Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Behind the scenes at Canon’s new Burbank Technology and Support Center

24 Jul

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

A few days ago, Canon officially opened its newest Professional Technology and Support Center in Burbank, California, and DPReview was part of a select group of media invited to tour the facility prior to the grand opening.

‘Canon Burbank’ is primarily focused on meeting the needs of filmmakers and the Hollywood film production industry, and includes post-production facilities that could be used to produce a blockbuster film. However, as I discovered during my visit, Canon wants this space to attract more than just the filmmaking elite.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

According to Elliot Peck, Canon Imaging and Technologies’ Executive Vice President, the project to build this new center started about a year ago when Canon realized that it was effectively out of space at its old Hollywood location. Canon designed a completely new facility from the ground up and took the opportunity to move to Burbank, at the heart of the filmmaking industry.

Although it’s officially called a ‘Technology Support and Service Center,’ the description I kept hearing from many staff was ‘Integration Center.’ Canon recognizes that it’s still relatively new to the cinema market, and almost every part of this facility is designed to show how seamlessly Canon products can integrate into an existing production workflow.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

While there’s a natural focus on Hollywood, Tim Smith, Canon’s Senior Advisor for Film and TV Production, told me that he wants all types of content creators to utilize this facility, particularly people like emerging filmmakers, some of whom may even be using equipment like DSLRs, and who aren’t on Hollywood’s radar yet.

“That was us six years ago,” he said, drawing a parallel to Canon’s own rise in the motion picture business. “In a sense, we’ve spent the last several years figuring out how to go from DSLRs to cinema. This facility is the culmination of all of that work.”

Smith says he wants people early in their careers, who have the desire but not the established name, to come to the facility to network and learn. Canon plans to do seminars and classes for filmmakers at all levels, including topics such as writing or lighting that don’t have a direct relationship to Canon products. Best of all, most of these classes will be free.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

The new service facility has double the space of Canon’s former Hollywood location, as well as an improved workflow for processing repairs. Canon’s goal is to achieve a one-day turnaround time for customers.

While the service center will see a lot of motion picture products given its location, it provides full support for all Canon camera products, including Cinema EOS, EOS DSLRs, EF and EF-S lenses, and EOS cinema lenses. In addition to repairs, the center has loan equipment available for CPS members.

(If you happen to live in Southern California, the center is open for walk-in visits from 9-5 Monday-Friday.)

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

Part of the service facility is the lens room, where technicians can test and verify lens performance after repair. The room might be better described as a very wide hallway, stretching about 65 ft. (20m) in length. The extra distance allows technicians to mount lenses up to 600mm on a master body to check for optical alignment and resolution, meaning that all but a couple very specialized Canon lenses can be tested here.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

The broadcast TV projection room is designed to test 4K cinema lenses, which need to deliver sharp performance from corner to corner at every aperture and focal length. Appropriately, the design of this room is all about precision.

Although you can’t see it in the dark, the testing hardware is mounted on a rail system that is precisely aligned to the projection wall. In fact, Canon told us that its engineers, along with the construction firm, spent over a week just building the projection wall to ensure that it was perfectly vertical and without imperfections.

Targets projected through a lens allow technicians to celebrate for sharpness, color, flare, and uneven focus. The target in this photo is a generic pattern to demonstrate the equipment; Canon assures us that it has proprietary targets that are used when calibrating lenses.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

At first glance, what Canon refers to as the ‘workflow area’ appears to be a standard editing suite, but the main purpose of this room is to to help filmmakers figure out how to integrate Canon cameras and lenses into their production workflows.

Canon acknowledges that filmmakers can be a finicky group of people who like to do things their own way. That poses a challenge for a company that’s still somewhat new to the cinema market. Canon created the workflow area so that filmmakers could test their full post-production workflow, using their tools of choice, while introducing Canon cameras and lenses into the mix.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

Whatever a filmmaker’s post-production workflow looks like, chances are pretty good they can replicate it here. The facility supports all major editing suites (Avid, DaVinci, Adobe, and Apple), and even includes both Mac and Windows systems so visitors can work on whatever system is most comfortable for them.

