Hydra “HiRes” iPhone Camera App (REVIEW)

ihydra256

Let me start out by saying I am a Photo Geek.  I have been since I was a young teenager and have been taking photos for more then 50 years.   (Okay I am an old photo geek, but damned proud of it.)

I recently discovered an app for my iPhone that I really like.  It is called Hydra.  It is produced by CREACEED.

Now before I get into the nuts and bolts of this app, let me say it IS NOT for the casual user.  The app has numerous 4-5 star ratings on the APP Store, but the only negative ratings seem to come from casual users that expected one shot magic to make their images extraordinary.   This app requires a braced camera or a very steady hand to work right.   Or in other words it requires a little learning and some patience.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

Hydra can perform several functions including HDR (High Dynamic Range where it can capture a greater range from lights to darks and maintain detail), Low Light, Video HDR, Zoom feature where it can create a sharp and detailed 2X or 4X zoom image, and Last but not least the feature I enjoy most of all, HiRes (high resolution shooting) where it creates not an 8mp image but a real 32 megapixel image.  Further for functions other then its Hi-Res 32 mp mode it can create 12mp images from the 8mp sensor.

None of this is magic.  Rather it is a tried and proven scientific and photographic process known as image stacking.   The problem is that it does not work well with motion.   It is for still images and still, non-moving subjects for the most part.  It works by taking anywhere from 10-50 photos in quick succession and then “stacks them” in a way that increases dynamic range, and/or resolution.   It requires some patience in use and will not make your selfies or family photos look like they were taken with a professionals camera unless you can get everyone to stay perfectly still and not even blink or breathe for at least 5-8 seconds.  (the time it takes to capture from 10-50 photos)

It is great though for architecture or landscapes that don’t have moving elements.   It works in a similar way to the pixel shifting that can be found in Olympus and Pentax cameras, and some Medium format camera backs.   Users of recent Olympus (EM5-II and EM1-II and Pentax (K3-11 and K1) cameras will know what I am talking about.   It is pixel shifting without the shift, but rather an adjusted interpolation similar to the way Photo Acute software worked in the past.  (FYI, they are working on a new version of Photo Acute, the last I heard).

Below are some shots I took with my iPhone 6s+ in both good (but overcast) outdoor light and poor indoor light.

Now why would you want to do this?  Well the average person may never want to do it if they are satisfied with quick shots shared on facebook or other social media or that are never shown on any screen except their phone screen or printed small.   However if you want to view some images very large or make some nice big prints, then it is “amazing”.

This is niche software for those who enjoy taking their photography to a higher level.   It won’t replace my Olympus or Panasonic or even my dreams of a Pentax K1.   But it does make the iPhone camera shine if you have the patience for it.   Now enough talking, here are some quick photos I shot today comparing against another camera app I like “ProCamera” and the standard Apple camera app.

Well for some reason, the photos are not opening at their full resolution when clicked on.    I’ll look into it.  I have created an album on my Flickr page where you should be able to enlarge and download the images if you want.  All review photos on Flickr for larger viewing and download.

IMG_2571

This photo is a Hi-Res (high resolution) 32 megapixel image of my keyboard. size is 6528×4896 pixels. Yes I know “now” I REALLY need to clean my keyboard.

IMG_2574

This is my keyboard at standard up close viewing. 12 megapixel resolution of 3024×4032 rather then the standard iPhone 8 megapixel.

IMG_2573

This my keyboard at 2X zoom. Note the detail you don’t normally find when zooming on the iPhone. The norma zoom is just a cropping of the standard image. This is an increased resolution image at 12 megapixel.

IMG_2572

Okay, this is at 4X zoom. Again, look at the detail, none of the normal loss of detail from digital zoom on the iPhone. 12 megapixel not 8.

iPhone 6s+ Apple Camera Standard HDR

This is the iPhone 6s+ standard HDR photo. The camera shoots 2 shots, one over and one under exposed and combines them. It is very quick and suitable for people or group shots if they mostly are still.

Hydra HDR - Normal setting

This is the Hydra HDR image at its normal setting. It has a 3 settings choices, B&W, Medium and Strong. You can also choose to save an un-enhanced image. Strong brightens up colors and contrast to give the typical HDR effect.

Hydra HiRes @ 32 megapixels

Hydra HiRes (not HDR) at 32 megapixels.

