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Technical analysis: 645 PRO vs. Standard Camera App

Discussion in 'App Reviews' started by cpoole, 4 May 2012.

  1. cpoole

    cpoole Addicted

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    On April 23rd, I found some of the iPhoneography websites for the first time and began reading the various blogs. I have owned each version of the iPhone that has been released and have been shooting photos with them since the iPhone 3 and beyond, but had not connected with the iPhoneography community at large. While reading through one of the sites, one particular article jumped out at me because it was about a new app that was supposed to provide output from the iPhone in "dRAW" format in addition to "lossless JPG's". In this phase of my photo career, I shoot much more subject matter that I want to shoot as opposed to what I am paid to shoot. Fine art landscapes are a passion for me and so that is some of what I do with my DSLR's, and I shoot RAW format 100% of the time for a number of reasons which I won't go into in this article. I share that info so you will understand why the reference to "RAW-anything" caught my interest. So anyhow, I am reading about this new app called 645 PRO and it is being described as something that is not yet available in the app store.

    The next day, April 24th, I am going through some of the sites I found the day before and to my delight, I discover that 645 PRO has just been released to the iTunes App Store. So I hustle right over and download a copy.

    It may sound crazy to get all worked up over something like this but that is just part of my personal wiring. This app is not supposed to be just another app that shoots the same mediocre quality JPG's through a different cosmetic user interface. The app developer is being bold enough to use terminology like "dRAW" and lossless JPG's so I am fired up to get a copy and go run my first tests.

    So that evening, I am out with iPhone 4S in hand to determine if 645 PRO really is capable of delivering the visually improved results I had read about.

    Methods utilized for the test:
    I shot original test photos of the same scene with an iPhone 4S, using both the Standard Camera App and then 645 PRO. The Standard Camera App has no quality adjustments that can be made. 645 PRO does have different image quality level settings and I set it to three bars (the lossless JPG setting) and dRAW (which is really a TIFF file) and created an image from each one. I purposely chose to shoot the test images of a scene in a local office park at night, knowing this would cause the digital noise and JPG artifacts to really stand out so that any differences in image quality would be clearly evident. I was also careful to make sure the camera was taking meter readings and focus settings from the exact same areas of the scene so as not to introduce other variables into the test. Once the images had been shot, they were then downloaded into Photoshop CS4 and saved as Photoshop files (PSD format) to avoid any loss of quality while doing the cropping and re-saving of results. It is important to state that NO adjustments or alterations of any kind were made in Photoshop CS4 other than cropping each of the three files to a similar section of the original photos. Once the crops were completed and each frame was encoded with a text description at the bottom, only then were the cropped samples saved in JPG format at a quality level of 11.

    Original frame and cropped section jpg:
    Original frame and cropped section.jpg


    Cropped from 4S Camera app jpg:
    IMG_0655-cropped from 4S Camera app.jpg


    Cropped from 645 Pro jpg:
    IMG_0653-cropped from 645 PRO.jpg


    TIFF (dRAW) cropped from 645 Pro jpg:
    TIFF [dRAW] cropped from 645 PRO.jpg


    The results were conclusive and I encourage you to take a look for yourself. I have attached my actual test samples below and you can download the full pixel-size test samples online thru my Box.net folder at the following link:

    https://www.box.com/s/0fcadd186ee04ec363b4

    (You do not need an account with Box.net to access this link and the samples are virus-free of course. If you choose the download option on Box.net, you can view the files on your own computer, which should provide for better viewing.)

    TECH NOTE:
    Shooting in good lighting does not bring out the limitations of an iPhone and its small digital sensor like this test was intended to do. This test was intended to test 645 PRO with the iPhone already partially handicapped due to low light.

