First impressions phonescoping with Filmic Pro
I've recently discovered an iOS and Android app that focuses exclusively on shooting video and had a chance to try it out for the first time on Monday. It takes a while to get used to a new user interface and a big part of digiscoping is being able to work the controls quickly to get the shot while the subject is still on show. So, I need a bit more time and experience to see if it works well in an everyday phonescoping setting. Early impressions are however very good.
There are number pretty basic features that Filmic Pro provides but that I've not seen elsewhere. Here are a couple of nice examples. Filmic Pro has the ability to configure the screen to always lock in landscape mode - the format you always want to be shooting video in. Forcing the orientation avoids accidental recording at 90 degrees to the horizontal - which sometimes happens if the phone sensors didn't pick up the phones movement properly. On the main screen, there is an icon to show space left on the phone and the battery level. ProCamera only has the former. On their own these features aren't showstoppers, but as a package it makes this app an attractive alternative to the usual camera apps.
Filmic Pro also delivers some more advanced features, which have a lot of potential for going further and really enhancing the phonescoping experience. I'm particularly excited by the support for Focus Peaking (FP), a feature I was recently recommended to look into by flight shot and all round digiscoping supremo Justin Carr (check out his amazing shots). It can be challenging when phonescoping to be sure you've got the subject in crystal clear focus. With a small screen, no viewfinder and maybe in bright sunlight, it can be frustrating if not surprising to discover after the fact that your focus was off. Whilst autofocus on the phone works well for perched subjects, when you've a moving target it gets much more difficult. Even shooting a motionless subject at high scope zoom can present focusing challenges on my setup. So a feature designed to highlight sharp edges (or not if they are out of focus) by showing a false colour overlay, has the potential to be really useful. I tried this out a little bit on Monday while attempting to film one of the most swift and highly manouvreable phonescoping targets - the Hobby, hunting on the wing. Mixed results so far. I think I need more time to get used to it. But with practice I think this feature could be very helpful.
Another more advanced feature that caught my eye is the ability to use a second device to control the phonescope camera device remotely. Connection quality via bluetooth or local wifi network could be constraining here, but it appears it will work over a decent distance. This would enable perfect control and fine tuning of focus for remote filming - see this video for an example of the kind of scenario where this could be used. In this instance, I simply left the camera rolling. But with Filmic's remote control it will be possible to make those minor but often critical adjustments without having to return to the camera. I'm really excited about trying this out next spring.
Filmic Pro is designed purely for shooting video, whereas most apps cover video as a second string to still photography. The result is an app that feels like it's really designed to do what I want to do with it. There's always a downside of course, and it's an expensive app with the basic version currently being featured on the iOS app store for £14.99 in the UK.
I'll return to Filmic Pro and give a proper verdict when I've had more time to adjust to it's interface and have (hopefully) begun using it as my main camera app. For the moment, it's not yet found a place on my phone's home screen but I suspect it will soon.