In the future, after you print photos onto paper using your camera, you’ll be able to scan them and share them on Flickr using your mouse. At CES earlier this year, LG showed off an amazing new mouse that lets you quickly scan images and documents by simply waving the mouse over them. Now it’s available — if you live in the UK, you can buy one from Dabs for £90 (~$150).
Posts Tagged ‘innovation’
Here’s some interesting innovation on the tech-side of photography: on August 24, Sony will be unveiling a new lens adapter called the LA-EA2 that will let customers use large Sony Alpha DSLR lenses on their small NEX mirrorless cameras. Unlike most lens adapters, this one actually does a lot more than adapt lenses — it has its own translucent mirror and phase-detection autofocus sensor to aid the camera in providing snappy autofocus. It’s almost like an accessory that helps turn small NEX bodies into a DSLR-style camera (except there’s still no optical viewfinder).
Canon is on a tear today with its announcements. In addition to new Rebel cameras and new entry level flashes, they also have some lens news. First, they’re releasing new versions of their 500mm and 600mm lenses, but even more interesting is the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lens they announced the development of. This is a zoom lens that has a 1.4x teleconverter built right in. Once you switch it on, it instant turns into a 280-560mm f/5.6 lens!
Sony has been gaining ground on Canon and Nikon lately by focusing on innovation, creating new technologies and entering the mirrorless market early while the two mega-corps have mostly been content with playing it safe with their popular products. Sony recently filed an interesting patent in Japan that shows some of this creative thinking at work. It’s a design for a compact camera in which the panel that hides the lens on the front of the camera turns into a camera grip when the lens is exposed!
Just as the Winter Olympics are heating up international competition in Vancouver this week, the U.S. has suffered a bit of a statistical loss to non-American companies on home turf: American-owned companies have captured far fewer U.S. patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2009. U.S. corporations hold about 49% of all U.S. utility patents in 2009, while non-U.S. firms hold the majority.
In a repeat of last year’s trend, major Asian companies, such as South Korea’s Samsung, Japan’s Canon, Panasonic, Toshiba, Sony and Seiko Epson have snagged a spot in the top ten in number of patents issued in 2009, according to the IFI Claims Patent Services ranking.
An interesting note: out of the top 10 on the list, many, such as Canon (viewfinder patent sketch featured above), Panasonic, are diverse companies whose products include printers and televisions, but have a notable stake in the consumer camera industry. Fujifilm, a Japanese-owned company dedicated to consumer camera products alone, placed 19th on the top 50 list as well.
Though the sheer number of patents does imply an accelerated growth and company innovation with an intent to bring the products to a consumer market, the press release notes that America has held its own considering the recession climate that still lingers:
Although the margin of patent dominance between U.S. and non-U.S. firms is slight and has been for several years, there is no uncertainty that foreign firms are adding patents at a frenetic pace. ”Interest in protecting corporate intellectual property has become intense both in the U.S. and abroad, and as a result we’re seeing an increased level of patent activity,” continued [general manager of IFI Patent Intelligence Darlene] Slaughter. ”The silver lining may be that the high priority foreign firms place on U.S. patents is a confirmation of the value and importance that the U.S. market represents.”
U.S. companies, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard held top spots on the rank as well, at 1st, 3rd, 8th, and 10th, respectively.
The web is abuzz over a project over at Stanford that aims to revolutionize how we think about photography by building an open source camera (dubbed Frankencamera).
Open. Source. Camera.
While you try to wrap your mind around this new paradigm, I’ll point out of a few of the important aspects of the project and throw in some of my thoughts on it.
Linux, Firefox, and now Frankencamera
The established order of things up to this point has been for behemoth camera corporations (i.e. Canon, Nikon, etc…) to sell consumers (i.e. you and me) hardware and software that they spend years and billions of dollars developing and tweaking. The same was true of operating systems and browsers before open source projects like Linux and Firefox crashed the party.
If this research group at Stanford successfully releases an open source platform for imaging, a whole new world of opportunity opens up for photographers and developers alike. Instead of attempting to have features added to future cameras by making noise and requesting them, we would be able to take matters into our own hands, building hardware or developing software to suit our needs.
Advanced In-Camera “Post”-Processing
Imagine if you could program your DSLR with some common Photoshop actions that you always run when post-processing your images, so the photos come out the camera with your edits already applied.
Even more advanced post-processing techniques could be moved into the camera, providing photographers with features that the large camera makers would never add to their DSLRs, since they prefer sticking to the fundamentals and leaving post-processing up to the photographer. For example, a photographer could choose to have his camera automatically bracket, merge, and tone map, allowing him to download HDR photographs directly from his camera.
The team behind the Frankencamera also envisions a future where photographers can download applications onto their cameras, just like apps can be downloaded to the iPhone from the App Store. Wifi on your camera? Directly uploading photographs to Flickr? Different photo styles and camera effects? The possibilities are endless, and it would definitely be interesting to see what applications developers would come up with.
As Apple’s App Store has shown, it definitely pays to put application development in the hands of individuals rather than keep it behind closed doors with your relatively small group of developers and engineers.
How would an open source software platform change the game in terms of hardware? The Frankencamera is currently being developed with a hodgepodge of parts — everything from Nokia cameraphone sensors to Canon lenses. If an open source camera gained any significant piece of the camera market pie, then third party lens manufacturers such as Tamron and Sigma would no doubt join in on the fun.
I’ve read elsewhere that third-party lens makers are forced to reverse engineer the mounting and focusing systems of camera makers such as Canon and Nikon. This would be completely unnecessary for an open source camera, and the third-party companies would even be able to contribute towards the software side to improve the functionality of their lenses.
A critical piece of the puzzle, however, is the issue of sensors. I’m sure the bulk of the billions spent on R&D has to do with sensor technology, and pretty much no one can compete with the larger companies on this front. No matter how popular an open source camera might be, adopters will likely have to take a hit on sensor quality unless one of the big players decides to contribute their sensors.
Personally, I think this is a great idea and really hope the research group succeeds in getting something off the ground and into our hands. I only wish it were a project being done over here at UC Berkeley, though I do know there’s some pretty interesting work being done related to camera sensors and bokeh rendering.