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Software & Apps

Datafilm: The Note Taking App Designed For Film Photographers – By Vincent

November 14, 2021

I am excited to present a project I have been working on during the past few months. It is called Datafilm and it is a modern note taking iOS app designed for film photographers.

Apart from being an interface designer, I am also an amateur analog photographer who started his journey into film photography a few years ago while moving to Asia. As soon as I shot my first film rolls, I fell in love with the whole experience. However, coming from the digital world, I found myself missing the metadata part, also called EXIF, embedded into digital images.

The main reason I wanted to keep track of my shots aperture and shutter speed was so I could learn from my mistakes and improve my practice depending on light and situations later on. However as we all know, films only capture light, they don’t capture camera or lens settings.

I was lucky enough to shoot in a large variety of places here in Asia, however as a westerner, it’s sometimes difficult for me to remember the name of this small city or this local place shown on my pictures. Unfortunately films can’t keep track of such type of information either.

The good news is, nowadays our phones are always with us and they are totally capable to handle both of these scenarios, and even more.

Datafilm

Datafilm lets you keep track of your frames’ info such as aperture, shutter speed, focal, frame number and flash usage. It also keeps track of the date, time, geolocation and extra notes related to your shots.

You can browse and organise your film library into different folders, and search through them to quickly find any of your films. You can export your films into Text document or JSON files and instantly share them to your computer, other mobile devices or contacts.

I’ve been trying to find the right balance between flexibility and simplicity. For example, adding and setting up your camera and lens automatically adapts the interface controls and values depending on your gear (ex: f/stop increments). And the app also includes a database of over 200 film stocks to make your selection easier and quicker.

I have been translating the app in English, French and Spanish. A German version is currently in progress and I hope I will be able to include more languages in the future to make it as accessible as possible.

As a designer, I have always been passionate about minimalism, simplicity, and ease of use, and I did my best to embed them as core values along the creation process. I hope you will enjoy the experience and find the project useful.

Last but not least, I do believe that great products are made by teaming up with users and iterating over time. So please feel free to reach out to me anytime directly via the app or via [email protected] if you have any feedback. Datafilm is a free and non-profit project made by/for passionate analog photographers.

Screenshots

Datafilm quick shutter speed selection

Datafilm quick shutter speed selection

Datafilm quick selection toolbar

Datafilm quick selection toolbar

Datafilm frame info

Datafilm frame info

Datafilm share film

Datafilm share film

Datafilm export film

Datafilm export film

Datafilm browse preview

Datafilm browse preview

Datafilm share and export preview

Datafilm share and export preview

Datafilm record preview

Datafilm record preview

Datafilm folder screen

Datafilm folder screen

Datafilm home screen

Datafilm home screen

Features

  • Keep track of your frame settings (frame number, focal, shutter speed, compensation, aperture, flash, date, time, geolocation…)
  • Attach a reference picture to a frame
  • Display your frame location on a map
  • Organize your film library using folders
  • Search for films
  • Export your Data to JSON or Text Documents
  • Instantly share your exports to your other Apples devices or lab contact
  • Adaptive controls matching your lens characteristics (full, half or third aperture clicks)
  • Pre-filled lens/camera/stock/ISO rating when adding new films to save you some time
  • Optimized for vertical & horizontal orientations
  • Pre-loaded selection of over 200 film stocks
  • Designed according to Apple Human Design Guidelines
  • Optimized speed and performance for older model of iPhones

Download

Download Datafilm for free on the AppStore.

Thank you very much for your time and thanks to Hamish for giving me the opportunity to introduce you to Datafilm.

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37 Comments

  • Reply
    Bob Janes
    November 14, 2021 at 10:38 am

    I think it is great that you are putting in this effort. There do seem to be a some obstacles:

    1. You are having to juggle two devices.
    2. You are having to set multiple values for each shot
    3. You are needing to keep the data recorded in-synch with frame numbers (which might not start at 1 in the case of bulk-rolled film), including if you forget to record the data for one frame.

    I wonder whether a practical proposition might be to just take a photo with the phone of the top surface of the camera for each shot (this might be what you refer to as a reference picture) – for most cameras this would show you the shutter speed, aperture set on the lens, give a reasonable chance of identifying the lens and show you the film counter – all captured at the press of one button. If you could integrate this initial data capture with the phone camera into the app, perhaps the values could be examined (and transcribed) into fields in the app at a later time?

