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2/12/2013
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iPhone App Soups Up Camera

645 Pro for the iPhone has enough complexity to make professional photographers happy, even if it doesn't hold up to a mid-level DSLR back and decent prime lens.

For camera buffs, the 645 Pro is a complex and powerful camera app that adds an impressive range of features and takes advantage of the iPhone's camera technology. At the point-and-shoot level 645 Pro has enough complexity to make professional photographers happy, and could very well further help disrupt point and shoot market more than the iPhone already has.

First, I'll take you through the app's key features and then, through a series of image tests. The tests compare differences between the stock iPhone camera app, 645 Pro and a Canon 5DMK2 with a 50mm prime lens. The iPhone lens is approximately 38.5mm, according to shot data included in the JPEG images produced.

At the bottom of this review we provide links to images we took with 645 PRO and with the iPhone camera in testing.

I found that while 645 Pro beats the Apple camera app in terms of versatility and image quality, it doesn't hold up to a mid-level DSLR back and decent prime lens. But, that's no surprise considering the price difference between an iPhone and a 5DMK2 is well over $1,300. And the level of control 645 Pro provides is amazingly close to a DSLR.

The 645 PRO user interface on the iPhone

The first clue 645 Pro is a sophisticated tool is the interface. It looks as though Jag.gr managed to squeeze just about every function and display on a typical DSLR onto an iPhone. Between the controls, information displays, swipes to engage filters and pokes to indicate focal points of interest, I think Jag.gr uses 100 percent of the iPhone display– there is no wasted space. That's really an accomplishment in and of itself.

Although the sophistication ends up being a net positive, first time users who aren't familiar with many of the knobs, gauges and functions of professional grade DSLR cameras may be overwhelmed. Even professionals will undergo a learning curve with 645 Pro — I sure did — because it's effectively a brand new camera. But spending some time to learn the app — there's a 35-page manual and in-app support — is worth it.

The app's capabilities are astounding considering the restrictions Apple places on app developers using the phone's camera. For example, there's no way to manually control ISO, shutter speed or aperture, three important camera adjusted variables. But the 645 Pro app has a solution: The shutter control button — the one that takes the photograph — is also used to lock in the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. So basically when I found the automatically determined ISO / shutter speed / aperture I wanted, I pressed and held the big button at the top right until settings locked in, then tapped it quickly afterwards to take the photograph. It's not a perfect solution, but given the development restrictions it's a pretty good one.

Under the hood Jag.gr's app also has some interesting things going on. For example, there is a choice between three output formats: two JPEG options and TIFF. TIFF images are what Jag.gr calls developed raw images, or dRAW, meaning that the app doesn't apply any post-processing to the image. After a number of tests, it looks like the dRAW format does, in fact, look much better– even after a quick glance.

Name: 645 Pro for iPhone

Stacked up against the stock iPhone camera app, 645 offers an array of powerful features and information photographers can use. It's not going to replace a sophisticated DSLR, but if you're a serious photographer it's a great, affordable way to take much better photos on an iPhone.
Price: $2.99
Pros:
  • Wide array of controls and information displays make the app more like a “real” camera.
  • Advanced functions allow a more control over the camera's output.
  • Produces superior images to the stock camera app.
  • Price.
Cons:
  • Learning curve.
  • Controls sometimes difficult to manipulate quickly on a small screen.
  • Slow on iPhone 4

Test Images

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