The Spectrum application for iPhone uses AI to create better long-exposure photos



Here is a long exhibition of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Notice how the water looks like silk.


Last October, I did a Camera comparison between a new iPhone XS and the Galaxy Note 9. In this context, I wanted to take long pictures of the taillights of a car that dragged in the night. I put the Note 9 camera in Pro mode, lowered the shutter speed and took some shots. Even after fine-tuning ISO and exposure compensation, I could not get the desired results. The iPhone XS with its long exposure Live Photo did not do much better.

On Thursday, a new iOS application called Spectrum can take a simulated long exposure photo by combining hundreds of photos taken between 3 and 9 seconds. This can create clear trails from a car at night, give running water a silk appearance or keep a crowd of people away from a popular place. The application is made by the same guys who created the Halide photography app.

Spectrum's special sauce comes in the form of digital photographs similar to those used in Night view on the pixel 3 or Portrait mode on the iPhone. Specifically, the application uses AI, machine learning and algorithms to simulate a long-exposure photo, also called slow shutter photography.


Here are two pictures I took with an iPhone XS. The one on the left has been taken with the default camera application. The one on the right is a 9 second exposure taken with the Spectrum application.

Patrick Holland / CNET

I've had Specter for a few days and I've been impressed by the ease of use. There are not many options or tools to navigate. It can automatically detect and switch between modes for streaks, night cityscapes or light painting. One of the best features is to see your photo built in real time. All photos are saved as a Live Photo JPEG file, which lets you view the build later.

Here you can see the progression of the light trails created with the Spectrum application.

Patrick Holland / CNET

A small, real-time icon indicates how busy your phone is. It's a nice visual reminder to help you stabilize your iPhone when a photo is taken.

But Spectrum is not the only application to simulate a long-exposure photograph. Adobe Lightroom CC for iOS and Android offers a long exposure mode as part of a "technology preview" that you can activate. And then there is the iOS Slow Shutter Cam application that offers a multitude of controls for long exposures as well as an additional intervalometer mode.

The simple spectrum interface combines a minimal appearance with a font and controls influenced by a real camera. Spectrum is available Thursday at the introductory price of $ 1.99. The price will increase after the initial publication of the application. No word if an Android version is in the works.

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