There are also three reference displays for use while editing and grading: a 30-inch Canon DP-V3010 4K reference display and a 24-inch Canon DP-V2420 1000NIT HDR reference display (both of which cost around $ 30K), and also a ‘consumer confidence’ display that’s representative of what would be found in a nice home theater. This gives a colorist a rough idea of what the image will look like on a consumer device.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

The prep room is a facility where cameras can be mounted and fully rigged for production, making it possible to design and test a setup before taking it into the field. Both podiums are wired into the rest of the building so that camera output can be instantly analyzed somewhere else, like the workflow area or the 4K screening room.

Canon wants cinematographers and 1st ACs (1st assistant camera operators) to come in and experiment with their Canon equipment, configure it the way they would for a production, to see how it performs and verify that it meets their needs. Additionally, Canon plans to use this space for other purposes, such as education. For example, it could offer classes for new ACs on how to rig a camera for a shoot.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

Going one step further, Canon invites filmmakers to bring in its competitors’ cameras to set up side-by-side with its own cameras for comparative testing. According to Smith, “We want to go head to head, with whoever we need to go up against, to convince filmmakers that we have the right product for their project.”

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

The 4K screening room is just what it sounds like. At its heart is a Barco DP4K-P 4K projector, the same projector used by post production facilities such as technicolor. Canon wants filmmakers to have confidence that any work they do in the facility will be up to Hollywood standards.

There are a few seats up front, but most of the action takes place in back where there’s a full edit suite, including 7.1 surround sound and a 2000NIT display for doing HDR grades.

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

In my conversation with Tim Smith, he expressed a strong desire for Canon Burbank to be much more than just a technology and service center. He wants it to be a location where people in the filmmaking community, from DSLR shooters to Hollywood pros, can come together to meet and network.

“In this industry you have to network to find a job,” he says. “Even if you’re the best in the world, you need to network. The more circles you build, the better. One of our visions for this facility is for a cinematographer to use our space to pitch a film to a producer, who then decides to move forward with the project.”

Photo courtesy of Canon

Behind the scenes: Canon Burbank

It’s clear that Canon wants its Burbank facility to be a resource for everyone from beginners to Hollywood pros, and I sensed a genuine desire to engage with and support the filmmaking community.

For all its history, Canon is still the new kid on the block in the cinema business, but the company is confident in its products and isn’t afraid to go head to head with the established players. However, to paraphrase Tim Smith, Canon needs to build circles and create its own networks within this community to be successful long term. Canon Burbank certainly seems to be a step in that direction.

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Google demos technology that scrubs objects from photographs

19 May

During its I/O 2017 conference yesterday, Google demonstrated a new algorithm-based technology that can remove unwanted objects from existing photographs. The demonstration showed the technology removing a chainlink fence from the foreground of an image, with the final result offering no discernible indications that the fence had ever existed (around 10:45 in the video below).

The technology was demonstrated on stage by Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai during a conversation about the company’s expanding visual technology. ‘Coming very soon,’ Pichai explained, ‘if you take a picture of your daughter at a baseball game and there’s something obstructing it, we can do the hard work and remove that structure and have the picture of what matters to you in front of you.’

It looks to be an evolution of the research Google and MIT have been collaborating on for some time – in fact, their demonstration from 2015 includes a very similar chain-link fence demo. This method takes advantage of the parallax effect to identify and remove obstructions from photos. 

Unfortunately, Pichai didn’t elaborate on when this technology will be made available aside from ‘very soon,’ nor did he specify where the technology will be available. Given the company’s Google Photos announcements, however, it seems likely the technology will be implemented within that product.