    My personal opinion is that we are looking at the first real professional grade photo app to be released to the iPhone market. It is true that many iPhone users may not understand or care about RAW format, lossless JPG's, TIFF files, Photoshop, or any of this. Squeezing the maximum degree of image quality out of an iPhone image doesn't make any sense for them at all. They are into iPhoneography for different reasons and that is perfectly OK. In fact, they represent the majority of iPhone "shooters". But there are those who can put to good use the benefits derived by 645 PRO, and will be able to produce some stunning results with just a little time spent in post-processing. And if you do choose to use 645 PRO to produce your image and then import the image into Photoshop, Lightroom, or similar software, (and provided you do your post processing properly), only pros and technical geeks will know that you did not shoot the photo with a DSLR.

    I see many folks commenting about what an iPhone can and cannot do and in some cases, they make mention of not using their DSLR's anymore. To that point, I am going to go on record and state that the iPhone 4S cannot come close to comparing with a true professional quality DSLR in terms of overall photographic quality. The digital sensor in the iPhone is far too small to compete with even an entry-level DSLR and produces less resolution and more digital and color noise. In addition, the DSLR lenses are far more complex and are able to resolve much more detail. So the DSLR's win hand's down on all these points without any serious competition from the iPhone. But..., an iPhone does not cost between $1000 to $5000 for the body alone (lenses NOT included) and it fits in your back pocket! That one fact means you will have your "camera that can double as a phone" with you all the time. If you already own a DSLR, you know that is not so with a DSLR. You have to be intentional to carry one of those around with you.

    CONCLUSION:
    From the results of this test, a number of options are created by this new app and they are all good. I could use 645 PRO in an iPhone 4S in good lighting and come away with a photograph that could be processed at 2000 pixel width and it would fool many into thinking that I used a DSLR for the shot. And all this capability is right there..., hiding in my back pocket.

    And that is pretty cool... : )

    Good Shooting,
    Chris Poole

    P.S. With Roger's permission, I am also noting two other sources for this information.
    I originally posted this review on the iphoneography.com user forum <http://www.iphoneography.com/discussion-board/post/1797932>
    Then the next day, Mike Hardaker, the app developer for 645 PRO, saw the test photos and review and asked if he could feature the results on the http://www.jaggrapps.com website blog. So, it is on his homepage at the very top. He enlarged my cropped sections even more and it is worth seeing.
    mwolfer, N O M A D, Teirrahk and 8 others like this.
  2. cpoole

    cpoole Addicted

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    I would like to add one other comment here and I did not want to contaminate the review with this part. I have seen some petty lacking comments on blogs and in iTunes about this app. Some reference iPhones overheating. Others talk about excessive battery drain. And some say the app is no better than any other app already out there. To the last point, look at the samples and decide for yourself. As for overheating and battery drain, I have experienced none of either one. But I also don't let 50 apps run at one time. That encourages software conflicts and other issues.

    And finally, I have no business interests with Mike Hardaker and have received no compensation for anything I have written or said about 645 PRO. I did the test to satisfy my own curiosity and I was glad I did. Now at least, I know the app works and it has become my first choice for anything where I need top image quality from my iPhone.
    Reed, RoseCat, Fastcomet and 2 others like this.
  3. maykind

    maykind Addicted

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    wow huge difference in IQ on cropped 4S pic and cropped Tiff
  4. iNOLOGIST

    iNOLOGIST Addicted

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    Interesting stuff. I am amazed at the extra level of noise in the standard app. I'll be using 654 pro on my next studio shoot I think.

    Thanks for sharing
    gordon
  5. Venomator

    Venomator Green & Serpentine... Admin Site Staff

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    An excellent review Chris and, again, clear commentary and superb example iMages to go along with your text... :notworthy:

    To see and read the findings in this way has to be extremely helpful to MobiMembers (and iPhoneographers more generally!) who are keen to get the best out of their iPhone and I am sure it will be much used and well appreciated... :thumbs:

    I hope you don't mind, but for those of us on Macs or iPads in the MobiApp Safari view, I have added the iMages in at Full size under the relevant part of the script complete with an individual header?... :whistle:

    On the subject of these particular iMages - having now added them into the review at Full size, will they be identical in all respects to the iMages you have uploaded to Box?... :confused:

    Thank you once again for providing an excellent topic review and for sharing it with the MobiCommunity... :D
    klassklown0 likes this.
  6. Fastcomet

    Fastcomet Addicted

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    Great review Chris, thanks!!! :)
  7. RoseCat

    RoseCat Cat'sClockedIt... Site Staff

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    Wow, really great review. I'm a very non-technical shooter, and I've steered clear of this app just because it sounded way too complicated to me. But after reading this very concise, thoughtful and well-written review I believe I'm going to add this to my app arsenal!

