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Home » Reviews

iPhone App Review: Perfectly Clear 2.2 – Some Features Fixed, Others Broken

Submitted by on March 4, 2011 – 2:13 pm 15 Comments

Perfectly Clear for iPhone sample DRC Dynamic Range Correction

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Athentech Perfectly Clear for iPhoneUPDATED: Glyn Evans from The iPhoneography Blog provided an additional fix to the app’s “Out of Memory” errors. It’s now included here and I’ve changed my recommendation. =M=

Perfectly Clear by Athentech has been one of my mainstay apps for several updates and two iPhones. On my older iPhone, it was my first step with nearly every image I processed. It’s fast, easy Dynamic Range Correction (DRC) that balances luminance and color, adds sharpness, and in more recent versions helps to reduce noise especially in processing images with a lot of darker areas. Perfectly Clear helps to overcome the deficiencies and limitations of the iPhone’s camera.

Perfectly Clear was recently updated. The 2.2 update fixes some lingering stability and reliability issues with the app, adds some high resolution graphics for retina displays, and limits the processed size of images. The new update still has memory issues. Read on for more info on what to expect from this new update.

Although the camera in the iPhone 4 is much better than older iPhones and has a much broader dynamic range, I still use Perfectly Clear often to help quickly improve images that may need a little help, and sometimes to rescue borderline images shot with bad exposure. If you have an older iPhone, especially a 2G or 3G, Perfectly Clear is an essential app.

It’s very powerful and Perfectly Clear is very easy to use. Load an image into the app (you can also use the app’s built-in camera). The app automatically processes using its default settings. Save or share. Perfectly Clear automatically adjusts and corrects tint, exposure, contrast, sharpness and color vibrancy. The algorithms adjust the image to pleasing color, giving the image good overall balance and color more in line with what the eye expects.

The app has two presets, Default and “FixDark”. FixDark automatically adds more luminance while greatly reducing the contrast adjustment. While the default settings improve the look and color of of most images, balancing out contrast and adding the right amount of punch to color saturation. FixDark can help make a badly underexposed image usable by lightening and bringing out details in dark, muddy areas of the photograph — details that our eye sees while capturing the image, but the camera cannot reproduce due to limitations of light sensitivity in the iPhone’s camera.

Not happy with the presets? Perfectly Clear has slider controls for all six adjustments and even allows you to create your own default preset. The before and after toggle is switched with the tap of the screen and has always been great and easy to use.

One of the things that Perfectly Clear does better than any other DRC or Psuedo-HDR app is selective image enhancement. It’s intelligent. Areas in a photo that are properly exposed don’t suffer to the benefit of areas which are not. Perfectly Clear does an excellent job of balancing the look of an image.

In the 2.2 update, the optional noise removal has been fixed for iPhone 4 images. I never had a problem with the noise removal in version 2.1, but I may have been one of six people on the planet. You can see my previous post on Perfectly Clear 2.1 for sample images of noise removal on my iPhone 4. Although the sample was a best-case scenario image, the improvements were very striking.

I like Perfectly Clear’s noise reduction a lot. It doesn’t blur images like the NR feature in PhotoForge and other apps. It supports iPhone 4 full resolution unlike NoiseBlaster. It reduces — not eliminates — noise with minimal aberrations and artifacts. In doing so it also preserves detail better than any other noise reduction available for iDevice.

Below are samples of two images processed with the 2.2 update, both with noise reduction and without. These are full size sections which illustrate the noise reduction capabilities of this optional $1.99 in-app purchase.

Original image with frame showing detail area

Perfectly Clear for iPhone test image

FixDark, no NR

Perfectly Clear for iPhone test image

FixDark with noise reduction

—-

Original, detail

Default processing

Perfectly Clear for iPhone test image

FixDark, no noise reduction

Perfectly Clear for iPhone test image

FixDar, plus noise reduction

There is no amount of noise reduction that can eliminate noise in a badly underexposed image. See my worst case sample above. But, Perfectly Clear’s noise reduction improves and reduces the digital noise in badly underexposed images and really cleans up darker areas in moderately underexposed images while retaining most of the detail and sharpness.

