Technical Camera Available Now

Technical Camera is available now on the App Store!

Quite a few users reported that pre-orders did not work on iOS 10.3, and they unable/unwilling to update to iOS 11 because of several reasons. So we provide a 2 day introductory price period, until June 14, 9:00AM CEST.

To get started with the app, I recommend to read my how-to posts. More of them is on the way.

Enjoy!

Technical Camera : Wide Converter Support

There are occasions when the iPhone camera is not wide enough. A handful of companies (Moment, olloclip, Schneider, Zeiss – just to name  a few) realized that this is an issue, and started making converter lenses that let you shoot wider. These lenses fall into two categories: 1) well corrected for distortion – like the Moment or Zeiss, and 2) uncorrected.

With the latter group you have severe barrel distortion. We started experimenting with these lenses for use with the Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder back in 2013. The barrel distortion basically made them unusable for simulation purposes, so we came up with a solution that’s unmatched even five years later. Maybe because it needs a lot of effort and is quite costly to implement.

The technology behind the solution is real-time distortion correction, and the associated thing in both Artist’s Viewfinder and Technical Camera is Wide Mode.

Let me show it in action before going deeper (veteran Artist’s Viewfinder users can skip this, as it’s exactly the same thing you’re used to in that app).

The top/left half of the image is what you get when attaching an uncorrected converter lens. The lower/right half is what you’ll end up after turning on Wide Mode.

This kind of correction is really important if you want to take architecture or real estate pictures – it may separate an amateurish looking image from a professional looking one.

Since distortion correction is done in software, edges of the resulting image may become soft. This is more pronounced with wider (0.5x-class) converter lenses. One possible mitigation (depending on planned image use) is using JPG Half or JPG Quarter image size for your album.

To use a converter lens with Technical Camera, you need to tell the app which lens you are using with the Wide Converter item in the menu. This will select the appropriate correction profile and conversion factor. We make dedicated profiles for each supported converter/phone combination (this is why it’s a costly endeavor). The list of profiles is continuously expanding, so if you miss something, please let us know.

We also measure the exact conversion factor for the profiles (which is usually more conservative that manufacturers tend to advertise). In Technical Camera this number is used for displaying Framing Previsor corners correctly.

But since we can’t cover every single lens on the market, there’s another neat thing: you can create a “custom converter” yourself. Since the process is exactly same for both apps, I’m not going to replicate here what I wrote about this feature when it was introduced in Artist’s Viewfinder – but I recommend you to read that post.

Ok, you have a converter selected. The lens is already attached to the phone. What’s next?

You have to activate Wide Mode. This is done with either the WIDE icon among camera options (accessed by tapping the circle icon in the corner – shown below).

Wide Mode icon on Camera Options

Or by assigning the Toggle Wide Mode (W) function to a Smart Function Key and operating that key.

That’s it. Until you turn Wide Mode off, the viewfinder, saved JPG images, and even preview images saved in RAW files will be distortion corrected.

All functions (exposure, focus, etc) operate the same way in Wide Mode, with the exception of digital zooming, which is disabled.

Technical Camera is available for pre-oreder now on the App Store, at a 30% discounted price. It will be released tomorrow.

Technical Camera : Exposure Control

Technical Camera supports a wide range of exposure control tools, covering everything from full auto to full manual.  In this post I’m going to explain all of them, plus the preferences that alter how these controls behave.

Auto Exposure with Compensation

By default the app is in full automatic exposure mode. Technical Camera determines the ISO and shutter speed to use based on its Auto ISO settings (which is an extensive topic in itself, and thus a subject of another post – for now treat it as a black box that automagically sets your exposure).

But even in this automatic mode, you have the option to override the result of the exposure calculation and brighten or darken the image using exposure compensation.

Exposure compensation is one of the two functions that utilizes the vertical drag gesture. That is, tap and hold, then move up or down. Do the vertical drag on the left side of the screen, and you’ll control compensation. Do it on the right side, and you’ll control manual focus.

Vertical Drag Areas

These areas are orientation sensitive, so the left side always refers to the left half of the screen.

The Vertical Drag preference in the menu allows you to switch the sides (so that manual focus is on the left), or designate the whole screen solely for compensation or focus (but you’ll lose the other function in these cases).

A number reflecting the current exposure compensation value is displayed next to the AF point. The number is dimmed when the drag gesture ends. Compensation range is +/-5 stops, in 1/3 stop increments.

To quickly reset compensation back to 0, press and hold the screen on the exposure compensation area for a second.

Exposure Lock

Tapping the EL key immediately locks the exposure at the current value. Auto exposure calculation will not take place while the lock is active, but changing compensation is allowed

The EL Locks WB preference in the menu controls whether white balance is also locked with the exposure.

Manual Parameter Setting

You can set the ISO and shutter speed manually if you wish. Aperture is fixed on all iOS devices at the time of writing, so there’s no way to change that. Technical Camera will continue to calculate exposure if you set one of the parameters to a fixed value (that is, it will calculate the other one automatically). You’ll have full manual exposure if you set both parameters manually.

