Review: GyroCam by Hunter Research and Technology
GyroCam, by Hunter Research and Technology, LLC
• Nice idea of a feature to incorporate
• Many photography options
• Takes a while to figure out the settings and controls
• Seems somewhat clunky or slow at times
Any serious photographer can tell you that having a picture slightly off-center or tilted usually will not add anything to the artistic “merit” of the picture. As a frequent snap shooter, I know that I get annoyed when my pictures of off-balance. But I never really thought of it as much of a problem until GyroCam came around.
GyroCam uses the built in gyroscope in the iPhone 4 to help adjust the pictures you take to make them level. This may not be a concern for many, but I thought that it sounded interesting enough to give it a try and see how it works. The app itself seems to work reasonable well for the most part, although the interface seems a little clunky and at times the app seemed to stutter and stall somewhat.
In terms of a photography app, there are many features included. You have options for controlling which camera to use, options for controlling the flash, options for large or small single shot, timer shot (with a 5 second delay) and a burst mode (up to 20 frames in rapid succession). Large mode and timer mode capture the full resolution of the iPhone, small mode and burst capture 640x480 pictures. Unfortunately you can’t activate the video camera from within the app – this might have to do with using the gyroscope and camera at the same time (not sure, just hypothesizing).
There is also a nice zoom feature (purely digital) giving a 1x, 2x and 4x zoom option. There is something called the reference frame option to switch from portrait to landscape mode. No way, I thought you can do that just by rotating the camera….well, yes, normally you can. But with the gyroscope awlays indicating “up” to orient your picture you take, you need to tell the camera if you want to shoot in portrait or landscape mode. I also liked to see a small indicator light for focus and exposure. It turns red if the features are being adjusted, green when the camera is ready for a picture.
However, the biggest (or primary) feature is the gyroscope stabilization. There are four gyro mode options. Off, well, turns the gyroscope off, so you can take crooked pictures to your hearts content. Gyro clip take a 4:3 ratio picture, the size depending on how level you are holding the camera (perfectly level will be the normal size, anything off kilter will “clip” the maximum 4:3 level image possible). Gyro fill is basically the same as gyro clip, but resulting image (if smaller than the maximum) is scaled up to the normal image size for the iPhone camera. Gyro mask take a 4:3 image that encompasses exactly 60% of the original picture size…or the maximum size an image can be if the camera takes a level image while the camera is being held sideways (picture in portrait mode). These pictures will always be exactly 60% of a normal iPhone picture.
You do need to calibrate the gyroscope, which is done by using the info button. Normally this is done to adjust for any “error” in your gyroscope, but it can also be re-calibrated if you WANT to take a picture that is slightly off center.
When using the app, the plethora of options (especially the gyroscope options) seemed pretty overwhelming at first. I tried the various settings, didn’t see much of a difference, and it wasn’t until I sat down are really tried taking lots of pictures (sideways, upside down) with the various settings that I figured them out. It’s great that the settings are all there, but I wonder if that much customization is really necessary. In addition, having the buttons clutter up the bottom of the screen is a little distracting. Not horrible so, but compared to the normal camera interface, it seems positively crowded.
The gyroscope adjustment seemed to work pretty well. The second and third pictures I have posted below (of the same scene) were taken at 45 degree angles from each other – you can see how the gyroscope adjusts for holding the camera at an angle and still takes an “up and down” picture. There were times the shutter seemed to lag or stutter a little bit – this was usually when I had the gyro fill or gyro clip mode selected. It wasn’t horribly slow, but if I was taking a picture of a fast moving object, I probably would have missed it.
The app also have a nice manual (viewable in safari from their website) which is pretty clear and straightforward.
All in all, GyroCam may be an example a solving a problem you didn’t know was a problem, but it seems to solve the problem fairly well. With a large number of built in option, and a wide array of gyroscopic tilt corrections, there are many ways you can use the app – even with the gyroscope correction turned off. A somewhat cluttered interface and confusing options may slow you down somewhat, but if you test out the app extensively, it should become clear. At $0.99, this app might be worth purchasing if you are concerned about taking level pictures, or even just for the novelty factor. Three and a half out of five stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.