645 Pro is a new app that claims to shoot RAW images with your iPhone. It also offers control over almost every aspect of photo-taking, and comes on like an app that turns your iPhone into a DSLR. But let’s get back to that RAW business, which we all know is impossible.
The iPhone, like most digicams, takes the raw data from the sensor and processes it into a picture we can recognize, applying exposure and white-balance adjustments and then writing out a JPG file. DSLR and high-end compacts let you save this sensor data as a "RAW" file, so you can apply exposure and other settings later at a computer. Because no information has been discarded in-camera, you can do a whole lot more with the image.
645 Pro, which should be in the App Store any time now, doesn’t save real RAW files, as Apple doesn’t grant such low-level access to the sensor. What it does do is add minimal sharpening and other processing, before saving the image as a lossless TIFF or JPEG file, preserving much more of the original image.
While this is not really RAW in its, uh, rawest sense, that would be to miss the point. The point is that this could give you the best quality images your iPhone is capable of.
Once shot, the TIFFs can be manipulated on a computer, or those uncompressed JPEGs can be sent off to the app of your choice. It sounds great.
What doesn’t look so great is the interface, which seems to have opted for the every-function-has-a-button-and-they’re-all-on-the-screen-at-once approach. Not only does it look busy, it looks like it might be hard to hit these buttons even when pixel-doubled onto the iPad screen.
The app also has an SLR-mimicking LCD screen, showing current ISO and shutter speeds; it can use its own "Matrix" metering mode as well as spot metering; and has a two-stage shutter for focus and exposure lock.
Despite the interface troubles, which might even be mostly hidden when in actual use, Pro 645 looks like an app to watch. In the meantime, check out the rather amazing-looking Mattebox, which has been around since last year and has — somehow — escaped our attention.