Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Photopoint Monitoring App Review (iPhone, iPad) - Retake

I don't develop apps.  But if I did, one of my ideas would be to create the perfect photo-monitoring app for natural resource studies and long-term monitoring.  After all, photopoint monitoring is a great way to show how vegetation and landscapes change over time, or due to management or restoration activities.  My "ideal" photomonitoring app would:
  1. offer a photo "overlay" feature that shows a transparent image of the original photograph so that you could line up new photos when repeating visits to the photopoint station,
  2. allow importing of previously geo-located/geo-tagged photos and by reading EXIF data, for instance, and placing them on a map background,
  3. navigate you to an imported photo,
  4. allow you to adjust image quality and optionally stamp the image with meta-data such as plot name, date, time, location, and direction, and
  5. work glitch-free, of course.
Here I review the first of three apps that I recently came across for iPhone/iPads that have some of these components:

Retake Photo Toolbox Review 

$0.99 developed by Stefan Preuss. Version 1.0 tested using an iPhone 5c with iOS 8.1.2.

This app comes the closest to offering the suite of features I'd like to see in a quality photomonitoring app. It offers three features:

"Photo Overlay" feature
  • Good: Easy to use, adjustable overlay transparency (although it can't be done "on the fly" while lining up the repeat photograph), can use photos in camera roll, and the new image saves to camera roll.
  • Bad: there seems to be an offset between what's seen with the overlay picture and what is actually taken. See images below.
 First, I tested the overlay features by using a dash mount as a stable base to make sure I was lining up the photographs in the same spot between pictures.
 This image shows that you can choose an overlay from the Camera Roll or use a "preset" overlay, such as a grid, and adjust the opacity.

 The overlay allows you to see the original picture so you can line up the repeat photo.  Flash mode can be chosen.  Note that exposure is center-weighted only, you cannot tap on different portions of the screen to expose/focus as in regular camera mode on the iPhone.

Below are the original "before" and re-take "after" photo, showing the "offset" even after aligning the overlay and new photographs properly. This offset is most pronounced with objects in the foreground and would not be as noticeable for distance landscape pictures.

Unfortunately, this offset is a deal breaker for use in the field since I feel I can do a better job by having a print of the original photo and lining up the landscape through the viewfinder or touch screen.  Fortunately, I think this is a flaw that the developer could easily fix in the next version.

"(Re)locate Photo" feature

This feature maps the location of photos previously taken with the Retake app.

  • Good: Shows photos on map with location pin, distance and compass bearing to photo point, thumbnail, and address (address happened to not display for the example photo).  Also, you to navigate to photo location either by walking or driving. Navigation uses the Apple Maps app.  By long-pressing the image in the location menu, you can select a picture to use for your current "location" or you can manually edit the lat/lon coordinates.
  • Bad:  Can't seem to automatically or batch import geo-located pictures to navigate to without manually entering lat/lon data individually. There's a locations.csv file but can't seem to edit in either Notepad nor Excel to add "locations" and pictures.  Also, it only shows one photo location at a time. For now I would use the ExifWizard app for batch uploading and navigating to photos that have embeded location info.

Finally, there is a "Fast Switch" feature

This allows you to rapidly switch between two to six images. The switching time is adjustable, or you can choose to tap to switch.  The feature works without flaws although for now I don't see a use for it.

Bottom Line:
The Retake Tool app is a solid contender for a great photopoint monitoring app, but falls short in useability.  Besides a few minor improvement suggestions, two aspects prevent me from further using or recommending this app - the mis-alignment of the retake feature and the inability to easily batch import geo-located images to display and navigate to.  The good news is that the developer may be able to implement these improvements which would make it the best photomonitoring tool that I've found so far.

Disclosure: The developer of this app provided me with the app for free for testing purposes. The only promise I made back to him was that I would provide a fair review based on what I found.

Other photomonitoring apps that show potential (to be reviewed soon):





  • The TomTom app is mentioned for it's reported ability to navigate to geo-referenced photos, but I have not tested it's performance.