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HDR cameras
Monday, February 16, 2009 | Permalink

HDR has been kind of a buzz-word in photography for the last few years. Some of this may be related to that HDR has also been a much talked about subject in GPU rendering in the last few years as well. There are techniques for taking HDR photos with standard camera equipment using multiple exposures. We've also seen photographic packages such as Photoshop adding this functionality. Meanwhile there have from time to time been talks about new sensor technology for HDR photography, although little has seen the light of day.

Last September Fujifilm announced their new Super CCD EXR sensor promising improved dynamic range. Now that's something we've heard before, so I didn't pay much attention to it. Just recently they released the F200EXR camera based on this sensor. It appears this might just be the first HDR capable camera on the market. I don't think it'll produce actual HDR images, but it can capture an 800% expanded range, or a 0..8 range if you will, tonemapped to a nice looking image where other cameras would either have to underexpose or get blown out highlights. The camera accomplishes this through pixel binning where different sensor pixels capture different exposure ranges. As a result, you'll only get a 6MP image instead of 12MP when using this technique, a tradeoff I'm more than willing to do. 12MP is already far beyond what's meaningful to put into camera anyway, particularly a compact.

Since the camera is new there aren't many reviews for it out there, but I've at least found this Czech site which has some samples. If those are representative of what this camera can do this may very well be my next compact camera. A word of caution though. Looking in the EXIF tags of the pictures it seems they aren't all straight from the camera. Some have the camera name listed, others have "Adobe Lightroom", suggesting that they may have been processed in some way. The first sample pair lists the camera name though, so I'm going to assume at least those are unprocessed.

In any case, this is a very exciting development. I hope to see similar technology from other vendors as well, and I would love to see this stuff in an SLR.

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Overlord
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Now that is something i could use, if only i could do it on my D200, though 3 stops is not that much, so if I'm just a little bit more careful and underexpose a stop or so while shooting raw, i can probably do most of that in post processing anyway.
Or just use a grad or pol filter.
Either way it's nice to see them finally starting to take a step forward in camera development.

lone
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

>12MP is already far beyond what's meaningful to put into camera anyway

ha. ha. ha.

brilliant, or something.

Humus
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Given that no compact camera has optics that's nearly sufficient for that resolution all you get is a picture that's roughly equivalent to scaling up something like a 4MP picture to 12MP, except you get more noise. If camera manufacturers created a 4MP camera today with the latest sensor technology it would be awesome. Instead they're fighting a meaningless megapixel war that has actually reduced per pixel quality with each generation, despite better sensor technology, simply because each pixel keeps getting smaller.

lone
Friday, February 27, 2009

So can I reply now ? I've tried several times and it's just ignoring my posts ... I'd really love to debate this.

lone
Friday, February 27, 2009

is my reply rejected because it is just too long ?

Humus
Saturday, February 28, 2009

Your reply should not be rejected unless you type the wrong code. Could you email me the reply that was rejected and I can see if I have a bug in the script?

MGB
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

...and I always thought half the artistry of photography was using the shadow...

lone
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You said ", particularly a compact", that implies that this is also true, if only to a lesser extent, of other cameras. Notice that I did not quote that part, because that's not the part I was reacting to. Clearly 12MP is not far beyond what's meaningful to put into a camera in general, otherwise there would be no point in $35000 hasselblad 60mpx sensors (or scanning large format photographs to hundreds of megapixels, though I won't drag you into an argument about scanner resolution, film grain and equivalent megapixels.
still, there's a reason those old bellows cameras are still around, heh).

Now if you want to talk about the optics on compact cameras (and really that's only part of the issue, the other one that is equally important is the size of the sensor, and to a lesser degree, the pattern the photosites are aranged into), what you say above is going to be true for some aperture/focal lengths combinations (usually it will be true for wider apertures and longer focals, though not always), but get to a lens' sweet spot, and even if it's a compact lens, you can get enough sharpness to get resolution above 4Mpx.

If what you got was equivalent to scaling up from 4 to 12Mpx, then scaling down would not lose details, but you clearly do. Lucky enough I do have a p&s lying around, so i shot one of my standard test sheets, resized it from 10mpx to 4, and compared (10 is all I've got at my disposal, sorry i'm not really into p&s). You can check out the result at http://stashbox.org/423435/humus.jpg (this is a 200% blow up of both versions). At 10Mpx, I can make out about 50% of the letters in the 2.8pt font line, and can definitely read over 90% of 3.0pt. At 4Mpx, I read about 50% of the letters from line 3.3pt, and can read over 90% of the text at line 3.5pt.

Now, that being said, I do wholeheartedly agree that the megapixel race is silly, given that most people have no concept of what it takes to make a sharp picture with a given lens, or that it would make any difference... and they don't _want_ to know, what they want are large files. Of course the memory manufacturers are happy to sell bigger and bigger memory cards. So yeah, I'm with you there. If you want resolution, you go dslr with pro optics. That or you use medium to large format film, which can give you scans of mindblowingly high resolution, even with vintage lenses.

The bottom line to me is this, if 6Mpx are enough for you then all is well, and if you're into HDR (I'm *really* not but to each his own) then I can see how you'd get really excited about this camera. However compact lenses can give incredible results, and can definitely yield sharpness beyond what can be recorded within 4Mpx sensors.

I gotta say though, despite all of the above about compact cameras, I was originally only reacting to the fact that your statement was overly broad (hence my first paragraph above), but then after you replied, I had to test your much stronger "4Mpx scaled up" claim. To be fair, I would guess that the usable resolution from this camera here (panasonic dmc-lx2) would be around 6, perhaps 7mpx tops, so "in substance", you're right, though you might want to revise your numbers slightly up.

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