Using an iPhone in the field

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by jslabovitz, Dec 11, 2008.

  1. jslabovitz

    jslabovitz Member

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    I’m photographing in Portugal at the moment, and have been having an interesting time using an iPhone as one of my primary tools. I haven’t seen much here in the forums on the topic, so I thought I’d summarize my workflow in case it helped anyone else.

    I’m shooting primarily Neopan 400 (in 6x7 format) on an RB67 with three lenses (65/90/180mm). I’m metering using my trusty Sekonic L-358. I’m using a tripod for everything, so there’s plenty of time for composition and exposure calculation.

    Although I’m quite familiar with shooting with only a camera & meter, I’ve found the iPhone is quite handy for the following (all apps are either standard Apple apps or downloadable from the App Store using iTunes):

    * Leveling

    As I’m composing on the tripod, I’m using the iPhone as a spirit-level, using the Clinometer app ($0.99). I launch Clinometer, then set the iPhone on top of the open RB67 waist-level viewfinder. I usually adjust for level only in the left-right axis, as the front-back adjustment is part of the composition and doesn’t need to be ‘correct.’


    * DOF calculation

    I’d like to say I use one of the many available DOF applications, but actually I’ve found that none of them are very intuitive or useful. I have downloaded PhotoBuddy, PhotoCalc, and Visual Dof Calculator. These apps might be helpful for someone with less shooting experience, but mostly what the apps do I can either calculate on the lens itself (using distance scales), or I know intuitively.


    * Reciprocity calculation

    So far I’ve just used the regular Calculator app (in scientific mode), with the formula found somewhere online of Tc=Ti+(0.3*Ti^1.62), where Ti is the indicated speed and Tc is the corrected speed.


    * Field notebook

    I use the standard Notes application to keep track of information about each roll and shots on that roll. I simply start a new note for each roll, using a sort of shorthand like this:

    081210. Rb67. Neopan

    1. Path. 8@125. 90mm
    2. Olive tree. 5.6@250
    3. Blue bird bench. 8@250
    4. ". 16@60. 65mm
    5. Steps w/ Goldfinger. 11@60
    6. Path with gutter around tree. 5.6@30. 90mm
    7. Wall with plants. 11@400
    8. Trellis. 8@400. 180mm-pol
    9. ". 8@60
    10. Stones. 16@250. 180mm-pol
    I use periods instead of other punctuation because it’s easy to type — on the iPhone, if you press the ‘space’ button twice, you get a period followed by a space.

    The first line is the roll ID (I use year/month/day, plus ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, etc. for additional rolls on a given day), camera name, and film type.

    The rest of the lines contain:

    • Frame number
    • Description
    • Aperture/shutter set
    • Lens, with any filters (‘pol’ = polarizer)
    If a value hasn’t changed on a successive shot (eg, I’m still using the same lens), I leave that out, or use a double-quote mark.

    I’ll also note location, date (if different than the roll ID), and other information I want to remember.

    Once I’ve finished a roll, I simply email the note to myself. If I’m out of range of a wireless or cellular network, the iPhone will queue the note to be emailed later.


    * Reference shots

    I use the standard Camera app to take two digital photos of each shot: one is taken normally from roughly the same point of view, and one is taken of the viewfinder itself (with the magnifying glass up, which seems to give the best focus). This latter shot is often quite rough, but serves as a decent reference image until I develop the film.

    Just like with any photo on the iPhone, I transfer images back to the computer using iPhone.


    * Post-shooting organization

    Back on my Mac, I collect the roll notes and the reference images into a new folder. I rename the reference images to relate to the shots (eg, ‘081211.01.vf.jpg’ is the viewfinder reference image for the shot #1 on the roll ‘081211’). I run a script I wrote to process my shorthand notes into EXIF tags; these tags are then written into the pair of reference images. (The tags mimic all the shot information, including exposure, camera type, etc.). I can then drag the set of reference images into Adobe Lightroom and, voila, all the metadata is accurate.

    Once I develop & scan the negatives, I copy the EXIF information from the reference shots into the new scan files. I can then delete the reference shots if I want to.


    * What’s missing?

    While all this works reasonably well, there are definitely some things I’d like to change.

