On exchangeable lenses for small cameras

A small fast prime goes wonderfully with a micro 4/3 camera. The small Nikon D3000 with its small 35mm f/1.8 looks huge by comparison.

My favourite camera review site, DPReview, just posted a short article on desirable lenses for small (read: Micro 4/3 and Samsung NX) cameras. This nicely complements my recent post on the rise and fall of the digital SLR.

The review can be found here.

As a user of a mid size DSLR I completely agree with the article – when at a social event I’d prefer to swap my Nikon D80 with its 35mm f/1.8 lens for a Panasonic GF1 with 20mm f/1.7.

The rise and fall of the digital SLR

During the latter days of film photography, almost every photographer used 35mm film, and almost every serious photographer used a 35mm film SLR. In the early days of digital photography the SLR was almost forgotten, only to make a huge comeback since 2003. There are signs that this is again to change. Why? This blog post will try to sum it up.

SLR is an acronym for “single lens reflex”, and means that the photographer physically looks through the lens by means of a rather complex mirror and prism setup. In the film days this was the only way to accurately show a photographer how his picture was going to look, since his eye was physically seeing the same image that was going to be projected onto the film when the shutter was pressed.

The complex path that light travels in a (digital) SLR camera

Compact “point and shoot” cameras had separate optical viewfinders through which the user framed the picture, but suffered from parallax error (especially when looking at close subjects), and could not properly show focus, depth of field or exposure.

A 35mm point and shoot camera

All of this changed with the advent of digital photography.

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It was a Nobel cause

A CCD sensor

A CCD sensor

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award one half of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics to Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith “for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor“. Willard and Boyle developed the first CCD sensor 40 years ago while working at Bell Labs. Luckily both of them are still alive to claim their prize, which just shows the advantage of being brilliant when you’re young!

Despite being superseded by the CMOS sensor in modern DSLR cameras, the CCD (Charged Coupled Device) remains the sensor of choice in almost all other digital cameras, ranging all the way from the cheapest cell phone to the space-grade sensor in the Hubble Space Telescope.

Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite and the founder of the Nobel prize, wrote in is final will that the prizes should go to  “those who … shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. ” And a worthy and noble cause it is!

A Nobel prize medal

A Nobel prize medal

"Photoshop" as verb

And I could replace you with older pictures of you, from back when you looked happy.

I re-posted the xkcd cartoon of today. What do you think?

Computational Cameras @ SIGGRAPH

Refocussing a single light-field photograph

Refocussing a single light-field photograph

Last time I blogged about the interesting talk given by Will Wright at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference. Will’s talk was a spell-binding overview of current visualization and entertainment trends, and the role that human psychology and aesthetics plays within it. However, SIGGRAPH also has a more facts-and-numbers side – there actually is an academic conference hiding between all the glitz and glamour. (The one with technical papers.)

Now when I say “conference” I immediately conjure up images of badly dressed nerds in exotic locations, getting all excited about mind-numbingly boring topics, and then getting drunk and trying to hit on the only attractive girl among the several hundred conference-goers. But in SIGGRAPH’s case, at least, the topics are not all that mind-numbingly boring. Because in addition to the academic quality enforced by the reviewers, there is also a strong emphasis on originality, and a “what can this be used for, and does it look cool?” criteria.

There were several very interesting sessions, some of which focused on

  • Realistic simulation of fluid, fire, and computer animation physics
  • Human-computer interaction (Holographic teleconferencing with eye tracking, 3D with focused-ultrasound force-feedback)
  • Smart image editing (Resizing images without visibly cropping or distorting the content, and automatic black-and-white to colour conversion)
  • Making deformable 3D computer meshes, and then doing crazy things to them – like squashing a bunny and ripping a cow in two
  • 3D visualization of scientific data – complete with 3D glasses! (watching the Sun’s erupting surface, or travelling through an Egyptian mummy)

For this blog post, however, I want to talk about the “computational cameras” session. These talks might give you a glimpse into the future of photography…

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