I've been looking at photo apps for the iPhone since the phone was first released in 2007. From the start, it was pretty clear Apple wasn't getting the most out of their own camera with the built-in app, and third parties rushed in. If you wanted to take serious photos, many of the apps were wanting, offering stickers and other features most pros would disdain. But not this app.
Ten years ago, ProCamera arrived on the scene, and it added a lot to iPhone photography with features DSLR users could appreciate. According to the developers, one of the biggest milestones was the introduction of manual controls with iOS 8, which allowed them to bring much more than just full manual focus and exposure control to the iPhone. It enabled the app to have an outstanding HDR mode and to capture photos in very low light. Over the years, the app has evolved with many updates adding more pro features, and their latest update, which they designate the "winter" update, raises the bar again.
New features include remote trigger with an Apple Watch, adjustable brackets for HDR photos, and the feature they are most excited about, Automatic Perspective Correct (APC) with live view. There are also new editing tools — mostly filters.
These updates are icing on a pretty sweet cake that includes raw imaging, and raw+jpg capture, and a host of other important features, including:
• Manual, semi-automatic, and automatic modes
• Independent focus and exposure control
• Manual focus with focus peaking
• Exposure compensation
• Portrait mode for bokeh depth of field effect
• Dual and triple lens support
• HD and UHD 4K Video (from 24 fps to HFR)
• Raw, TIFF, JPG, and HEIF support
• Selfie mode
• Self-timer and intervalometer
• AIS image stabilization on/off
• EXIF/metadata viewer
• Live histogram
• Digital zoom
• Adjustable fill light (torch)
• Rapid-fire mode
• Apple Watch remote control
• Various aspect ratios (16:9, 5:4, etc.)
• Code scanner (QR, barcode,…)
• Powerful photo album with full iCloud integration
• Album selector
• Manual white balance (color temperature and tint)
• Gray card calibration
• 3D Tiltmeter
ProCamera is $7.99, a reasonable price for an app with this kind of deep functionality. There are some add-on features that are extra, and some are subscription-based, like auto perspective correction.
Using Pro Camera
I've spent a lot of time with ProCamera, and it does keep getting better and better. Its features are in a language semi-pros and pros will understand. It works in a variety of image formats and aspect ratios.
Generally, I don't get excited about editing features. I tend to do that on my laptop rather than use the built-in app tools, but when that's not an option, it's nice to have them on board.
I also find the histogram helpful, as well as the self-timer and intervalometer. ProCamera works with the latest three-lens iPhones and supports Apple Fusion mode, which can combine the data from all three cameras into a single image. The newer iPhones provide advanced low-light photography features, and ProCamera can exploit them, and its manual camera controls and split focus and exposure modes really help.
Automatic Perspective Control is, to my mind, a game-changer. APC uses the built-in position sensor of the iPhone in conjunction with patented technology to make all lines that are vertical in reality also vertical in the image. It corrects for tilt in buildings and other objects, and you can see the fix in real-time. Seems like every camera should have this. It's a $5.99 yearly subscription, and I wish it wasn't, but it's an amazing feature.
Here's a backyard shot without APC.
When you turn APC on, there is some crop, but lines get straightened.
There's a lot of math going on here, and remember, it's only an iPhone!
I haven't played with the video part of the app, but by all reports, it's quite good and feature complete. I'm just not an iPhone video guy.
The developer says the goal with ProCamera is to make the iPhone the only camera many photographers will ever need. That's a bit too ambitious for me, but I do think ProCamera gets as much out of the iPhone camera, especially on the newer models, as one can expect.
What I Like
- Gives you very pro-oriented features on your iPhone.
- Using the app is not overly complicated, and help is included in a comprehensive file.
- ProCamera can output raw and TIFF files.
- Exposure compensation that works precisely.
- Automatic Perspective Control is very powerful and useful.
What I Don't Like
- I hate subscription add-ons. Over time, they can be really expensive. I know developers like them, but many users hate them. Offer me a complete version of the app at a higher price.
- The full HDR experience is not supported without a $3.99 Vivid HDR add-on. It should be standard, although the app can do three-exposure HDR brackets in the regular version, and it will assemble them for you.
- APC doesn't work in HDR mode.
The app isn't designed to replace your pro DSLR or mirrorless camera, of course, but when you have to capture something and your big camera is AWOL, ProCamera can deliver.
In summary, ProCamera lives up to its name and is only limited to the hardware Apple provides in your iPhone. ProCamera easily outdoes Apple's native software, and I think if you are a serious iPhone photographer, ProCamera should be on your home screen.