    Another option that might even get over the juggling two devices problem would be to allow voice data capture – then, by wearing earbuds with a microphone you could speak the values into the app for later transcription. I confess I’m not familiar with trying to control apps via voice, as my programming experience dates from an earlier time.

    Have you considered the possibility of incorporating a light meter? This might be a way of capturing the shutter speed and aperture the other way around (ie they start off on the app and get transferred to the camera).

    Best of luck with the development.

    • Reply
      RW Jemmett
      November 14, 2021 at 12:05 pm

      I use an app light meter (actually a few different versions) I find them to be very good. I agree it may be good to include within the app and perhaps even load the data as that used by the camera.

      One feature I would like is to be able to export the data into Lightroom. One issue is that when I receive scanned images they are not in the same order as the negatives. (I guess it would be different if I scanned them myself.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 9:26 am

      Thank you for your detailed feedback Bob/RW, I truly appreciate! The points you are making are totally relevant and interesting to me. The challenge here is all about speed/ease of use yes.

      Your idea about voice control is great. Paired with a watch for example, the user would just need to tape 1 button on the watch to start recording (or a “hey siri launch Datafilm” voice action), then speak out loud a predefined sentence like “aperture 2.7, shutter speed 1/800s, flash on…”. Then using an algorithm, the app would associate values to labels (aperture = 2.7, …) and add that to the database.

      On the other hand I’ve never been much convinced about voice controls, especially via mobile in an heterogenous environment. I think they raise some tough issues/challenges:
      – The quality and feasability depends on the environment. If you are in a loud environment, it can be a problem. Or if you are in an environment where you can’t/it’s not appropriate to talk, same.
      – You still need to juggle with 2 devices, + 1 more actually, headphones
      – Every one has a phone but not everyone has wireless headphone yet, I guess
      – I think the algorithm breaking the sentences into pairs of label/values may be doable without much struggles, especially in 2021. However I think that localization/language can be a barrier at a certain point when we want to make it more accessible (ie: for non English speakers).
      – The sentence format and or order and or clarity or accent/pronunciation etc looks like a big constraint to me
      – Lets say you just changed lens, and you need to make a sentence which includes : new lens, frame number, aperture, shutter speed, flash, focal lens… It looks like a very long sentence to me, I’m wondering if it would be that handy on a daily usage, even though it seems really cool.

      I’m not that familiar with voice controls either though, but that being said, the idea is interesting and it’s definitely good food for thoughts. I did not think about that option before you mentioned it. 🙂

      Using a lightmetter integrated into the app as a “main interface” to capture the data, avoiding manual user input is also interesting. I’m just not sure it would fit most of user needs, and I’m not yet sure how much additional values vs constraints we could get from that.
      – Users need to interact and input values to the app meter anyways, even though yes, some values may be then obtained automatically, but unfortunately not all of them
      – The values our meters read are not necessary the value we are using. And if we need to override them.. the speed gain we get from using this approach tend to fade away, and the concept seems to lose all of its purpose.
      – There may be mismatches between their camera / hand held meter values and their phone app light meter values (which is certainly less accurate).

      I’m playing devil’s advocate here, and it’s more about feeding the discussion than criticizing your ideas, which I really find interesting and worth thinking about.

      The most amazing to me in this journey is how challenging is such a project, even though on paper it may seem like a simple problem to solve. 🙂 It’s a tough challenge to make such an app relevant to a vast majority of users. The balance between complexity and ease of use is also hard to maintain.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and for your kind encouragements Bob!

  • Reply
    RW Jemmett
    November 14, 2021 at 10:54 am

    Looks interesting. Having successfully developed some apps in the past I looked at doing something similar – but I went down the logbook road. (Published). There is a steady stream of buyers.

    I will download it and give it a go and make contact.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 9:35 am

      Thank you! And sure feel free to reach out if you have any specific needs unsolved with the current version or thoughts you want to share 🙂

  • Reply
    Jonathan
    November 14, 2021 at 11:02 am

    This looks like a great initiative – good on you!

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 9:35 am

      Thank you Jonathan!