Via: Google

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YI Technology announces consumer-level 360 live VR camera

25 Apr

YI Technology today announced the YI 360 VR consumer-level live VR camera. The new model is capable of capturing 360-degree spheric video footage at 5.7K resolution and 30 frames per second. It also offers 4K instant in-device stitching and 2.5K live-streaming.

The camera weighs only six ounces and can be controlled via basic on-device controls or a mobile app. It uses a pair of 220-degree lenses and 12MP Sony IMX377 CMOS sensors to record video footage or 5.7K 360-degree still images.

“Virtual reality is exciting. It promises a whole new range of opportunities for creating and sharing truly immersive experiences,” said Sean Da, CEO of YI Technology, “but it can also be really intimidating. For VR to truly take off it has to be easy and fun. At YI Technology, we challenge ourselves to bring the most innovative technologies together in a way that is simple, enjoyable and useful for anyone, from kids to professionals. VR is no exception. Too many of today’s solutions are exciting in theory but really complicated in practice. That is why we worked so hard to perfect YI 360 VR. Using the best components, rigorous industrial design and many years of testing, we eliminated the cables, confusing interfaces and bulky components and added 5.7K fidelity, 4K in-device stitching and 2.5K live-streaming, all in a handy, affordable package so everyone can share exciting moments live, from any angle.”

The camera is available for pre-order from today at $ 399. Delivery is scheduled for June 2017. The Yi 360 VR will also be on display at this week’s NAB 2017 show in Las Vegas.

Press Release:

YI Technology Announces YI 360 VR™, First High-end, Live VR Camera for Any Consumer

Newest pocket-sized, camera combining 360-Degree 5.7K VR capture, 4K instant in-device stitching, and 2.5K live-streaming debuts at NAB 2017 today and releases in June

LAS VEGAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–NAB Show – YI Technology, the leading, international provider of advanced, intelligent imaging technologies, today announced the new YI 360 VR™, a major step in making truly high-end virtual reality video easy and accessible to anyone who wants to create and share content. Scheduled to be released in June 2017, the YI 360 VR™ is available for early ordering now and will be on display at this week’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas, NV.

With a simple, handheld and mountable camera design, the YI 360 VR™ is the first VR camera to combine high-fidelity, 360-degree video capture, mobile application for easy use along with 4K instant, in-device stitching and 2.5K live-streaming to any sharing channel. With these innovations, the YI 360 VR™ provides a complete solution for anyone to create immersive, 360-degree video experiences easily, quickly and anywhere.

“Virtual reality is exciting. It promises a whole new range of opportunities for creating and sharing truly immersive experiences,” said Sean Da, CEO of YI Technology, “but it can also be really intimidating. For VR to truly take off it has to be easy and fun. At YI Technology, we challenge ourselves to bring the most innovative technologies together in a way that is simple, enjoyable and useful for anyone, from kids to professionals. VR is no exception. Too many of today’s solutions are exciting in theory but really complicated in practice. That is why we worked so hard to perfect YI 360 VR. Using the best components, rigorous industrial design and many years of testing, we eliminated the cables, confusing interfaces and bulky components and added 5.7K fidelity, 4K in-device stitching and 2.5K live-streaming, all in a handy, affordable package so everyone can share exciting moments live, from any angle.”


VIVID: The camera delivers stunning video and images – in 360. YI 360 VR™ features professional-grade video quality at up to 5.7K/30fps in 360 degrees for post-production work, thanks to Ambarella’s virtual reality SOC H2V95 chip and a pair of sharp 220-degree lenses mated to a pair of 12MP SONY IMX377 CMOS sensors. It also captures 5.7K 360-degree still photos. Most other multi-lens VR cameras give you clunky, choppy video images and require streams to be stitched together on a computer. The YI 360 VR™ offers seamless in-device stitching without added software so anyone can make high-quality 4K, 360-degree VR videos instantly.

