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Through the lens – Cameras that do it better

Compiled: By the editors. Photographs: Lytro/Jason Bradley and Eric Cheng. Source: This article is from the October 2011 Popular Mechanics

The advent of film over a century ago transformed the way we saw and interacted with our world.

However, processing the results remained a messy, smelly, highly skilled affair that most people were content to leave to the experts.

Then, in 1988, digital photography hit the scene, and everything changed… and it’s not over yet. Here’s your chance to get up to speed with some of the latest developments in the fine art of photography, and to check out cool gear that’s about to hit our shelves.

Shoot first, focus later

Photography enters the sci-fi realm

Shoot first, Focus laterHow would you like to nail your shot every time and never miss a moment? According to a California-based start-up called Lytro, you’ll be able to do just that in the not-too-distant future.

Its “light field” camera, expected to go on sale later this year, reportedly captures all of the light rays in a scene to offer photographic capabilities never before possible – that is, the ability to focus pictures after they’ve been taken.

Sound like fantasy? Not at all, says Lytro. It maintains these captured “living pictures” can be endlessly focused and refocused at any point in the image, giving viewers the ability to concentrate on their preferred part of the scene via the simple click of a computer mouse – days, weeks, even years after they’ve been taken.

Shoot first focus later2This mind-boggling camera was developed by Lytro’s CEO and founder Ren Ng (he studied light field science for his PhD in computer science at Stanford University). This is how it came about: he was trying to take photos of a friend’s young daughter one day, but every shot came out blurred. So Ng figured that if a camera could capture all the available light information (direction, intensity and colour) in the entire field of view, it would make taking the “perfect” shot a breeze.

After Ng’s team had managed to miniaturise the effect of hundreds of cameras plugged into a supercomputer in a lab, and fit it all on to their newly developed camera sensor, they proceeded to incorporate powerful software into the camera so the whopping amount of captured data could be crunched into a light field picture file that anyone could manipulate.

Other than its ability to focus images after they’ve been shot, the light field camera boasts a few other useful features: since it doesn’t focus before a photo is taken, users will no longer miss important moments resulting from the conventional delay of the lens autofocusing after they press the shutter button. Because all the available light in a scene is used, light field cameras can capture better pictures in low-light environments without requiring a flash. Because the full light field is used, it can create immersive 3D images that go way beyond the conventional stereo 3D we’re used to.

Lytro’s light field camera may very well represent one of the most significant shifts in photography since the transition from film to digital, but it won’t necessarily work for everyone. That’s because capturing high-resolution light field photographs without making the camera’s optics ex-tremely complicated is nigh on impossible. But Ng isn’t overly concerned, commenting: “When people share pictures online, they invariably throw away 90 to 95 per cent of their available pixels, anyway. And the vast majority of picture use today goes through the Web.”

Although Lytro isn’t ready to go into specifics about its upcoming camera, the company will say that it’ll be competitively priced and targeted at the everyday user.

For more information, visit the Web site at www.lytro.com

Miniaturise your world

Gulliver would understand

Tilt-shift 5000T CameraTilt-shift photography – the shooting of high-angle, large-scale everyday scenes and making them look like miniaturised models – isn’t anything new.

But the ability to create this effect with a compact camera instead of expensive custom lenses and dedicated software most certainly is.

To accomplish this feat, manufacturer NeinGrenze mounted the lens of its dedicated tilt-shift 5000T camera at an angle.

Miniaturise your world - Tilt-shift 5000T CameraBy capturing images with the tops and bottoms out of focus to create the shallow depth of field normally associated with photos of small objects, it allows the photographer to shoot images of city streets and the like in which all the people, cars and buildings look as if they belong in Lilliput. Other than that, it’s a no-fuss, point-and-shoot camera. Features include a 5 mega-pixel sensor, the ability to shoot video (AVI format) at 15 fps, flash, 8x digital zoom, and expandable memory via an SD card slot. It also comes with a “vivid” mode to simulate the saturated colours used by dedicated tilt-shift photographers to make their images look more model-like.

