Don Goodman-Wilson

Engineer, teacher, philosopher, photographer. Time travel paradox resolution consultant. Developer advocacy evangelist. he/him

Announcing Crown + Flint

When I started my photography journey about twenty years ago, I shot film because (oh, the irony) I couldn’t afford digital. I was a bit too high on Ansel Adams, and I decided that I was going to apply the Zone System to rollfilm. This meant I needed a spotmeter, and a way of keeping notes. Since I’d blown my budget on a Pentax Spotmeter V, I assembeled a hipster PDA and a Bic Crystal for recording the necessary meter readings.

Hipster PDA, circa 2003

While this particular sheet of notes is reasonably legible, it got worse over time, as my handwriting got sloppier, and my notes less verbose. You can imagine how long the exercise lasted. About ten rolls of film.

So for like twenty years or so, I feel like I’ve been flying blind. It turned out alright I guess? But I have binders full of negatives with lots of questions attached: Where is this? When is this? What camera is this? And I’ll likely never know because my memory has never been the best.

Then I moved on to digital photography, and forgot all about these problems.

Then, about a year ago, I collected a couple of cameras without light meters. And I pulled out a notebook and started taking notes again—camera in one hand, Pentax Spotmeter in another, notebook in yet another, and finally a pen in my fourth hand. Except this time I was a little less naïve about my own motivations, and quickly realized this wasn’t going to work. Naturally, I started looking into apps. There some excellent apps for metering light, and some…usable apps for collecting metadata, and what few did both did so poorly or incompletely. Most importantly, none of the apps (or combinations of apps) had a UX that made using a phone more appealing than using a handheld lightmeter + notebook.

So, I’ve been writing Mac apps for the better part of a decade now, but I’ve never written a mobile app. What better time to learn than when faced with a challenge like this? I figured, worst case, I’ll come out of this experience having learned a new marketable skill, and best case I have a nice shiny app that does exactly what I want. And thus I set out in May to build the app of my dreams.

Last week, after a surprisingly enthusastic beta testing period with about 30 folks from all over the globe, I launched Crown + Flint upon the analog photography world.

Crown + Flint is an app that combines film collection management, a highly accurate lightmeter (as tested against my Sekonix L-308X and my Pentax Spotmeter V), and metadata collection. It is specifically designed to get out of the way as much as possible—my design goal is that it can never be more onerous to use than a handheld lightmeter. And I think I’ve succeeded.

Manage your film as you use it; Meter your shots for the perfect exposure; Track what films are currently loaded.

The key to the app is that you have to tell it about your cameras and lenses, in some detail. That means a bit of up-front work doing data entry. But the result is that Crown + Flint will never suggest camera settings that are impossible on your equipment, which saves you time fiddling around trying to find a shutter speed and aperture setting that approximate what’s possible. And because metadata collection is integrated into the lightmeter, the app collects accurate metadata on each of your shots.

All your equipment at a glance; Detailed capabilities of your gear; Track the metadata of each frame…

Moreover, you can know at a glance what film is loaded into what camera, which films are out for development, and what’s in the archives. References images are taken with each lightmeter reading, so you can accurately correlated the metadata with the actual frames.

And just as important…you can export everything off your phone. Right now, Crown + Flint can export a roll of film as a spreadsheet, or as data files compatible with ExifTool (with a little massaging, anyway…) so you can embed the metadata directly into your film scans. Support for more tools coming.

…including reference image and location; Keep detailed notes on each roll; Export your data for further processing.

Crown + Flint is free to use for your first five rolls of film. After which, you can unlock unlimited films with Pro Mode for a one-time purchase of $19.99 USD. The app is available for download now for iPhone on the Apple App Store or for Android on Google Play.

I’m using Instagram to share app updates and spread the love, and Discord for community support. Find us on either of those two channels! I’ll be sharing more detailed usage manuals soon, too.