Review: ProCamera Low Light Modes for better photos at night
Since I ditched my DSLR for an iPhone to photograph on my travels, I've been trying to find ways to get good shots in low light situations. Using the default iPhone camera app, night photos tend to be underexposed and have a significant amount of noise especially in dark areas.
Recently, during a trip to Sofia, ProCamera tweeted and suggested that I should try out the new low light modes including Lux+.
ProCamera is, as the name suggests, a professional camera app replacement. It comes with automatic, semi-automatic and manual shooting modes, 3 or 5 bracketed HDR (via in-app Purchase), manual control of shutter speed and ISO and a lot more. Writing about Pro Camera would fill an entire book!
The app has two new modes especially for low light and night photography with an iPhone and I love the results! I experimented with the modes one night in Sofia, tried different settings during a nightly photo walk and I even used the low light modes inside buildings during a trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
So today, I'm writing just about low light photography using Pro Camera [iTunes App Store Link] today.
Low Light Modes in ProCamera
Pro Camera has different modes for low light and night photography. One of them is free and available right in the app. The other one requires a one-time and affordable ($2.99) in-app purchase. Those are the modes you get:
"Low Light" mode is included in ProCamera.
"Low Light+" and "Low Light+ with Lux+" are available as an in app purchase
If you have purchased the HDR modes in Pro Camera 8 and buy the Low Light+ mode, you get a bonus super fancy "HDR & Low Light+" mode.
Basically, all those low light modes take multiple images and magically combine them into a better exposed and less noisy image. If you have a calm hand, you can use Low Light and Low Light+ without a tripod. For Low Light+ with Lux+ you definitely need a tripod.
The following crops are from a shot I took in Sofia at the palace of culture. I used the following modes (from top left to bottom right):
SI-ISO Priority mode. To keep the noise low, I set the ISO to 125 manually and let the app expose automatically, but there's still a lot of noise and the frame is underexposed.
Low Light mode is better exposed and has less but still some noise.
Low Light+ mode is even better exposed and has even less noise.
Low Light+ with Lux+ has a good exposure and even less noise in many areas of the photo.
Look at the bright and dark areas in the shots. There's almost no noise with the LowLight+ mode (lower right). Also, the darker areas (structure of the windows) are visible. In the original shot, they're just black. So much more detail with less noise. That's what I've been looking for.
What I found during my experiments is that Low Light+ with Lux+ shots are sometimes a little overexposed and as a result, I get grey skies at night when they should be black. But I can easily fix that by adjusting the black point and/or exposure in the camera roll after I took the photo.
Here's the final shot of the palace of culture in Sofia, shot with ProCamera Low Light Mode and after I adjusted exposure and black point.
How to chose and switch between different Low Light Modes in ProCamera App
To switch between the different low light modes, tap the double arrow left of the shutter release. Then swipe right to find the Low Light and Low Light+ modes. Tap the one you want to use.
And where's Lux+? You'll see Lux+ as soon as you've selected "Low Light+". In the right corner of the viewfinder is a button labeled "Lux+". Tap it to enable it.
If you've also purchased HDR mode in ProCamera, you'll get an additional bonus mode once you purchase Low Light+. It's the "Low Light HDR" mode. Tap the mode selector to go HDR mode, then tap the HDR mode selector repeatedly until you see "Low Light HDR".
I found that Low Light HDR is a little too much for my taste, especially at night. But I'll keep experimenting and post updates here.