We've reviewed a lot of iPhone camera apps. Some, like Snapture, simply offer more features than the built-in camera software. Others, like Night Camera, use the iPhone's accelerometer to help take steadier pictures in low light. Still others, like CameraBag, lets you take a picture you've snapped and post-produce it to your heart's content.
Occipital's ClearCam also wants to help you take better pictures. But it does so in a fairly unique way. ClearCam takes six pictures in rapid succession (around 2.5 seconds), automatically picks the sharpest of the six, then — using that sharpest shot as a baseline — merges the frames together to generate a
super-resolved 4 megapixel image. Jeffrey Powers, co-founder of Occipital, explains the underlying key to this merging thusly:
"To pull this off, it has to reliably line up
images with subpixel accuracy. (In comparison, a panorama generator can
get away with relatively high alignment error) As far as we know,
ClearCam is unique in the super-resolution category and unmatched in its rapid
Here's a typical iPhone shot:
And here's the same view through ClearCam:
Like most of the apps mentioned above, ClearCam requires a jailbroken phone, although Powers hinted that a "lite" version ("less the extremely rapid capture stuff") might be retooled for App Store submission. It's available in both a full-featured US$9.99 release and a free edition that removes the QuickShot mode and unlimited photo queue size.
In anticipation of ClearCam's release, Powers sat down for a Q&A with the editor of iSmashPhone.com:
long did it take you to develop your app?
We started in early November, so it has been just shy of a 3 month development cycle.
you have prior experience with iPhone development?
No prior experience. However, the core of our app is cross-platform and
written in C, and leverages our past experience in computer vision.
is the average processing time to "stitch" pictures together — and is there any
difference in speeds between 2g, 3g or old and new iPhone Touch?
It takes a little while depending on how many images are successful candidates
for fusion. Typically 30-40 seconds for a good enhancement.
Because it takes a while, we separated the capture and enhance steps. You
can capture several photos and enhance them at your leisure.
If you need a clear photo very quickly, you can use QuickShot mode, where the
sharpest of 4 photos is saved immediately to the camera roll. You don't
get the 4 megapixel enhancement, but this technique is still very effective.
- Any other technical/non-technical details that you'd like to add?
Yeah! The iPhone camera, as long as it's clear of fingerprint smudge and
held fairly still, is actually a great sensor. Colors are typically
excellent. The problem is that it's just not very quick to capture, and
it's a crapshoot whether you're going to get a good photo or a blurry mess, even
in good lighting. Once you've played with ClearCam, you'll have a lot
more confidence in the photos you take with the iPhone. As far as we
know, it's the only app that actually judges image clarity, and the only one
that employs subpixel techniques to sharpen beyond 2 megapixels. The
science behind it is pretty cool, and it'll only get better with future
updates. But as a user, all you need to know is that you're going to take
clearer photos that will rival a pocket-sized digital camera any day. So
more than anything, ClearCam gives peace of mind about photo clarity.
One last thing is that the multitouch UI is custom and technically supports
infinitely scaled images. We might take advantage of that for an
interesting Easter egg in a future update 🙂
Go ahead and try it out on Cydia.
From developers of ClearCam: Red Laser – The First Accurate iPhone Barcode Scanner – Hits The App Store
You've probably noticed by now that your iPhone doesn't come with a big honkin' parallel port jack. Or an admittedly smaller serial jack. Or a USB port. Or…aw, you get the picture (pun intended) — there's no hardware solution for printing your camerawork directly from your handset.