Review: Hueless — no tints, no hues, just black & white
Version reviewed: 1.1
Bottom Line: I love the camera interface and easy access to the tools. Hueless creates great, pure black & white photos, but still has a couple of quirks and speed issues.
Hueless for iPhone is a fairly new camera-only app for taking true black & white digital photographs. Version 1.1 was just released. It’s got plenty of tools to help you compose great black & white photography in-app. This isn’t another color-to-grayscale camera app. It’s a camera app designed with the lover of real black & white photography in mind.
I love black & white photography. I grew up shooting PLUS-X Pan and TRI-X Pan and then developing it in a makeshift darkroom at my dad’s house. To me, the lack of color completely changes the aesthetic and mood of an image. Even a color image with comparable exposure and contrast doesn’t carry the same emotional feel of a good black & white photograph. Black & white helps a photograph tell its story without the distraction of color.
Hueless comes with a better toolset than I ever had shooting black & white with a film camera. Its transparent heads-up toolbars let you quickly and easily change the app’s settings. In addition to the basic camera settings — rule of thirds grid, flash control, front camera toggle, Hueless comes with more advanced tools for creating great looking black & whites. All of the app’s tools are easily accessible in the viewfinder.
Unlike most black & white apps, the live viewfinder shows you in realtime what your finished image will look like before you shoot. Using the app’s Live Exposure slider bar, you can compensate for over or underexposed subjects, or just use the slider for different exposure effects. Hueless not only remembers settings between shots, but it also remembers settings if you leave the app (but not quit it). That’s a great feature that I like a lot and is a timesaver if you’re shooting a series of images where a particular setting is critical. At any time, you can restore the Live Exposure slider back to center (“0″) by double-tapping the center of the slider.
Hueless’ viewfinder also lets you quickly toggle between several filters for better black & white conversions. In addition to a straight color desaturation, Hueless also has red, orange, yellow, green, and blue “filters.” This doesn’t apply a color to the image. Instead, they filter out particular colors when converting the image, often resulting in images that are much more striking than simply converting the color to gray. It’s a great feature found in several of the other black & white conversion apps, but no other app that I know of has them live and in the camera.
The live preview lets you see how the filter will effect the image before you shoot. The intensity of the filter can easily be adjusted by using the thumb slider at the top of the screen. It’s a great feature that’s unique to Hueless. I like how this gives the photographer precise control over the monochrome conversion. Again, Hueless remembers these settings until you change them or quit the app.
The images that you can create in the camera can be gorgeous — much better than many other dedicated black & white camera apps I’ve tried. By using the filters, you can bring out flesh tones, add a visually striking weight to a blue sky and many other classic black & white techniques. There’s a short guide to how the filters effect an image on the app’s website.
Hueless is full of little details designed with photographers in mind. The app’s display rotates to work in both portrait and landscape modes. In landscape mode, the shutter release button is positioned at the top of the screen for easy, one-handed firing using your thumb.
It saves a lot of EXIF data, but not all. The new 1.1 update also adds a new custom EXIF entry for artist or studio data, which is embedded in the data of the saved file. Even in the new 1.1 update, though, it still doesn’t save location data. It also only saves the processed black & white image, not the original color image. Images are saved in full device resolution — that’s 8MP on an iPhone 4S. They are even saved in grayscale mode, not desaturated RGB. It’s the digital equivalent of making prints on black and white photo paper.
Shooting with Hueless is quick on an iPhone 4S, but the refresh rate is still fairly slow compared to a bona fide camera replacement app. I was able to fire about five shots, each about a second or two apart, before the cache filled up. Your mileage may vary. It’s not the fastest shooter but not the slowest, either.
The app saves image straight to your iPhone’s camera roll. It now lets you share images to Instagram from within the app. Sharing is a little clunky. You have to access the image from the camera roll. Although the new 1.1 update has various speed improvements, they must be in the camera itself as accessing the camera roll is still pretty slow.
It lacks tools to add noise or a vignette to the image that many other black & white conversion apps have. While this may be in the works for a future update (I don’t know if it is or not), I don’t think those omissions are a problem. Too many options could overwhelm the fairly simple shooting experience of Hueless. The interface is easy to master and the results are great, pure black & white photography.
Hueless isn’t for everyone. For many iPhoneographers, using one of the excellent B&W conversions apps is ideal and allows them to explore, change, and redo. Hueless is a shooter. If you’re serious about black & white iPhoneography, for shooting, Hueless is a good black & white camera app to check out.
Hueless is $1.99. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (4th generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad (3rd generation) and iPad Wi-Fi + 4G.Requires iOS 5.0 or later.
UPDATE 01: Added and changed some of the sample photographs.