  • Reply
    Stewart Waller
    November 14, 2021 at 11:40 am

    Interesting. Although it might detract from the analog shooting experience, I’ll try it anyway (I thought a light meter app would slow me down, too, but find it invaluable now!). Thanks.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 9:43 am

      I agree and see myself in your words. The fact I just click and then instantly connect back to the current moment is one of the reasons I’ve switched to analog to never come back to digital.

      I used to take more pictures than needed, then check the backscreen of my digital camera to verify the shots, reframe if needed etc. Great pictures. Not necessary good moments. Too much manipulation brings you out of what you are living.

      I am not sure Datafilm should be an app photographers use systematically. At least, not in its current state. I’m not sure it’s worth keeping the settings of every single pictures of our rolls. However, for some pictures, for some situations, in case we want to play with some bracketing, or just for beginners who try to master their gear to the point where it becomes an extension of themselves.. then it makes sense.. I hope 😉

  • Reply
    Randy
    November 14, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    An application that I could find useful to me, as I use ‘legacy glass’ on my digital bodies. I am already taking time to compose the image desired, a few more seconds will not hurt in my opinion. If I am in a hurry I could enter info after the shot.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 9:45 am

      Thanks Randy! Definitely, and it doesn’t need to be systematic. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

  • Reply
    Stephen Meese
    November 14, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    Seems like a fantastic and very useful app! I’ve often thought about make one similar to this. Unfortunately there’s no love for Android users here, so maybe I’ll attempt it?

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 9:52 am

      Sorry about that yes, it took me around 5 months to make it happen on iOS only. I’m a product designer but not an mobile developper (even though I have been hacking around since I was young). So I had to spend quite some time learning Swift, SwiftUI and UIKit + develop the whole project, database etc. I wish I had more time and ressources so I could raise his Android sibling but unfortunately I don’t.

      You definitely should, the big motivation for me was to be able to combine 2 of my passions (film photography and product design) into a same project. It’s pretty fulfilling and motivating. 🙂

  • Reply
    Randy
    November 14, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    I’m an android user! I just got booted off my BlackBerry! So give it a go!

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 9:53 am

      Well noted Randy! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sandro
    November 14, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    Please, how do you import exif data to the scanner files?
    I currently use PhotoExif app which has this functionality (there is a separate app component that runs on the Mac and writes the data to the scanner files), althogh lacks other features that you developed.
    The possibility to attach a mobile photo is great for large format.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 10:08 am

      As for now, Datafilm is only about data recording/input. Data reintegration is a big and challenging topic itself (even though it may seem simple from a user perspective). Hopefully, it will come in the future. Meanwhile I’ve added export options, but you are right to highlight that they are not much user friendly when it comes to exif merging, unless you are a developper yourself.

      My plan is to create a native Mac app to deal with that. I know that photoexif has developed a Lightroom plugin. But I’m not that keen on replicating that approach since not everyone owns Adobe licences (they are expensive imho). So it may be something closer to a free native macOS app, possibly taking advantage of iCloud to synchronize and make data reintegration easy.

      That being said, the current mobile app focused on data input is still a proof of concept. And I would like to refine it as much as possible before jumping to the 2nd big part of the project. For example, long exposures with shutter speeds > 4s are currently not supported. I don’t mind personally, I never shoot with a tripod, but lot of photographers do. 🙂 I would like to maintain quality over quantity over time so one step at a time, however you are definitely right, it’s THE feature that would at a certain point give a real purpose and additional value to the whole project.

      Hope that makes sense to you. 🙂 Thank you for your suggest!

  • Reply
    David Garcia
    November 14, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    I really look forward to using this app, mainly to keep a record of when a photo was made. Having the lens and aperture-shutter speed recorded is awesome. Frame numbering is not a problem at all. One can simply look at the negatives for that. Thank you very for developing this app. Best to you.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 10:11 am

      Thank you David! Regarding identification, you can override the frame number, add a reference picture and add notes. I think in most cases, one or more of these variables will enable you to identify shots with no efforts, however if it’s not the case and you are facing bad experience please let me know. 🙂 Best!

  • Reply
    Nick Lyle
    November 14, 2021 at 4:03 pm

    Well done. Your app design suits me for one. It will supplement the little notebooks I currently use. I especially find it useful to add some notes describing shots so I can connect films to the correct data when I get rolls back from the lab, often months after shooting.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 10:12 am

      Thank you Nick. You nailed it, in its current state, the project is definitely thought out to be a paper photo notebook replacement. Hope it will fit your needs!

