If you recently upgraded from a compact camera to a DSLR, one of the first things you probably noticed was that focusing is done completely differently. Instead of simply pointing your camera at a subject and letting the camera figure out what to do, you now need to think about autofocus points, which often don’t seem as “intelligent” as the focus systems in point-and-shoot cameras. The truth is, autofocus points are extremely powerful and give you a great deal more freedom — you just need to know how to use them.
To get you started, here’s a great primer video by photographer Phil Steele. Over the course of 9 minutes, Steele steps through five fundamental tips for achieving fine focus and tack-sharp photos: ditching full auto, focus and recomposing, looking for edge contrasts, using manual pre-focusing, and making use of live view to aid in manual focusing.
“Super-Resolution From a Single Image” is an interesting research page by computer scientists over at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. It details the group’s efforts to create sharp enlargements of small photographs, and offers comparisons between their algorithm and other popular ones being used and researched (e.g. nearest neighbor, bi-cubic). The large image of the baby seen above was created from the tiny image on the left. See if you can create something more useable using Photoshop.
A new Nikon patent unearthed by Egami shows that the company has developed a new in-camera feature that assists in panning photographs. Tracking a moving subject with your camera and shooting a longer exposure shot creates photos that contain motion blur and a sense of action, but getting the subject perfectly sharp can be difficult. Nikon wants to use some fancy digital trickery to get around this problem. The feature snaps two photographs — one at a slower shutter speed and one at a faster one — and then selectively blends the images together. The subject subject in the fast shutter speed shot is extracted and used to replace the blurry one, producing an image that has a blurred background but sharp moving subject.
A few months ago we mentioned that compact camera manufacturers were approaching smartphone competition the wrong way. We posited that instead of adding creepy unique features like sleeping face recognition and make-up mode, they should instead be focusing on improving ease-of-use and image quality. Read more…
Sharp recently announced its AQUOS SH-01D phone, which is one of the few phones on the market that feature optical image stabilization. The phone is powered by Android OS, and features a 12.1 megapixel 1/3.2-inch CMOS sensor. The demo above shows how effective the stabilization is at canceling out small movements of the sensor.
You probably know that stopping down (i.e. increasing your f-stop number) can increase the sharpness of your subject, but how much should you stop down to boost resolution without losing that nice, creamy bokeh? Roger Cicala did some research on this question and writes:
For those lenses that do benefit, stopping down just to f/2.0 provides the majority of resolution improvement. The difference between wide open and f/2.0 is generally much greater than the difference between f/2.0 and the maximum resolution.
Getting the edges and corners sharp requires stopping down to at least f/4 for most wide-aperture primes, and some really need f/5.6. Stopping down to f/2.8 may maximize center sharpness but often makes only a slight difference in the corners, at least on a full-frame camera.
None of the lenses performed any better after f/5.6 (for the center) or f/8 for the corners. Most were clearly getting softer at f/11.
If you’re using a wide-aperture lens, stopping down to just f/2.0 will reap big gains in sharpness while still keeping the depth-of-field narrow. Furthermore, for some lenses you don’t really even need to worry about stopping down for sharpness, since it hasn’t a relatively negligible effect on the outcome.
How much does a camera vibrate due to your finger pressing the shutter or the mirror flipping? Camera Technica decided to conduct a test by strapping a laser pointer to the hot shoe of a Canon 7D. They then filmed the red dot on a far wall against some text while shooting normally (i.e. pressing the shutter with a finger), using a remote shutter release, and finally with a remote shutter as well as mirror-lockup.
You might be surprised at how much movement the camera experiences even if the shutter is pressed carefully. Lesson learned: for the sharpest possible photos, use a tripod, a remote shutter release, and the mirror-lockup feature on your camera.
Gosh, and we though having HD video on a cell phone was enough. Sharp has just announced the world’s first 3D HD camera designed for cell phones and point-and-shoot cameras. This thing is capable of filming 3D footage at 720p, and will see mass production starting in 2010.
Before long we’ll be picture and video messaging one another in 3D. Hopefully it won’t require special glasses.