The app continuously displays the metered ISO and shutter speed value next to the shutter button. Tap the displayed number, and you’ll enter manual setting mode for that. For example manual ISO setting is shown on the left.

Manual setting generally happens in 1/3 stop values. The current value is rounded to a 1/3 stop value at the time you enter manual setting mode. I said generally, because in case of ISO some devices have lowest and highest values that does not fall onto 1/3 stops. For example ISO 22 on the low end. In this case these values will be also available.

Tap the displayed number again to turn off manual setting mode for that parameter. Automatic exposure calculation will take over immediately.

The arrows next to the number can be used to increase or decrease it. Tapping the arrow above (or on the right side in portrait orientation) of the ISO control will increase the ISO. Tapping the arrow below (or on the left side) will decrease it.

But there’s a neater way to accomplish this. The entire area around the number (marked with a red rectangle on the screen shot) acts as a touch pad: tap and drag on this area to change it continuously. On iPhone 7/7+ or newer you’ll even have haptic feedback so it feels like operating a real dial. Since the number is under your finger in this case, the app also displays it in the middle of the screen.

The shutter speed “dial” is a bit different. The reason is that there are two kind of people: those who prefer that the shutter speed dial increase the shutter speed in the up/right direction, and those who prefer that it should add more light in the up/right direction. Having the wrong behavior usually drives people nuts. So Technical Camera lets you choose between them with the Shutter Speed Direction preference in the menu.

Availability

Technical Camera is available for pre-oreder now on the App Store, at a 30% discounted price. It will be released on June 12.

Technical Camera : Albums With a Purpose

One of the cornerstones – maybe the most important – of Technical Camera is its album handling. While the app still uses Photos for its image storage (keeping its iCloud sync and myriad other features), what is does is quite different from what you are used to. Instead of pouring everything into All Photos and require either you or artificial intelligence to navigate huge piles of accumulated images, Technical Camera always shoots into a well defined album. That is, the image captured is separated from the rest the very moment you press the shutter.

That well defined album is something you create for your specific purpose. Purposes could include different shooting locations, different projects you are working on (like a 4×4 build or your new garden), or – courtesy of my better half – the things you need in everyday household management: well-tried/favorite stuff, garage sale, recipes, meter readings, shopping list, and so on. I guess you grasped the idea by now.

The end-product of these purposes is quite different. For example I usually don’t want to reveal my home’s location in images uploaded to buy&sell forums, so in the past either had to manually disable location services before taking the image or manually remove the GPS coordinates later. And then there’s the question of high megapixel images. They are a blessing when you want a decent print, but are a curse when you need to transfer them quickly, for example via satellite line to your news agency.  Similarly, wide color is a great thing until you encounter a photo printer that’s unable to handle it resulting in 1500 awful-looking vacation prints.

You can define your albums with the first few items of the app’s menu.

My album for RAW images

I tend to begin my most used album names with a number, so that they will be on the top of the (alphabetically ordered) album list. Here I set image quality to RAW, and want wide color capture, preserving the most information. Adobe’s DNG specification does not support Apple’s Display P3 color space, so use Adobe RGB here (more on this issue in a later post). Note that color space selection is available only on devices capable of shooting wide color images.

Super tiny 800×600 images for visual notes

Another album of mine is the visual notes. I need the smallest possible size for this purpose, with no geotagging and the smallest color space.

Stop here for a moment. These images are just 460k pixel, and in real life they tend to be up to 20x smaller in size than regular JPG files produced by the same device. Which equals to 20x less data going through your mobile connection if they are shared. That is, 20x less cost (for this part of your data usage). These tiny image go through quite fast even if you exhausted your data allowance and your transfer speed gets limited.

Or even the recipient of your image has limited bandwidth. I heard people complaining that their data allowance was completely used up by “friends” sending large unsolicited images…

So you have a bunch of albums created for your chosen purposes. How do you access them quickly? I almost always know the moment I pick up the phone to take a photo which album should be used. But since mind reading is not part of the iOS feature set, there needs to be a way to choose the album, preferably faster than going into the menu. Technical Camera has two features to facilitate the quick album switch.

One of them is the “A” Smart Function Key. It is part of the default Smart Function Key assignment. Tap it, tap the name of the album, and done. When Technical Camera starts it will display the name of the currently chosen album for a short time. Same in case of album changes, so you can always be sure where your images are going. The other is home screen quick actions.

Home screen quick actions

Here the app lists the three last recently used albums, plus you can go directly to the album chooser if the album you want ran off the list.

There’s one last thing I’d like to mention. The app creates an album named Technical Camera when you run it for the first time. It is safe to delete this album after you created your owns. You can delete an album from the Photos. You can even delete the Technical Camera album in Photos, but the app will re-create it if that was the last album you used. If you want to get rid of it, select another album in the app, then delete it. Please note that the Technical Camera album remains listed in the album chooser even if it’s not present in Photos any more. This is because it is a fallback/last resort album in case all others are deleted.

Technical Camera is available for pre-oreder now on the App Store, at a 30% discounted price. It will be released on June 12.