Are the cam­era guys play­ing it too safe?

HWM (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - by HafeezSim

Is it strange that most of the prac­ti­cal pho­tog­ra­phy in­no­va­tions in the last few years ac­tu­ally came from smart­phone mak­ers in­stead of the cam­era in­dus­try?

Take Ap­ple’s True Tone flash on the iPhone 5s for ex­am­ple, which uses two LED lights of dif­fer­ent col­ors to re­sult in more nat­u­ral­look­ing flash. Flashes in the cam­era in­dus­try have mostly re­volved around pro­vid­ing more light, but Ap­ple opted to fo­cus on flash qual­ity so that even if you use your flash in­doors, your sub­jects will have more nat­u­ral skin tones with ac­cu­rate back­ground and fore­ground col­ors.

Then there’s the HTC One (M8) that uses two cam­eras – the main one to shoot the ac­tual im­age, and a sec­ond to cap­ture depth in­for­ma­tion. This re­sults in both faster aut­o­fo­cus and the abil­ity to ap­ply edit­ing ef­fects such as se­lec­tive fo­cal blur­ring.

Here’s another in­ter­est­ing one: 41-megapix­els on a small sen­sor.

We all know that dig­i­tal zoom re­sults in loss of de­tail since it ba­si­cally in­volves crop­ping a photo and then en­larg­ing it. But what if you had enough res­o­lu­tion that it didn’t mat­ter? Nokia’s PureView Pro does just that for a smart­phone, re­sult­ing in an almost loss­less dig­i­tal zoom, with lit­tle dis­tor­tion in images.

Oppo has a dif­fer­ent take on su­per-high res­o­lu­tion pho­tos with their Find 7 smart­phone. It has a stan­dard 13-megapixel sen­sor, but through soft­ware pro­cess­ing, shoots mul­ti­ple images in quick suc­ces­sion and com­bines them to form a huge 50-megapixel photo to great ef­fect.

Be­sides th­ese, smart­phone imag­ing tech­nolo­gies are fast catch­ing up. Sam­sung’s GALAXY S5 was the first to in­tro­duce hy­brid aut­o­fo­cus with phase de­tec­tion and LG in­tro­duced IR laser aut­o­fo­cus­ing to the mo­bile world with its G3. At this year’s Pho­tok­ina, Pana­sonic an­nounced the Lu­mix CM1, an An­droid smart­phone that will fea­ture a 1-inch sen­sor and Le­ica lens, putting it on a di­rect warpath of pre­mium com­pacts the likes of the Sony Cy­ber-shot RX100 se­ries and Canon Pow­erShot G7 X.

And what, per­haps, may be the big­gest point that cam­era man­u­fac­tur­ers have a hard time with is the fact that soft­ware is almost as im­por­tant as hard­ware. A good user in­ter­face makes it sim­ple to set the ap­pro­pri­ate set­tings and just get down to shoot­ing. But I’m sure we all have, at one point or another han­dled a cam­era

"The big­gest ad­van­tage a smart­phone has over a cam­era — it’s al­ways con­nected to the In­ter­net.”

with a user in­ter­face that got in the way and just slowed down the en­tire process.

Smart­phones come as an end-to-end pho­tog­ra­phy process; shoot, edit and publish all in one. And we’ve al­ready gone beyond sim­ple fil­ters to ad­vanced ef­fects such as the mo­tion graph­ics and post-edit­ing fo­cus ad­just­ments on the fly. Plus, there are so many third-party cam­era apps out there that users are not re­stricted to what­ever is bun­dled with their de­vice.

Even pro­fes­sional tools from Adobe’s Cre­ative Cloud suite are get­ting mo­bile makeovers, as an­nounced at the re­cent Adobe MAX 2014 con­fer­ence in Los An­ge­les, putting the power of Pho­to­shop, Light­room, Il­lus­tra­tor and Premiere into an iPhone or iPad.

Now, although there’s so much fo­cus on mo­bile as a cre­ativ­ity plat­form, there’s no doubt that cam­era com­pa­nies are very good at what they do, which is pro­duc­ing cam­eras that take top-notch pic­tures. If you’re se­ri­ous about pho­tog­ra­phy, you’re go­ing to need a proper cam­era, equip­ment and lenses.

How­ever, there has hardly been any­thing buz­zwor­thy out­side of hard­ware im­prove­ments and spec­i­fi­ca­tions that only the afore­men­tioned pho­tog­ra­phy en­thu­si­asts would take note of. We do not mean to dis­miss th­ese ac­com­plish­ments; we’ve given rave reviews to the likes of Sony’s A7 se­ries, Olym­pus OM-D and PEN fam­ily, and FU­JI­FILM’s new X-T1.

But, as much as th­ese cam­eras push the bound­aries of imag­ing qual­ity and per­for­mance, they do not ad­dress prac­ti­cal us­abil­ity con­cerns. If cam­era mak­ers can­not buck this trend, we will likely con­tinue to see a con­trac­tion of the ded­i­cated cam­era mar­ket.

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