Friday, January 27, 2012

Kodak: End-of-Life'd

I cant believe that one of the most traditional or historical photography equipment and film companies (Kodak on Wikipedia) is going down the drain (link) and filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The company made photography accesible to the masses in the early years and introduced or invented a couple of fantastic things. To name a few:
  • 1900: The Brownie Camera
  • 1935: Kodachrome
  • 1963: Instamatic Camera
  • 1975: The digital camera (Engineer Steven Sasson)
  • 1986: First Megapixel Sensor
More than a few time Kodak missed the train with their products and the competitors happily overtook.

They just announced the Kodak Polaroid SC1630: A camera based on Android, something I was waiting for. Instead of having a phone with an inferior camera build-in, we would have a (bit) more serious camera based on Android, allowing to use all kind of camera applications, almost unlimited possibilities, not being restricted by a manufacturer's firmware updates.

Let's see who gonna grab the leftovers and patents...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Canon Angle View Finder

Quite a few times I wished I had screen to tilt or an angle finder for the Canon 5D MKII, but I am not willing to spend 200 U$ on an accessory that I will use only once in the blue moon. Luckily there is some cheap alternative from Seagull, a Chinese company selling a variety of photo equipment (inclusive of a range of large format cameras!). You find the angle view finder with a range of adapters for Canon, Nikon, Sony,.. cameras on ebay for about 50U$. There are different models for 2 to 3x magnification, you can switch from 1x to an alternative magnification factor with a mechanical switch, useful to check focus.
My first impression:
  • It works.
  • The adapter is a bit flimsy, you cant easily slide in and out the view finder.
  • If you dont use an angle view finder permanently you can work with this one.
The items in the box
On a Canon 5D MK II
 I dont know about any shop in Singapore selling it off the shelf.

Canon TS-E 17mm shift and tilt lens

I fancied TS lenses for a long time, even bought a 4x5 to experiment some years back, but thats not exactly the kind of camera you carry around with 2 to 6 exposures. Yes, we can use Photoshop and tilt and warp images, fake miniature scenes, etc. but is not the same as using a TS lens. There are only few in the market and they are all expensive (though you can try a shift adapter for MF lenses on Canon or Nikon DSLR). Finally I got one from DDElectronics in Singapore (almost 400 SGD cheaper than other shops in town !), and just start to enjoy this new lens and learn to create images again in a completely new way. I spare you with technical details, as the web has quite a number of reports, tests and comparisons about this:
I highly recommend to read Peter Hills' introduction about tilt and shift here:
Drop by the TS-E 17mm Flickr group with plenty of real-life sample images:
My first personal impression:
  • Its a fantastic lens, a prime lens worth every cent. 
  • Crisp sharp.
  • You can shoot handheld, its a myth a shift lens always requires a tripod and a big screen.
  • Lot of glass without protection, you will take care of this lens !
A quick comparison to get an idea what it means to shift:

  1. Shifted 10mm, camera leveled
  2. Not shifted but camera tilted up to capture rooftops
  3. Not shifted but camera leveled

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stitching Software 2012

Some 1.5 years back I visited last time this topic. What are the current stitching software products in the market ?
There is not much movement in terms of new players (rather some disappearing), but the leading (2) existing companies keep their software updated and it is fantastic to see how much they still can improve (at least that ones I use).
From my point of view the important ones remain in 2012:
  • PTGUI (curr. Version 9.1.2)
  • Autopano by Kolor (curr. Version 2.6)
  • Hugin (active opensource project, stable version 2011.4.0 from December 2011)
  • Microsoft ICE (curr. Version 1.4.4 May 2011)
    I am not sure about their strategy, the tool is free as part of their research but the proprietary display software like HDView and Photosynth is based on Silverlight which is shelved by Microsoft for further development)
Others:
  • Photoshop Panorama Merge Feature
  • Panorama Factory (Jan 2011, ?)
  • Easypano (still selling at a unreasonable high price, no further comment)
  • Realviz (acquired by Autodesk, also expensive)
  • iSeemMedia (?)
  • Panavue (?)
  • Some OEM software bundled with cameras
  • A list of panoramic software apps for iPhone and Android
    (Personally I dont believe in phones making serious panoramic images)


Sideline: Seems, since the history of patent wars (creation of fisheye based panoramas) around IPIX (defunc since 2006) is closed, even the patent is owned by Sony now.

