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59

4Blend HDR, a high dynamic photography option for Windows Phone 8

4Blend HDR

4Blend HDR is the latest Windows Phone 8 photo app to enter the HDR ring.  The app has a simple layout, several filter options beyond the basic HDR, and taps into the Nokia Imaging SDK.

HDR, short for High Dynamic Range, photography is a process where multiple images are taken of the same subject at varying exposure values.  These images are then stacked on top of one another to offer a greater range of tonal detail.  HDR images seems to have a little more pop, sometimes in dramatic fashion.

4Blend HDR does a nice job of adding a creative flair to your Windows Phone photography but there is a little fine-tuning needed before 4Blend HDR can shine.

When you first launch 4Blend HDR, a series of introductory screens will appear to walk you through the app.  Once you swipe through the intro screen (or just tap the Back button to skip), the app’s viewfinder will appear.  The viewfinder has your filter choices running along the left side, your camera/HDR settings along the top and your shutter button resting on the right side of the viewfinder.

4Blend Viewfinder
4Blend HDR Viewfinder

There is a three-dot menu that will give you option to access to 4Blend’s settings, to toggle between the rear and front cameras, view the intro screens, and to send feedback to the developer.  Settings allow you to save all the pictures taken to build the HDR image, turn on the capture after manual focus feature, turn on/off the Rule of Thirds grid, and set the microphone sensitivity (for voice commands).

Filters include Basic HDR, Color Boost, Cartoon, Sketch, Milky, Auto Levels, Blur, Lomo, Sepia, Solarize, Stamp, Negative, Contrast, Brightness, Temperature, Tint and Red.  Just tap and highlight the thumbnail to choose the filter.  Filters can be stacked for added effect.  Just be careful, the highlight is a faint gray that does not stand out much.  It is easy to stack filters by mistake.

4Blend HDR
4Blend HDR's ISO Settings Wheels

4Blend HDR captures three images at varying exposure settings then stacks them to make one image.  You can control some of the camera settings from the top of the viewfinder.  Camera settings include:

  • Gamma
  • Focus
  • ISO
  • Shutter Speed
  • Exposure Compensation

You also have a voice command option that when enabled will let you activate the shutter by voice.  There is not a specific command to take a picture and I did find that background noises would activate the shutter from time to time.  It is a nice concept just needs a specific trigger word to avoid accidentally triggering the shutter.

When you tap on a setting to adjust, a pinwheel will appear (much like what we see with Nokia Camera) to make your adjustments by.  The ISO, Shutter Speed and Exposure Compensation will have three pinwheels, one for each image captured.

4Blend HDR
4Blend HDR Handheld Photo Sample - Alignment issues

When you press the physical shutter button or the on-screen shutter button, 4Blend HDR will caution you to hold the camera steady and will then capture the images.  As with any of the HDR photo apps, we recommend using a tripod to avoid any camera movements.  Keep in mind that part of the imaging process includes aligning the separate photos.  While you can use 4Blend HDR handheld, without a tripod, any slight movement can screw this alignment up and foul up your final image.

Once the images are taken and the processing complete you can review your image with the options to delete or share the final image.  When you are ready to capture another image, tap the back button to pull up the viewfinder.

4Blend HDR
4Blend HDR Photo Sample

4Blend HDR lacks the ability to set the image resolution with the final image sized at 3072 x 1728 pixels at 96 dpi.  Image quality was nice but you will probably need to tweak the HDR settings a little to get that HDR pop.  Maxing out the Gamma setting created some dramatic effects and the filters definitely give 4Blend HDR a creative touch.  I would not mind seeing a little boost in contrast in the final product but you can always increase the contrast with a little post-processing.

4Blend HDR
4Blend HDR Gamma Setting to the Max

While 4Blend HDR makes a nice impression, a few issues hold this app back.  For starters, a stability issue causes the app to crash when first launched.  You also have a bug that hampers any other camera app from launching smoothly after you use 4Blend HDR.  Until these glitches can be ironed out, patience is the key to using 4Blend HDR.

