Today’s app may be one of the hardest I have ever tried to explain. Let’s start here… this app is a must have! When I first heard about it I thought “No Way”. After using it the first time I thought “*$%# Yeah!” SynthCam is the product of Stanford University Professor Marc Levoy. As a Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering you would expect him to be smart, and based this concept I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with. Let me explain the two main reasons why this app is needed.
I love photography and use a DSLR because I prefer photos that have a shallow depth of field. You know, those shots where the subject is sharp and in focus but the background is blurry. The problem is that you don’t always have the “good” camera with you. The old saying that the best camera is the one you have with you is true, and in 2011 that seems to always be a cell phone camera. In my case, that’s an iPhone 4, and it takes great photos. The problem is that cell cameras have small sensors and small apertures, so they can’t take photos with a shallow depth of field. In other words, the entire photo, front to back, is in focus. That’s where SynthCam comes in.
SynthCam does not take “photos”. It records video. Yep, video. But it does not save it as a video file. It takes the separate video frames and stacks them to make a photo. If you move the camera slightly during the recording the objects are in a different place in each frame. When added together they look like blur. But with SynthCam you tell tell the app to track an object in the frame and keep in focus. Actually, you can tell it to track 4 objects, but I should warn you – this app takes practice. The more objects being tracked the harder it is, but it can be done. With multiple points you can even simulate Tilt-Shift photography – check out the last sample image in iTunes. I have mastered 1 object, and had some success with with 2 so far. The image above was a one object shot with the spot to track set as the “P” in VoxPro.
I said there were two reasons to get the app and the second is fantastic too. Have you ever taken a photo with your phone in low light? Noisy as hell, right? The problem is that the small camera sensor in the phone can’t capture enough light. But with SynthCam you are capturing more than one frame, and that means more light. Plus, any noise is usually in the blur area.
The easiest thing is to look some sample images here, and then download the app and play with it.
I should mention the one big downside of SynthCam… resolution. Video is not 5MP. So you won’t be getting high resolution shots from this, but for online use this app rocks.
SynthCam is available in the iTunes AppStore and is free. It has 4 stars from 61 ratings.