Sunday, August 11, 2013

App Review: Fast Camera for iPhone

Image preview screen.

Fast Camera purports to help you take better pictures by increasing the speed at which your iPhone takes pictures. In other words, the "spray and pray" method. For the most part, the app does what it says it does, but photographically speaking, my question is: "What's the point?"

The problem with this method of shooting is that it gives a non-photographer misplaced confidence in obtaining the ideal picture. Instead of anticipating the moment, the app let's you continuously burst the camera; you have to pick through the images to find the one that you like. What they don't tell you is how aweful a method of taknig pictures this is.

Even with DSLR users, I try to counsel users not to rely on extended burst modes; the chances are fairly good that the frame that you will end up using is the first one in the burst. The longer you hold a consecutive set of burst-mode frames, the more likely it is that your hand will drift while the camera is shooting. Unless you are really disciplined at keeping the camera steady, what happens is that you get a successive series of shots that have a high probability of being blurred by your own hand movements. If you look through the most critical iTune reviews, that's what the disappointed users of this app are finding. The other reason for the disappointment is that burst-mode is not a replacement for good light. If you don't have enough light for a fast shutter speed, then no amount of continuous shooting is going to freeze motion.

Setup menu.

There are some design weaknesses with this app. The first is that the app is set by default to start shooting automatically when you launch it, and even more annoyingly, the default size is VGA. The first time you launch this app, you get a rapid-fire succession of useless low-res images of your feet. Fortunately, you can change this behaviour (resolution and time between shots), and the program lets you preview the pictures before you save them to the iPhone's camera roll.

Shooting screen with manual control targets.

There are manual focus, exposure and white balance options, but they aren't as concise to use on similar such programs as Camera+ and ProCamera. The manual controls are noticeably slower to respond than in other third-party camera apps, both in how fast the adjust epxosure/white balance, and even for the simple act of dragging the manual control targets around the screen. A minor bug: If have an audio program running and launch Fast Camera, it will pause the audio. The default camera app doesn't do this.

A more nefarious function is the so-called "power saving" feature where the screen is blacked-out during continuous shooting. Also known as "stealth" mode. Better described as "creep-shot mode". The program covers its own ass by not having this mode on by default. When you switch it on, there's a warning telling you to run it with the sound volume on: the program works just fine with the volume off.

Obligatory warning screen...
I'm not sure I could describe that I would not recommend this app: that would imply that I would be open to recommending similar such apps. Fast Camera does have it's use as a makeshift time-lapse camera app; ironically, it's best use is as a slow-camera, when you can set the time between shots to seconds instead of fractions of a second. However, the creep-shot functionality of this app gives it a decidedly icky factor, and from a purely photographic technique perspective the intended use of this app for taking legitimate pictures is going to lead a lot of unsuspecting people to disappointment. 

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