App Review: PureShot for iOS

Compatible with iPad, iPod and iPhone running iOS 5.1 or later
Version reviewed: 1.1

PureShot provides a ton of information about the shot you’re about to take and offers about as much customization as is possible under iOS.

PureShot is a highly configurable iOS camera app aimed at users who want to capture the most unprocessed image possible. The app description actually calls out the #nofilter hashtag, and sure enough there are no filters, no frames and no overlays on offer: instead, the app tries to deliver as pure a shot (get it?) as possible.

In a way this is a streamlined version of the skeuomorphtastic 645 Pro app from the same developer, How pure is PureShot’s photographic experience? Read on to find out.

Key Features:

  • Detailed configurable display including live RGB histogram
  • Customizable shutter release functionality
  • Support for uncompressed TIFF files and JPEG compression options
  • Exposure, focus and white balance lock
  • Support for long shutter and high ISO modes on compatible devices 

Operating Requirements:

  • Requires iOS 5.1 or later 

Taking Control

The first time you fire it up, PureShot gives you a fairly clean camera interface. It’s certainly not as minimalist as the native iOS camera, but that’s probably why you’re trying other camera apps. There’s a big orange shutter release on the right side of the interface, and that’s where it stays: it won’t move to the long side when composing in portrait orientation (which would be particularly useful on an iPad) and there’s no switching sides for lefties. The app also supports the iOS hardware shutter button. 

By default, PureShot delivers an uncluttered composition window, seen here on an iPad.

Several commonly used functions are accessible via buttons right on the main screen. You can toggle exposure, focus and white balance lock, switch between standard and spot metering, turn the flash and the self timer on and off, and cycle through display options. You can also toggle a useful “night mode” that enables longer shutter speeds (a user-definable 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 or 1 second, depending on how confident you are in the steadiness of your hands, or if you have a tripod handy). It’s nice to have these functions accessible without diving into menus.

As with many camera apps, focus and metering points can be set separately. The flexible spot metering is particularly useful in iOS since there’s no way to dial in exposure compensation.

Here, we’ve broken out separate focus (square) and spot metering (circle) reticles.

The joy of PureShot is its customizability. For example, by default, pressing and holding the shutter locks exposure and focus -- a second tap take a picture. But if you want the shutter to fire when you lift from the first press, it can do that too. Or if you don’t want to lock focus via the shutter at all, that’s also an option.

PureShot’s menu system is functional but not particularly elegant.
Its most significant fault is that there’s no way to jump directly back to the camera from a deeply nested menu item: you have to back out level by level.

Getting PureShot configured isn’t always intuitive. Looking for help via the “i” button takes you to a Power Point-like instruction manual that clears things up, though some context-specific help would be nice. 

Finding Your View

Tapping the “Disp.” button cycles through four display densities. You start with the bare minimum (just the preview image). Next is nothing but a horizon crosshair to show tilt and a grid if selected (rule of thirds or a finer “architectural” grid). Then comes the full monty: all of the above plus the current ISO and shutter speed, light level (in a variety of possible formats), a real-time histogram (again, configurable), and indicators for file format, battery level, white balance lock, metering mode, GPS status. Another press gets rid of the grid and artificial horizon but keeps everything else, and one more takes you back to the clean slate. 

PureShot serves up a plethora of information about current exposure settings. On an iPad screen, there’s plenty of room for everything.

There are no fewer than four histogram options. The exploded Y-RGB seen above is the most information-rich and looks great on an iPad, but you can also opt for just luminance, or a collapsed RGB with or without luminance in the mix.

The light level indicator can be set up to show exposure value (EV) fixed against ISO 100 or dynamically compensated for the current ISO, or light levels in candelas per square meter or lux. This is academic information for most of us, but is potentially useful and fun.

An iPhone’s smaller display lends itself to the collapsed histogram.

Most of the other information is very practical. The histogram really helps avoid blown highlights while avoid noisy underexposure, perennial problems in mobile photography because of the performance of small sensors. The ISO/shutter speed data lets you know when you need to hold extra steady to avoid blur or are veering into extreme noise territory (though this being iOS, you can’t manually set either one).  

PureShot can display a warning when it detects camera shake, but like similar “anti-shake” features in other apps it won’t work miracles at slow shutter speeds.

Image Quality

PureShot saves images as “HI-Quality” jpegs by default. The resulting file sizes tend to be a bit smaller than what comes out of the native camera app. At this setting, you can bang out frames about as fast as in the basic app.

Upping the quality to “MAX-Quality” jpegs gives you a less compressed image, with a file size about three times larger than the HI-Quality setting. The device’s buffer fills a lot faster at this setting, but thanks to a handy indicator you can watch the buffer flush and know when you can keep shooting.

PureShot also offers an unusual “dRAW” file option that saves images as a TIFF, a standard lossless format. There’s nothing really “raw” about a TIFF: everything from white balance to tone curves are already baked in, but without jpeg’s lossy compression more detail is theoretically retained. The TIFFs are large files (22 megabytes on an iPhone 4S) but you can enable lossless compression to cut them down by as much as half. Either way, TIFFs fill the device’s buffer a lot faster than jpegs: you might squeeze off two shots in quick succession, but then you’ll be waiting several seconds before taking another.

The real question is: what is the impact of these options on final image quality? In practice, there seems to very little to distinguish them apart from the file size. 

These 100% selections from four shots taken with an iPhone 4S show little if any difference between the “HI-Quality” output ...
the “MAX-Quality” output ...
and the “dRAW” file option that saves images as a TIFF.
A sample taken with the iOS native camera app on the iPhone 4 is also included for comparison, and isn’t substantially different from the PureShot output.

We wondered if the TIFF would show less noise reduction at higher ISOs than a jpeg, but again there seemed to be little difference.

Above is a 100% view of an ISO 640 shot on an iPhone 4S saved using the MAX quality setting. 
Here is a TIFF with the same exposure. The noise characteristics are essentially equivalent.

Whatever format and compression you use, PureShot’s one concession to the world beyond capturing images is its capacity to sling them on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Instagram. You can also pass them directly to other iOS apps that support the feature (iPhoto, Photogene, Dropbox and Evernote, among others).


PureShot’s highly customizable camera operation will appeal to users who chafe at the native iOS app’s one-size-fits all approach. The cornucopia of information the app provides about the current scene, including basics like shutter speed and ISO and more advanced data like a real-time RGB-Y histogram, can definitely help you get better exposed pictures.

Configuring PureShot can be a fiddly, especially when you need to back out of a fairly deep menu, but most of the settings you’d want to change regularly are accessible from buttons on the main screen.

The one exception is file format selection, which requires diving down two levels and then backing out again. However, we aren’t convinced that there’s much advantage to the lossless dRAW TIFF format anyway. Indeed, in our test images there seemed to be little if any quality difference between any of the file options.

PureShot will appeal to users looking to take as much technical control of the photographic process as iOS allows, and who’d rather do their post-processing with a dedicated app. 

What we like: A highly customizable interface with advanced features (like a histogram) to help nail exposures without extraneous bells, whistles or filters. 

What we don’t like: A fiddly menu system, little real-world benefit in lower-compression file options. 

Video tutorial: The App Whisperer recently shared a video tutorial explaining PureShot. 


Peter M. Ferenczi is a freelance writer and avid photographer. He lives in Paris.