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Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Glory of Sweep Panorama

The sweep camara


David Pogue


In my Times column today, I reviewed radical new cameras from Nikon and Pentax — two new entries in the race to perfect the pocket S.L.R. They have interchangeable lenses but have bodies small enough for a pants pocket.

Both cameras have some pretty profound flaws. On the Nikon 1, a chief failing is its mode dial. It has only four positions, and two are dedicated to gimmicky photo modes you’ll never use.

Take, for example, Motion Snapshot. The idea is that when you snap the photo, you get both the photo and a one-second, slow-motion video of the same moment, set to tinny music. What the —?

The people at Nikon are probably thinking that we’re entering a post-photograph era. Maybe the popularity of YouTube gave them that idea. Maybe a frozen image really is a holdover from the past, and a one-second slo-mo video is what the world wants next.

I’m skeptical. But there’s nothing wrong with rethinking the snapshot, and I’d like to take a moment to pay homage to a far more successful, useful rethink: the auto-panorama.

I’m on record as being in love with Sony’s NEX series. These are extremely tiny interchangeable-lens cameras that, unlike the Nikon and Pentax, have huge, S.L.R.-sized sensors inside. (I’m going crazy waiting for November’s NEX-7, which adds the two things the NEX family was missing: a flash and an eyepiece viewfinder.)

Not only do they take gorgeous photos, every time, but they incorporate Sweep Panorama, a feature of many Sony cameras. To use this mode, you simply swing the camera around you in an arc, squeezing the shutter button the whole time. You hear the shutter snapping away like a machine gun as the camera captures slice after slice of the scene, all the way around you in a 220-degree arc. It’s surprisingly tolerant of your arm-swinging speed.

When it stops, you look at the back of the camera: there, INSTANTLY, is a perfectly knit, finished, seamless panorama. You didn’t have to do any stitching work yourself.

And when I say perfectly knit, I mean it. This technology works.

More than that — it’s essential. It transforms photography. Think about how much we all sweat about getting wide photos. We buy wide-angle lenses. We review cameras and report the maximum width of their lens angles. Well, guess what? With Sweep Panorama, all of that is moot. A photo is as wide as you could possibly want it to be.

A panorama provides a much better representation of being there than the tiny slice provided by a regular photo. You can actually scan the scene, looking around you. And when it’s printed, a pano makes a perfect piece of art on the wall. Especially over a couch.

I’ve spent the last four months working on a two-hour “Nova” science special that I will be the host of (it will appear in February on PBS). We’ve traveled the world — Yellowstone, Yosemite, Russia and labs all around the country — and I’ve been using Sweep Panorama constantly.

I’ve posted some samples from my travels at There, you’ll discover a few fascinating twists.

For example, you can hold the camera either normally or turned 90 degrees. Turning it gives you a much taller panorama that’s not as wide. I actually prefer this style, because the regular panos aren’t very tall (and, at 220 degrees, even wider than probably necessary).

In one shot, I appear twice. I asked our assistant producer to start the sweep of her arm, and while she kept shooting, I ran around behind her so that I could appear again at the end of the sweep, in the same photo. It worked.

In another shot, of San Francisco Harbor, you’ll see an example of Sweep Panorama’s weak spot: It doesn’t do well when there’s movement in the scene. I was on a cruise ship approaching the harbor at a good clip as I snapped away. In the photo, the Golden Gate Bridge winds up looking weirdly segmented. (Shooting moving people is also often problematic. Sometimes people get smushed.)

I don’t think Sweep Panorama gets nearly enough press. I don’t think the Sony engineers who perfected it get nearly enough press. Nikon’s motion snapshots may not be an essential new addition to the world of photography, but easy panoramas definitely are. Those are some Sweet Panoramas indeed.


Camera ball takes 360-degree panoramas

360 degrees camara

With a playful flick of the wrist, this ball containing 36 cameras can take amazing, immersive panorama images.

A group of researchers has created this foam camera ball, which takes panoramic photos when thrown into the air. Made up of 36 fixed-focus 2-megapixel camera modules from mobile phones embedded into the sphere, the ball captures images when it reaches the highest point — the point where there is the least movement.

According to the researchers, the camera ball can take images of multiple moving objects without ghosting artefacts. When the ball returns from its flight, images can be downloaded via USB. A very cool demonstration of the technology can be seen in the video below.



Nokia N8 vs. Apple iPhone 4S: Which has the best camera?