Perfectly Clear 2.2 is an improvement in some areas but not without its issues. Despite claims from Athentech, I don’t think memory management has been improved in this version. I never experienced any abnormal memory issues in the old version 2.1. I used it often and threw all sizes of images at it. The 2.2 version now requires a lot of iPhone reboots. I had to reboot my iPhone after updating and the app now runs out of memory for me after processing about half a dozen images now, requiring an inconvenient and annoying iPhone reboot. Athentech “fixed a crash with oversize images” — one which I never experienced — and now the app scales down larger images to 2592 pixels wide. I think this fix may have caused other frustrating, memory-related problems. Be warned… you may find this unacceptable.

UPDATE: Glyn Evans from The iPhoneography Blog commented on this post shortly after publishing. He’s beta tested Perfectly Clear for several updates. He shares that rebooting the iPhone may not be necessary when you get the Out of memory error. He notes, “Whilst the app still has occasional crashes with full-res iPhone 4 images, there should be no reason to reboot the iPhone, just kill off all running apps.”

The app saves images to the camera roll in JPG format, but shares images as PNG files, resulting in much larger files that are slower to send and eat up much more of my limited data.

Even with the iPhone 4′s greatly improved camera, I still use Perfectly Clear often for quick and easy one-touch dynamic range correction on some images. The noise reduction worked well for me before and works just as well or better in this update. The constant iPhone reboots are annoying as are having to quit all of my open apps to free up memory, but for me how Perfectly Clear tweaks and fixes an image is worth the annoyance. Otherwise, Perfectly Clear is still an essential part of my iPhone’s camera bag.  It’s a great app, but be prepared to coddle it.

Perfectly Clear works on any iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad running OS 3.0 or newer. It’s $2.99 in the App Store. The Noise Removal add-on is available as an in-app purchase for $1.99.

Perfectly

=M=

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If you’ve already updated your copy of the app to version 2.2, here’s our post on how you may be able to reinstall the older version.

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Marty Yawnick

Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.

  • rbaf

    This is the least stable app of the hundred or so apps I have. It is very frustrating because I honestly believe it to be the best at what it does, fixing the flaws that inevitably happen with iphone pictures (Exposure, brightness, noise).I used to tell everyone to get it, but the horrible instability and the developers unwillingness to correct these issues or even acknowledge them means that I now tell people the opposite. Do not buy this software until these are addressed, because you will love what this program does and get very frustrated at having to restart your phone every few images.

  • Jesse Baer

    Funny, I was just thinking how this update redeemed an app that I felt was almost fraudulent – the noise reduction consistently made photos *worse* on my iPhone 4 and now it really does improve them. Haven't seen any of the other issues, but have yet to play with it that much.

  • http://www.iphoneography.com Glyn Evans

    I worked closely with Athentech on this update, and all I can say is it works. The noise reduction that I complained about is now definitely fixed, and whilst the app still has occasional crashes with full-res iPhone 4 images, there should be no reason to reboot the iPhone, just kill off all running apps.

    • lifeinlofiblog

      Thanks, for the tip, Glyn! I've updated my review to include your advice.

      =M=

  • Fredrik Nilsson

    This version of the app has introduced a new problem to me. For some reason, the window with all the image improvements settings sometimes fails to show when I triy to "slide it in." I've both killed of all other apps and restarted the phone, so the problem must be within the app itself. The only way to "solve" the issue is to restart the app.

    Until a new update fixes this I will probably avoid using this app. Too bad, since this used to be my #1 iPhone app.

    • http://www.iphoneography.com Glyn Evans

      Hi Fredrik. I've seen this problem as well, and will be showing it to the developers when I meet with them next week. There does seem to be a work around for the bug, which is, after loading a photo slide your finger across the screen, so that you get the split before/after, and then the tool bar/window should open and work. There is another bug where the tool bar/window will spring shut, and this can be fixed in the same way.

