I have seen a number of reviews and comparisons for camera apps, but I often wonder if the people doing these reviews are actually professional photographers, as they often overlook essential controls and features when reviewing an app. I am a professional iPhone Photographer. I make a living off of my the image I capture with my iPhone. Over the past three and a half years since I ditched my DSLR gear and started using my iPhone full time, I have captured over 100,000 images with various iPhone models. I hope that this experience will prove useful to those reading this comparison and assist them in their pursuit of great iPhone photography.
For this camera app comparison, I compared the following iOS camera apps: Apple Camera app, ProCamera, Lightroom Mobile, Camera+ and Halide
I looked at a range of features and controls across the various apps to see how the apps compare to each other. Some of the features and controls are essential and others are not essential, but handy to have. This comparison is primarily focused towards professional photographers or amateurs looking to take professional quality images with their iPhone. I did not compare other features such as video. I also purposely did not include image quality, other than the image formats available with each app, as the hardware on the phone itself is mostly responsible for the image quality. I spent a considerable amount of time using each of the apps for this comparison.
Only ProCamera and Camera+ have the ability to choose from all four of the most common image formats. All of the apps except for the stock Apple Camera app have the ability to shoot in raw. Having said that, Camera+ will only let you capture in Raw in tandem with another format. You can either capture in Raw and JPEG, or Raw and TIFF or Raw and HEIF. ProCamera enables you to just choose Raw on its own, or Raw and JPEG. At least you can choose. Personally, I prefer to just shoot in RAW, as I can make JPEG copies later if I need to and I don’t have to worry about duplicate images when capturing with two formats at once.
All of the apps except for the stock Apple Camera app have the ability to shoot in raw.
Whilst ProCamera and Camera+ both scored the highest with 4 out of 4 in points for image formats, ProCamera is the winner here, simply for the ability to choose to shoot in RAW on its own. Apple Camera is the big loser here, as without having the ability to change formats, and with no RAW or even TIFF available, it is pretty useless for most professional photographers.
For this section, I compared sixteen of the most useful controls required for professional use. Obviously, some of the controls, such as being able to control shutter speed and ISO are more important than say being able to view a grid, but the sixteen controls here are all important tools for professional photographers.
Not surprisingly, the Apple Camera app scored the lowest with 3 out of 16 points.
Halide, which markets itself as a professional level camera app for iPhones, also scored quite low with only 7 out of 16 points. It has the basics, but is missing far too many features to be considered a real professional quality camera app.
Lightroom mobile scored 11 out of 16 points. It has most of the essential controls, but is missing a few that could otherwise make it a real contender for the top spot in this review.
Camera+ scored 14 out of 16 points, with only two features missing, True HDR and an Intervalometer. Both of which seem like easy enough features to include, and I am not sure why the developer has not included them.
ProCamera is the winner here, with a score of 15 out of 16 points. It has all of the features that we reviewed here, except for a slow motion mode.
There are a few additional features that I thought were relevant to include in this comparison. Whilst none of them are essential for capturing professional quality images on your iPhone, they are nonetheless worth including.
Portrait Mode refers to Apple’s new Portrait Mode, available only on iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. Camera+ actually offers the full portrait mode, quite similar to Apple’s own Portrait Mode. Halide offers the ability to capture the depth information on an image, but you will still need to add the portrait options in using Apple’s Photos app in order to see the final effect. Lightroom Mobile and ProCamera do not have Portrait Mode.
In app editing is not essential for pro photographers, as most would be using a seperate app or program to edit their images. Apple Camera does not offer editing, although the image can be edited within the Photos app, but as the Photos app is technically a seperate app, I did not give Apple Camera any points for this. Halide is the only other app that does not offer in app editing.
Lightroom Mobile has by far the most options in regard to editing an image within the app. Lightroom Mobile has this advantage, as the app is primarily an image editing and organising app, with the ability to capture images as well with its inbuilt camera section of the app.
Apple Camera, ProCamera and Camera+ all have a companion Apple Watch app, which is useful for remote triggering of the camera. Halide and Lightroom Mobile do not currently offer an Apple Watch companion app.
Apple Camera, Lightroom Mobile and ProCamera all offer substantial instructions either within the app itself or easily accessible on the developers website. Camera+ offers considerably less instructions and Halide is shockingly lacking in any instruction other than an extremely basic instruction manual within the app, that frankly is just a quick overview of the app and does not provide any useful instructions at all.
There is no clear winner here in this section as Apple Camera, Pro Camera and Camera+ all scored 3 out of 4 points in this section.
Apple Camera - with a score of 8 out of a possible 24, the stock Apple Camera app came in last place. In fact, with no ability to capture images in either TIFF or RAW, it is, for most professional photographers, quite useless. Whilst the innovative Portrait Mode is fun to play with, and is actually quite well thought out, you are still limited to HEIF/JPEG for capturing images in Portrait Mode.
Cost - Free
In App Purchases - N/A
Developer - Apple
Halide - I really have no idea why this app is getting such great reviews. It scored the second lowest after the stock Camera App. It is far behind ProCamera, Camera+ and Lightroom Mobile in available features. The developers have tried to make as many features as possible accessible using the device with one hand, but to be honest, anyone trying to take professional level images with an iPhone won’t be holding the phone with one hand. You will never get as steady a shot with one hand that you would using two hand to hold the phone, even if you are using a grip, such as the Shoulder Pod. The ergonomics of the app are just not there.
Cost - $7.99 AUD, one time purchase.
In App Purchases - N/A
Developer - Chroma Noir LLC
Lightroom Mobile - Lightroom Mobile is primarily an image editing and organisation app, but it does have some pretty decent camera features as well. I use this app primarily for editing and as a Digital Asset management system. It does not have enough camera features for me to use as a primary camera app, but does have enough features to capture an occasional image. I would recommend Lightroom Mobile as part of a DAM, but not as a primary camera app for professional use.
Cost - Free*
In App Purchases - *Subscription required to enable all features. Plans start from $6.99 AUD per month.
Developer - Adobe Systems
Camera+ - Whilst Camera+ was only two points behind ProCamera in the scoring, ProCamera is still well ahead of this app in terms of usability. Whilst Camera+ has almost all of the same features as ProCamera, the app is not as intuitive or as user friendly as ProCamera. The one area where Camera+ beats out ProCamera is that the app was updated for iPhone X quite quickly, where as ten days after the release of the iPhone X, Pro Camera has still not updated their app with iPhone X compatibility. It is certainly possible to use Camera+ for capturing professional level images, but for a few dollars more, and a much better interface, I would go with ProCamera.
Cost - $4.49 AUD, one time purchase
In App Purchases - none worth paying for.
Developer - LateNightSoft
and the winner is......
ProCamera - With a score of 22 out of a possible 24, ProCamera is by far the best quality app for professional photographers out of the five apps compared. It has the most features and is easy to use. It has an extensive how to manual for using the app and all of its features. ProCamera is one of the more expensive camera apps, but is great value for money in my opinion. A glaring omission is the lack of a slow shutter speed mode. If the developers included this in the app, it would truly have just about every feature you could ask for in a camera app. The only issue I really have with ProCamera is that the developers are slow to update the app when a new device comes out. Whilst all of the other apps in this comparison have been updated for the iPhone X, ProCamera has yet to update. I find this frustrating. It also took them three weeks to update the app for the iPhone 8 Plus as well. ProCamera is also the app that I primarily use to capture my professional images with my iPhone.
Cost - $8.99 AUD, one time purchase.
In App Purchases - two worth getting, vividHDR for $4.99 AUD and LowLight Plus for $4.99 AUD