The makers of Halide, a popular third-party iOS camera app that offers advanced RAW shooting and other powerful tools, are today releasing another photography app: Spectre. Spectre costs $1.99 and comes with one big specialty: long exposures. Long exposures are very common in the DSLR world: they can make an ordinary nighttime city shot feel much more artistic by creating streaks of light from passing cars. Or you can take a long exposure to bring a real sense of moving water to waterfalls or other nature scenes. But on phones, long exposures have often gone ignored: there’s no way of capturing one with the built-in camera on the iPhone or Google Pixel, for example. On devices from Samsung, LG, and others with manual photo modes, it can be done.
But Spectre isn’t just about long shutter speeds: it’s using AI and computational photography to produce enhanced long exposures without the usual distractions. The app can completely remove crowds from a scene, which will come in handy if you’re photographing spots that are popular with tourists. It can even clear streets of cars in some scenarios. Check out the video below. Additionally, the app automatically detects evening scenes to create those desired light trails and can easily apply that motion effect to falling water.
Spectre approaches the fundamentals of long exposure a bit differently. Instead of opening the iPhone’s shutter for an extended amount of time to pull in light (and capture motion), it “takes hundreds of shots over the span of a few seconds” and continually optimizes the exposure so that nothing is blown out or in total darkness. The app uses machine learning for scene recognition, and “AI stabilization” allows for 9-second handheld exposures without the need for a tripod. That’s a big claim, and it’s still no substitute for a steady hand, which is always vital when trying for good long exposures. You can use a tripod if you prefer, and in that case the app is smart enough to disable its own stabilization to prevent issues. In general, long exposures can take some trial and error until you nail the right use cases and framing.
Long exposures are saved as Live Photos, so you can pick any frame in the sequence as your main image or use the final result as a live wallpaper on your device. And they can be shared and sent to others as Live Photos, as well.
The app’s creators say that other modes will eventually make their way to Spectre. They view it as “a computational shutter” that will definitely extend beyond long exposures over time. So if you’re a little iffy on spending money on a single-purpose camera app, you’ve got some assurance that more is on the way. Speaking of which, that $1.99 price is just an introductory offer that will go up shortly after launch. So if you’re a big iPhone photographer, you’ll probably want to jump on it soon.