  • http://www.iphoneography.com Glyn Evans

    Hi Fredrik. I've seen this problem as well, and will be showing it to the developers when I meet with them next week. There does seem to be a work around for the bug, which is, after loading a photo slide your finger across the screen, so that you get the split before/after, and then the tool bar/window should open and work. There is another bug where the tool bar/window will spring shut, and this can be fixed in the same way.

    Hope this helps.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ifrippe/ Fredrik Nilsson

    Glyn,

    Another work around is to go back to the main menu and choose a new picture (which can be the same picture once again).

    Thanks for your work around. I’ll try it the next time I experience the problem again.

  • Guest

    Fredrik, Glyn, I'm also having the same problem. Unfortunately the workaround you mentioned didn't work for me. The only thing that seems to cure the problem for me is to wait for approximately 5-10 seconds after the photo loads (never rush to tap the tool sliders otherwise it will just freeze). Too bad. The app does its job decently, but the constant crashing (despite the promise that the issue will be fixed in this upgrade), and now this bug, will land this app to the "not recommended" zone if unresolved.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ifrippe/ Fredrik Nilsson

    I’m fully confident that this error will be solved after Glyn’s discussion with the company next week, but the way I see it the main problem is a real lack of competition. There are several image enhancing apps out there, but few major competitors to this app. From my point of view the quality of the updated have fallen with the same speed as the competition.

    I’d really love to see some articles about the major competition (say one article each about artificial flash apps, one about noice reduction, one about image tints and one about image sharpening).

    It’s not that I don’t like this app, but I believe the company (and in the end the quality of the updates) would benefit from a more aggressive competition.

    • lifeinlofiblog

      Hi, Fredrik,

      There are several apps available that do much of what Perfectly Clear does. Even with the iPhone 4, I still try to cover the noteworthy ones here, as does Glyn on The iPhoneography Blog. The thing is though that Perfectly Clear is by far the best in its class… when it works. TruSight Pro is similar does a good job, but not great like PC. PrimaSnap works, but isn't as powerful or does as good a job as PC — it works *well enough* for a buck. Other DRC apps work somewhat well, but again, Perfectly Clear produces results that look the best, in my opinion.

      I don't like them, but I'm willing to put up with the frustrating flaws in this update. For me, Perfectly Clear is that essential an app.

      =M=

      • http://www.iPhoneography.com Glyn Evans

        Marty, I completely agree.

    • Aga Dhiyaulhaq

      I fully agree with Fredrik that competition is key in triggering developments and improvements. For instance, in the productivity apps category, we have OmniFocus, PocketInformant, Instatodo, Toodledo, etc, competing to improve their features lest be left behind, hence the continuous updates, fixes, and enhancements — good for all.

      Any business needs continuous progress, strong community support, positive word of mouth, and evangelist customers won't hurt. Businesses win them by listening and paying attention to customers' feedback. In my view, Synthetic and Banana Camera Co are two cases in point that exemplify those two important traits. Of course we can't expect the developers to do everything the customer wants, but I believe asking for bug and stability fixes is not too much.

      Yes, I'm also looking forward to see a positive outcome from Glyn's meeting with the developer.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ifrippe/ Fredrik Nilsson

    Thanks for the response Glyn an Marty.

  • Fredrik Nilsson

    I’d say that that competition just arrived. This morning I bought the in-app noise reduction function in Adobe Express, and the first tests are promising indeed.

    It’s faster than Perfectly Clear, but that is certainly due to the fact that Perfectly Clear does other things besides noise reduction.

    It’s stable (Perfectly Clear even had troubles saving the test image correctly).

    Adobe Express handles huge images better. My 11.2 MPX image from Clear Cam was still a 11.2 MPX image when run thru Adobe Express. Perfectly Clear resized the image to 5.1 MPX. Better than the iPhone camera, but not by much.

    I guess it’s a bit subjective, but according to my oppinion the quality of the outcome from Adobe Express is at least on par with Perfectly Clear. I’d even say that on my only test shot this far it even exceeds the noise reduction done by Perfectly Clear.

    Adobe Express’ in-app noise reduction only have one major downside; it’s a bit too pricy to really be able to compete with Perfectly Clear.