  • Reply
    G
    November 14, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    “ Optimized speed and performance for older model of iPhones” – so why does it require iOS 15?

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 10:30 am

      I am referring to the hardware in this sentence (the CPU/memory/chipsets in your phone and the smoothness of animations and interactions when using the app). iOS15 is needed because of some technical features used in the app.

      There is no retro compatibility with iOS 14 because of maintainability reasons (the project is meant to be maintained over time, Datafilm is not a startup with fundings, it’s a one man, free and non profit project). It’s the same reason as why there is no android version of Datafilm. Sure I could deal with retro compatibility, both iOS 13 and iOS 14 actually. I could even develop an android version too. And I wish I had the time to do that, but I don’t 🙂

      As a side note, iOS15 is available on all iPhones >= iPhone 6S/SE (so almost every devices not older than 6 years ago). If your phone is older than this or if you are not willing to update your phone to the latest iOS version for some reasons, I’m sorry but you won’t be able to use this app. Accessibility and inclusivity are concepts that definitely speaks to me, the app is actually available in 4 languages. But I also have to draw limits and define priorities.

      Hope you understand and it makes sense to you 🙂

  • Reply
    S Debski
    November 14, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    Yes – I would think that there are android users then iphone users these days..

    Vote from me – if that were the case. I have several phones, none iphone.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 10:30 am

      Well noted! Thank you for your feedback.

  • Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    November 14, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    Well done. I am glad to see some interesting software options like this. But I agree with Bob above. In the field, you are dealing with 2 devices, and it will take some time. I am so old-fashioned, I still write notes in a little paper notebook.

    Many years ago, a serious photography friend used to speak into a small Olympus voice recorder. Then back at home, he would save the tiny tapes and could go back to any photograph that he needed. He mostly used these notes as an aid in the dark room.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 10:37 am

      Thank you for your input and encouragement. I agree, there are still improvements to add to the app, it’s a proof of concept.

      We’re discussing the voice control option with Bob in the first comment below this article. Im unsure about it’s viability however it’s definitely an interesting topic to discuss.

      Even though they may seem old school, notebook + pen could be considered as extra devices you have to carry too 😉 You may write faster on your notebook than if you were to input the values using Datafilm though.

      Thank you for sharing your/your friend’s experiences, its very valuable to me.

  • Reply
    davesurrey
    November 15, 2021 at 12:04 am

    Vincent:
    It looks like you’ve put in a lot of hard work developing this app. Well done and it’s commendable that you are giving it for free. It’s just a pity that it doesn’t work on Android devices.

    Hamish:
    There are several apps that set out to do a similar job. Perhaps it would make an interesting article for someone to do a comparison.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 16, 2021 at 10:38 am

      Thank you very much. I hear you and I am sorry about that. It’s not like I don’t want, it’s more about time and ressources.

  • Reply
    Jerome
    November 16, 2021 at 1:10 am

    Congrats on creating such a full-featured app. I have tried two apps like this, and even began working on one of my own. The problem I ran into repeatedly was that no matter how hard I tried, I always jumbled the frames. Next, I tried keeping track in paper notebook, and still had trouble (understanding my abbreviations months later).

    What has worked best for me is using my camera memory. The Minolta Maxxum/Dynax 800si, 7, and 9 have internal memory that can store exposure data for 4-7 rolls of film. For older cameras the 7000i to 700si, data memory cards are available that can store information for one roll (Data Memory card) to 4 (Data Memory Card 2). In addition, the Maxxum/Dynax 7 displays exposure data for the last 6 frames (???) on it back panel LCD. So, the easiest way for me is to write a brief note about the subject I’m shooting and grab the data off the back panel or recall from memory later. Of course, none of this works for my manual cameras.

    I will give your app a try as soon as I upgrade my iOS version. Good work!

  • Reply
    Vincent
    November 16, 2021 at 10:47 am

    Thank you for your feedback Jerome.

    To tell you the truth, one of our first idea with a friend was to create a new physical device device that photohraphers would plug on their analog camera (like the flash hotshoe) , and this device would kinda grab the settings from the camera/meter and send that to the app. The idea was to make the process fully automatic. No user input. Transparent experience.

    However… for many reasons it was not doable.

