Crown + Flint: Improve your analog photography skills, get perfect exposure on every shot, and track your film from loading to development.

Crown + Flint: The digital companion for analog photography

So, I made an app. I made it because I needed it. And I’m hoping you’ll find it helpful too. (Spoiler: it runs on both iPhone and Android! Don’t be put off by the iPhone pictures.)

Look, analog photography requires, in addition to artistic vision, a technical mastery of a wide range of equipment and apparatus with a mind-boggling range of variables in play. Camera bodies offer options and limitations, and are sometimes finicky. Lenses are dripping with personality…and personality flaws. Different films yield different results…but not always, and those differences can be subtle or vast. Our development processes are maybe not as consistent as we believe them to be.

I won’t belabor the point, you know what I mean. It’s why so many photographers left analog for digital: A world where these variables no longer exist, where lenses and sensors are largely fungible and real differences emerge only in how we manipulate RAW files.

But I (like you, I suspect) love the analog world, the squishy, messy, characterful, oh so very flawed world of film. But I won’t lie, I can’t keep track of all this shit in my head.

I want to grow as a photographer, and in part that means cultivating a better sense of subject, composition, lighting. But it also means understanding my equipment better, its strengths, its limitations. And knowing—really knowing—when it’s holding me back, and it’s time to invest in something better. I want to know which lenses stand up wide open, and which ones can’t get it together at f/8. I want to know which camera meters I can trust (even when they lie, so long as their lies are consistent). I want to know what combinations of film and developer are actually achieving the look I’m going for. I want to know when my camera is letting me down. I want to know when my equipment is shining beyond my expectations. And I want this data on record, easily accessible, not in my head where some crucial detail will absolutely get forgotten.

The answer, obviously, is to take notes. Since I started shooting film in the early 2000s, I tried to keep notes about my shots (starting with a hipster pda). I knew this was the only way to really understand my equipment, to master the technological side so I could focus on the artistry. And while I love my Japanese artisanal paper and my hand-crafted fountain pen nibs, and I understand the value of handwritten notes for reinforcement and retention…when you’re in the streets, trying to be spontaneous, trying to live in the moment, it’s essentially impossible to keep track of everything with a pen and paper. And certainly not with an app, if it’s not designed to get out of the way.

So I wrote an app.

So, as I said, I wrote an app. I set some pretty stringent goals for this app. It must collect relevant metadata on shots I take: Exposure, light metering, location, time, which camera body and lens I used, what film is loaded. It must be no more cumbersome to use than a hand-held light meter. It must make it easy to correlate the collected data with the physical film itself, ideally through some combination of printable sheets to store with the negatives and/or EXIF data I can merge into film scans. And it should reflect the needs of the photographer, not just the needs of the data being collected.

Crown + Flint is the result of these efforts. I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, and it’s already been a huge help to me. I think maybe it can help you too.

Crown + Flint has three main modes.

Manage your equipment

Here's a detail view of your Leica M3, showing its range of shutter speeds, and available lenses. If only we all had Leica M3s.

Crown + Flint knows all about your camera bodies and lenses.

The first mode you won’t use very often, but is critical to the rest: Managing your collection of equipment. Crown + Flint collects a ton of data about your cameras and your lenses. It’s not meant to be a collection management tool—rather, the point of this is to make the next mode far more useful.

Capture metadata and meter light

See an overview of all the shots on this roll of film, view more detail on each shot, and edit anything that's not quite right.

Meter light with a live preview of the scene. Select the lens you're using, and pick the camera settings to match the light meter reading. All this gets saved when you're ready to shoot.

That second mode is capturing metadata about each shot, while providing accurate light metering for your camera. The light meter knows precisely what equipment you’re using, and what it’s capable of—and so it will never suggest (for example) that you shoot at f/1.4 when your lens only goes to f/2.8. This is the core of Crown + Flint, the place where you’ll spend the most time. Every shot you want to record, that happens here.

The interface is designed to be familiar to those who have used needle-match light meters before. Crown + Flint uses your device’s camera to suggest a light meter reading as an exposure value (relative to ISO 100), just like many light meters you may have used before. The key difference is that, unlike most hand-held or in-camera meters that offer relatively primitive methods to evaluate the scene, Crown + Flint uses your smartphone’s native intelligent evaluative metering to make sure that shadows retain detail, while the rest of the scene remains in balance.

Then you select a combination of shutter speed and aperture that moves the match needle close to the meter needle. In the future, I plan on adding aperture priority, shutter priority, and program auto-exposure modes to speed things up even more.

Track your film

Track you film as you put it in a camera, remove it (perhaps only temporarily), and finally develop and archive it.

The third and final mode is tracking the lifetime of your film, from cracking open the carton to filing cut negatives into sleeves. As you add film rolls to Crown + Flint, you can assign them to specific cameras, then remove them marking them as exposed, and finally record them as filed in your archives with full development notes. Never wonder what’s loaded into which camera, or what rolls are waiting to be developed.

Your feedback is crucial

Look, Crown + Flint isn’t done, it’s not yet ready for release. September 2023 is my goal. But right now, I need your help. I’m looking for beta testers to help me understand how I can improve it to be the indispensable tool you need to grow as an analog photographer. Reach out to me ([email protected]) if you’re interested in trying the app out—as a beta tester, you will receive free lifetime access to Crown + Flint in exchange for your feedback.

[Update 16 August 8:57PM WEST] Holy moly, in just the first few hours after publication, the response has been absolutely overwhelming! I’m grateful! But I think I’ve got a sufficient number of testers for the time being. I’ll update this article (and my Instagram, see below) if I need to open it back up. THANK YOU so much for all your interest!