    Thanks Chris!! :D

    Sent from my iPhone using MobiTog
  8. klassklown0

    klassklown0 Addicted

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    Apparently the reviews are showing that it is great for night time shots too. Besides the obvious samples from above to show the excellent cropping that 645 is capable of.
  9. Venomator

    Venomator Green & Serpentine... Admin Site Staff

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    It really isn't that technical to use Cat... ;)

    It is what it is capable of doing behind the scenes that make it such a superb app - you can use it just as a camera app and it is extremely versatile with format and film type changes in just the right place and very easy to use... :cool:

    If you then want to use all the techy stuff it is there for you and if you don't then you just carry on as normal, but you will, eventually, you will... :D
    RoseCat likes this.
  10. Mike Hardaker

    Mike Hardaker The 645 Pro... App Developer

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    As the developer of 645 PRO can I just say how grateful I am for Chris's clear explanations of both his methodology and the results he got. We didn't want to do do any comparisons such as this ourselves for public consumption as we didn't want the inevitable cries of "fix!", so it's great to see such a thorough independent analysis.

    As an aside, an interesting factoid is that the image fidelity of the default Camera.app (I'm not saying quality, as that is pretty subjective) is somewhat higher than that of many third-party apps that appear to deliver similarly "untweaked" output; it has less sharpening applied prior to JPEG compression than you get, as a developer, if you use the APIs in the "most standard" way (although not all developers do that, of course).

    Can I just add that any, occasionally intemperate, comparisons with DSLRs are not coming from us! Images from an iPhone will always suffer from being taken with a tiny sensor that is getting its light through some pretty basic optics. With 645 PRO we're not claiming to transcend those inherent limitations; we're just trying to provide photographers with "camera-like" handling and the highest possible image fidelity (via "developed Raw"—dRAW—TIFFs), or the cleanest looking print-ready images (via the Film Modes) under those constrained circumstances!
    ValeriGail, Reed, Smooth and 4 others like this.
  11. cpoole

    cpoole Addicted

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    Mike - thanks for adding your comments from the developer's side of the equation. You can speak to points and "issues" that many users might not have any way of knowing about. One example would be the normal limitations placed upon developers by Apple itself. That is not a criticism but rather, a simple statement about the protocol at Apple that affects how developers approach camera apps - and what they can and cannot do. Some of the comments I have seen about this app on certain blogs would indicate that some folks have no clue that there even are any limitations and that if an app is good enough, that an iPhone should be capable of blowing away a DSLR image (and then some of them continue on to say that because their iPhone is not better than a DSLR, your app is not what you say). Those are not well researched comments and I just shake my head when I read that type thing. But I will say this... if any iPhone app could actually do that, then 645 PRO is closer to that than any other app I have seen thus far. So thank you for the part you have played in this process for all of us! And please keep pushing the envelope.
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  12. cpoole

    cpoole Addicted

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    Roger - perfect! That made it easier to see the A/B/C comparisons.
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  13. klassklown0

    klassklown0 Addicted

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    Chris. I'm a loopsy on photography. I have a question on 645. Are there settings to change jpg to tiff? I have the app and am having difficulty understanding how to go through the meter.
  14. Venomator

    Venomator Green & Serpentine... Admin Site Staff

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    Press and hold the Grid button to cycle through the options, there are four choices Nancy... ;)