EASY: YI 360 VR™ is lightweight and compact. At only six ounces and easily mountable wherever you put an action camera, it can go anywhere you go. Simple controls are on the device or the companion YI 360 VR™ mobile app allows you to control the camera, preview, playback, edit and share 360-degree videos from any smartphone. Record for over an hour on one battery charge (AC power also included) the YI 360 VR™ connects with WiFi so you can view, edit and share instantly and continuously right in the app.

LIVE: YI 360 VR™ features up to 100Mbps high-speed WiFi (Dual-band Wi-Fi 2.4GHz & 5GHz) to enable users to live-stream 2.5K/30fps 360-degree videos or download photos and videos from camera to smartphone. Connect with a WiFi network and you can start live-streaming everything around you to Facebook, YouTube, and more at 2.5K in 360 Degrees. The high-speed WiFi makes photo auto-sync possible and video download extremely fast. Photos taken by the camera can be automatically synchronized to any smartphone instantly so manual download is no longer needed. Use the app to easily post photos or videos with one click to all your favorite social networks.

Pricing & Availability

At $ 399 MSRP, YI 360 VR™ will be available for early ordering beginning today, with scheduled delivery for limited release in June 2017.

YI 360 VR™ is only one of YI Technology’s advanced 360-degree video solutions unveiled today at NAB 2017. The company also announced today the YI HALO™, the newest professional-grade 360-degree, stereoscopic camera for the Jump platform from Google.

See and experience YI Technology’s two new products, YI 360 VR™ and YI HALO™, at NAB 2017 in the Virtual & Augmented Reality Pavilion, Booth N1121VR. Visit for more information.

Note, the company will also present its products at the Sixteenth Annual Las Vegas SuperMeet on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 from 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm in the Brasila Ballroom at the Rio Hotel.

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LaCie reveals 2big 2-bay RAID storage solution with Thunderbolt 3 technology

21 Apr

Today LaCie announced a new version of its 2big professional 2-bay RAID storage solution that now comes with Thunderbolt 3 technology. The 2big Dock not only offers fast transfer speeds and up to 20TB of storage, making it an interesting storage solution for professional photographers and video-shooters, but also serves as a docking station that helps simplify the workflow.

At the front, SD and CF Card readers allow for easy file transfer from your camera and a USB 3.0 hub can charge a smartphone or other mobile devices or lets you connect a shuttle drive or digital camera an an additional image transfer options. In addition, the LaCie 2big Dock can be connected to displays with up to 4K resolution via DisplayPort technology.

Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports can also power a compatible laptop while simultaneously daisy-chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt or one USB-C drive. In addition a USB 3.1 port allows for compatibility with USB-C and USB 3.0 computers via the included adapter cable. The new LaCie 2big Dock will be available in 12TB, 16TB or 20TB capacities this summer and will be showcased at the NAB Show in Las Vegas next week.

Press Release:

LaCie 2big Dock Thunderbolt 3 Bridges the Port Gap and Delivers Massive Capacity to Streamline Creative Workflows

Today LaCie announced the next evolution of its popular 2big professional 2-bay RAID storage solution. Now with Thunderbolt™ 3 technology, the LaCie® 2big Dock delivers fast speeds and massive capacity, making it a powerhouse tool for photographers and videographers. Designed by Neil Poulton, the LaCie 2big Dock is also a sleek yet powerful docking station that provides ports for connecting other devices, a feature that many laptops have sacrificed in recent years. Through a single cable, the LaCie 2big Dock simplifies and centralizes the desktop by directly connecting to a laptop, SD Cards, Compact Flash Cards and other devices. The result is a simplified, more efficient creative workflow.

Creative professionals juggle massive amounts of data and tight timelines, so capacity and speed are critical. With up to 20TB of storage—a twenty five percent increase over the previous version—the LaCie 2big Dock offers professionals enough space for large video and photo libraries including up to 650 hours of 4K 30fps footage* or 200,000 raw images**. With speeds of up to 440MB/s, users can transfer one hour of 4K footage in one minute***. It also means almost zero lag time when browsing photo libraries in Adobe® Lightroom. Working with compressed 4K or HD footage, videographers can edit quickly and smoothly in Adobe Premiere®Pro.

