It took about two days to be over the Lytro

OK so it is fun to have one and I am glad I bought it. I will get some value out of it. But … the resolution of the pictures is poor, and the scenarios for the benefits provided are limited. The on-camera screen is very small and it is super hard to review pictures on the device. The effective shutter speed and ISO speed don’t seem that great either. And grr, why don’t people provide straps to secure lens caps? And it is so out of the flow of my normal photo processing, it doesn’t integrate with either my iPhone flow or my DSLR flow easily.

It is a great idea and I suspect it finds its way into most cameras eventually.

41megapixel camera! Where does it end — gigapixel cameras? Terapixel?

So, a “41 megapixel camera phone from Nokia”:,news-14288.html, pretty amazing. The improvement in camera phones over the last 5 years has been amazing. Moore’s law has driven the cost of camera chipsets into the ground, and their performance has continued to increase. Just like the earlier digital camera wave destroyed the film/processing/prints business, now the smartphone+software combo is destroying the digital point-and-shoot camera market. Moore’s law is a powerful force.

Higher-end cameras are being transformed as well. DSLRs are under assault by the new breed of mirrorless camera bodies. Sensors are getting good enough as are the LED/LCD viewfinders, permitting a shift to these new smaller platforms. This shift will take a little longer because of people’s investments in lenses, but it is underway.

Both of these shifts are about software and silicon, driven by Moore’s Law, eating away the mechanics of the camera. I suspect that we are in for even more dramatic changes, Moore’s Law is still hard at work. There are still a lot of mechanical parts in these cameras, and a lot of error-prone human involvement in composing, aiming, and timing image capture. As the cost of processing and memory continue to drop, how else might be picture-taking be transformed?

* The Lytro (supposed to arrive this month) is attacking some of the lens mechanism via silicon. Rather than having a complex mechanism to direct just the photons you want to the capture surface, the Lytro captures a broader set of photons and does all the focusing post-capture. It is early days but we seem to be heading for cameras that capture all the incident photons (frequency, phase, angle of incidence) and let you assemble the photo you want later.
* Photo timing still requires a lot of human involvement, and is a source of many lost photos for exposure reasons and mistiming of the photo. This seems to be great opportunity area — the camera could use the shutter button as a hint, continually grab an image stream, save the couple seconds around the hint, and use software to find the best one. The realities of battery life may be the limiting factor here.
* Cameras can also take a hint from computers. Rather than making bigger and faster processors, we’ve moved to 4-core and 8-core and beyond. At the whole system level, we get better graphics performance by using SLI or other techniques to do use multiple GPUs. Rather than having bigger and bigger sensors, it seems likely that cameras will move to multiple sensors. Bonded together to create one image, or spread around the camera body. Why? Well this could be used for 3d cameras — Fuji has some commercial 3D cameras, and there are a lot of “research efforts”: Or to create HDR cameras — cameras that capture multiple exposure images at once. Or crazy “spider eye-inspired 3d and focus”:
* Maybe cameras can eliminate the whole sighting and composition step, you could just kind of point your camera in the broad direction you want and snap. Maybe the camera can have sensors on all sides, you could just kind of wave your camera cube around. We are headed for a point where sensors are basically free, so I’d expect a lot of innovation in placement and number of them.

So if a future camera is taking kaboodles of images in all directions all the time because sensors and local memory and processing power is free, what will be the constraining factors in taking and using pictures? Well battery life and bandwidth will still be realities. And software. We will need software that can deal with an explosion of photo and video content. I have a lot of photos today, 50K or so, it is a management struggle. What if I have 500K? 5M? What if a business has billions of photos, billions of minutes of video? How do people find their way thru the flood to find the best pictures, to stitch together pictures and videos from different sources into a coherent whole? What post-processing takes place to clean up the pictures, fix up composition, correct errors, etc? And how do you search across everyone’s gigantic photo streams to find the photos you really want to see? Investing in “big data for pictures/video” should be a durable investment thesis.

I’m not clear how it all plays out, but I feel pretty certain that Moore’s law will insure that the way we take and use pictures will be dramatically different in 20 years. A gigapixel camera might be nice but I suspect the silicon and software will be used not to just crank up resolution, but to address the other steps in taking pictures — composition, timing, exposure, aiming, post-processing, finding, sharing, etc.

Samsung NX200 first impressions — man that AMOLED screen!

The Samsung NX200 is my 2nd try at moving to a mirrorless camera for my main camera. I previously tried a recent Olympus PEN and it is ok but feels cheap. And with all of Olympus’s corporate woes, hard to feel good about settling on it.

