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Manual (iOS) review: Great features, but imprecise controls

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The Good Manual takes advantage of changes in iOS 8, allowing for deeper control over camera settings on the iPhone.

The Bad Controls to adjust ISO, shutter speed, and exposure are in desperate need of refinement.

The Bottom Line Manual is a no-frills camera app with advanced tools to get the shot you want, but the controls need to be rethought.


7.2 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Interface 6
  • Performance 8

Manual for iOS is a new camera app that launched alongside iOS 8. Taking advantage of new enhancements in Apple's newest mobile OS, Manual provides for nearly full control over exposure, white balance, shutter speed, focus and ISO when capturing photos with your iPhone.

Several photography apps are getting more manual controls recently, including Camera+, one of the more popular photography apps first released in 2010. Manual stays away from all the bells and whistles of apps like Camera+, but instead focuses on advanced controls. Unfortunately, the implementation is lacking.

Only for iOS 8

Though iOS 8 came with a lot of new features, one of the biggest was that Apple gave third-party developers access to controls they never had before. This means that before iOS 8 things like taking a picture with direct control of ISO, focus settings, and shutter speed -- like we see in Manual -- were things a third-party app simply couldn't do.

But with Apple giving programmers more access in iOS 8, we're going to start seeing a lot of apps that give you more granular controls for everything from photography to messaging, and the new wave of apps is only just starting to surface.

With that said, if you're still running iOS 7, there is no point in downloading this app.

Lay of the land

There's zero setup for Manual. Upon first launch, a quick tutorial walks you through how to adjust ISO and shutter speed, or activate automatic mode. Once you've learned the controls, a basic camera interface is presented. The majority of the screen is the viewfinder, with a bar along the top providing quick access to app settings, controls for white balance and a manual focus mode. Along the bottom is the shutter button, along with the tools to provide more control over your photos. A histogram sits just above the ISO control, updating in real time.

Unlike all-in-one photography apps, you won't find the ability to record video, HDR photos, burst mode, or capabilities beyond capturing a single photo in Manual. But that's kind of the point of the app.

Taking control

To adjust a specific parameter, tap and hold on either the ISO or "S" (for shutter speed) located near the shutter button. Doing so will bring up a scrollable list of the various settings your device is capable of. For example, a range of 50-500 ISO is available on an iPhone 6, while shutter speed ranges from 1/2000 to one-half-second. A long-press on either control put the respective parameter in automatic mode.

Scrolling through a list of parameter variables isn't a pleasant experience. I found it to jump around between numbers without giving me a chance to fine-tune the setting. Instead, I was often forced to scroll up, then back down, then back up, then down again where I would finally land on the number I wanted.

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