    Your current workflow looks definitely great, however as you mentioned, it’s also pretty tighten to your own gears. My rangefinder can’t do that, nor my father’s Canon AE-1. 🙂

    Regarding the frame identification issue: with Datafilm you can override the frame number, add a reference picture, and even notes to each frame during recording to make that identification easier later on.

    Sure, please let me know if you have any ideas or feedbacks after using it for a while, there’s a button to make contact easy directly from the app’s main menu.

  • Reply
    David Hill
    November 16, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    Thank you, Vincent, this is useful and well thought out. It falls well in line with my thinking of how a logbook or log-app should work. I’m glad once again I upgraded this month from my iPhone 6, haha. 🙂

    A couple of issues, however … The following remarks relate to iPhone 13 Pro, current iOS.

    * I like that it defaults a new frame to the last-used values. This saves time when we continue to shoot in the same conditions.
    * This system presumes “one film-one lens”. Impure as the practice may be, I often change lenses mid-film. I’d prefer to be able to reset lens in the new-frame control
    * In the new-frame control, I’m unsure of the utility of the #, aperture, and shutterspeed buttons. When (for instance) I press the aperture button I see the current aperture setting on a scale (as in your Screenshot#1). It seems (obviously) useful if I could scroll that value with a fingertip, rather than needing to use the (…) Settings button to manually edit the value. Am I missing something?
    * You mention “Adaptive controls matching your lens characteristics (full, half or third aperture clicks)”. I don’t see this feature. Edit requires me to type the value, e.g. “16”
    * It would be useful if the “shutter” button to record the new frame data would also take the reference photo. Make settings, point at scene, touch shutter… Done… without having to Edit the frame to add a reference pic.
    * When reviewing the content of a roll with the “Edit Frame” screen, it would be useful to swipe left/right to go to the next frame (without having to exit and reenter edit mode.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 17, 2021 at 2:16 pm

      Hello David, thank you very much for your detailed feedback!

      – Thanks! Glad you appreciate this detail.

      – It’s actually the opposite. The system was designed to enable users to switch lens from one frame to an other. You setup an initial lens (if you want) when adding a new roll, then after that you can click on the “more” button from the recorder and switch to another lens anytime 🙂

      – I am not sure I understand your your third point. The quick recorder (with the frame number, aperture, shutter speed buttons) lets you control the “most common settings” while swiping the scale. And in addition to that, you can use the more button to setup more settings like flash, switch lens, add comment. Like here: https://dribbble.com/shots/16556831-Quick-Settings Isn’t it working on your side?

      – If you add a lens, and set the “Aperture Ring Clicks” (last parameter at the bottom), the aperture scale displayed within the quick recorder will display 1/3, 1/2 or full increments.

      – I understand your opinion about the reference picture. In your point of view, it’s mandatory. But I’m not yet sure the vast majority of users feel the same. I take good note of your feedbacks though and facilitating/improving the speed of this feature may be worth digging around. Thank you for the suggest.

      – Preview/next frame feature from the editing view totally makes sense! I will check this out.

      Again, thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts David, I find them quite relevant and helpful! 🙂

  • Reply
    Rod
    November 17, 2021 at 1:07 am

    Thank you so much for this, at last I can retire my pencil & notebook. Is there a guide available? I would like to edit the details of some cameras and lenses I have entered but can’t figure out how to do this or how to delete them to start again.
    Thanks again
    Rod

  • Reply
    Rod Williams
    November 18, 2021 at 1:00 am

    Hi Vincent,
    That is great, I have been able to edit the details of my lens and cameras now. Thank you for the detailed reply. I have it all running sweetly now.
    On my phone touching the 3 dots in “camera” row often takes me straight back to “film” with no opportunity to edit, but using swipe left brings up the edit / delete options as you say.
    Seems the real problem was my septuagenarian brain is not quite in tune with the “”swipe left”” generation.
    Thank you again
    Rod.

    • Reply
      Vincent
      November 18, 2021 at 6:16 am

      Rod,

      Glad to hear so 🙂 It’s not your fault at all but mine. The touch area surrounding the 3 dots seems to be too small and requires a “too precise” touch from the user. I should enlarge this zone to make the experience more convenient and avoid these kind of situations.

      Regarding the swipe gesture, you can also use it on film rows (to move or delete them) and frames (delete).

      Thank you again for your feedback, I will improve the experience in a near future.

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