Review: Hydra Camera App [Upd 11/16]

Hydra App has been released a while ago, but you know that I only write a review if I use the app myself regularly for a few months. Before I recommend and an app, I want to make sure it fits my workflow and the travel photography I do with an iPhone.

When Hydra was released, the original reviews in the App Store were quite mixed. I think those reviews were the result of false expectations. Yes, Hydra app can shoot HDR and 32 megapixel photos with an iPhone, but only under certain conditions. It’s not a point and shoot camera app.

With Hydra you can:

  • Shoot HDR photos
  • Film Video HDR; but I didn’t use it so far
  • Shoot photos in low light situations
  • Shoot photos with  a 4x zoom
  • Create photos with a resolution of 32MP (yes, on an iPhone!)

 

Understand how Hydra App works

No matter which mode you chose, Hydra app will take a number (up to 64) photos and combine them to either an HDR, a low noise photo, a zoomed shot or a supersized 32 megapixel photo.

And this is also the weak point of the app. Taking 64 photos takes some time, even with a superfast iPhone. So if there is any motion of your camera (iPhone ;) or in the scene, the results are disappointing. You’ll get a ghost effect or blurry borders around the photo.

So my first recommendation is to always use a tripod when you use Hydra App.

 

Hydra App sample photos

Half Dome in Yosemite

Half Dome in Yosemite

Office Building in Vienna, Austria

Office Building in Vienna, Austria

Inside shot of Alcatraz main block

Inside shot of Alcatraz main block

 

Hydra App User Interface

The user interface is pretty straight forward. The gear icon in the top left corner will bring up a screen where you can chose to save the unprocessed photo and enable or disable GPS location in your photo. That’s pretty much it.

Right above the big shutter release button are the different shooting modes that you select by swiping left or right. Then, once you’ve selected the shooting mode, you adjust it by taping the settings button right to the shutter release. The following settings are available:

  • For HDR, you can select a resolution of 3 megapixels, 8MP or 12MP. I keep this to 12 all the time
  • For Video HDR, you can select the intensity and resolution (720p or 1080p)
  • For Low Light, select 3, 8 or 12 megapixels.
  • For Zoom, use 2x or 4x. If you have an iPhone 7plus, forget about the 2x and use the optical 2x zoom of the iPhone 7 plus
  • For Hi-Res, chose a resolution of 18, 24 or 32 megapixels.

For HDR and Low Light, I keep the setting to 12 MP and for hi-res, I chose 32 megapixels.

Then, just shoot by tapping the shutter release button. Then Hydra will determine how many photos it needs to take and display that near the shutter button.

Hydra App takes up to 64 shots

Hydra App takes up to 64 shots

If you’re using HDR mode, it will ask you if you want to apply a black and white, medium or strong HDR effect. I found that medium looks more natural in many cases.

Select HDR mode

Select HDR mode

Did I mention already to make sure that there is absolutely no movement in the scene?

 

Recommended use for Hydra App

Though I’ve tried almost all shooting modes (except for video) I mainly use HDR and hi-res mode. For low light photos, I’ll stick to my favourite ProCamera App with low light modes.

Finally, because of the way that Hydra app works, I found it to work great for the following settings:

  • Indoor, e.g. in abandoned places where you don’t have any moving things (usually ;)
  • For absolutely calm landscape and nature shots with not even a slight breeze. Pay attention to the clouds!

Hydra App may not be a point and shoot replacement app. But it works excellent for creating HDRs and 32 megapixel photos.