Category Archives: camera

Smartcamera

Photography and smartphones so far have been uneasy bedfellows. Thrown into the same device, it invariably ended up with the phone dominating the relationship. Poor little photography was only allowed crappy glass while telephony played the slavemaster. An imbalanced coupling with the phone cracking the whip over the camera (“stop nibbling your lip”) á la kinky, blingy Christian Grey and the camera – futilely resisting its phone-y master – in the shape of inexperienced, wide-eyed Ana Steele. 

Fifty Shades of Cr*p aside – in an ironic turn of events it has eventually fallen to a smartphone manufacturer to take up the cause of enslaved photography. Samsung – number 2 in the smartphone market with their enormously successful Galaxy smartphones – have just released a camera with smartphone abilities. The Galaxy Camera comes with a 4.8″ display. Like a smartphone, the camera has hardly any buttons – the controls are accessed via touchscreen. Eight GB storage is available while there is more mobile storage via SD card. The camera runs on Android 4.1 and has a 1,4 Ghz quad-core processor. I.e. – this is a little PC which is not much different from your high-end smartphone! WiFi and 3G enables seamless communication, much as you are used to from your mobile. Apparently the photographic hardware is not yet quite there: While it produces shots of 16.3 Megapixel and comes with an optical zoom, the quality of the output leaves a lot to be desired.

However, I love the concept behind the new Samsung Galaxy Camera. I admit – as a photographer I am prone to succumb to the temptation of gadgetry. We love our accessories. There in my designated camera accessory shelf I have two remote releases (one cordless), an as yet unused camera grip, my (also unused) flash, the indispensible Black Rapid camera strap. On my iPhone I have handy f-stop calculators, a darkroom-compatible developing timer, nifty little photo-sharing apps for flickr, instagram and 365 project, a digital grey card and the funky geo-location app GPS4cam. But wouldn’t it be cool, if you could do away with jumbling your phone while you are shooting? And share proper pics instead of shaky, grainy iPhone images. Straight from the horse’s mouth i.e. the camera? 

I am actually flabberghasted at why camera manufacturers who can come up with amazing technology such as the 5d mark whatever or the Nikon d bladibla have not yet been able to find that little inch of space in their bulky hardware for in-built wifi or bluetooth. Just imagine the possibilities – doing a commercial shoot with a client sitting in and transmitting the image to the client’s mobile device for instant viewing. No tangly cables to connect to a laptop for tethered shooting. The ability to automatically geo-tag your landscapes taken on an outing. Quick and easy upload to your own web-based photography portfolio or the photo network of your choice straight from the camera. Ok, I admit freely that I am the queen of social networking and therefore more interested in such possibilities than most. But in a world that is becoming more digitalized by the minute, these functionalities are more than overdue.

Cobblers? Nonsense? Piddlepaddle because it is a compact? Come on, shelve your arrogance for a mo and consider the technology. Samsung has taken a step in the right direction. Sharing has become a part of human interaction – both privately as well as professionally. And time is of the essence when it comes to passing on news/images/updates. So I applaud this first attempt at moving away from the smartphone with camera abilities to a camera with smartphone abilities. Go on, Canon – I want a talking, sharing, e-mailing Mark iv!

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Photography Testimonial Part 5

Once on SLR, there is no going back. The quality of the images as much as the possibilities of settings spoil you for any other camera. And I am saying that even though I had not really used manual settings until then. A long-distance holiday in China gave me the excuse to buy my first digital SLR camera: the Canon eos 350d.
This is the view of the Bund, Shanghai’s old promenade on the riverfront. The picture was taken – much to the embarrassment of my accompanying friends – from the balcony of “M – The Glamour Bar”. The bar was interesting, too, especially as I rarely go into establishments that call themselves glamorous, but this is definitely the place to go for a cool bar and a great view. Too great to be missed due to silly embarrassments ;-).
Digital changed everything for me. Because of the instant nature of digital photography, I was able to shoot and shoot and learn and learn. No waiting for development involved, no extra costs. For a long time, however, I stayed safely with the automatic settings. I eventually ventured out to half-automatic, using the Av and Tv settings to guide me. With the help of a photo course, however, I finally understood how to operate the settings manually – and there was no holding me back. DoF experiments, slow syncing, night shots, long exposure… Together with a friend who is equally photography-mad I set up our own photogroup and went on regular shoots which we afterwards critiqued and reviewed together. We organised our own private showing of our photo project and we continue to work together.