For more information,visit www.neingrenze.com

Steady on

The Velbon's compact, single-action folding tripod (300g) CubeWhole lotta shakin’

In low-light conditions a tripod can make the difference between capturing the perfect shot and relegating your attempt to the “nice try, but no cigar” bin. That said, when you’re travelling light, the last thing you need is a bulky tripod to weigh you down. The solution: Velbon’s compact, single-action folding tripod, the lightweight (390 g) Cube.

It packs flat when collapsed, making it ideal for travellers without a steady hand. It takes just a few seconds to set up, so you’ll never miss that once-in-a-lifetime shot – or the boat, for that matter. It comes with a unique head unit: all you need do is squeeze the locking levers to adjust the head and angle of your camera, then release them to lock it in position.

Contact distributor Tudortech on 021-424 2978

or visit www.tudortech.co.za

Right camera, perfect shot

Nikon has just released its new range of eight compact Coolpix cameras. We take a look at two of its “heavy hitters”. ↓ →

Some like it rough

Bring it on

Nikon - CoolpixNikon’s first rugged camera, the Coolpix AW100, is great for photographers with active lifestyles. Designed to capture the action on land or in the water, it’s waterproof to depths of 10 m, shockproof for drops of 1,5 m, and freeze-proof for temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius.

Featuring a built-in GPS, electronic compass and world map, it not only allows you to geo-tag your images, but also records your route (you can use the compass to check your location on the LCD monitor).

AW100 BKA 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and dedicated low light modes combine to deliver stunning results whether you’re shooting in bright sunlight, at night or under water.

Its quality wide-angle Nikkor lens has a 5x optical zoom (35 mm equivalent: 28-140 mm). It shoots full HD (1080p) video with stereo sound, and features four blur-reduction functions to minimise the effects of subject movement, low light and camera shake.

You can create 360- and 180-degree panoramic photos by capturing a rapid burst of frames and merging them instantly into single images.

Plus, there’s an underwater mode that automatically adjusts the camera’s white balance so you can capture scenes just as you see them.

Project your image

Small is good

Acer's C20 LEDLugging around a full-sized projector to show off your creative skills is no less impractical than getting everyone to huddle around your camera’s small LCD screen. Acer’s C20 LED pico projector offers the ideal compromise: small enough to fit inside your pocket, it can be used to show off your photos, watch videos or do presentations anywhere and at any time.

You can connect a range of devices via its built-in USB and HDMI ports. Its LED lamp has an operational lifespan of up to 20 000 hours and displays images from 12 cm to 167 cm in diameter in a dimly lit room. Plus, its two-hour battery gives you plenty of time to brag about your last overseas holiday. Visit www.acer.co.za

Great all-round performer

Technology rules, okay?

Nikon P7100If you’re looking for a compact camera capable of taking everything in its stride, you’ll enjoy Nikon’s high-performance model, the P7100. Successor to the well-received P7000, it offers improved image quality, reduced time lag, faster autofocus speeds and quicker start-up times.

There’s also a new tilting 7,5 cm LCD monitor to make composing images and capturing HD (720p) video easier when shooting from unusual angles or tricky vantage points.

The new camera comes with a raft of advanced technology more commonly found in D-SLR cameras to ensure the best image quality.

Nikon Coolpix P7100Aside from its RAW file format, it features a 10 mega-pixel CCD sensor, a 7,1x zoom (35 mm equivalent: 28-200 mm) and fast Expeed C2 processing system. Then there are the special effects: Cross Processing performs its manipulating magic to create dramatic colour shifts and increase contrast and saturation; Selective Colour lets you emphasise your choice and turns the rest of the image into monochrome.

To make sure you get the look you want, you can review each effect on the LCD screen before shooting.

Contact Nikon on 0861 164 566 or visit www.nikon.co.za


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