Photo Technical

Latest camera innovations still don’t beat great photographs -A38

So what’s new?  Reading about face detection and blink recognition built I’m wondering what this new technology and what’s next for new digital cameras?

In October of 2008 there was the annual 6Sight Future of Imaging Conference looking into future digital imaging.  In the heyday of film photography in the 1990’s the images being captured totaled less than 100 billion.  It is expected that by 2010 people will be taking more than a half trillion.  Needless to say imaging is becoming more prevalent than ever in our lives, and therefore the interest in its future innovations grows.

What are the latest innovations?  With plastic surgery, pills to slow the aging process, computer enhancements and intelligent cameras, will soon have a world of perfect images, right? Every year there is something new.  If you’re willing to pay for it, this year we have smile detection.

How well do these new camera innovations work?  Further in this article I will note what I have read about specific new features.  One thing certain is that cameras are becoming automatic-beasts, with most requiring auto settings for innovations to work, and the burden is you may end up spending more time fiddling for features on your camera than interacting creatively with the real world photographic process.  You will have to decide what direction is best suited to you to get a perfect photo.  Is it a manufactured mathematical algorithms or your intuitive sense that makes the best photo?  With this question raised let’s look at the latest innovations and expectations.

Face Detection that has been developed by Fujifilm for their S6000fd can detect up to ten faces.  If, for instance, you had a couple (2 subjects) and for preferences of composition you had them at the far left of the frame, with face detection selected the first subject would have a green box outline and the other (and all subsequent subjects up to nine) will have a white outline.  The camera then knows to optimize focus and exposure, popping the flash if necessary, expressly for the best results in photographing the couple.

A limiting feature factor is a person’s face must be facing towards the camera and the lighting must be good for this to work well. There may be a limit to how many faces a camera can detect.

In the Smile Detection auto-mode you depress the trigger button and the camera automatically takes a photo when it detects all subjects are smiling.  This seems to work if the subjects are facing the frame in a straightforward manner and they want to smile.

With Blink Recognition activated, if someone blinked in the photo you just took, the camera alerts you so you can take another shot.  Great if it works and the subjects are willing to give it another go.

Cameras with Auto Red-Eye Correction, In-Camera Red-Eye Fix will detect red-eye and automatically correct. In some cases, you must manually correct red-eye in the on-camera display.  The reality is even the best systems have an 80% accuracy rate.

The JPEG XR architecture is likely to become a standard for the next generation of cameras.  The original JPEG file standard was the digital equivalent of the output of film.  This new architecture that Microsoft wants to be the standard will include a HDR (high dynamic range).

HDR attempts to bring images closer to what our eyes see, and can be initially be viewed as providing dazzling images.  Why it is then somewhat controversial is because it is another mathematical enhancement not an aesthetic one.  I have coined a phrase “photographs on steroids” for images that are algorithmically enhanced at the surface, but at their core remain poor images, and tools such as HDR will compound this situation, which is the growing confusion between a great technical enhancement and a great photograph.

There are new digital cameras that will geotag your photos, recording the exact coordinates (longitude and latitude, folks) where you took the photo. What can this do for you?  Besides tracking your life’s movements, it’s another way you can sort your photos. You could even create an interactive map of your travels with images that correspond to points along your route.  There is the Digital Camera Swim Mask from Liquid Image and AgfaPhoto’s new DC-1338sT that offers a 3-inch touch screen you can operate with a stylus or your finger.  We also now have cameras especially designed for kids and sunglasses that can take photos.

Let me not overlook camera phones as they will be improving.  Up to date only about 12% of images captured by camera phones are ever downloaded for enhancements.  This will change now that there are industry wide initiatives to develop quality ratings using both objective and subjective date.  With standards in place consumers will be more motivated to print and share images.

I have saved mentioning Image Stabilization for last, because it has been around for a while.  This allows you to get steadier shots with a hand-held camera — you’ll get better shots at slower shutter speeds and when using a zoom lens.

This feature is helpful and worth the extra cost, especially if you’ve got a 10x optical zoom or more.

And what other innovations can we look forward to?  They will include liquid lenses, specialized software-enhanced optics, nanomotors, new flash and image stabilization technologies, new generations of image sensors and imaging software, high-definition videoconferencing and more… change is inevitable, for better or worse there is no stopping it.  For now I need permission to go ashore.