I am sure there is still more that I don’t know than what I do know about “painting with light”. And the fact that I eventually progressed onto semi-professional equipment and am hoping to receive a degree in photography this summer does not mean that my education has finished. With the constant advances in technology – both in terms of cameras and digital post-production – there will always be something else to learn. And if there is one thing I love about photography, it is, that it allows you to look at the world from a different perspective every day.

Photography Testimonial Part 4

The sad demise of my Pentax compact gave me the opportunity to progress to more sophisticated photographic equipment. I finally got an SLR – in exchange for my old car – in 2001. The Canon eos 500 made me a Canon-girl. I had lots of opportunity to shoot take pictures of my children, take snaps on holidays and get into macro photography. The 35mm to 80mm lens which came with it provided me with everything an amateur needs. I subsequently documented the flower growing business of my friend and even produced lots of cards for sale with my images of flowers. 
My SLR gave me more confidence when taking pictures. I started experimenting more but basically always stayed with the automatic settings as they seemed to do everything right.  At the same time, digital photography was becoming available to the amateur market. I had slightly missed the boat when I invested in my analogue SLR and so had to make use of it for a while until I could afford to finally buy a much coveted digital SLR.
Follow me on the last big leap then, to my first digital SLR in the next instalment of 2picsaweek. The rest is – history 😉

Photography Testimonial Part 3

Photo technology was getting more sophisticated in the 80s. And so was I. The first compact cameras came in, and I was at the forefront with my Pentax Espio 115. This was a rather heavy, but therefore sturdy camera with an inbuilt flash and – a motorised zoom! 38mm to 115mm meant that you could take nice macros. I read the manual back to back (forgot all about the manual settings) but learnt that if photographing people, as a rule of thumb one should always get them as big into the picture as possible. 
The Pentax certainly was the one that really set me on my way to photography. I started arranging little still lifes for table top shoots – just for the fun of it. I enjoyed several years of photographing with it and was always happy with the quality of the images. A large number of B/W photos made it into my college thesis in the mid-90s. 
The Horseshoe 1996
Then it sadly fell on the floor and smashed.
What happened next? Find out in Part 4 of the Photography Testimonial :-).

Photography Testimonial Part 2

Still reminiscing here about my path into photography and the pieces of equipment that sent me on my way. In hindsight, they really were not the greatest stuff at all. Some credit goes to my dad who was always interested in photography himself, snapping away and recording everything for posterity. From the 1970s onwards he shot everything on slide film – which was regarded as a nuisance by photographic nimwits like my mother and myself who were disappointed that the slides were not instantly accessible in the same way that a photoalbum is. My father, however, knew, that the best quality pictures you could only shoot on positive film…
 
But I digress. My approach to photography seemed to get better when my dad handed me down his Revue Automatic Camera when he bought himself a Minolta SLR in about 1984. The Revue 400S was a fixed-lens rangefinder with only a couple of manual options – portrait or landscape anyone? – and it was built for the photographic department German mailorder store Quelle. (See an image of the 400S here.) The Revue accompanied me on my first holiday to Ireland. I snapped away and got some decent pictures as a result.
Fanad Head, Co. Donegal
This was the first time that I realized how satisfying it was to take pictures – not to simply point the magic eye somewhere and push a button, but to think about the composition. What did I want to have in the image? Could I frame a view nicely with a few branches from a tree above? How would I get a sunset transferred onto film?  I remember taking pictures from my attic window just to try out.
Follow me making the leap to my first *new* camera in the next instalment of my Photography Testimonial…

Ready to Start

Happy new year, everyone. All well? All poised for 2012? A fresh start is always nice, isn’t it? And if you are a history head like myself, it also is an occasion to look back – which I intend to do over the next few posts.
Where does this sentimentality come from? Sudden realisation that I am old and withered? Impending old age and death before my eyes? No. Rather, I came across a piece of paper while perusing some old photo albums back home over Christmas. That sent me on a trip down memory lane…
This is a birthday wishlist for my 8th birthday which occurred in 1977 *arrrrrrgh* (f*ck, I am old). Sorry, it is in German (yours truly had not started her love affair with the English language back then), but you may nonetheless surmise what the top wish was?! A “Fotoapparat” – a camera, also illustrated top left. What a sweet discovery this wish list was for me! To find corroborated my love for photography back then… It almost seems like an authorization of my present occupation.
So, photography has always been something that I was interested in. My first camera was my mum’s old 35mm camera (no SLR) from the 1960s that produced rather dull pictures. (Or was it me who produced the dull pictures?) That was the camera I was given as a response to above wish list. In the late 70s I was given an Agfa Pocketcamera. Those cameras were then sold as practical easy cameras. The film was transported by squeezing the camera together. There were no settings, just one little red button to push. The attractive sound it produced when transporting the film certainly spurned me on to take pictures. But back then, developing film was expensive – and my parents did not exactly encourage taking unnecessary pictures.
Let’s draw the veil of blindness over the resulting pictures. They are nothing to write home about. What was important was, that a flame had been ignited, the love for photography started. Little did I know where this was eventually leading… Well, I still don’t know where it will lead me, ultimately. Who does? What matters is that photography still gives me immense pleasure. And I hope it will stay like that for the next year, too. Hugs and wishes to all of you!

