"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
- Albert Einstein
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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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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My 4MP number was not a scientifically derived number, but based on gut feeling. It of course varies from camera to camera how high real resolution you can squeeze out of it. My arguments for the pixel race being crazy is because both that you really need to be perfectly in the focus sweet spot for you to get any additional detail out of a higher resolution, and because the highest resolution displays out there are about 4MP, so if you're targetting any digital medium there's not much use of anything higher than that anyway. You'd have to make some really huge prints to be able to really use that resolution. Of course, it's always nice to have additional pixels to work with in an intermediate step if you want to retouch something, but personally I have never found I needed anything close to what cameras offer these days. In the tradeoff between quality and higher resolution I wish manufacturers would lean towards quality instead of the big marketting number, which is useless for the vast majority of users anyway.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

>and because the highest resolution displays out
>there are about 4MP, so if you're targetting any
>digital medium there's not much use of anything
>higher than that anyway

Well that's a rather big if, a lot of people still print and sometimes, quite large. Besides, even if you don't print, resizing a large image to a smaller one will make the circle of confusion smaller. Remember that the size of the CoC determines your depth of field, which is why the DoF is calculated for a specific print size (usually 4x5), so resizing down gives you a larger *usable* depth of field. For the same reason, and assuming your original image captured more resolution than your target image size, resizing down will make your overall image crisper to the eye, something that can very easily be seen in stitched panoramas that have been resized down to screen resolutions: they are much (MUCH!) sharper than they would have been had they been photographed with a very wide lens and kept as-is.

Also, targetting digital mediums does not imply that images will never be zoomed in, in fact stitched panoramas can only be truely appreciated digitally through zooming and panning, because their resolution is often way beyond what an actual print would let you see (well, unless you print several meters large, I suppose).

None of this really counters your original argument that high Mpx numbers on compact cameras are somewhat silly for most people's use. Lots of Mpx isn't entirely useless though, if you know why you want them and what to do with them.

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