    There is a fairly good help/manual built in - simply press and hold the bottom left 'i' button and it will pop up magically... :D

    From MiPad2 using the awesome & FREE MobiTog App... :D
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  15. cpoole

    cpoole Addicted

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    I understand the question and making this adjustment is easy once you know where to look and what button to press. The Grid button is the one that controls the setting of what image file(s) is produced. I have attached some screen shots from the 645 PRO Instruction Manual that I hope will help. I leave my 645 PRO app set to the 3-bar lossless JPG setting as you see on the app screen shot (look at the three small horizontal bars under "JPEG"). This gives the best quality without producing a TIFF each time I press the shutter button. I am somewhat deliberate about the TIFF setting. I use it when I have a reason to do so and then once I access them thru iTunes and move them into a folder, I remove the TIFF files from the phone to avoid wasting memory in the iPhone due to TIFF files stacking up.

    645 PRO screen.jpg

    Screen shot 2012-05-04 at 2.53.58 PM.png

    Screen shot 2012-05-04 at 2.55.15 PM.png

    Screen shot 2012-05-04 at 2.55.39 PM.png
    Reed, klassklown0 and Venomator like this.
  16. cpoole

    cpoole Addicted

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    Sorry Roger - not trying to steal your thunder. You were quicker on the draw than me... :)
  17. Venomator

    Venomator Green & Serpentine... Admin Site Staff

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    :)

    No problem Chris, you were far more articulate than me and the question was directed to you... ;)

    And I was unsure the time zone thing would interfere with your response... :D

    From MiPad2 using the awesome & FREE MobiTog App... :D
  18. klassklown0

    klassklown0 Addicted

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    Magically! I did get the manual to pop up and figured out the settings. I took pictures of my toes, feet and bookshelf. Because that was what was in the viewfinder. Very very crisp picture. I just need to figure out what a tiff is
  19. klassklown0

    klassklown0 Addicted

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    I found the Manual. Ok. Is Tiff more for documents?
  20. richardcb

    richardcb M...iss Moneypenny Site Staff

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    What a great discussion thread! Chris, thank you for your studied and reasoned analysis of an app I think we will all be using more often now. So good also to see the app's developer get involved (welcome to MobiTog, Mike!) and provide valued information free from hype and self-interest. This is exactly the sort of thing MobiTog was created for (I imagine...I wasn't there) and it can only help promote and enhance our common fascination with iphoneography. Virtual high fives all round. :lol:
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  21. richardcb

    richardcb M...iss Moneypenny Site Staff

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    Chris, there's another aspect of the DSLR vs. iPhone debate which probably belongs to another thread but, as you mentioned it here, I'll follow it up. That aspect mixes political and practical considerations.

    I don't know what it's like in your part of the world but in London, in these times of heightened security, carrying around a full DSLR kit and possibly a tripod too can bring unwanted attention and even land you in trouble with the law. Many Brit photographers are reporting of being stopped and questioned about what they are shooting, usually by over-eager private security officials but sometimes by the police - even though they are photographing from public rights of way. This obviously happens more around sensitive areas like financial districts but it seems to be endemic, even though the law is (currently) on the side of the photographer.

    It's something that makes you think every time you use a large camera in a public area and, to my mind, hinders and disrupts the creative process. The iPhone is so much easier to work with in these situations, providing a discreet yet flexible way of producing the kind of images you want. Another reason I think why people like yourself are embracing iphoneography.
    cpoole likes this.
  22. klassklown0

    klassklown0 Addicted

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    Gotta get the body slams in there too. :jumpsup
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  23. richardcb

    richardcb M...iss Moneypenny Site Staff

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    Sounds like fun. :sneaky: LOL!
  24. vixenscry

    vixenscry Queen of Mono... Site Staff

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    Very interesting ! I would love to take a peek at this app , to see if it's anygood , but it's not on my app store ?
  25. mahoganyturtle

    mahoganyturtle MobiTog iOTY 2012 Mobi Veteran

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    my brain hurts............
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