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One of the more useful photo apps available today, Athentech’s Perfectly Clear for iPad is a little gem that makes short work of tweaking your photos. Also available for the iPhone and an Adobe Photoshop plug-in, Perfectly Clear is easy to use and offers automatic and manual options to make your photos look better and brighter.
Once installed, just tap the Perfectly Clear icon on your iPad to open the software. Before you get started, click on the Settings button to select the size at which the app will save your image including up to 2048 × 1536 through 480 × 360, and a number of selections in between. You can also choose an e-mail size, connect to Facebook and TweetPhoto for sharing, with size options there as well.
The core of the program is, of course, the ability to adjust various image attributes. When you open a file, Perfectly Clear automatically adjusts the photo according to the last preset selected. Preset options include: Default, Portrait, Landscapes, Noise Removal, Fix Dark, and Tint Removal.
To access the presets and manual adjustment drop-down menus, just press the small hatched lines on the right side of the user interface. From there, you can customize or adjust the strength of the selected preset (and save the adjustments as a separate custom preset). Manual adjustment options include White Balance, Exposure, Contrast, Vibrance, Sharpen, Noise Removal and Perfectly Smooth and Skin Tone for portraits. A histogram is available to help judge the image’s overall exposure.
Once you’re finished with your adjustments, you can save the images to the iPad or share them via e-mail, Facebook, or TweetPhoto.
Download and installation was seamless. (Perfectly Clear can be downloaded directly from the Athentech site or from the Apple app store for $5.99.) Perhaps the most challenging and frustrating aspect of using Perfectly Clear for the iPad has more to do with Apple than Athentech.
I transferred images from an SD card using the Camera Connection kit and via e-mail. As expected, the iPad resized the images and, unfortunately, did not allow me to separate the JPEG +RAW images on the SD card (you have to synch with your laptop for more control). The first attempts at opening the images in Perfectly Clear resulted in the application shutting down. When queried, a representative of Athentech suggested that I re-boot the iPad to free up memory. That didn’t seem to work, though, but I suspect the issue may be caused by larger file sizes since the problem did not seem to occur with smaller images. Unfortunately, a recent update to the app didn’t seem the resolve the problem but more often than not, Perfectly Clear worked flawlessly.
On an iPad, the application simply isn’t as fast as it is in Photoshop (I don’t have experience with the app on an iPhone). When queried, Athentech pointed out that the iPad is underpowered and there will be a delay when applying adjustments. The company has some ideas about improving this in the future and, perhaps, the iPad 2’s improved speed will make a positive difference.
After the image is adjusted—whether automatically or manually—a moveable overlay separates the before/after portions of the image. Drag with your finger to move the dividing line to the image area (a face, for example) that you’re most concerned about. Tap on the image to get rid of the before/after view; tap again and you can toggle back and forth to show the full image with or without the adjustments. It’s a handy feature that works well, with one exception: the before/after view is not available when the adjustment control window is open. It would be helpful to have the dual view as the image is being tweaked so the differences can be more easily seen.
My other complaint is that you can’t zoom into the image. Although it’s full screen, I found that it was difficult—if not impossible—to notice subtle differences like noise removal without getting a close-up look at details. However, Athentech is investigating this feature but is aware that one of the challenges is making it work with the iPad’s limited memory (the iPad 2 had not yet been announced/released when we asked Athentech about the possibility of including a zoom control). One final request: have the preset to re-set to Default each time a new image is opened. Others might disagree, particularly when correcting a series of images that need the same or similar adjustments.
But on to the good stuff. Even at default, Perfectly Clear almost always does a great job. No, it’s not perfect, but your image will look a lot better—brighter, clearer, with improved white balance and tonal range. The presets all work well so even if you don’t have time to mess with the manual options, you will notice an improvement by simply opening it in the program (as long as the preset is on default—which is the best starting point). Changing presets is one-click simple, so even if you don’t like one automatic correction, you can quickly choose another.
Where the app really shines, though, is in its manual controls. In addition to sliders, you can turn individual adjustment selections off if, for example, the image does not need Noise Removal or White balance corrections. This allows you to be selective about what adjustments are applied.
Auto exposure actually works pretty well, leaving highlights intact even in high contrast shots. If there’s too much of a difference between highlights and shadows, just dial down the contrast. Changes to white balance and vibrance are, for the most part, easily visible. Applying sharpening and noise removal are less evident with the current full screen view; this is where having a zoom feature would really help.
Athentech is particularly proud of Perfectly Clear’s Portrait adjustments—Perfectly Smooth and Skin Tone and we can see why. The smoothing function won’t get rid of all skin imperfections but applying this adjustment makes a difference on less-than-flawless skin while leaving the subject looking natural. Skin tone helps get rid of reddish tints and generally works well, too.
Perfectly Clear offers a good balance of automatic and manual features contained within an attractive and intuitive user interface to help you fine-tune your images so that you can confidently present them on your iPad to family, friends or even clients.