Shoot Now, Focus Later

The world of photography is about to be revolutionised! Or maybe not? In case you haven’t heard: The Lytro camera has just been launched yesterday. The Lytro is a consumer camera which claims to take “living pictures”. Essentially, what it does is *catch all*: The camera takes a picture of the whole scene, no manual setting involved in all. It is the “point and shoot”-concept at its most basic. Focussing of the image will happen later in fully automatic post-production. Apparently. And therefore images like this would be a thing of the past:
A shallow dof shot where the focus was misplaced on the wrong part of the sculpture.
So how does this “revolutionary” camera do it? First of all, it doesn’t confuse its users with a plethora of buttons. There are only three manual “settings” to use: on/off, the shutter release and a slider that controls the zoom. And there is an interactive touchscreen.
The interesting thing is the insides of the Lytro: The camera comes with a constant f2 lens. So no matter where you are and what you are shooting, the aperture will be at f2 and the shutter speed will automatically and accordingly be set by the camera. That gives a nice shallow dof – which under normal circumstances means that whatever you have focussed on will be nice and sharp, everything else will be blurred out. That is a particular aesthetic which a lot of people like, myself included, but can lead to desaster, as exemplified in my shot above: If you happen to focus on the wrong part of the image – maybe because of only a slip of the wrist while half-pressing the shutter release to get the little focus “beep” – you can throw the image into the bin.

The revolutionary thing about the Lytro technology is that the camera not only record *one* particular focus, but *all* possible focuses (plural? foci? focuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus??? – It’s a contradiction in terms, isn’t it?) through an array of mini-lenses which can record the various directions from which the light is hitting the sensor. And thus then the focus can be adjusted afterwards, as all this information has been stored on the camera.

In practice that means that had I taken the above image with the Lytro, I need only click on the sculpture’s face and the software would change the focus onto the face and blur everything else out. Pretty cool, I must admit. And Lytro is taking this even another step forward: The camera is marketed as an interactive device in the sense that the images can then be uploaded into social networks or albums and other users can make their own changes to the focus of the image.
So is this going to revolutionise photography forever? Will we be pointing colourful little tubes at models and still lives and landscapes from now on? I seriously doubt it. In my opinion, this is all quite clearly a novelty, sensational and interesting, but also strictly directed at the amateur market. No serious photography buff would be interested in giving up manual control of the camera. I mean – what is the point of photography if you don’t use the various parameters to manipulate the image aesthetically?
The interactivity of the concept is laudable on the one hand: I am waiting for camera manufacturers to finally WiFi-enable cameras for quick and seamless picture uploading straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. (And incidentally Canon has incorporated that in their recently launched 1D X, as far as I know.) The Lytro lets you upload straight from taking – hence no memory cards needed. A great thing, if you want to get your pictures into the social network of your choice with no delay. The interactive concept also includes the unlocked manipulation of the image. I.e. an image that is accessed by third parties on Facebook can then be refocussed to their tastes. Great if you have been caught in flagrante delicto and want to pull the focus away from you… That, on the other hand, is a serious offense in photographers’ eyes: A picture once finalised by a photographer is a finished product that cannot be re-manipulated by others. It certainly shouldn’t be – because it leaves questions about the authorship of the re-focussed image.
My conclusion: If this camera could incorporate manual settings, it would be an interesting tool for photographers to use – because even the best of us occasionally slip up with focus. But there would also have to be a way of “locking” the final image in order to control the manipulation of it. Sure, if someone made my image better by refocusing it, I would have no problem with the openness of this concept, but what if people change it for the worse, with my name still on it???
Anyway, what do you think? Is this going to catch on? Who is going to buy this and what for? Or is it a gadget and a fad and another step into a dumbed-down future? I’d be interested to know!