Nokia N8 vs. Apple iPhone 4S



Nokia N8 smartphone cameraFollowing the release of the iPhone 4S earlier this week, many have disputed Apple’s claims that the iPhone features the ‘best camera ever on a phone’. With the Nokia N8’s far more advanced camera having already won acclaim for more than a year, one man has done the sums and conclusively proved that the Nokia N8 is still the world’s greatest camera-phone.

Nokia N8 vs. Apple iPhone 4S: All you need to know

With the Apple iPhone 4S only sporting a humble 8-Megapixel camera, compared to the Nokia N8’s 12-Megapixel, Carl Zeiss lens-equipped offering, there’s little reason to doubt which one is best. But that wasn’t enough for’s Steve Litchfield, who was quick to get to work and comprehensively prove exactly why the year-old Nokia N8 camera is leaps and bounds ahead of the iPhone 4S.

As well as discussing the Nokia N8’s Carl Zeiss lens, Neutral Density filter and Xenon flash, Steve managed to show how the N8’s 720p HD video capture beats the iPhone 4S, and even delivers an all-inclusive comparison of how five of the world’s top smartphone cameras stack up against each other. The verdict is in; the Nokia N8 is still officially the world’s best camera-phone!

What do you think of the Apple iPhone 4S camera? Are you impressed by everything that it has to offer or do you agree that the Nokia N8 is still the camera-phone to beat? Why not let us know your thought in the Comments below.
source By Alex Bentley

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Apple adds new photography features with updated iPhone 4S

Completely my own work, a photo of my iPhone.

Image via Wikipedia

Apple iphone 4s with 8 megapixel camara


Apple has announced its latest iPhone 4S device, which will come with a new eight-megapixel camera, as well as new photo sharing features
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Apple’s iPhone 4S, which will be released in the US and the UK on 14 October, features the firm’s dual-core A5 processor, a new voice-activated assistant, as well as 1080p video recording capabilities.

But, the greatest improvement for photographers is the inclusion of an all-new eight-megapixel imaging sensor. “The sensor has 60% more pixels so you can take amazing high quality photos with more detail than ever,” claims Apple. The backside illuminated CMOS sensor is said to offer increased performances in low-light conditions.

The lens has also been redesigned. It now includes five glass elements, offering an aperture of up to f/2.4. Coupled with “Apple-designed image signal processor in the A5 dual-core chip, [it] makes the camera one of the fastest on any phone,” claims Apple. “With iPhone 4S, the Camera app launches much faster and the shot to shot capability is twice as fast [compared with the iPhone 4].

Apple has also updated its Photos application, which now allows users to crop, rotate, enhance their images, as well as remove red-eye.

But, says BJP’s technical expert Richard Kilpatrick, one defining new feature could have a greater impact on the photographic market as a whole. “The announcement of a simple app speaks volumes about Apple’s perception of the photographic market,” says Kilpatrick. “Cards, a free application that will be available for existing iPhones as well as the new 4S models, will allow the creation and sending of personalised greeting cards from iOS.”

He adds: “This announcement saw stock in two US greeting card providers fall, despite Apple having offered the service via iPhoto for some time alongside the well known photobooks.” Shares in American Greetings Corporation and Hallmark fell yesterday, minutes after Cards was unveiled, forcing Hallmark to issue a press statement arguing that the app “affirmed what Hallmark [already] knows – that greeting cards are a powerful, emotional way for people to connect with each other,” according to Eileen Gaffen, a Hallmark spokeswoman.

However, Kilpatrick believes the Cards app could democratise a service that has been available for more than a decade now. “Consumers want physical prints – and this is one step closer to the physical postcard that can truly say ‘Wish you were here’ wherever you are, as long as you have a signal,” he tells BJP. “Unlike current services which will turn an image into a postcard, these are one-off, effectively instant from the creators’ point-of-view.”

The feature could also impact photographers who rely on stock sales and postcard licenses for a living.

Kilpatrick adds: “We’ve been here before, however – in the mid 1950s, as worldwide travel increased in popularity, Polaroid introduced adhesive cardboard mounts called ‘Postcarders’. 25 cards for 95¢ works out at around $10 in 2011 – or 40¢ per card, compared to Apple’s pricing which includes the photograph and the postage for $2.99 within the US, and $4.99 worldwide.”

The Cards app will be released on 12 October, coinciding with the availability of iOS5. The iPhone 4S will be available in the UK and the US on 14 October.

Read more:
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Author: Olivier Laurent, with Richard Kilpatrick

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