I also would not mind seeing the filter selection highlights being more noticeable and hidden when not needed.  The viewfinder is a little on the cluttered side that gives you a 4:3 aspect ratio view.  The image is captured at 16:9 ratio and the clutter makes it tough to frame your picture with any accuracy.

4Blend HDR
4Blend HDR Photo Samples - Stacked Filters

4Blend HDR definitely has potential but just needs a little work.  HDR imaging apps can be challenging to develop and we have seen our share of these apps needing a few updates after the initial launch to start hitting on all cylinders.  In discussing the app with the developer, they are currently working on updates to improve stability that should pass certification any day. It is our understanding that additional updates are in the works to fine-tune and add new features to 4Blend HDR.

4Blend HDR is a free app that is available for Windows Phone 8.  You can find your copy here in the Windows Phone Store.

QR: 4Blend HDR

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Reader comments

4Blend HDR, a high dynamic photography option for Windows Phone 8

59 Comments

Just installed and uninstalled due to low space, now waiting for black update so that i can reinstall free again via live account. Yippee :) ;)

Don't just pin it to start like other apps,go in the app and enable live tile from the app,it works after that

The only option i got in the live tile settings is: Temperature (Yes/No) Updates: 1hr .2 hr.etc .. Dats it .. J didn't get the other settings like the screenshot on the store ! :(

Hi Mavee,

the issue has been fixed. Please be patient some days the app pass certification process to be vailable on the store.

Regards,

Sebastiano

 

Hello,

finally update has been released into the store and should be available for all countries.

Check for updates. Version number is 1.0.1.0.

Thanks

Sebastiano

The final HDR image is terribile.
The best way is to take some pictures using the bracketing option in Nokia Camera (you can also choose the EV exposure range), then copy the images to the PC and create the HDR photo with Lightroom or another plugin.
Otherwise all you get is a low-res image with some filters on it, and that is not a true HDR image.

I agree with you. It's better to use bracketing with Nokia camera. You just have to post-process the images.
Personally I use Photomatix (google it), it's a great program for making HDR images, it has tone mapping option and a bunch of cool tools.

lol I don't remember the name of the program I actually use (it's the standalone version of a Photoshop plugin), but it could be the same :)

I presume you use the same program as me ;-) Nevertheless the developer of this app has done a really good job (I tried it) and it'd be helpful for some people to start with HDR photography. But it is not for me. Crashes most of the time and the final result is often not very good

I tried this app last week and its not good. Great idea but needs work. Deleted, im using the HDR camera app

Hello,

first of thanks to George for review.

Just to inform that the update that fix issue on Lumia 720 and Samsung Ativ S and more other crash problems, that I remeber, device dependant, has been already submitted to certification process.

Microsoft take up to 5 - 6 business days to complete the process so to be available on the store, so please be patient.

About the gray colour used for filter selection highlight, is not gray at all, but take the colour you use for your tiles. If yellow highlight color will be yellow. The same behavior of Nokia Camera.

Last comment for who says is not true HDR, I won't and will not enter in furhter discussion, but sorry is not true.  May be your are confusing with some effect popular HDR emphasize as a lot of people like it, but doesn't mean it is the true HDR.  This was the choice made for that app.

A lot of improvement and feature will come in the near future, hope you will enjoy them. Who wants to be updated, please follow me on twitter: @galazzoseba.

Still thanks to George for review.

Sebastiano

 

In future uptades can you add more than 3 photos option, for example, 5 photos, to create a really good and true HDR photo?

Hi,

yes is one of the main focus I'm working on for future updates.

Consider that I'm one man develoepr and don't have access to special OEM features like fast shot ( Like Nokia smart Cam ) or other features like that. So I already push the CPU at the max power and full rate optimization developing in assembly code using ARM NEON SIMD machine language instructions.

This means that is not easy to find a solution that is also fast and some people think that the app should be faster ...

Is not possible to make happy all users.

The most probable solution could be to select 5 shots as option, but will always be users will tell is slower.