More than storage, the LaCie 2big Dock is a powerful docking station that helps photographers and videographers simplify their workflows. Front-facing SD and CF Card slots allow the pro to directly ingest files off memory cards from a drone, DSLR, GoPro® and other devices into Adobe Lightroom or Premiere Pro. The USB 3.0 hub charges a phone or connects a shuttle drive or digital camera to offload footage or files. Via DisplayPort, professionals can connect the LaCie 2big Dock to high-resolution 720-1080p or even 4K displays. Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports can also power a compatible laptop while simultaneously daisy-chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt or one USB-C drive. Plus, the USB 3.1 port enables universal compatibility with USB-C and USB 3.0 computers via the included adapter cable. Thunderbolt 2 compatibility is also possible with an adapter (sold separately).

Other key features of the new LaCie 2big Dock include:

  • Seagate® IronWolf Pro enterprise-class drives and RAID optimization for superior power management and reliability
  • LaCie RAID Manager that easily monitors system’s health with audible alarm and email alerts
  • Efficient cooling with aluminum enclosure and thermoregulated fan for professional reliability
  • A five-year limited warranty

The new LaCie 2big Dock will be available in 12TB, 16TB or 20TB capacities through LaCie Resellers this summer. It will be showcased for the first time at the NAB Show in Las Vegas next week. Attendees can stop by the LaCie booth (SL4527) to see the LaCie 2big Dock in action. For more information, visit

* On average, 1 hour of 4K 30fps compressed footage creates 30GB of data.
** 20TB can store approximately 200K raw photos.

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OPPO announces dual-cam 5x optical zoom technology for smartphones

27 Feb

OPPO is not showing any new smartphone models at the Mobile World Congress but, as teased last week, the Chinese company has announced 5x Dual Camera Zoom system for smartphones. The system uses a periscope-style design and fits into a module that is only 5.7mm tall. Light is diverted through a prism and into the dual-camera’s telephoto lens which is arranged at  a 90-degree angle to the accompanying wide-angle. By shifting the path of the entering light Oppo is able to achieve a 3x optical zoom which is combined with a proprietary image fusion technology for digital zoom. The end results is a total 5x lossless zoom factor. 

At longer focal lengths camera shake becomes more of a limiting factor which is why OPPO has also integrated optical image stabilization into the system. Both the prism and tele lens can sense vibrations and compensate for them in real time. The mechanism dynamically adjusts its angle at increments of 0.0025 degree and OPPO promises 40 percent better performance than previous OIS generations for stable shots even at the 5x zoom setting. 

OPPO has not provided any information on sensor sizes and apertures, which would be critical to the image quality of the system, but nonetheless the technology looks like a very innovative approach to zooming on smartphones and we are looking forward to seeing it implemented in a device.

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Extremely dramatic video touts Canon’s CMOS technology

16 Feb

No doubt, Canon’s CMOS sensors are capable of capturing some amazing low light video footage. And it’s true that Canon cameras can create usable footage in literal darkness. But this new video from Canon… maybe takes it all a bit too seriously. Here’s a glance at what the script (probably) looks like:

[Title: Moonbow / a rainbow born of moonlight]

[Scene opens with a dramatic time-lapse sunset over a mountain. Cue the strings.]

[Narrator, in very Movie Trailer Guy voice]: Have you ever seen a rainbow… in the light of the moon?

That’s just the first ten seconds. Do yourself a favor and watch the full 4+ minutes to enjoy the full effect of the soaring music, dramatic CGI models and lines like ‘By uncovering an unseen world, Canon CMOS sensors contribute to the creation of a prosperous society.’

In all seriousness, the CMOS technology Canon references does push the envelop for extreme low light shooters. Take a look at how one filmmaker uses the ME20F-SH to record video of a meteor shower.

