Specter is a new specialized camera app from the team that created Halide, one of our favorite camera apps on iOS. The Halide team describes Specter as the calculator shutter for the iPhone, allowing the app to do things like removing people from a crowded scene, creating artistic images of rushing water and producing light trails at night. The same kind of images can be created using traditional cameras, but getting the exposure right, keeping the camera completely still, and counting on other factors makes them difficult to get right. With Specter, artificial intelligence is used to simplify the process and make long-exposure photography available to anyone with an iPhone.
If you have used Halide, you will be at home in Specter, which shares a similar interface. Overall though, Specter is easier than Halide, if for some other reason it is tailor-made for a very specific type of photography.
Below the viewfinder is a series of buttons to turn the camera around for a confidence, stabilize the camera and access settings. When stabilization is turned on, the button becomes an indicator that helps you stabilize your shot. Specter can take pictures in 3, 5 and 9 seconds. It's a long time to get the camera's shutter open, so the better you can hold your iPhone, the better your final results will be. The stabilizer button helps by displaying an iPhone icon centered within a bracket field. As you move your hand, you move the icon, giving you a sense of how much camera shake you introduce to the image. When the app determines that you hold enough iPhone to take a picture, the word "STABLE" appears below the button and you can start shooting.
Instead of keeping the shutter open all the time during an exposure, what Specter It takes, however, hundreds of individual images and compares them to doing things like removing objects moving through the frame. The same AI also helps reduce the effect of camera shake, making long exposures possible without a tripod.
The exposure length is controlled by a wheel in the lower right corner of the screen. Just above it is the setting button where you can choose to save your resulting photos as Live Photos, and implement a Siri shortcut to trigger the shutter button. The settings screen also contains a practical guide with suggestions for settings to get the best shot in different conditions, which I found useful when I started.
Specter has an exposure compensation button in the upper right corner, which you can adjust with a slider that appears when you drag your finger vertically on the screen or press the faded exposure button. You can also tap the screen to set the focus point of an image and preview the images you have taken using the button in the lower left corner of the screen. In Preview mode, you can tag pictures as favorites, share photos or movie versions of them, or delete them.
Specters AI is impressive, but it's best to remember that it's not magical either. Keeping the iPhone as feasible as possible results in better images than relying on stabilization.
The images in this review are right from my iPhone XS Max without editing. I tried Specter in a variety of settings: sitting in a chair in a coffee shop with the arm resting on a table for stability, standing without a place to bend in the freezing cold and using a mini-stand. The stand won hands down, but sitting still in a chair at a coffee shop was not far behind. My hand-held pics were not the keeper, but they were taken on a cold day after I had been out for a while and my hands were numb and probably a bit shakier than normal. In contrast, all the night recordings I took on a highway crossing were shot handhelds and many proved good.
The bottom line is that it takes some practice to get good photos from Specter: Both exercises keep the iPhone smooth and Know what kind of conditions are best for taking long exposures. There aren't many settings in the app, but tweaking them helps to give better results as well.
After just a week of using the app, I don't feel like I've mastered Specter. For example, I took off the 10 night shots on a highway, six were good and four were terrible rats. There were no pictures in between. I had the same experience with the other shots I took. Everything was at one end of the spectrum or the other.
It is certain to frustrate some people when they first try Specter, therefore I strongly recommend reading the good tips in Settings. Still, when things fall into place, the results can be amazing, and I've been having fun experimenting with the app. I feel as though with a little more practice, I can improve my hit frequency and create many more interesting pictures.
Specter is available on the App Store for $ 1.99 for a limited time period at which price will be increased.