Sometime in 2018, my friend, Rob Kent, downloaded an Android app that would help him record analogue exposure information. The app would let you enter the aperture, shutter speed, ISO and a subject so you could refer to it later. He tried to use this app during a couple of our of regular lunchtime photowalks, but it was a pain to use. The app wasn’t very user-friendly, it never “remembered” any of the settings from previous entries requiring all exposure data to be re-entered for each shot. This meant that recording a shot took way longer than necessary and, in my view, put you off using it. At the time, I was using a pen-and-paper approach to record my shots and was finding that to be equally slow and cumbersome. After trying the above app myself I thought: “I can do better than this”.
At this point, I should point out that I’ve been making a living writing software for over 30 years, so my exclamation wasn’t pure hubris. I also had a deadline as I had a holiday coming up where I was planning to shoot a lot of film, so I’d be able to test (or “dog food”) my own software. Plus, it was an excuse to learn a new programming language and write a mobile app. Thus, Analog Memo was born.
I had several goals in mind from the outset. The first was to make it as easy as possible to accurately record a shot with minimal typing. If it was fiddly to enter exposure data, I just knew I wasn’t going to use it and nor would anyone else for that matter.
Also, if it was easy to miss-enter data then that would put me and other people off too. So, I wanted to make it near impossible to enter nonsense data, like mismatching lenses to cameras or entering exposure details that were out of range for the equipment you were currently using. The first part of this goal was met by the app “remembering” the previous values you entered, by using drop-downs to select things like film types, cameras and lenses and by using sliders to enter exposure data like shutter speed, aperture and focal length (zoom lens shooters, I’ve got you covered!).
The accuracy part of the goal was met by recording information about gear. For cameras, this means recording things like shutter speed range and mount type; for lenses, aperture range and mount type (and zoom range). A happy side effect of recording your gear into the app is that it also becomes an asset manager, helping you keep track of all your toys.
My second goal was that the app should be able to keep track of multiple rolls of film, simultaneously. Like a lot of analogue shooters, I have a few cameras on the go at the same time and remembering where I’m up to with all of them is a bit of a chore. This goal was easy to achieve, it’s just a user interface and data issue and was easy to implement.
My final goal was to write the app with the wider analogue community in mind and to make it free to use. My aim was to make the app as useful and as accessible to as many analogue photographers as possible as well as putting something back into the analogue community. Consequently, Analog Memo will always be free of charge and be free of adverts. You also don’t need to log into services nor enter any of your personal info. You can, optionally, give the app permission to use your GPS, if you’d like to record where a shot was taken; and permission to use your microphone and storage, if you’d like to record a voice memo with each shot.
Does it work?
Version 1.0 of Analog Memo met some of my original design goals, it was easy to enter shot data but getting the app up and running needed some effort. The app needed some information about your equipment, upfront, before you could start recording exposure data and it wasn’t that obvious how to do this. After using the app for a while, it became clear to me that the app should revolve around the films the user had on the go and that the user should be able to enter data about their gear as and when it was required. After making these changes the app, now at version 1.7, was much more focused and easier to use. The current version, 1.9, saw the addition of voice notes.
There are a couple of reasons why Analog Memo asks you about your equipment. Firstly, it’s to help keep your data accurate – no impossible camera and lens combinations and no shots recorded with an aperture of f/1.0 on an f/2.8 lens. The second reason is speed. Once a piece of equipment has been recorded in Analog Memo it can, from then on, be picked from a list; you’ll never need to enter that info again and it will always be consistent. Over time, Analog Memo should become quicker to use as more of your gear is recorded. There is a third reason which I’ll explain below.
Is it useable and available now? Yes, and Yes. I’ve been using it myself for months now adding new features and fixing bugs as I find them. You can download it from the Google Play Store. I also have plans for an iOS version, I just need to get my hands on an iPhone to make that happen (hint, hint Rob!).
Is it finished? Nope, there are always more things to do like improve its internals and add more features. The latter is where you come in. What would you like to see in an app like this? I have plenty of ideas for new features, like a built-in light meter that pre-populates exposure data, for example. And, I’d also like to find a way of syncing the data collected by Analog Memo to your computer so that it works with Rob Kent’s “NameThatLens” application. NameThatLens updates the EXIF data stored in images files (either from scanned negatives or shots taken with a “classic” lens) to include exposure, lens and camera information; this is the other reason why Analog Memo records info about your gear (gear could also be added to NameThatLens and synced back to Analog Memo). But if you have any ideas for additional features then I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re interested in learning more about Analog Memo, there’s a complete user guide for it which is available here. If you have any other questions, you get hold of me via Twitter using the @AnalogMemo handle. I’ll also be at the Photography show on Saturday the 14th of March, if you’d like to chat about Analog Memo, see it in action or anything else.
Otherwise, you can download Analog Memo, for free, here.