The Samsung tho feels rock solid, a great body. The flash unit is slick. I am still grinding thru all the controls and don’t have an opinion yet on them. But one feature stands out — the AMOLED screen is gorgeous. Great contrast, vibrant, good in daylight. Really beautiful.

Now I just need to pick up some lenses for it — like the “long zoom lens”:


My current photo backup recommendations

“Johnz”: recently asked me about photo backup and sharing strategies.

I’ve settled on two basic schemes for the moment.

* My “autonomic” choice is “backblaze” tho you could just as well use carbonite or crashplan or any of the other N choices. This is a “set and forget” system — I tell it to backup my hard disk, and it just chugs away all the time and keeps me backed up. If my machine ever explodes or my house burns down, I have a recovery option. Now I’ve never had to test the recovery, so fingers crossed, but I have a plan. And this provides me great backup, but provides no sharing features or even remote use for myself.

* For more intentional sharing and remote use, I use “smugmug” A little overkill for amateur photographer, but provides great viewing and sharing features. And integrates well with Aperture or Lightroom. And has a decent iphone app.

An alternatives I’ve considered: Dropbox would be super easy to use if I just cared about my own remote access, and is pretty appealing. But no sharing. But I could dump intentionally shared images up to facebook or flickr. This would not be an unreasonable combination to use.

Mix and match all these as you wish…but I hope you are using something, because it would suck to lose all your photos to a machine failure.

No time to blog, so here’s a link roundup

* “Cutting the Cord on Cable”: Wish I could get there but live HD sports still keeps me stuck to cable/satellite provider. I’ve tried the streaming options and they are weak — poor selection of games/sources (I need ESPN/ABC channels + BTN + Fox Sports channels + upcoming Pac12 network), lots of stutter, not HD content. I will probably be one of the last cable subscribers in the country.
* “Men with deep voices lack sperm”: I was a tenor in choir.
* “Do programming puzzles in interviews work?”: I don’t think I’ve ever asked these kinds of questions, or at least not in 20 years.
* “Gamification sucks”: Respect your users.
* “The Verge”: and “The Wirecutter”: — good tech sites.
* “If you are busy, you are doing something wrong”:
* “10 new-ish programming languages”: WOuld like to learn more about Chapel, haXe, X10, OPA.
* “DSLRs are a dying breed”: Not another “camera phones are going to win” article, but a smarter take on the mirrorless trend.

I just ordered my Lytro camera.

Available February/March next year. The “Lytro”: features a technology they call “light field” — they grab sufficient photon data at capture time to allow refocusing, zooming, etc as a post-capture option. The Lytro is a simple step on the way to a full software-defined lens — I first wondered about such a lens in 2003, should have filed a bunch of patents. Other people are pushing the idea ahead, see for instance “Software Defined Lensing”:

As the writeup points out, you can view a traditional glass lens as a kind of quantum computer with a single fixed purpose, established at manufacture time. The lens captures all the incident photons, does some photonic/quantum computation, and spits an answer out on the CCD. But if we can replace the lens with something that has much more dynamic, programmable behaviour, well very cool things could be done — arbitrary refocusing and zooming being just the simplest example. A much broader set of incident radiation could be captured, spectral analysis of the image could be performed, filtering of the image, incredible levels of zoom, etc.

The Lytro is a very modest step in this direction but exciting.

iCloud Photostream and DSLRs don’t seem to be a great fit

OK so I am diving into photostream. I’ve enabled on my iPhone 4 (don’t yet have a 4s), iPad 2, my MacBook Pro, my Win7 PC. So the dream was — some set of my photos would be magically replicated across all these machines. Magically.

I have two photo points of entry — the iPhone, and my DSLR (usually a Canon, sometimes an Olympus PEN). The DSLR photos enter through Aperture on the Mac where I manage my photo collection — filter out the good and bad, touch up, organization, etc. So the first challenge was getting Aperture to play with Photostream — needed to let software update patch Aperture, and then it was just a setting to turn on. Now a magic Photostream folder appears in my library, yay. And a test photo I took with the iPhone magically appeared in the folder, yay!

However…I shut the lid on the MacBook at this point and moved locations and thus wifi networks. Post move, I added a bunch of photos off the Canon into Aperture. Sadly the photos did not appear on the iPhone, Aperture showed a little broken connection icon next to Photostream and was unable to connect to iCloud even tho my net was fine. I brought the net up and down but didn’t help. Seems like maybe Aperture gets stuck in a broken iCloud mode. So i quit Aperture and immediately photos started propagating to my phone — apparently the Photostream replication works without needing Aperture to run, some background process is handling the sync. So sync is working fine.

