large aperture pro for iphone screenshot


Large Aperture Pro
Version 1.3
Price: $1.99

Rating 1 star

Bottom Line: I don’t like it. The app has clunky and frustrating functionality, hard edges that make the blurs look harsh and fake, and low resolution output. I also don’t like the way the developer feels the need to bully critical reviewers.

Released several weeks ago, Large Aperture Pro by Zhong is back in the spotlight after a weekend price reduction. It’s a photo app that adds DSLR-like depth-of-field (DOF) effects to your photos. It’s the same type of app as BlurFX or the new Big Lens apps, which also simulate DSLR DOF and blur effects in your images.

Even after several updates, Large Aperture Pro still has a lot of issues and limitations. It lacks the features and finesse of either of those two apps.

Based on comments by the developer which were recently added to the App Store description (which seemed to me to be a little harsh, punitive and inappropriate), there may a controversy about this app. I’ll address that after my review. First, I wanted to review the app based on its own merits. There aren’t many.

There’s no camera module in Large Aperture Pro. You can only load from your iPhone’s photo library. I don’t consider this a minus as it unclutters the interface a tiny bit and allows you to use a better camera than the one built into the Apple Camera API. Like Big Lens or BlurFX, once imported, you simply paint the area that you want to remain in focus leaving the rest of the image blurred.

TIP: With any of these apps, I recommend using a good stylus. This will help you to paint a much more precise mask than trying with fingers will.

Unlike other focal apps, one of the frustrating things about Large Aperture Pro is that it opens your image with an overall blur, out of focus. This requires you to paint in the sharp areas. However, you’re trying to create a mask based on a blurred edge. To me, this workflow is backwards and clunky. In a format that is not precise to begin with, this is frustrating and reduces accuracy even further. Big Lens, on the other hand, starts with a sharp image and requires you to paint in the blur effect. There is no setting in Large Aperture Pro to change the default to “paint in” the blur, instead of painting it out.

While the app has a usable tool set, it’s not full-featured. There is no “Auto Snap” feature. Once an area has been outlined, it needs to be filled in manually. There’s no “Snap To” feature to help refine and clean up rough edges of a painted in mask. Both of these are great features found in other apps.

Unlike Big Lens or BlurFX, there is only one blur mode in this app. There is no Basic mode which allows you to create a simple, fast circular or linear blur to add to your image.

Brush size is frustratingly inaccurate. The brush size increases as you zoom into the image. It doesn’t stay constant regardless of zoom. When zooming in for precision edits, the brush size needs to be readjusted each time. As you zoom, the visible onscreen brush size doesn’t match the selected size of the brush in the toolbox — it’s quite a bit larger. I think the size of the brush onscreen should always match the selected brush size. It doesn’t here and that’s frustrating and non-intuitive.

The brush has an unusual “excursion” setting that shifts the onscreen target of the brush to the left or right of the actual brush. It’s a unique feature that I haven’t seen in other apps. I suppose if you use it often it should help with masking accuracy by shifting the target so it’s not blocked your finger or stylus as you work onscreen. It’s not a feature I’ll use. I prefer the accuracy of precision painting.

large aperture pro for iphoneography screenshot

Left: Brush size setting, zoom and Excursion. Right: five-window save screen

The quality of the blur is pretty bad. The edges of the blur are sharp and harsh. Unlike Big Lens, there is no Brush Hardness tool to soften the edges of the blur for a smoother, more natural transition.

There is no quick before and after comparison. Granted, this isn’t an essential feature, but a before and after toggle is a handy too to help you go back and tweak edits before it’s saved. It’s a great feature found in a lot of photo apps.

Saving the image is a bit frustrating and confusing at first. After a few seconds of processing (probably longer on slower iPhones), the app shows a confusing five-window screen which I think is supposed to be a selection of blur gradients. I don’t understand or like that this is in the Save Image process after I’ve already masked out my image. Regardless, none of the gradual blurs worked very well for me. Only #5 the blur worked for me. It’s not clearly labeled and after a few trial and error saves, I realized that it’s the default overall blur setting.

Although it’s an improvement over the 640×479 pixel resolution in the original release, Large Aperture Pro still saves with a horrible 1707×1281 2.2MP output on an 8MP iPhone 4S. This alone should disqualify it from being called a “pro” app. It is possible for this style of app to support high resolution. Big Lens supports all 8 MP on an iPhone 4S.

Large Aperture Pro does not support any type of background processing — something that was introduced in iOS 4 and has been around for a while. Exiting the app causes you to lose your image and all of your edits. Answering a phone call will nuke all your work on an image, forcing you to start over.

I realize I may be more critical and nitpicky about Large Aperture Pro than I normally am in my reviews, but the app has an extremely large number of questionable five-star App Store reviews that I don’t agree with.

Possible Controversy

Large Aperture Pro was brought to my attention by a reader when it was free for a few hours over the weekend. I missed the discount but dropped the two bucks to download it. I noticed that the developer had added a long diatribe in the app’s description. In this announcement, one reviewer in particular was criticized and threatened for giving what I feel to be a fair, honest and thoughtful app review. I took an additional star off for this. You shouldn’t be bullied by a developer if you don’t like their apps.

large aperture pro iphone app store description


large aperture pro iphone app store description

I researched a bit and what I’ve found seems to me to be a little shady.

Of the 142 five-star app reviews given to the app, a very good sampling shows that too many of them were written by people with nonsense App Store IDs who have only reviewed Large Aperture Pro. Some also gave five-star reviews to the developer’s other apps. As of December 4, none of the reviewers I’d sampled had reviewed any other apps. See my post on spotting an App Store shill review.

I am not saying here that this developer is engaging in this practice, but I have to admit that the the sheer number of these five-star reviews is a little bit suspicious to me, especially given the fact that there is a similar pattern with this developer’s other apps as well.

Fake five-star app reviews boost an app’s ratings and gives less-knowledgeable buyers the false sense that an app is a good purchase. This boosts sales which boosts the app’s rank on the App Store sales charts. This is not only unfair to users who may unwittingly buy a crappy app, this also uses up valuable chart placement for legitimate developers who play by the app Store rules and do not engage in this shady practice.

A good app will find its market and doesn’t need inflated, false reviews to succeed.

Again, I’m not saying that this is definitely the case here.

Regardless of any controversy surrounding Large Aperture Pro, this is just not a very good app and is far from a “pro” app. There are several other apps that do more, better. Photo apps like BlurFX by DD Studio or the new, very excellent Big Lens by Reallusion Inc. are easier to use, more versatile, have a better toolbox, and create much better looking images and effects. If you’re looking for a photo app that creates the shallow depth of field of a big DSLR camera, I recommend that you have a look at those instead.

Large Aperture Pro is definitely not a five-star app. I don’t know who the 142 people who gave it glowing five-star reviews are, but if this truly is their first iPhone photo app, and they truly are this excited about it, then they are in for a huge, wonderful surprise when they actually download a real iPhone photo app.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.

Large Aperture Pro - Zhong


Large Aperture Pro for iphoneography sample image

Large Aperture Pro sample image

Large Aperture Pro for iphoneography sample image detail

Large Aperture Pro sample image detail

big lens app for iphone ipad iphoneography sample image detail

Processed by Big Lens for iPhone. Sample image detail