Imagine buying a Ferrari only to find that it’s not that great on pavement but kinda fun in the dirt. iCamera HDR is only a couple bucks, but might make you feel the same way after you take it for a test drive.
HDR, or high dynamic range, allows you to layer varying exposures of a given scene in order capture a more “dynamic” and full “range” of light than is otherwise possible in a single shot. (Think of all those sunsets when your in-person eye can see the foreground much better than your photograph suggests.) Apple added an HDR feature to iOS (4.1 and higher) devices last year, but iCamera HDR: All-in-One is at once supposed to give you the benefit of HDR photography and a suite of editing functions and filters to boot — but it’s a little disappointing at the outset.
In this shot of my office, for example, compare iCamera HDR’s HDR image (above) to my iPhone 4’s built-in HDR image of the same scene (below). If realism is the objective, iPhone’s built-in HDR is superior.
Still, I found myself loving some parts of iCamera HDR. iOS’s built-in HDR mode takes three shots in lightning succession and immediately presents you with the finished product, while iCamera HDR shoots exposures over the course of a few seconds, saves them, and then asks you if you’d like to combine the images for an HDR photo. Simply having the option to look at, select, and edit the pre-HDR exposures makes this app worthwhile.
Take the two shots (above) iCamera HDR combined to create its HDR image of my office, for example: while I didn’t like the final product, iCamera HDR’s underexposed pre-HDR image is my favorite of all — there’s not even an option to see such a shot via iOS’s built-in function.
iCamera HDR also performed well on exterior shots, as evidenced by this sequence of a statue in flat light (above), and its three “Capture Modes” (HDR Auto, HDR Manual, and Single HDR) give you even more latitude for creative composition.
Shooting objects in motion is also fun if you’re not aiming for total realism. Again, because there’s a significant chunk of time between shutters with iCamera HDR, the final HDR overlay of these people crossing the street (above) almost makes it look like they’re disappearing. Imagine how much fun similar experiments could be at night with the lights of passing cars?
The bottom line. If you’re looking for straightforward, realistic HDR, stick with what iOS already provides. If you like to go off-roading, iCamera HDR is loads o’ fun.
iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, or fourth-gen iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later
Let’s you save and manipulate the exposures that are combined to make an HDR image. Decent editing tools and one-touch sharing to email, Flickr, and Facebook.
HDR image quality isn’t particularly stellar for an HDR app.