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New supercapacitor technology could bring an end to our battery charging woes

24 Nov
Image: University of Central Florida

Technological advances have made it possible to do amazing things like order a pizza from your smart watch, but there’s one problem holding much of consumer tech back: battery life. Despite the computing leaps we’ve made forward, batteries are still a major limitation for pretty much all mobile devices and a lot of photographic equipment. However, a team of scientists at the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center may have taken a step toward ending our collective nightmare. 

The research team has developed a process for creating flexible supercapacitors that can store more energy and be charged faster than current battery technology. The concept also allows for recharging more than 30,000 times without degradation.

“If they were to replace the batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” said team member Nitin Choudhary. 

Unlike batteries, which use chemical reactions, supercapacitors store electricity statically on the surface of a material which means they can be charged quicker. Previous research projects used graphene for this purpose, but with limited success. The team at UCF has instead been experimenting with newly discovered two-dimensional metal materials that are only a few atoms thick. The newly developed supercapacitors consist of millions of highly-conductive nanowires that are wrapped with those materials. As a result, electrons can pass quickly from the core to the shell and high energy and power densities are produced.

“There have been problems in the way people incorporate these two-dimensional materials into the existing systems – that’s been a bottleneck in the field. We developed a simple chemical synthesis approach so we can very nicely integrate the existing materials with the two-dimensional materials,” said principal investigator Yeonwoong “Eric” Jung.

At this stage the technology is only a proof of concept and not ready for commercialization. However, the team is in the process of patenting the method and, if developed further, could power the mobile devices, compact cameras and electric vehicles of the future. 

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The future is bright: technology trends in mobile photography

01 Nov

The future is bright: technology trends in mobile photography

Smartphones have long overtaken the trusted digital compact camera as the most popular imaging device among consumers. So it’s no surprise that for some time now the mobile industry has been a major driving force of innovation in imaging. 2016 is slowly yet surely coming to an end, and has been a fruitful year in terms of innovation in mobile imaging. What better time to look back at the most important technology trends that have emerged over the past few months?


Dual-cameras have been around for some time now, but this year we’ve seen the introduction of two new types of this camera category with real potential to have a lasting impact on mobile imaging. The dual-camera modules in the Huawei P9 and Honor 8 capture images on a color and a monochrome sensor at the same time. Thanks to the lack of a color array filter, the latter can record better detail, higher contrast and a wider dynamic range than its color counterpart. After capture, the image information from both sensors is combined, resulting in better overall image quality than on a conventional camera.

 The dual-cam in the Huawei P9 combines images from color and monochrome sensors.

Both the LG G5 and Apple’s new iPhone 7 Plus use dual-cameras for optical zooming. However, there is an important difference. On the LG the standard wide-angle lens is accompanied by a super-wide-angle. The Apple’s secondary lens offers an equivalent of 56mm, double that of the 28mm standard lens.

 Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus uses a dual-camera setup for digital zooming.

Lack of optical zoom is one of the key limitations of conventional smartphone cameras. The digital zoom functions implemented in most smartphones lead to a deterioration of image quality and can’t really be considered an alternative. This is why the solutions from LG and Apple represent a real step forward that can help expand the creative potential of smartphone photography. The concept of dual-cameras is still in its infancy and it’s probably only a question of time before we’ll see smartphones with more than two camera/lens combinations – the very approach that the the Light L16 camera development team is taking.

Raw-capture on smartphone cameras

Raw-capture on smartphones is not a totally new topic either. It was first introduced to the high-end models in Nokia’s Lumia line and came to Android devices with version 5.0 of the Google OS, which was introduced in 2014. Since then many high-end devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG and other manufacturers have supported the feature. However, with the introduction of the seventh iPhone generation and iOS 10, Raw capture is now finally available on the other major mobile platform, iOS, massively expanding its potential user base. 

 The Huawei P9’s DNG files can be edited in Adobe Camera Raw or other Raw converters.

