If you use an iPhone then chances are you’ve used Camera+ by Tap Tap Tap. Camera+ is an excellent application that provides more information and allows additional features above and beyond what the basic camera application provides. Burst Mode, Flashlight Mode, Displaying ISO, Aperture, and Shutter time, in-application photo editing and touchup, etc… The biggest issue and disappointment for me when it comes to the iPhone and it’s built in camera application is low-light performance.
In many situations, with steady light, the iPhone camera works beautifully but in situations where the phone flashes the LED once to get exposure, then once again to actually take the picture I’ve found pictures are often washed and way over-exposed or very under-exposed. Only about 1 in 20 images I’ve ever taken with the default application in low-light that required the LED flash came out decent.
Camera+ has a feature called ‘Flashlight Mode’ in that the LED light stays on continuously allowing you to use it as a working light to compose and take your shot. The big keys to this are you can see, for the most part, what the image will look like on the screen with the flash before actually taking the picture and that you can better control exposure and composition due to this. Being that the default camera application is effectively more convenient I tend to use Camera+ when I need a feature that it provides over the basic application. That being said, for normal day-to-day pictures such as of my 4 month old son or anything else I come across during the day the default application works fine and is just a quick swipe up from the lock screen.
The issue, for me, with Camera+ for along time has been that if you close the application entirely (i.e. double tap home, press and hold on the icon, press the X to close) with the flashlight mode on, the next time you launch the application it receives no input from the camera. The LED light would come on, but the camera wouldn’t actually work – you would have to close the application out to the task bar (not fully closing it) and then re-open the application at which point the LED light would flash off once, come back on, and then the camera would work as expected.
I reported this issue via email directly to the developers of Camera+ several months ago and was essentially told that it was a hardware issue with my phone and not an issue with their software. I volunteered to video record the process that reproduces the issue every time as well as sent detailed step-by-step instructions to the developers directly on reproducing the issue. After a month or so of going back and forth they continued to blame the issue on a hardware issue on my end, with my phone.
Over the course of a month or so, I asked anybody I came across with an iPhone 5 to try and see if they could replicate the issue. Thankfully everybody I ran across already had Camera+ and funny enough, every single one of them was able to produce the issue on their phones. This meant that either all iPhone 5s have ‘hardware issues’ with their camera and flash or Camera+ has a bug in their programming logic. After trying repeatedly to get the Tap Tap Tap team to listen to me about this bug, I finally posted a review on the program itself in the App Store. I figure if going directly to the developers wasn’t doing the job, maybe those who handle PR for the company would be more interested in resolving the issue.
This is the review that I wrote:
Subject: Flashlight mode can cause issues
If you close the app with the “flashlight” on, and then open the task bar and close it out entirely and then re-open the app the light will come on but the app receives nothing from the camera and remains black.
I reported this to the developers, gave exact steps to reproduce, and offered to video the issue for them and they were adamant that the issue didn’t exist and that it was a hardware issue with my iPhone 5. I reproduced this issue on no less than 5 distinct iPhone 5s. If it is a hardware issue (it’s not) then it must be a wide spread issue.
I held off giving a negative review, but adamantly refusing to even investigate a bug report and blaming a software logic error on hardware when the issue can be replicated on numerous devices is ridiculous.
When they fix this, I’ll update this review to 5 stars because otherwise the application is excellent. Feel free to test on your device and see if it happens on yours. I assume it will – if it does contact them and let them know so they can fix this.
It hasn’t always been this way, I know this because I’ve used this app for a long time. I mostly use it for low light photography when the on/off/on/off flash of the built in application does a terrible job and, as such, the flashlight behavior is important to me and used a lot.
Yesterday when I checked for application updates I chuckled a bit when I read this particular part of the update notes:
THE HELLA-BUG IS DEAD!!
If you’re one of the unfortunate Camera+ users who’ve been plagued by the bug where you launch Camera+ and you get a black camera preview, then we’ve got some incredible news for you… that bug is now ancient history!
This annoying bug has been in Camera+ for waaay too long, but we weren’t able to reproduce it ourselves so it remained as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and John McAfee. But thanks to the most magical 1-star review, Camera+ user MikeDVB finally detailed the exact steps to reproduce it. As soon as our Bug Extermination Department got the word, POOF… it was gone like Keyser Söse…”
I am happy that I was able to help them out as Camera+, in my opinion, is an excellent piece of software and I use it regularly. The only disappointment I have is that the official support channels that are supposed to be used to report bugs and issues with the software failed to result in this fix. The review that I left on the software in the public is the reason that this was resolved, even though I had provided step-by-step directions in an email directly to Tap Tap Tap. The responses to my emails looked like this: “Please reboot your device.”, “You should back up your Lightbox photos, then delete and reinstall Camera+. This sounds like a system corruption. There’s no need to video the behavior.”, “Is your flash working in other apps? We don’t have any problems with flashlight, so it doesn’t make sense that the problem would persist after a system restore unless there’s a hardware problem.”, and “I’ve forwarded this to our development team so they can try to recreate it. I haven’t been able to. We’ve only had two other customers report the issue, which is odd.”
I provided no additional detail in my review than was sent to ‘Mike’ at Tap Tap Tap, so I find it odd that the development team wasn’t able to reproduce the issue months ago when I provided directions via email and official support channels but they could when it was posted in a public review.
You can read the blog post on Tap Tap Tap’s website about this release at http://taptaptap.com/blog/the-hella-bug-is-dead/