My recommendation: Stick to Hugin and ICE if you want to use something for free, otherwise PTGui and Autopano are great products at a reasonable price, up to you to decide which one you prefer, both offer trial versions.

Gigapan: View from Pinnacles @ Duxton 2

Another viewpoint.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thoughts on Photo Communities

Photo Communities (flickr, 500px, smugmug,.. just to name a few from 1000's in the web) are always a good way to find inspiration, ideas and exchange with other photographers experiences. I saw dozens of this portals coming and going over the years and the broad market is dominated by a few big ones, the rest are all kind of special and small communities (certain camera brand or topics).
What almost all communities have in common is the noise-factor, it is incredible high. I am not talking about bad images, anyone learning and picking up photographic skills should post his work to get feedback. I am talking about the comments !
Of course, everyone is happy about positive feedback or gets his work praised, but either photographers get dozens of one-liner comments ('perfect, well done, super, great') or NO feedback at all. Just drop by popular images in Flickr and you know what I mean. How can anyone learn or advance in his knowledge and style ? We (human) don't like to be criticized and also are shy or hesitant to tell someone that we dont like his image of (better) how to improve it or maybe just some feedback which is more than "Awesome".
That what I like on 500px.com, you can click the LIKE button and if you don't have anything useful to say, don't do it !




















Something that disturbs me at large on Flickr are the groups for 'masterpieces', the comment section of some images are filled up with invitations to join or submit the image to this and that master group (on invitation only).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gigapan: Construction Site

When I created panoramas previously I usually dont exceed 100 MegaPixel because it is good enough for (very) large prints and I rather have a perfect 100 MP version without seams and changing light conditions than a 1GPixel version with all these faults. Until some time back my hardware was also limited and large stitches were not an option. Now any decent desktop PC can easily be equipped with 12 to 16GB RAM and with a Windows or Ubuntu 64 bit version on a recent CPU, you get fast rendering times.
I just made a 550 MPixel (or 0.55 GigaPixel) created from 60 images shot with Canon 5D MK II and 7-200 L IS.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gigapan: Fremantle Harbor

Lightweight Shooting

Being on a trip with a car in Australia or New Zealand, I dont mind carrying along heavy lenses like the Canon L 100-400, whatever I dont use I can keep in the boot. But sometimes on walk-abouts I prefer to carry less. I decided to go for 2 more prime lenses. The 50/1.4 and the 100/2, despite not being L lenses they are lightweight, very sharp and worth the "little" (as compared to L lenses) money. Both match very nice with the 5D II.
I can recommend Ken Rockwells reviews:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Performance Observations Stitching Applications

It does not make much sense to qualify stitching applications by their speed. !! But for the fun of it I compared the render time for 1 project in Autopano Pro and PTGui (both in Windows XP and Ubuntu  10.04 on the same hardware, Core 2 Duo 8300 @ 2,4Ghz).

Source Images:
12 images (Panasonic MDC FZ28, F5, 1/800s, 9.8mm)


Autopano Pro in Ubuntu (native): 3'34
Autopano Pro in Windows (native): 5'09

PTGUI in Ubuntu (Wine): 2'25
PTGUI in Windows (native): 3'05

Result file: ~14.5 MB JPG , ~15659 x 3925

Remarks:
  • All default settings used.
  • I also tested a virtual Windows XP in Virtualbox for Ubuntu, but the timing were much longer (using only 1 virtual CPU).
  • The test above are in no way a re objective reference or whatsoever. It wont give you any advice what product is better based on timings.Is merely showing you you get more performance with Linux ! Most important is stitching quality and ease of use !
  • When using batch stitching it does not matter if it takes 10 or 12 minutes (or any other time) because you can leave it running over night(s).
  • For serious large gigapixel projects you need to operate in different scales. To stitch 100's of images in one project you need lots of memory and CPU horsepower if you want to render in reasonable amount of time.