But a couple oddities:

* First, I don’t really want every photo from my DSLR to immediately jump into my photostream. One of the great things about DSLRs are that you can quickly take 10-20 photos of a scene and then filter out the best later. But all of these show up in the photostream, and so my photostream gets polluted with many many variants of one photo. Not really what I want.
* Second, photos don’t seem to be removable from the photostream? This is strange. I can’t delete them on the iPhone. I can’t delete on the Mac. They are just stuck there forever? Until they age out (Photostream shows the last 30 days I believe)? This seems really unfortunate.

So I conclude using Photostream with DSLRs is not a great experience and not really the intent. Which is too bad, the automagic sync is nice. I can also use the old-style sync of a folder of photos but this is really suboptimal — I have to configure what folder to sync in iTunes, and then sync only happens when I plug in my phone to my Mac, or using the new wireless sync, when I plug the phone into power. Not nearly as nice.

I’d really like to be able to specify which folders to sync, Photostream-style, from within Aperture, and have that sync happen all the time. And I want to be able then to edit the folder contents so that I can add and remove photos from the stream.

Software Lenses and Lytro

I’ve wished for years that someone would come up with a “software-defined lens”: A surface that would capture all inbound photons and let me decide later about focus, depth of field, etc.

It looks like “Lytro”: has done it or something on the way towards it. Hope it is reality! Put my name down for one.

Daily amusements — tilt shift, 6502, glass speakers, carlashes

* “Tilt-shift Van Gogh”: via “Scalzi”: Because tilt-shift makes everything better.
* “6502 simulated in javascript”: via “adafruit”: Freaking awesome, my first significant personal coding was on a 6502 (Apple ][), I wish I still had the code so I could test it out.
* “Glass speakers”: Outrageously expensive but oh my gosh cool.
* “Carlashes”: To be surreptitiously applied to your sibling’s car.

Stuff I Want But Don't Need — August Edition

* Possibly the most ill-considered travel item ever — those TSA agents love a good joke. Ha ha ha, strip your clothes off sir.
* Vex robotic kit. Never had robot love, but if i did…
* Sticky tripod. No idea why but seems like I should have in my camera kit.
* I don’t know why I don’t have an eye-fi yet.
* Cooling bandanna. At less than $2 I should certainly get
* Dramm fogg-it hose nozzle. Doesn’t the name sound like a spoonerized curse phrase?
* Dynomighty wallet. If they had a buckeye one i’d be there
* Digital rachet wrench. Seems like a horrible idea.
* Traverse switchplates. Nice, I hate generic plastic switchplates.

Stuff I want but don't need — Post Father's Day edition

Had a great father’s day, got some cool photo tools, some books that look great, and a couple of games since I have played Left4Dead and Fallout3 to death. Here’s some stuff I didn’t get and probably for good reason.

Physical Stuff:

* Faux fountains via Scott Loftesness. Cool looking and an inspiration for Halloween.
* IP PBX tips for home. I was all excited about this several years ago but increasingly not so…having resident phone technology seems so backwards
* Projects Watches wristwatches. Cool looking but increasingly I have given up on wristwatches.
* Television emulator. I don’t know, I think the dogs would prefer to watch real TV.
* Olympus PEN. Having just hauled the Canon up and down a mountain Sunday morning, the idea of a smaller form factor camera with great lenses is appealing.
* Super Duper Denon pre-amp. Just can’t face all the cabling problems tho of disconnecting my current and connecting in a new.

Virtual Stuff:
* Like the idea of automated analysis of my financials, but I am just not going to give another party access to all my financial credentials. They should license these tools to financial service firms for use on their own websites.
* Cisco Network Magic. Nice review. Congrats to the former Pure Networks team.
* Filemaker Bento iPhone app. I regularly get sucked into thinking I need a database and this app is sucking me in again. I know tho I will enter 7 records and abandon the damn thing so I am holding off.

Stuff I want but do not need — New Year's Edition

* Hardcore Computer — fully submerged computer. So you can reboot more quickly and reliably.
* HighSpeedPC — on second thought, screw the case, who needs it.
* Innovative snow shovels — might need again in another 20 years.
* Magnetic iPhone camera lenses — cool idea. For the 3 pictures a month I take with my iphone.
* Lighted Garden Nozzle — I have no idea why but it is cool.
* Map Quilts — awesome, love maps.