There’s no doubt that smartphone photography tends to suffer in low-light environments. Recent Android flagships have made up for this with computational photography, but iPhone users have been left in the dark.
While Apple is likely working on its own Night Sight competitor, there’s no guarantee that the feature will arrive this year — or work on older iPhone models. But if you’re looking to take better low-light photos with your Apple handset, there is a third-party solution.
It’s called NeuralCam and it works by borrowing a technique used by professional photographers. Essentially, the app takes a series of shots at different exposures and combines them together to create an image with more light than you would otherwise have.
You could, theoretically, attempt to pull this off manually and create your own stacked image with editing software. But NeuralCam’s main benefit is that it automates the process in-app. The app compensates for camera movement and moving subjects with in a frame, too.
NeuralCam’s developers also appear to be using some sort of proprietary autofocus method. Attempting to focus a shot in low light environments can be difficult on smartphone cameras, especially on older models that use contrast-based focus methods.
The end result is a usable image — even if you’ve snapped the picture in an ultra-low-light environment.
That being said, NeuralCam isn’t magic. The images don’t have much contrast to speak of and there’s a graininess and blurriness to them. Under certain circumstances, you may end up with a picture that has a paint filter-like quality to it.
While the app tries to compensate for camera and subject movement, taking a shot still takes a while. Depending on the model of your iPhone, exposing an image can take anywhere from 3 to 5 seconds. Processing the image may take even longer than that.
But, as we mentioned, the image is usable. That’s a lot more than can be said for low-light pictures snapped in the stock Camera app. Until Apple comes out with its own first-party solution, NeuralCam may be your best bet for low-light captures.
The app is currently $2.99 on the App Store (although that’s apparently an introductory price). It’s available for the iPhone 6 and later.