The search for the best camera app for the phone is much akin to the search for the perfect camera bag … yeah, good luck. Yet, a relatively new camera app called “645 Pro“, named after the workhorse medium-format camera by Mamiya, presents DSLR features for pros into the iPhone. According to the manufacturer, the “645 PRO Mk II … feels like a pro camera. Because it is one.” That’s a hefty claim! Is it true? Let’s dive in and take a deep look at this app and its INCREDIBLY rich feature set.
The “645 Pro” app certainly ups the ante just in appearance alone. Immediately visible is the large silver shutter button, with buttons directly above to lock Auto Exposure (AE), White Balance (WB), and Auto Focus (AF). The on-screen display icons resemble those found in nearly all DSLR cameras, which provide instant familiarity for pro users. From the battery level (display the phone’s battery) in the top right corner to the WB settings and exposure metering style in the top left corner, the heads-up display is chocked full of quick, detailed information. A key addition to an iPhone camera app, but expected on all DSLR cameras and found on the 645 Pro app, is the real-time exposure information, found in the bottom left corner. The buttons along the bottom of the screen allow for (from left to right) control of:
• Image Review (triangle button) • Display options (Disp button) • Menu (which includes a 48-page user manual! Which is also available for download.) • Metering Mode (switch between multi-zone metering and selectable spot metering) • Flash Mode (choosing between no-flash, auto, or fill) • Self Timer (which also provides for a Night Viewing Mode) • Full-Screen Mode (which expands the viewfinder and includes only the shutter button and the AE, WB and AF buttons) Directly below the shutter button are the last three control buttons. The top-most “Back Button” allows for you to choose between which format, or picture dimensions, you would like to shoot (seen above), including all the classic medium format film backs: 6×6, 6×7, 6×7+ (4:5 ratio), 645 (3:4 raion), 6×9, 6×12, 6×17. Also, this button provides switching between single shot, 3-shot burst, and 3-shot bracket modes. Below the Back Button sits two more buttons: the one on the left is the Film Mode Selector, which opens up choices of to select—and customize—from nine different film modes modeled after the classic films of the analog generation. The last button is probably the most valuable and useful button: the Photo Filter Selector (seen above). This allows you to choose from an incredibly wide range of filters to adjust the image, all with their original glass or gelatin names. Once a filter is selected, the scroll wheel in the bottom right corner provides adjustments of the intensity of the filter, from 1% to 100%, and also allowing for the filter intensity to be locked. The depth of the filter choices are truly stunning:
• Warm #85 • Warm #81 • Cool #80 • Cool #82 • Red (for B&W) • Green (for B&W) • Blue (for B&W) • Yellow (for B&W) • Orange (for B&W) • Neutral Grad #1 (approximately 3-stop soft) • Neutral Grad #2 (approximately 2-stop hard) • Neutral Grad #3 (approximately 3-stop full filter) • Tobacco Grad #1 (tinge of copper/brown) • Tobacco Grad #2 • Tobacco Grad #3 • Blue Grad #1 (greatly darkens the blue sky, like a polarizer) • Blue Grad #2 • Blue Grad #3 • Sunset Grad #1 (a dark orange color) • Sunset Grad #2 • Sunset Grad #3
One of the features sets that we really liked was the ability to configure the app much like you can configure a camera. Some photographers will not want to change any or many of the default settings (and may even wonder why some of the options are there!). However, others will gain from time spent setting up 645 PRO Mk II to operate just the way they want. From the main menu, you can access several sub-menus:
PUTTING IT TO USE/REVIEW
Prior to the 645 Pro app, we were fans of the simple yet effective Camera+ app, which is the benchmark we used to review this app. A couple things we noticed:
• While most camera apps provide a clean video-like preview, the 645 Pro app is far from clean and smooth. The live feed to the display is really jerky and appears like a bad stop-motion film. Trying to predict when to click the shutter based on movement in the frame, such as the dog in the above example, is difficult as the dog ran through the frame but only appeared about 3 times!
• The photo filter selection options are one of the powerful features of the app, however the ability to change the intensity of the filters is difficult as the virtual “thumb wheel” is difficult to control. It frequently locks (depressing the center button on the thumb wheel) making it difficult to determine if the control is locked or the wheel is just not turning. After much trial-and-error, by only “spinning” the bottom of the dial, the ability to change the intensity of the filter became much easier.
• The ability to embed your name, copyright and license terms into the photo is a huge move forward for photographers (and enthusiasts, alike) to preserve your intellectual copyright. If you are one to upload photos straight from your phone to an online service, be it Facebook or Instagram, this ensures that if your photo is ‘pinched’ off a site, your IPTC data is still there. (Barring that your service doesn’t wipe the IPTC upon upload!)
• While Camera+ has just one image setting (in comparison to the analog film styles in 645 Pro), the variety of choices in this app truly requires some testing to see the responsiveness of each film style. When it says the film is contrasty, they mean it! Often times a shot was lost as the film style selected was just overkill for the situation. If there is sunlight, the medium contrast (barely) and light contrast styles work the best.
• The uncompressed TIFF file is quite large by comparison, but once you bring it into Photoshop or Lightroom, you appreciate the option. While this test was on an iPhone 4, the image quality through the uncompressed TIFF file should be exponentially higher with the new iPhone 5S camera.
• The features set of the camera app actually goes a bit deeper, with greater customization options not only of the film settings, but also of the file management.
From the moment you start shooting with the app, there is a great sense of familiarity for those who have shot with DSLR their entire life. While most camera apps have a certain ‘reinventing of the wheel’ in order to conform to the mobile phone format, 645 Pro certainly restores the pro feeling to the mobile phone. But the feel of the app is not what should be the key factor. The image quality becomes on-par with the images out of Camera+, but before any post-processing that is done in Camera+. This is the key differentiation between the two apps: the post work done in Camera+ is not necessary as the in-camera feature set of 645 Pro expands your shooting options WITHOUT post.
The 645 Pro app is an iPhone, iPad, iPod app only, available through the Apple App store. The iPhone app costs $3.99. For more information, visit 645 Pro website. Jag.gr, the app manufacturer, has also provided a video tutorial to the app: