Timera 2 is the second iteration of a rather unique then-and-now compositing app that crowdsources photographs from around the globe and allows you to easily document the changes that have taken place in the world around you over the decades.
Through a massive user-generated database of historical images, appropriately geotagged to their location, Timera users can create unique then-and-now photos by overlaying the archive photo with a photo they just took.
Earlier this week, Google showed off its Android L mobile operating system. The fifth major iteration of the mobile OS, Google has included a number of new APIs in Android L that are going to make mobile photographers very happy.
The Exif4Film app is a handy tool for Android-toting film photographers, but it’s not the only fish in the sea. Similar to Exif4Film, the Photographer’s Notebook app can help you to keep track of film rolls and record information about each exposure. Although Photographer’s Notebook feels somewhat rough around the edges, and it lacks a desktop companion tool for processing the recorded data, the app has several redeeming points that make it worth a consideration.
Like Exif4Film, Photographer’s Notebook allows you to create a list of camera and lens combinations as well as configure a vast array of options: from focus and aperture values, to film formats and flash settings.
Populating Photographer’s Notebook with cameras and lenses is easy enough. Switch to the Settings → Camera model section, enter the camera’s name and press the Add button. You can then specify lenses for the added camera. To tweak, for example, aperture values, switch to the Aperture section, and disable entries you don’t need. You can also specify custom entries. Before you leave the Settings screen, you might want to enable the geotagging feature in the General section which automatically records geographical coordinates for each frame.
Once Photographer’s Notebook has been configured, you can start using the app. First, create a new film roll using the button in the upper-right corner of the screen and provide the required information, such as the roll’s title (tap the Automatic title button to use the current timestamp as the roll’s name), film brand, speed, and type. Tap the Start film button to save the roll and open it. Recording information for each exposure is equally straightforward: use the available drop-down lists and fields to provide the required and optional info, then tap the Record picture button.
As already mentioned, Photographer’s Notebook lacks a desktop utility for writing the recorded data to the digitized photos, but the app makes it possible to export rolls in the XML format. The exported XML files can be opened in any text editor or processed using XML tools. On Linux, you can use the xml2exif Bash shell script cobbled together by yours truly to extract aperture, shutter speed, and ISO values from a generated XML file and write them into the appropriate photo.
Serious Android photographers need a serious camera app that offers advanced functionality and is not overloaded with useless features. They need something like Focal. This open source app is still at an early stage of development, but it already shows a lot of promise, and it has the potential to become a viable alternative for Android photography enthusiasts.
Focal features a streamlined interface which makes it easy to take photos and operate the app. To change the focus point, tap on the desired area on the screen, then tap the Shutter button to take a photo. To switch between the supported shooting mode, tap and hold the Shutter button, then swipe up to activate the semi-circle with the available shooting modes. Slide the finger to the desired mode to enable it. Besides Panorama and Video, Focal supports the so-called PicSphere mode which is an open source implementation of Google’s popular Photo Sphere feature that allows you to snap multiple photos in every direction and then automatically stitch them into a single panorama image.
Focal allows you to quickly preview taken photos by swiping down from the top of the screen. This displays a thumbnail gallery which you can browse by swiping forward and backward. The gallery features two buttons that can be used to open the currently viewed photo in an external photo viewer or photo editing app.
To access Focal’s options, swipe from left to right starting at the edge of the screen to evoke the main toolbar. Each button on the toolbar opens a palette containing the available options. Most buttons here — such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, and Flash — should be familiar to most photographers. Using the appropriate buttons, you can select between different scene modes and effects. The HDR button lets you enable the HDR feature which automatically takes three bracketed photos. Focal supports several burst modes, and you can use the Burst button to enable the burst mode you want. Each palette can be pinned to the screen, making it easier to quickly access often-used options. Better still, all settings adjustments are persistent, so you don’t have to enable and configure the options every time you start the app.
Since Focal is still labeled as beta, some features are still missing. For example, the app doesn’t support different focus modes (manual, macro, etc.) and there is no way to change the default storage location. Moreover, some features can behave erratically. The PicSphere, in particular, can be rather temperamental at times.
Recently, I bought an EPSON Perfection V500 scanner, and I spent last weekend scanning piles of negatives. One thing about scanning negatives is that it involves a lot of waiting: you click the Scan button and then wait till the contraption does its scanning thing.
Meanwhile, you need to find a diversion to keep you entertained. Having a good game app for Android would definitely help. And after rummaging through the F-Droid repository, I found a perfect candidate for the job. FreeShisen is based on the Shisen-Sho Japanese game. The game has a lot in common with the popular tile-based game of Mahjong, but it has more elaborate tiles and rules.
Despite that, you can master the game’s basics in a matter of minutes. Depending on the level of difficulty and your skills, a single game usually takes between 5-10 minutes — perfect for passing time between scans. The app is open source and available through F-Droid and Google Play Store.
While you can use a regular notebook to keep track of exposure info (shutter speed, aperture, focal length, etc.), it’s hardly an ideal solution. But if you happen to use an Android device, you can replace the notebook with the Exif4Film app from Code United to simplify the task of recording exposure info and applying it to scanned photos.
The app is available free of charge from the Google Play Store. During the first run, the app prompts you to import the film database containing pretty much every film in existence. Next, you need to add your photographic equipment (cameras, lenses, and filters) to the app. To do this, tap the Menu button and choose Gear. Tap the Add gear button, pick the desired item, and fill out the required fields. When adding a camera, you can specify which lenses in the database can be used with it. This works for lenses, too: when adding a lens, you can select the cameras that can be used with it. When you are done, press Save to add the equipment item to the database. Once you’ve added your gear, return to the main section, tap the Add roll button, and provide the required info. Press Save to add the roll, and you are good to go.
Recording exposure info with Exif4Film couldn’t be easier. As soon as you take a shot, open Exif4Film, select the roll, tap Add to add a new exposure, and enter its values. In addition to the standard values like aperture, shutter speed, focal length, exposure compensation, etc., the app automatically records the geographical coordinates (useful for geotagging photos). Exif4Film also lets you take a photo and attach it to the current exposure. When you add the next exposure, the app automatically populates the fields with values from the previous entry. This can be a real time-saver when you take several photos with the same camera settings.
Exif4Film features other creature comforts, too. The View on map button displays the roll on a map complete with markers for each exposure. When you finish the film roll and record the time when it has been unloaded in Exif4Film, the app conveniently changes the roll’s icon, so you can easily identify the active and processed rolls in the list.
As you keep adding rolls to the database, managing them may become increasingly difficult. This is where the app’s filtering functionality can come in rather handy. Using it, you can display only the rolls that match specific criteria, such as camera model, film, and loaded/unloaded dates.
Exif4Film also has a companion desktop utility which can help you to import the recorded exposure into the scanned photos. To do this, you need to export data from a specific roll first. Tap the Export button in the Exif4Film app, select the desired roll, and tap Export. You can then export the data to a file on the device or Dropbox. Transfer the exported .xml file to your machine, launch the Exif4Film desktop utility and use it to write exposure info to the scanned photos. The utility is simplicity itself, so you shouldn’t have problems figuring out how to use it.
If you are looking for a no-frills depth of field calculator app for Android, you can do much worse than giving the DoF Calculator a try. Released under the GPLv3 license, this app has the virtue of doing one thing well: calculating the depth of field and limit values for any given camera model, lens focal length, and distance to the subject combination.
DoF Calculator is not available in the Google Play Store, but you can either sideload it using the latest APK package from the project’s website, or install the app through the F-Droid market. Unsurprisingly, DoF Calculator is very straightforward in use: pick the desired camera model, focal length, aperture, and the distance to the subject, and tap the Calculate button. The app then returns three values: near and far limits along with the total depth of field.
Film photography can be a great learning experience, but the lack of EXIF data makes mastering the basics more tricky. After all, knowing what aperture and shutter speed values were used in a specific situation can come in rather handy. To solve this problem, I devised a solution which involves a notebook, an Android device, and digiKam.
Whenever I take a picture with my film SLR camera, I write down aperture, shutter speed, focal length and other useful info (exposure compensation, light source, lens used, etc.) in a notebook. To make data entry more efficient, I use icons for often-used lenses and common lighting conditions, and I have a cheatsheet in the notebook which looks like this:
While any notebook or even a loose piece of paper would do, I prefer spiral-bound notebooks from KOKUYO S&T for one important reason: I find the accompanying CamiApp app rather useful for quickly digitizing notes. Thanks to its size, the Ring Memo A7 version fits perfectly into a pocket, and the notebook is much tougher than it looks.
When the roll is finished and developed, I use digiKam to update the EXIF metadata of selected digitized photos. digiKam features a dedicated module which makes it easy to manipulate EXIF metadata. The process of adding EXIF data using digiKam is rather straightforward: choose Image → Metadata → Edit All Metadata, then enable and fill the relevant fields. Press OK when done.
Importing EXIF data by hand for each photo may seem like a daunting proposition, but I usually do this only for a few selected photos from each roll.
If you want to keep your photos safe when travelling, you don’t need to schlep a notebook or netbook around: an Android device can be used to pull photos from the camera’s storage card and back them up on an external hard disk or upload them to a cloud storage. The easiest solution is to use a USB On-The-Go (OTG) cable to connect an external storage device like a portable hard disk or a high-capacity USB stick and use them for storing backup copies of the photos. However, this approach requires an Android device which supports the USB OTG functionality, and not all smartphones and tables do that. This also means that you have to remember to pack yet another piece of hardware. An alternative solution is to set up a wireless backup system which enables you to seamlessly back up photos on a remote storage device or service using your Android device. Here is how this can be done.
The first piece of the puzzle is a Wi-Fi-enabled SD card. Eye-Fi is probably the most popular choice, but there are other Wi-Fi SD cards out there, including Transcend Wi-Fi SD card, Toshiba FlashAir, ez Share, and PQI Air. I use an Eye-Fi Pro X2 16GB SD card and the accompanying Eye-Fi Android app. The card is configured to use the Direct Mode, so it automatically connects to the camera and downloads RAW files to the Android device.
Another important component is an Android app that takes care of backing up the transferred photos to an SD card and a remote server. There are several apps in the Google Play Store that can do the job, but you can’t go wrong by choosing FolderSync. This app can handle a wide range of protocols, including SFTP, FTP, WebDAV, and SMB. In addition to that, the app supports popular cloud-based storage services, such as Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box.net. All you need to do is to configure FolderSync to push the photos from your Android device to a server or service of your choice. The described backup solution does have its weaknesses, though. The amount of storage available for backup is limited to the free space on your Android device. You can, of course, use a microSD card for backups (provided the Android device has a microSD card slot), and replace the card when it gets full. Also, uploading photos to a remote server or storage service requires a relatively fast and stable connection which might not be readily available at your travel destination.
Install the DSLR Dashboard app on your Android device, and you can use it to control a Nikon DSLR camera via a USB connection. But in certain situations, tethering the Android device to a camera using a cable is not ideal. This is where DSLR Dashboard’s wireless functionality can come in rather handy. Using this feature, you can link up two Android devices running the app via a Wi-Fi connection. In this case, the device connected to the camera acts as a wireless bridge (or client in DSLR Dashboard’s terminology) between the camera and the master (or server) Android device. And the latter is used to control the DSLR camera remotely. Here is a diagram that illustrates this setup:
- Nikon DSLR camera
- Android device running DSLR Dashboard that acts as a client
- Wi-Fi access point (AP)
- Android device running DSLR Dashboard that acts as a server
As shown on the diagram, both devices must be connected to the same AP. Instead of using a regular wireless router, you can opt for a mobile router like TP-LINK TL-MR3020 to make the entire setup portable. The clever part is that many mobile routers can be powered via a generic power adapter which can be bought cheaply on eBay. This allows you to create a wireless network whenever and wherever you need it and use it to link Android devices running DSLR Dashboard.
To set up this portable wireless remote control solution, you need the following items:
- Two Android devices running Android 2.3 or later
- A USB OTG cable (can be bought cheaply on eBay)
- A USB cable supplied with your DSLR camera
- A mobile wireless router like TP-LINK TL-MR3020
- A battery power adapter
Power up the mobile wireless router and configure it as an AP (consult your router’s documentation on how to do this). Connect the Android device that will act as a server (i.e., the device for controlling the DSLR camera) to the wireless network created by AP. Tap the Menu button and choose the Start Network Server command. Connect the other Android device to the DSLR Camera using the USB OTG and the USB cables. Enable Wi-Fi on the device and connect it to the wireless network created by AP. Turn the DSLR camera on and launch the DSLR Dashboard app. Once the app has detected the camera, tap Menu and choose the Start Network Client command. This should automatically hand over control to the server device which you can then use to operate the DSLR camera in the usual manner.