    Using the Camera, Clinometer, and Notes app (not to mention the DOF apps) requires a lot of switching applications. This is tiresome on the iPhone, since I have to press the Home button and mentally readjust to the new app.

    It would be nice to making the process involve fewer button presses and be more transparent. I’m considering writing an iPhone app that would let you create a new roll, then add new shots to that roll. For each shot, it would let you take a variety of reference images. It would remember the information from shot to shot, and show a simple level control on the same screen. All the information would then be more tightly related to each other.

    Since my Sekonic meter can calculate exposure in EV units, it would be nice to simply input that number into an iPhone app which then helps me calculate aperture and shutter values based on a given ISO rating. This could also take into account filter & bellows factors, as well as reciprocity failure.

    A more intuitive and useful DOF calculation would be great. What I want is to be able to input the points I want in focus (eg, main focus on 2 meters, with 1 meter in front and 2 meters in rear to be in focus), and have the iPhone calculate the appropriate aperture, given CoC tolerance, film format, etc.

    Anyway, I hope this is useful, or at least interesting to those of you who have an iPhone, or are considering getting one.

    Is anyone else using an iPhone in the field?
     
  2. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    I've been using Clinometer as soon as it was released to level my Deardorff, but I found a much better app than Notes. It's called YouNote and it allows you to make photo, written, typed, or voice notes and it records your location via GPS linked to Google maps. You can also create tags for notes that make it much easier to categorize information. It's not perfect, but it kicks the stuffing out of the plain jane Notes app.
     
  3. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    Nice info there Gents, thanks very much.

    I use the iPhone's gps and mapping to save my bacon in strange places.
     
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I've used its timer for long time exposures at night when either I've forgotten my watch or it's just too dark to see the watch face.
     
  5. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    Ok, LOVE the clinometer. :smile:
     
  6. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    Thanks so much for this. I hadn't gone through the list of just how many apps are out there to find everything you have. Cool, now I can find them!
     
  7. ctarda@mac.com

    ctarda@mac.com Member

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    Well, this is a bit of self-promotion, so people, you can ignore it, but I also use it to store a database of development times (that I developed myself, thus is the self-promotion) called FND (film is not dead)
     
  8. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    iPhones are nice but using the ExpoDev software on a Palm phone is much more functional.

    Of course you need to do some calibration but for about $50 you can have the view camera store do the densitometer work and enter it into the Plotter software and email you the file for the Palm phone.

    I enter the EV high and EV low values along with my Zone placements, desired f-stop and the software determines the exposure time, calculates reciprocity failure, deals with filter factors and bellows extension factors. It has a built in timer for multi-second exposures that works well. It allows for written notes about exposures and keeps track of film and lens focal length. It determines development time for each sheet of film and stores the information in a Microsoft Outlook memo that automatically syncs with my computer. The software works with both spot meters and incident meters. They have a large number of built in film-developer data that you can use if you don't want to do your own testing.

    On my phone, I can also take a digital photo or video of the scene I am photographing and make voice memos.

    I don't think the medley of deconstructed iPhone applications can compare to this.
     
  9. jslabovitz

    jslabovitz Member

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    Yes, I know your application (both on iPhone & Mac), although haven't yet used it. Thanks for developing it!
     
  10. jslabovitz

    jslabovitz Member

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    The ExpoDev software does look very functional, especially for large-format photographers. Folks reading this thread might want to check it out at ExpoDevPalm, along with the companion Plotter software.

    However, the developers of the software don't seem to be very Mac friendly: only Outlook synchronization is mentioned, and Plotter doesn't run on a Mac without emulation software. This, along with ExpoDev's $100 price tag, limits the appeal for me. I wonder whether BZTS is looking into creating an iPhone version of ExpoDev?
     
  11. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    I was a longtime user and fan of the Palm OS, but I finally had to get rid of my Treo because development had virtually stopped. The iPhone is inexplicably missing a few features like cut+paste, but otherwise it's a major step forward from any Palm device. I waited a long time for a new generation Palm, but it never came. Whoever has the rights to the ExpoDev software should port it over to the iPhone--or open source the code so someone else can do it.