My Favorite iPhone Camera Apps and Accessories
iPhone Vs DSLR
If you own an iPhone 6S/Plus, iPhone 7/Plus, iPhone SE or even an iPad Pro 9.7-inch, you now have a 12 megapixel camera and an operating system that allows third party apps to give you manual control and lets you save in DNG format. Any Android phone with Lollipop 5.0 or newer also has this feature. Not to mention the new portrait mode in the iPhone 7 Plus. The bokeh is not as great as my expensive Tamron portrait lens for my DSLR, but it does a fine job for travel photography.
If you are a DSLR user you are aware of the ability to choose between JPEG and RAW format when saving a file. Those of us who like to post-process our photos prefer to shoot in RAW because it retains all of the information that was captured in the image. This allows us to make adjustments to the photos after the fact. This was never possible with iPhones until the above mentioned series of phones was introduced. Thanks to some remarkable third party apps, we can now use our iPhones just like we do our DSLR cameras. Granted, the sensor is still very small compared to a full frame camera and of course, the aperture on the camera phone is fixed. But for those times when you can’t carry around 5 pounds of gear, these phone cameras are perfect.
This post is for those of you thinking about taking your heavy DSLR on a multi-day backpacking trip, a thru-hike, or a pilgrimage like the Camino de Santiago. It’s intended for enthusiast photographers as well as beginners who are still using their DSLR in some form of auto mode.
My Reasoning for taking the iPhone 7 Plus instead of my Nikon DSLR
I tossed around the idea of hauling my Nikon DSLR with me on my upcoming Camino de Santiago. Yes, for about a 2 week period I seriously considered adding 5 pounds of camera gear to my 13 pound pack. If you read my previous entries regarding my plans for a Camino trek, you will know that going with a light pack is one of the secrets to a pain free hike. This is true for any long distance hike, not just the Camino de Santiago.
Fortunately for me, I did some research and realized 3 important things:
- My level of photography experience is at the enthusiast level. This means that I know how to use a DSLR in manual mode and I can take some pretty awesome photos. I own Adobe Lightroom and I can do some great adjustments to my photos to make them really pop. However, I am not a professional photographer trying to sell my brand.
- I was 2 months from being able to upgrade my iPhone 6 to a 7 Plus.
- For less than $8 I could purchase these amazing third party apps that let me do everything that my DSLR does. Including taking 1080p video and long exposure photography.
That’s how I made my decision to leave my Nikon DSLR at home, upgrade my iPhone, and buy the apps. This solution kept my pack weight at 13 pounds; even including the new tripod that I bought for the phone.
Review of Camera Apps
This is a quick and dirty review of the phone apps that I currently have on my phone and intend to use for my Camino trip as well as any backcountry backpacking.
A well designed photo app that gives you more control over your camera than most compact cameras ever did.
Cost: $4.99 in the App Store
- Manual selection of ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation, and white balance.
- Shutter Priority: You can choose an exposure mode in which you select the shutter speed first and the app will set the appropriate ISO.
- Exposure Bracketing: It will shoot a series of four shots at different exposures to increase the likelihood that one of them will be at the best exposure for the lighting conditions. The series of shots can also be combined using HDR tools found in Lightroom, Photoshop, and other editing software into a single image with a higher range of tones from very dark to very bright.
- White Balance: You can adjust white balance in the app. This is great if you want to immediately post it online. But if you plan to post-process it doesn’t matter as this can be adjusted later.
- Virtual Horizon: This is a handy feature for those of us who are challenged at taking level photos. It shows you visually when your horizon is level.
- Slow Shutter Options: This feature alone sold this app for me. You can select long fixed shutter speeds as well as bulb mode. A necessary feature for taking long exposure photographs.
- RAW+JPEG: You can choose to store the image in both RAW and JPEG formats. But beware that will take up a LOT of space.
- Image stabilization
- Geo-tagging, date stamp, and automatically inserts copyright information.
- Editing Options: This app provides many advanced in-camera editing tools and filters.
The ProCam 4 website offers free tutorials to teach the user how to use the manual controls on the app. Here are some examples of photos and features taken with ProCam 4. More can be found on their website: http://www.procamapp.com/tutorials.html
Another decent app that offers similar features as ProCam 4 but with a very different layout. The “Lightbox” option to temporarily edit photos is a bit clunky for my tastes, though. But this is a solid app that has been around a long time and is updated frequently. The slow shutter speed only goes to 30 secs as opposed to the ProCam’s Bulb mode. I also dislike the whole layout. It’s not as intuitive as ProCam, IMO. I have to hunt around for things that are more obvious to find in ProCam. A must try for anybody looking for a camera app that shoots in RAW, though.
Cost: $2.99 in the App Store
Their webpage has no tutorials and is basically one page. But if you hunt around the Internet and YouTube you can find some information. Here is their page: http://camera.plus.
But I did find this really silly video on their “Clarity” feature that is too good to not post. Every quality post-processing app has this feature. It’s not unique to Camera +. But the video is too cool not to post here.
There are a few other apps on the market worth looking at and trying out. I chose these two because of their features and cost.
: I like to shoot landscapes and long exposure photos. For both of these I need a tripod. I already own 4 of them but none are light weight enough to make it on my Camino de Santiago packing list. So I purchased this highly rated small one from Amazon. It’s designed to fit a large smartphone or a small camera. The legs are like my Joby Gorillapod and can be twisted to attach to almost anything. It can also be used as a short length selfie stick. It weighs only 113 grams (4 oz) and won’t make a dent in my weight.
: I listed this in my packing list post. This tiny little flash drive inserts into my iPhone and will automatically download all the photos or I can even save directly to the drive if it’s attached. This way I can delete the photos from my iPhone which only has a 32gb hard drive. 10GB of that is already being used by the operating system and apps. Afterwards, I can simply transfer my photos to a computer when I get home. 64GB is a LOT of storage so this is plenty large enough for a 3 week trip for me. But it does come in a 128GB size for those who prefer more storage. You can even load videos on it and use it as an extended hard drive for your iPad when traveling. I only wish it came with a case. It will end up being stored with my electronics in a waterproof stuff sack, but I hate loose small items.
This is also something that I listed in my packing list post. It will just barely charge my Iphone 7 Plus but that’s all I need. I will have access to power outlets each night on the Camino trip so I just need enough extra juice to keep me taking pictures, videos, and reading the guidebook. This one weighs 62 grams (2.2 oz).
They sell one that is a 2x and has 5200mAh if you don’t mind carrying a little extra weight. That one weighs 117 grams (4.16 oz) and is a little larger.
What phone camera apps do you use to shoot in RAW format? Please leave your comments and recommendations below. I’d also love to hear your own experiences, pros and negative, with these apps. What apps are out there for Android users? What did I leave out that might be helpful to my readers?