ProCamera HDR - Natural setting

This is my current favorite HDR and advanced iPhone camera app, ProCamera. It shoots excellent HDR at several different levels. I should probably do a separate review of it. This is the standard 8 Megapixel image at 3738×2992 pixels. Same as the iPhone HDR. I will note than in my early tests, ProCamera produced better noise free HDR then did Hydra. In good light though Hydra provides the better overall resolution, as long as the camera or subject doesn’t move. Pro camera will shoot either 3 frame or 5 frame HDR photos and provides a choice of a normal image, natural HDR , Vibrant HDR, Dramatic HDR and Black and White HDR. You can save one or all. It also provides total manual control of the iPhone camera for exposure, and focus if you want it.

Hydra HiRes @ 32 megapixels

Another Hyndra HiRes shot at 32 megapixels.

Hydra HDR - Strong setting

Hydra HDR on Strong setting (dramatic). Note the enhanced color vibrance and blue in the sky, even on a somewhat cloudy day. ProCamera also offers options.

iPhone 6s+ Apple Camera Standard HDR

The iPhone 6s+ standard HDR shot. Now this isn’t bad and it can be improved in software. But not up to the detail of the other two apps or the resolution of Hydra.

iPhone 6s+ full frame shot with Hydra HDR

This will be an example of Zoom. All 3 photos are taken from the same spot. This first photo is standard Hydra HDR. Then next 2 will be 2x and 4 X zoom. Each shot requires a minimum of 10-12 shots during exposure.

iPhone 6s+  Shot with 2 X Zoom.

Hydra 2X zoom. Normally zooming in on a normal iPhone image results in a softer image with less definition, because it is just a crop of the 8 megapixel sensor that is then interpolated back out to 8 megapixels, but it is accomplished in 1 shot. The hdyra zoom took 12 shots and then combines them to increase the resolution back out to normal appearance and creates a 12 megapixel image rather then the smaller 8 mp.

Hydra 4X zoom

4X zoom with Hydra. Note that thee image is still clear, sharp and rich with fine detail.

 

LOW LIGHT update:  Wanted to do an update on on Hydra’s Low Light capability.  Below are two shots in very low light.  Basically a pair of sandals under my bed.  iPhone exposure was 1/15 second @ F2.2, ISO 2000.  One image is a straight photo, the other is using the Low Light function which shot 10 images and stacked them.

I also measured the exposure with my Panasonic Lumix FZ 1000.  It measured at  ½ second F3.5 and ISO 1600, so nearly the same.   Images below are approximately 1:1 magnification.

IMG_2698

This image is with low light capability ON. It has good detail and sharpness. Exposure was 1/15 sec at F2.2 and ISO 2000,

This image is with low light capability ON. It has good detail and sharpness. Exposure was 1/15 sec at F2.2 and ISO 2000, Very high for the iPhone

 

IMG_2697

This image is with low light capability OFF, so standard phone exposure. It has good detail and sharpness. Exposure was 1/15 sec at F2.2 and ISO 2000, Very high for the iPhone. Note it is very grainy, noisey and poor detail.

 

SUMMARY:  I really like Hydra and it is already a major part of my iPhone toolkit.  I normally use the iphone for quick snapshots and either my Olympus OMD-EM5 Mark II or my Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 for more serious photography.  It is nice though to have the Hydra enhancements available and within their limitation of requiring multiple exposures and therefore limiting movement of environment or subjects.  Within the limitations it is quite amazing.  It won’t replace my Olympus for plannedHigh Resolutions shots (It can shoot 40mp JPEG or 65mp RAW 8-pixelshift shots that are truly amazing.) but it is nice to have the abilities it does provide when I don’t have my other cameras.  I can see using both the Zoom and the Hi-Res frequently and the other functions sometimes.  It competes with ProCamera on Good light HDR but ProCamera is quicker and provides more HDR options (6 different options) and I am planning a review on it within the next 2 weeks.  ProCamera also serves several other advanced photography functions including full manual control, and bracket control over its HDR.  But both apps do a decent HDR all the time with ProCamera doing better in very low light.  I should mention though that the Advanced HDR and Advanced Low light on ProCamera are extra cost buy-ups though the basic app is free.  Hydra apparently does have some additional enhancements I haven’t checked out yet so will be doing that in the  near future.

Hydra though is permanent part of my tool-kit unless something else improves on it.  Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if creaceed keeps improving it.

IF you could only buy one app, you couldn’t go wrong with Hydra.  Just remember it isn’t for one shot selfies and snapshots.  I is for people who enjoy even iPhone photography at a higher and more rewarding level.  I recommend it highly to any Professionals and advanced amateurs who would like  their iPhone to be more capable on those occasions when they don’t have their serious gear with them.

Feel free to ask questions or leave comments.

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