ClearCam for iPhone comparison

Apple iPhone 4 camera vs. ClearCam. Click to enlarge.


Version 1.5.5
Price: $1.99

Rating 4 stars

Bottom Line: ClearCam definitely delivers on its claims of sharper, clearer larger images.

Occipital ClearCam for iPhoneClearCam by Occipital is a camera app that promises clearer, sharper and sometimes larger images from any iPhone. It claims to eliminate the blur without “missing the moment”. It does so without waiting for an anti-shake setting to kick in. It claims to take clearer, sharper pictures with twice the resolution in enhanced mode.

ClearCam makes a lot of big claims. Does it deliver on them? The answer is a resounding yes. ClearCam produces simply amazing photos rich in clarity and detail. There is nothing else like it in the App Store.

Quick history lesson. ClearCam has been one of my favorite apps since long before it was available in the App Store. Introduced in early February, 2009, it was only available in Cydia on jailbroken iPhones for about $10. ClearCam JB really did some amazing things to images — sharpening, enlarging, reducing noise.

After disappearing completely for several months, ClearCam was resurrected. After Apple opened up new camera API’s and developer Josh Patterick cleaned up the code a bit, it was possible for ClearCam to go legit and in late May of this year, ClearCam resurfaced, this time as a faster, more stable App Store app.

ClearCam takes two unique approaches to capturing clear, sharp images with you iPhone. There are no settings to the app and two modes to choose from — Quick Mode and Enhanced. One of the nice things about both ClearCam modes is that you don’t need to hold the iPhone completely still to take sharp pictures. However, the steadier the camera is, the better your results will be.

In the new update, Quick Mode now captures 4 images in about 2.5 seconds. It analyzes all four and automatically saves the clearest, sharpest one to your iPhone. This approach works surprisingly well much of the time. It’s faster and easier than waiting for the camera to steady using an anti-shake function. With 4 photos taken in rapid succession, you are far less likely to miss the perfect shot waiting for the anti shake, which depending on conditions, settings and camera app can take upwards of 15 seconds to take a clear shot. On the other hand, ClearCam will save the clearest of the four shots to the camera roll, which by definition means the least blurry. It’s a gamble. I’ve gotten some surprisingly clear images using Quick Mode, but I’ve also gotten some pretty blurry shots. Either way, though, I got them in 2.5 seconds.

Enhanced Mode is my favorite of the two. When I have the time, this is the mode I prefer to shoot in. In enhanced mode, ClearCam not an everyday shooter, but a specialized camera app. Enhanced mode does its magic using a photo technique called “image averaging” and it does it very well.

In enhanced mode, ClearCam is capable of creating larger photos with greater detail and less noise — about twice the resolution of your iPhone camera and up to 11 MP on an iPhone 4. Enhanced mode takes 6 shots in about 4 seconds and saves them to ClearCam’s own lightbox. This gives ClearCam’s Enhanced mode a turnaround time of about 8 seconds to keep shooting — a bit slow, but still comparable to many other camera replacement apps. Later, you can enhance the image. ClearCam aligns all six, which adds detail, clarity, dynamic range and sharpness to the photo while doubling the resolution and decreasing the noise in the image.

Does it work? Check out the sample image above. The detail on the left is a raw image from the iPhone 4’s excellent camera. The detail on the right is the same subject, taken in Enhanced mode with ClearCam. In the lower left corner, notice how little noise there is in the ClearCam version. Notice the detail of the drywall in the background. There is a dramatically improved sharpness and clarity to the image that isn’t present in the iPhone 4 image, even though it was a good capture. If you’re still not convinced, right-click to download the full size original images in the gallery below. There is so much detail in the ClearCam sample, you can see the dust on my wine rack.

iPhone 4 sample image

ClearCam Enhanced mode sample image

The latest updates introduce good, more precise focus and exposure control — single-tap for focus (or focus+exposure control), double-tap for exposure control, and triple-tap to toggle the iPhone 4’s flash. I found that the iPhone 4’s point and shoot worked fine for me most of the time and I won’t be using these precise controls often, but they are easy to use and work well when needed for more precise control.

ClearCam has an orientation glitch that I’ll live with because the images are that good. In Enhanced mode, images that are shot in portrait (tall) orientation are rotated 90 degrees. This doesn’t happen with images that are shot landscape (wide) or shot in Quick Mode. It’s an annoyance having to run my images through one more image processor to have them rotated correctly. The developer is responsive and this is a bug that will hopefully be fixed soon. [UPDATE 09.03.10, 14:20: An update that fixes this camera roll rotation problem has already been submitted to Apple and should be released soon. =M=]

There are other apps available that will resample images up to 11MB, but there are none that do so with the speed, sharpness and clarity of ClearCam. There is nothing like it in the App Store. While maybe not your everyday camera, ClearCam definitely improves your chances of getting a clear shot of the perfect moment and in Enhanced Mode, ClearCam really delivers on its promises of sharper, clearer, larger pictures. Highly recommended.