The advantages of the Raw file format are the same on a smartphone camera as they are on a DSLR or mirrorless system camera. Instead of leaving the conversion of the captured image data to the algorithms of the camera’s JPEG-engine, the photographer can adjust many image parameters after capture, without any loss of image quality, by processing manually in a Raw-converter such as Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom or Capture One.

With the small image sensors in smartphone cameras digital exposure compensation can only be applied within narrow limits, but white balance, sharpness, contrast, noise reduction and many other parameters can all be modified. Especially in difficult lighting situations shooting Raw can be a lifesaver. However, it can also help achieve more natural image results when the camera’s default settings produce too vibrant images, as is often the case with smartphone cameras, or to create different versions of the same image – for example one for large-scale printing and one for viewing on the web.

There is no doubt that the conversion of Raw image files can improve the quality of an image, or at least adjust it for specific requirements. However, the crucial question is if this all makes sense on a smartphone. Here, opinions are mixed. On one hand it can be argued that photographers who are willing to put time and effort into Raw conversion would typically shoot with their DSLR or system camera to start with. On the other hand, you never know when you encounter a great photo opportunity. If the only camera you’ve got is the smartphone in your pocket, Raw conversion can make the difference between a good and a great image.

Modular solutions

For many users an elegant and thin smartphone body is an important buying criterion. Unfortunately those characteristics stand in direct contrast to camera performance. Larger sensors offer lower noise levels and better dynamic range. Bigger lenses provide for brighter apertures or offer zoom capability. A powerful xenon flash also requires space. One of the solutions to this dilemma is a modular approach: for general everyday day use you carry the slim smartphone in the pocket. When better image quality and camera features are required, for example while visiting an event or when traveling, an external camera module is attached to the smartphone.

Previous approaches, for example Sony’s QX-models or the Kodak Pixpro SL modules, which are compatible with most smartphones and connect to the device via Wi-Fi, were unfortunately cumbersome to operate. Connection to the smartphone was often slow and occasionally unstable, leading to laggy image transmission and operation.

However, this year Lenovo has revived the camera module concept by introducing the Hasselblad True Zoom. The TrueZoom is so far only compatible with the smartphones of Lenovo’s Moto Z series but, on the upside, attaching and operating the device work much more seamlessly than anything else we’ve seen before. The TrueZoom attaches to the smartphone magnetically and, with a 10x zoom lens and xenon flash, instantly transforms it into a connected travel zoom camera, without any rebooting or other configuration steps.

The Hasselblad True Zoom camera module attaches magnetically to smartphones of the Lenovo Moto Z series.

The fact that the True Zoom is only compatible with a handful of phones won’t contribute to a wide distribution of the device. However, it is showing what is currently technologically feasible in terms of smartphones and external modules working together. Things could get even more interesting if market leaders Apple or Samsung show an interest in camera modules and make them popular with the masses.

Algorithms trump hardware

As mentioned above, your standard smartphone doesn’t provide enough space for large image sensors, zoom lenses or powerful flash units. However, mobile devices have one definite advantage over conventional cameras: computing power.

Thanks to powerful chipsets modern smartphone cameras can record and digitally merge several image frames in a split-second. This process, called image stacking, captures more image information than a single frame. The resulting JPEG files show better detail, lower noise levels and a wider dynamic range than standard exposures. In very dark scenes this method can also achieve a brighter exposure than conventional capture. In addition, camera shake and blur in low light are less of an issue, as the individual frames of the image stack can use faster shutter speeds than a single standard exposure.

 The HDR+ mode in the Google Camera app uses frame stacking for improved image results.

Apple offers such high dynamic range and night modes in its iPhone cameras and Google has implemented them into the HDR+ function of its Google Camera app, which is also used as the stock camera app on the new Pixel and Pixel XL phones. Again, development of such technologies is still in relatively early stages. Over the coming years more powerful processor hardware and better algorithms will likely further improve smartphone image quality, without a need for larger sensors or faster lenses.


