Photographer Zack Arias created this video titled Signal vs. Noise to help his fellow photogs refocus their lives and careers. His advice: “Look for the signal in your life, and not the noise.” Arias writes,
As 2012 was coming to an end [...] I felt as though my brain was full. There wasn’t any more room in it. I can’t take any more information. My head was filled with noise and trying to find anything of any substance was difficult. I would do my best to remember what I was going to the store to buy, but when I walked in the door I couldn’t remember. I’d sit in meetings with my studio manager where she would ask about the direction for the new year and I’d draw a blank. “I don’t know.” My mind was filled with thoughts but I couldn’t string them together in a coherent way to save my life.
Each year I take the month of December off from social media. I like to disappear, go work on stuff, and come back feeling fresh. Nearing the end of 2012 I knew I needed to leave all of that behind sooner than December and most likely stay off of it until the spring. My mind was stuck on static and the volume was set to eleven.
Arias has developed a number of strategies for strengthening signal and killing noise. Head on over to Scott Kelby’s blog for the whole shebang.
Lytro‘s groundbreaking consumer light-field camera made a splash in the camera industry this year by making it possible to refocus photographs after they’re shot. However, the cheapest model for the boxy device has a price tag of $399, and the reviews have been mixed so far.
If you’d like to play around with your own refocus-able photographs without having to buy an actual Lytro device, you can actually fake it using a standard DSLR camera (or any camera with manual focusing and a large-aperture lens). Read more…
One of the interesting technologies Sony introduced into its line of NEX mirrorless cameras last year (starting with the NEX-C3) was “focus peaking”, a feature from the video recording world that highlights in-focus areas of an image to aid in manual focusing. You know those colorful pixels that image editing programs use to indicate blown out or underexposed areas of photos? It’s like that, except for focus. What’s awesome is that you can adjust things like focus, focal length, and aperture, and then see the depth of field adjust on your screen in real time. Check out the 10-second video above for a demo. Read more…
Lytro has been pushing to make their living pictures — interactive, clickable photos that have a variable focus point — easier to share. Lytro is a camera that has a very specific, proprietary way of saving and viewing photographs, so sharing these photos can be tricky. Nevertheless, Lytro has been able to quickly expand living photos across the web through social media, most recently to Google+ and Pinterest through Google Chrome extensions. Read more…
A new patent application by Apple is showing off some of the technology we may be finding in the next generation camera. The application, which you can read in its entirety here, mentions a few new features, among them the ability to select multiple focus points, allowing the the phone to take over and adjust the aperture, exposure and even post-process to get the best possible picture for those points.
A few other notable features mentioned in the patent include motion tracking for focus, automatic sharpening of key areas, and the possibility of a dedicated image processor (instead of the image processing hardware built into the A5 chip?). Of course we can’t be sure that these advances will make their way into the next iPhone or that they’ll see the light of day at all, but just the fact that Apple is taking this much of an interest in improving an already good smartphone camera seems to bode well for the phoneotographers among us.
Sony is reportedly focusing on autofocus as one of the main battlegrounds it’ll wage war on in the DSLR market. According to sonyalpharumors, the company is working on a new A99 SLT camera that’s already being tested by photographers in the wild, and one of the main selling points of the camera is a whopping 102 autofocus points — all of them cross type. For comparison, Canon’s 1D X has 61 AF points with 41 of them cross type, and the Nikon D800 has 51 AF points with 15 of them cross type. Granted, the autofocus performance of a camera is much more than the number of cross-type points it has, but perhaps this is the beginning of a new “cross-type war” now that the “megapixel war” is cooling down a bit.
In a paper published in Science this week, Japanese researchers reported on a discovery that jumping spiders use a method for gauging distance called “image defocus”, which no other living organism is known to use. Rather than use focusing and stereoscopic vision like humans or head-wobbling motion parallax like birds, the spiders have two green-detecting layers in their eyes — one in focus and one not. By comparing the two, the spiders can determine the distance from objects. Scientists discovered that bathing spiders in pure red light “breaks” their distance measuring ability. Read more…
Claus Thiim captured this beautiful image of fireworks showing both in-focus and out-of-focus burst of light. The trick is to capture most of the photograph while focused on the fireworks, and then throw the lens out of focus shortly before the shutter closes.
On a slightly related note, check out this crazy video of an entire fireworks display released in just one minute (something went wrong).
Contrast detection is one of the two main techniques used in camera autofocus systems. Although focusing speeds continue to improve, the method uses an inefficient “guess and check” method of figuring out a subject’s distance — it doesn’t initially know whether to move focus backward or forward. UT Austin vision researcher Johannes Burge wondered why the human eye is able to instantly focus without the tedious “focus hunting” done by AF systems. He and his advisor then developed a computer algorithm that’s able determine the exact amount of focus error by simply examining features in a scene.
His research paper, published earlier this month, offers proof that there is enough information in a static image to calculate whether the focus is too far or too close. Burge has already patented the technology, which he says could allow for cameras to focus in as little as 10 milliseconds.
Canon’s new 1D X is an impressive fusion of the old 1D and 1Ds lines, boasting state of the art sensor quality combined with impressive speed, but there’s one downside that may be a big disappointment to some photographers: the camera loses autofocus when used with lenses with a max aperture of f/8.
While there aren’t any Canon lenses that naturally have an f/8 maximum, adding a 1.4x extender to a f/5.6 lens or a 2x extender to a f/4 lens results in a lens with a max of f/8. If you’re planning on upgrading to a 1D X but need extended reach (e.g. you do bird photography), you may need to shell out some extra cash for a faster lens.