Bottom Line: It’s not HDR, but it’s fast, simple, and good for iPhone photographers who just want to quickly tweak their images. It’s not the miracle fix-all app the description implies.
I’m usually wary of any iPhone photo app that promises true HDR from existing images in your photo library or tries without taking multiple exposures. Real HDR involves at least three exposures and can create stunning color and detail throughout the entire visible spectrum. Even Apple’s Camera supports real HDR. Often, though, most apps just latch onto the phrase HDR because it’s a buzz word.
Primasnap by Viderea is a new Dynamic Range Correction (DRC) photo app that claims to produce HDR-like results by using one exposure. Hey, they got your attention, didn’t they? It’s really an exposure enhancement app — one of the good ones, but not HDR.
Envoking HDR in the app’s description, “Primasnap takes high dynamic range photography to the next levelâ€¦. Primasnap uses “True Dynamic Range” (TDR) technology. [They’ve] researched how the human eye visualizes a scene and applied this knowledge to produce true and realistic high dynamic range photos.”
The claims made for Primasnap are pretty bold. While it’s a good exposure fixing app, it’s not the miracle fix-all app the description implies.
The app is very fast, even on older iPhones. The app is very easy to use. Once you set the presets (and the defaults are pretty good. There’s really no need to jack with them), there is only one control to work with. The Settings panel allows you to bump the image enhancement up or down one level. Unfortunately, effects can’t be stacked in the app. Effects are preset and there’s no adjusting, which is good for most uses. Power users will miss the adjustable sliders that Perfectly Clear and TruSight Pro have.
The preview area is very nice. Images rotate with the orientation of the iPhone. You can also pinch, zoom and scroll to get a closer preview of adjusted areas — a very nice feature many DRC apps surprisingly don’t have. It has a very good onscreen undo button for before and after comparision.
Primasnap does a fairly good job of correcting the dynamic range of iPhone images. It even filled in detail in the shadows of some images taken with my iPhone 4 where this is usually not a problem. On nearly all images I threw at it, including my standard test image the horrid Ciudad Antigua image above, Primasnap improved the look of the image. It brightened and filled in darker parts of my test images. It improved the detail of the midtones, 3/4 tones and all but the darkest shadows without blowing out highlights.
Primasnap is intelligent. It doesn’t affect areas that don’t need adjustment, while fixing those in the image that do. It doesn’t mess with skin tones — if they’re good to start, it will leave them that way.
The bellwether for Dynamic Range Compression is Perfectly Clear and Primasnap’s image correction held up well to this standard. I thought Primasnap actually did a slightly better job with popping the detail in the 3/4 tones than Perfectly Clear does. See the sample images above. Notice the detail in the trees in the cow image. Primasnap does a good job of balancing the overall luminance of a photo without adversely affecting the brightness or the color much. The above cow image was taken with an iPhone 4 in standard mode.
Unlike Perfectly Clear, the enhancements don’t seem to go much beyond filling in the brightness and detail of the darker areas. One of the reasons I prefer Perfectly Clear is that it also adds pop to color in addition to normalizing the luminance of an image. The color correction of Primasnap seems to be a little flat to my eye. Primasnap produces results that are more similar to the now-discontinued imphoto, which were good but lacked the added punch Perfectly Clear can give to an image. It’s a preference.
Primasnap saves at greater than the iPhone’s full resolution — up to 4096×4096 pixels — good to have if you’re moving images taken with a DSLR to your iPhone to quickly process. The latest update of Perfectly Clear has problems with images larger than the iPhone 4’s 2592 pixel dimension.
Primasnap right now is a straightforward image enhancement app. Future updates are said to include new features such as auto white balance and noise reduction.
Overall, the app is stable, but it did lock up on me a couple of times during testing. Quitting the app and restarting it fixed the issue.
While DRC apps such as these are less of a necessity with the improved camera of the iPhone 4, they’re still a good utility to have to scrub an image before any further processing and I still use them often. I think they are an essential tool for as a first step in image processing with older iPhones or the new iPod Touch 4th Gen. While I prefer the look and advanced features of Perfectly Clear, Primasnap does a good job for users who want to make fast, easy adjustments to their images.
I don’t like when developers use HDR as a buzz word. You can’t get true HDR results from one single exposure. Primasnap is a good app for bringing out details and dynamic range in your photos, but it doesn’t take your color to the next level like Real HDR would. Like all good dynamic range correction apps, it merely fixes what’s already there. I prefer Perfectly Clear not only for its unique color algorithms but for it’s advanced tool set that adjusts so much more than dynamic range. Primasnap doesn’t have Perfectly Clear’s well-implemented Sharpen feature, for instance. But Primasnap is faster, simpler, easier to use, and good for iPhone photographers who just want to quickly fix the dynamic range of their images before processing or sharing.
Primasnap is $0.99 and works on any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS 3.0 or newer. That means it runs on the older devices that need it most.
Related Link: Perfectly Clear – Athentech Imaging