By Graham K. Rogers
For me, one of the interesting features in the update to iOS 8 was the ability for developers of camera apps to have access to APIs that allow manual controls to be included. One of the first that I found was the appropriately named, Manual, which I have been trying for a couple of days.
I have a lot of camera apps on the iPhone 5s I use. These have improved progressively since the iPhone 3GS I first used here (iPhones were late arriving on these shores) and now the output is such that at times I am tempted to leave the DSLR camera at home. The $1.99 app, Manual, which was released on 23 September, has a fairly straightforward interface with a set of tools at the top of the panel and the camera controls at the bottom.
From left to right at the top include flash (Off/On/Fill); White balance, with several pre-selections and a slider for Kelvin levels; Settings, which control grid, sounds and theme; control for switching between the front and read camera. There is also a slider that controls focus, from closeup to landscape (infinity).
At the bottom of the screen is access to the library when photos are taken, above which is the aperture setting of 2.2. This stayed the same throughout my examination of the app. In the center at the bottom is a large red/orange shutter button. Just above this is the ISO number. By tapping this a tab appears with settings from 50 - 500 and Auto.
To the far right is the timer settings which may also be changed with a similar sliding tab. This allows settings from 0.5 seconds up to 1/2000. Pressing a large grey number (default 0) also allows stop settings from -4 to +4.
As either the ISO or timer is changed, so the image displayed on the main display screen also changes, so it is easy to see the best settings for a particular scene. With one shot, for example, I was able to make sure the sky was nice and blue, while with a shot in a shop, I could make sure the lighting was right for the conditions.
Working the sliding tabs is a little awkward at times, and I found this less easy when the iPhone was used in landscape mode. Nonetheless, Manual is a good start to show what we may expect from future photography apps that will take advantage of manual controls. One example I am looking forward to is the update to 645 Pro Mk II. According to Michael Hardaker's site, 645 Pro Mk III will include several more manual features.
As it is, Manual, by developers William Wilkinson and Craig Merchant, is a good start and well worth downloading at its reasonable $1.99 cost.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.