Category Archives: Computational imaging

The Next Huge Digital Photography & Video Disruption Is Here

img_0282
Neither of the top two photos has been edited much.  Not even cropped.

A few days ago I went up to one of my favorite spots in the local mountains with my Sony A7iii, Sony 24-105mm G lens and Apple XS Max.  I wanted to get out of the house for a few hours and I wanted to see how the Sony would compare shooting a few more panoramas against the Sony.  And I shot quite a few other standard shots with the Apple using it’s computational smart HDR compared with the Sony.  This was more of a get-out-of-the-house drive than a photography one.  But after the iPhone vs Sony results I got a few days back I thought I would run a few more comparisons.

The two shots above are, one with the iPhone XS Max and the other with the Sony A7iii and 24-104 G lens.  Can you tell which is which?  At first I compared the Apple panorama shot with the Sony at 24mm.  When I greatly enlarged the panorama from the Apple I could see it was well exposed and it looked a little sharper on distant images than I expected.  I also noticed some HDR effect.  I then compared the iPhone standard photo with the smart HDR photo.  The HDR had way more detail in far distant details.  In the standard shot Apple did it’s typical smudge job which looks good at first glance, but not good when you blow it up.  But here’s the thing, the standard Apple camera app did not smear and smudge the small details in the computational HDR photo.

I then compared it to the Sony shot.  The Sony was way better than the standard iPhone photo.  But the computational iPhone picture was about as sharp on my Apple Thunderbolt 27″ monitor as the Sony shot.

img_0288
Apple vertical panorama

The day after I took these shots Olympus introduced their new expensive professional grade camera with some computational capture features a bit like the iPhone.  And then a light bulb went off in my head.  “Stacking files with computational techniques is an alternative to big sensors and big lenses.”  Consider; In the last couple of weeks I have been able to get panoramas, videos, and still shots of about the same quality with my iPhone XS Max as the new Sony A7iii full frame camera with high quality lenses.

_dsc1217
Sony A7iii with 24mm lens

Does the iPhone replace the Sony?  Not if you have about $4,300 to spare for the extra features you get with the Sony.  But if you don’t have or want to spend that kind of money the iPhone XS Max that fits in my pocket is a very good substitute.  All of the Sony shots I used were with raw and edited in Lightroom Classic CC.  All the Apple photos were also done LR too.

_dsc1206
Sony with 24-105 lens.  
img_0286
Apple smart HDR 

The iPhone XS Max is not cheap, and you use it every day.  Then again it was 25% of the Sony body and two lenses.

I have not tested carefully using the Adobe camera app in the iPhone with HDR.  I suspect that the Apple computational camera is a bit more advanced than the Adobe one.  The Adobe shoots 3 files for its HDR.  I believe the Apple takes around 25.  I noticed in the Olympus ads that their stacking technology is similar to Apple’s.  I have heard that the Olympus system is not all sorted out.  The Apple system is very good now and getting better with every update.  This fall the new iPhone is supposed to have three cameras on one of its models.  That is likely an improvement on this years camera.

img_0282
This is the Apple in panorama mode.  You can tell that this mode adds some HDR to the photo by looking at the grasses on the bottom left.  These are in deep shadow without HDR.  

After spending the last year thinking we all needed to trade in our DSLRs for full frame mirrorless now it looks to me like the changes are going to keep cascading in.  I would guess it would be easy for Sony to add back in built in panorama to their camera bodies.  I believe some of their cameras used to have it.  The A7iii is very good at taking bracket photos fast.  It is pretty easy to merge them with Adobe Lightroom.  Mirrorless cameras tend to be faster in frames per second and have no mirror flapping around to cause problems with mirror shock.  Sony is really the only one of the big camera makers that is into electronics and software.

Olympus has been an innovator in the past and they are the first to jump into computational photography in a big way with a high level type camera.  I would guess that they will be able to fix many or all of their issues with this feature relatively fast if they want to.  And the software should be able to be fitted to their less expensive camera bodies.

I really don’t know how things will shake out.  But for sure things are going to be shaking in the camera imaging industry.