iPhone App Review: Perfectly Clear 2.2 – Some Features Fixed, Others Broken
UPDATED: 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.
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 warnedâ€¦ 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.Â 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.
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.