It’s probably fair to say that in the conventional digital camera sector the rate of innovation has noticeably slowed down over the last few years. In contrast, many of the new concepts that are currently being applied in mobile imaging are still in their infancy. It remains to be seen which ones will be here to stay and which ones will be forgotten in the nearer future. However, there’s no doubt that mobile photographers have a lot to look forward to. 

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New technology alters perspective in selfies, generates 3D images, and more

31 Jul

A team of researchers from Princeton University and Adobe Research have detailed a new project in which they use a 3D computer model of a head and a virtual ‘full perspective’ camera to manipulate the perspective of a single portrait. The manipulations simulate various shooting distances and the warps typically seen at those depths, potentially allowing software adjustments that create selfies with corrected perspective distortion.

A demo system (currently in beta) on lead researcher Ohad Fried’s website allows you to upload your own images to explore the technology.

The front-facing lenses found in smartphones cameras are often wide-angle, fixed focal length, to make them as flexible as possible, but the close-up nature of selfies tends to show distortions such as large noses or sloping foreheads. Interestingly, these distortions can change how the individuals are perceived; the subjects in portraits taken at close distances are often described in ways that include ‘approachable’ and ‘peaceful’ while subjects in portraits taken at longer distances are more often described as ‘smart,’ ‘strong,’ and ‘attractive.’

While it might be beneficial to take selfies at longer distances and longer focal lengths to eliminate the distortion, there is no practical way to do so with present phone technology. This newly developed technology could change that, however, with the researchers explaining: ‘our framework allows one to simulate a distant camera when the original shot was a selfie, and vice versa, in order to achieve various artistic goals.’

The researchers based their method on existing approaches to manipulating images, including the type of technology used in face-swapping apps. The key difference was using a ‘full perspective’ virtual camera model rather than a more simplistic, ‘weak perspective’ model, enabling them to compensate for the wider range of perspective adjustments needed for portraits taken at very close distances. This new method is able to estimate the camera distance and edit the perceived camera distance. Its modeling of depth also allows slight changes in the position of the virtual camera, allowing the photos to be slightly ‘re-posed’.

The technology promises than just correcting selfie perspective. The ability to slightly correct perspective and map facial features to a 3D model allows the creation of stereo pairs of images (3D anaglyphs) from a single image, or could make it possible to animate changes in facial expressions.

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Xiaomi Redmi Pro offers dual-cam and OLED technology at budget price point

28 Jul

Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi has today announced the latest model in its affordable Redmi line of smartphones. Looking at the device’s body materials and specifications it would not look out of place in the company’s flagship Mi series, though. 

In the imaging department the Redmi Pro features a dual-camera setup that combines a 13MP Sony IMX258 1/3.06″ sensor with a 5MP Samsung depth sensor. The dual-cam does not offer any optical zoom capability, like on the LG G5, nor does it combine the captured image information from both sensors for improved image quality, like on the Huawei P9. Instead, it uses the dual-camera to simulate the bokeh of a fast lens on a large-sensor camera, something we first saw on the HTC One M8. Like on the HTC and several other dual-cam devices, you can change the focus point of the image post-capture in the gallery app. 

There is also a dual-tone LED flash and at the front the Xiaomi comes with a 5MP selfie-camera. Images can be viewed and composed on a 5.5″ 1080p OLED display with full NTSC gamut. A fingerprint reader is on board for increased security and all the electronics are provided with power by a beefy 4050mAh battery that supports quick charging via a USB Type-C port.

The components are wrapped up in a gold or silver brushed metal unibody that gives the device a premium look. The Redmi Pro comes comes in several versions that differ in terms of processor power and memory. Pricing starts at approximately $ 225 for the deca-core Helio X20 chipset, 32GB of storage and 3GB RAM and go up to approximately $ 300 for the faster Helio X25 chipset with 128GB storage and 4GB of RAM.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (

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