Would be great to have access to special development feature reserved to OEM like Nokia, HTC, Samsung etc etc they used to develop apps like Nokia Camera.

Anyway I have some ideas to approach the problem and should work. Stay tuned.

Thanks,

Sebastiano

Are you using Nokia SDK? It could have some of the features you are talking to make the app take the shots at faster rate...

For now I have a list of features to improve/fix:

1 - (improve) better control of settings (it's nearly impossible to set ISO at 100)

2 - (fix) Secondary camera end output doesn't seem to work, at least on L920 it doesn't.

3 - (fix) When you want to go back from settings pages the app exits completely

4 - (improve) When you set the manual focus, it woul be nice to have a quick zoom to let us see in finer detail if the subject is focused.

5 - (improve) When half button is pressed, the UI retracts so you can see the image taking the whole screen.

6 - (improve) Specific keywords to trigger the command voice to take the photos.

You are doing a great job doing this app. It's by far the best when it takes to algorithm quality. Althought the resolution isn't quite high, but hey, quality over quantity ;)

Hello,

is not possible to go faster. This is a capability reserved to OEM like Nokia, HTC, Samsung etc etc not to commons developers. I did the best allowed to me.

I made request to have access to these capabilities but had no answer.

Some of your points should have been fixed in the update 1.0.1.0 that should be out the next coming days.

I will take others into account for sure for next updates.

Thanks,

Sebastiao

I think that if you make that request this time and include a link to your app, they will answer you. Because you already have something working in your hands.

By the way, I forgot one simple (I think) feature that you could add on the next update:

* - (improve) get an option on settings panel to allow you(me) to capture full resolution hdr photos

Believe me, for some people, this option is what makes the diference. Some of us, including myself, don't care if it take longer to take the shots or processing them. We just want the best picture your app can make.

Of course this option needs to be advised to make the device stable and not handheld by any means.

Counting on you. And if you want help on translation to portuguese, give me a call ;)

The biggest issue I've had with every HDR (or panorama) app is image alignment. If you want to be a class leading imaging app, then you need to nail this- every time. If a user needs a tripod and voice activation to get a great image then I might argue you're not doing anything beyond advancing the UI (which is important, but not really breakthrough).

Hi Chris,

the algorithm used for image alignment is the phase correlation taking the spectrum obtained by the Fast Fouroer Transform of all images then taken the local maximun of the function that represent the image displacement.

The algorithm, as well documented on the web, has the precision of the so named sub-pixel! or better, wrongs never.

Problems could come as there are different cameras with different quality on all devices at different exposure.

So the same code could work better or worst dependant on user device and settings he used ( a too big spread in exposure compensation doesn't help for i.e ).

As test, when the new release will be available take the same shot using flash and you will see different results.

This is an approach and as all approachs has pro and cons. Other apps for i.e. works better in some conditions but adding artifacts in other that this doesn't add.

This not means that this is the best nor that I will not study improved solutions, just that is not easy on mobile devices and not having all resources.

Stay tuned for new updates, hope to provide what you are looking for.

Regards,

Sebastiano

Hello,

as written in the post above the issue should have been fixed with an update that has already been submitted to certificaton process.

Microsoft take up to 5-6 business days to do that, so please check the store for updates in the next coming days.

Regards

Sebastiano

I wish I knew more about the camera settings for these photo apps. I use the built in camera app because it takes decent pictures during the day and the night time setting is pretty good at night.  I have proshot and it takes good pictures during the day but night photos aren't so good.  My problem might be that I'm too used to the auto features.

doesn't works properly for low memory devices like 720
and the developer is saying that they are aware of it and working a fix for this!

Hello,

finally update has been released into the store and should be available for all countries.

Check for updates. Version number is 1.0.1.0.

Thanks

Sebastiano

Just installed version 1.0.1.0 on my HTC 8X, running GDR3. I get the following message when I start the app:

Warning!

An old firmware version has been detected.  Application could not work properly. Please check for updates.

ok

It looks like it will take a picture, but after taking the pictures, the only buttons are the trashcan and the share buttons.