a hardcore computer & photography geek) found the old version very hard to learn. For example, without reading the manual of the app, I wouldn't have ever thought you need to keep the shutter speed icon (annotated below) depressed for at least a second for it to activate the 1s shutter speed (the longest possible on iOS):

The interface of the new version is far-far more logical: in of the three main mode, in the Night mode (only), you can directly select the shutter speed you want to use (annotated row at the top):

And this was only one aspect of how hard-to-learn & handle the old version was.

3. New features

Some of the more important new features:

3.1 60 / 120 fps video recording

In addition to the much more logical and easier UI, the new version also has some excellent features not present in the old version, not even when run on iOS7 and on compatible hardware. The most important of them is true, high-speed video recording.

Back in the pre-iPhone 5s days, I've published several articles on shooting 60 fps videos on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, on both iOS5 (on the 4S) and iOS7 (on both models). The last article, with iOS7 source code, is HERE .

ProCamera 7 makes use of the high-speed recording of compatible models: the iPhone 4s, 5, 5c and 5s. It, unlike SlowCam (reviewed for example HERE ; also look for my (“Menneisyys”) comments), exports truly 60 fps video to the Camera Roll; that is, it doesn't convert it into a 30 fps one.

Enabling 60 (iPhone 4S / 5 / 5c) / 120 (iPhone 5s) fps shooting is easy. After changing the main mode to video, fire up Settings (red rectangle below):

and select the resolution icon (annotated by a blue rectangle above).

In the resolution submenu, select the rightmost one titled “HD max fps” (annotated by red):

Note that, if your hardware doesn't support 60/120 fps recording, no such menu item will be shown. An iPad 3 screenshot with three resolutions only (but no 30+ fps menu item):

In this regard, the app is far superior to many of the alternative, 60/120 fps-recording capable camera apps, which don't bother telling the user the hardware is plain incapable of high-speed recording.

Now, you'll be returned to the main (Video-specific) menu; now, the next icon on the right (annotated by red below) will automatically be changed to “max fps framerate”:

From now on, shooting will use the maximum framerate.

3.1.1 Video footage example file

I've uploaded a 720p60 file shot on the iPhone 5 HERE, should you want to check it out.

3.2 Much faster full-res burst shooting (on the iPhone 5)

The new version has an excellent burst mode: on the iPhone 5, it produces 6...7 fps at full res for around 100 images; after that, with bursts of about 4-5 images and around 1 sec pauses between them. The older app only delivers between 2 and 3 fps under exactly the same circumstances (iPhone 5 running on 7.0.2) – that is, at about half the framerate.

4. Problems

4.1 No histogram

Probably the biggest problem is the lack of histogram. If you must use it, you will want to stay away.

4.2 No built-in QR reader

If you need the built-in QR code reader of the previous version, you won't find it any more.

Here's the main mode changer of the new version, with a Night mode icon instead of the previous QR one:

Note that the new mode changer can be dragged to the left/right, just like that of the main mode changer of the iOS7 non-iPad stock Camera app.

Nevertheless, the AppStore has several, even free QR readers so you don't lose much. After all, the QR module of the app doesn't have anything extra compared to most other QR readers. A screenshot showing the post-QR reading menu:

4.3 Videos will always be geotagged

The switch to disable geotagging in Settings only disables adding coordinates to stills, not to videos:

Should you want to publish a video file without any kind of recompression but without any location data, you'll need to disable the app-specific location service in the system-level Settings menu (under Privacy > Location Services):

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