But even if you’re not interested in being a beta tester, your comments below are very welcome indeed.

Otherwise, look for it on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store at the end of September 2023!

Finally, you keep up with how things are coming with Crown + Flint on Instagram.

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39 thoughts on “Crown + Flint: The digital companion for analog photography”

  1. Gideon Liddiard

    Given that I currently use a series of excel sheets to track all of the above I would 100% be interested in beta testing this, sounds utterly invaluable.

    1. Not sure if you are still looking for beta testers but I would love to try it out. I was going the excel route as well but found that too slow and getting in the way.i have a stable of vintage cameras that I use and think that this app would be perfect for capturing how they perform so I can use them more effectively

  2. I am sure it is a great app for people who took detailed notes on whatever they shoot. I am not good at those things so it’s not an app for me and applying as beta tester would not be fruitful for either side. You would miss feedback and I would suffer from a guilty conscience.
    So as I said certainly great but for others and not so lazy guys,

    1. Martin,

      Totally understand. For what it’s worth, I’m also lazy. The goal of the app is to automate note-taking—not to force you to take tedious notes. But if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.

      1. Sounds like an awesome app. I’d love to try it, and I hope I won’t be too lazy to use it! I’ll look forward to you releasing it for my iPhone. Thanks!

  3. Congratulations on getting it underway, and to a usable point – quickly too!
    I know I wasn’t much help in your earlier questionaire, but I’m impressed.
    Big thumbs up!

  4. Cracking idea Don, congratulations on getting to this point.
    As I’ve just read this post I see you have sufficient beta testers. If you ever need more count me in.

    I certainly hope you and the app succeed.

    Best wishes.

  5. On manual wind cameras I’ll often wind back in a partially used 36 exp film and swap it between cameras (noting the number of exposures then adding one to account for feeding variations). I’ve also tried it on motor wound compacts, popping the cover as soon as you hear the film leave the take up spool, but that’s a bit dicey). I sometimes wonder if other film users do the same. I’ve no doubt some would, I mean, why not? Anyway, if its a common enough practice perhaps your App should also allow for it.

    Best wishes

  6. Very well done! But, and nothing on you at all, for once I wish someone would make an app for Android. I’ve looked into learning how to code it. I’m just not able at the moment.

  7. This seems much more useful than the saved exposure tool on the light meter app I use now.
    I tend to use the spot meter function of that app however- I’d be much more likely to switch if this app supported spot metering. Having something which could be printed and filed with the contact sheet and negatives sounds somewhat compelling.

    1. Thanks for that! What app do you currently use? I’d like to add spot metering, but it turns out to be much more complicated than full-scene metering, so it won’t make it into the V1 release. I’m absolutely thinking about it though!

      1. Hey Don, your app looks very interesting and I’d love to join the beta, I’ll send an email to the address you noted. Also, as for spot metering I use an iPhone app called myLIGHTMETERPro and it provides both full-scene and spot metering.

        1. Mike,
          Thanks for the kind words! Unfortunately, the beta is closed—I have only a limited capacity working by myself! I’m very sorry. I’ll checkout myLIGHTMETERPro though, I’m curious to see how it works!

  8. This is exciting to me. I would love to have this app right now, as it is something I could use quite often. I have 20+ old film cameras from hundred-year-old 127 roll film cameras to 6×7 medium format cameras and many 35mm cameras as well.  I often shoot rolls in multiple cameras, as another commenter mentioned, to test out several repaired cameras on one roll. Other times, I just love to run a roll here and there through my classic Canons, Nikons, etc.  I very much look forward to getting a copy of Crown and Flint. I have long used Samsung notes on android to do all the note-taking work this app can do.  Is there any projected time frame for C&F to be released? It would sure save me a lot of time and effort when out shooting film. Good luck!

  9. This looks like a very interesting app! I look forward to trying it out when released.

    Are lenses inventoried only in association with a particular camera body, or are lenses on a separate list? And then a lens may be associated with multiple bodies?

    1. Hello, thanks for the feedback! Lenses are in a separate list, and can be associated with multiple bodies. When you add a camera, you specify the lens mount it offers. When you add a lens, you specify which of your cameras it can be mounted to. Crown + Flint is smart enough to select all compatible cameras automatically. For example, I have a collection of Pentax SLRs. When I add a new lens, I can pick my Pentax MX, and the other K-mount bodies will be added to the compatibility list automatically.

  10. David Dutchison

    1) Thank you for supporting both phones!
    2) This write up didn’t mention it but the ability to record a low res thumbnail of the scene when the light meter data is recorded would be very helpful in matching the app data to the negatives for cataloging, particularly as film photographers can often have very idiosyncratic sorting systems.
    I’ll be keeping an eye on your project, cheers

  11. Amazing work, thank you for writing this app!
    I’m also wondering if you’d consider having a mode to update the EXIF info of (a batch of) photos? My use case is that, I often take my exposed films to a store for development and scanning, and will end up having a bunch of scanned digital photos with wrong date & time and no info about camera/lens/aperture/location etc.. and since these are already recorded in the app, I wonder if we could apply these info back to the corresponding scanned photo one by one, or even to the whole roll of photos (e.g. assuming they’re in the same order), which would be significant!
    Thank you again for this work, can’t wait to test it out!

  12. Hello !
    Still accepting beta testers ? 🙂 I absolutely can’t wait to test this app, it looks like I need everything it has to offer haha !

  13. No worries !! I can’t wait to try it out haha thank you so much for making such a useful tool for everyone, I can’t thank you enough really. Have a great week-end !

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