Google gets blurry

google blur 2

google blur 2

Lens blur, that is. Bokeh has become the accepted term for artfully-applied blurry backgrounds. While much sought-after in some circles, it requires skillful manipulation of shallow depth of field to achieve the effect in-camera, or plenty of time to simulate the look in post-capture image editing with Photoshop or a similar tool.

Now Google is offering a free computational photography process for quickly and easily getting the same appearance — albeit only in the latest version of the camera app for its Android smartphones.

The Lens Blur tool in the new Google Camera app “lets you change the point or level of focus after the photo is taken,” Google says. “You can choose to make any object come into focus simply by tapping on it in the image. By changing the depth-of-field slider, you can simulate different aperture sizes, to achieve bokeh effects ranging from subtle to surreal (such as tilt-shift). The new image is rendered instantly, allowing you to see your changes in real time.”

google blur 1

The Lens Blur effect “replaces the need for a large optical system with algorithms that simulate a larger lens and aperture,” Google adds. “Instead of capturing a single photo, you move the camera in an upward sweep to capture a whole series of frames. From these photos, Lens Blur uses computer vision algorithms to create a 3D model of the world, estimating the depth (distance) to every point in the scene.”

You can read the full post from Google’s imaging engineers here.


New Eyefi Cloud makes digital camera images instantly available on any device


eyefiEyeFi has made another new stride in connectivity with Eyefi Cloud, a private, photo-centric cloud service that makes newly captured photos instantly available on a smartphone, tablet, PC or smart TV. Eyefi Cloud was designed for photo enthusiasts who want to shoot with a digital camera, but are frustrated with the time-consuming processes required to enjoy their photos on multiple devices. The company says their new Eyefi Cloud service, along with the Eyefi Mobi wireless SD card and Eyefi Mobi apps, makes every picture taken organized and instantly accessible, anytime, anywhere—to enjoy, curate and share securely and privately.

Discover more here.

RFID tags trigger photo capture — on a Zipline



Here’s a cool use of new technology to boost revenues from photography services: Radio Frequency IDs are low-power devices that emit identification signals. A new system at a Hawaiian zipline park uses RFID technology to trigger image capture and also assign the shot to an individual guest.


The Snapsportz system automatically sorts images, and retrieves each guest’s photos on demand. At interactive kiosks, guests order prints or digital copies, upload one or all images to a USB drive, or post images to their Facebook page.

“The current system is working extremely well and, with negligible additional cost, has more than doubled revenue for our entire zip line operation,” says the zipline facility, Princeville Ranch Adventures. “By ensuring high-quality image capture for our guests and making it effortless for them to find and share their images, we help ensure they get the most out of their zipline experience. And, because approximately 85 percent of guests choose digital versions of their images that lead to great reviews on Trip Advisor, Facebook, Instagram and other sites, it paints a picture of fun for our guests that also promotes our business.”

Color management and calibration bundled


spyderhd-product-018-310wSpyderHD is an integrated color management tools for imaging professionals seeking an all-in-one solution, says Datacolor.

Designed to color manage photo and video workflows from scene, to camera, editing, and final output, it includes the color sensor device, a display calibration application with functions for computer displays, video reference displays, and TVs, and a universal mounting system that securely mounts the device on screens up to 70 inches. The package is $349.

More information is here.


Flying camera improved

drone camera


drone camera

Camera-equipped quadcopters let you capture stills and video from previously unreachable heights — and the technology is still in its infancy. The latest model from DJI boosts image stabilization, has longer WiFi range, and flies twice as fast: it can now even shoot in 25 mile-per-hour winds.


The Phantom 2 Vision+ drone comes with a 14-megapixel camera that captures 1080p video, with new three-axis image stabilization that corrects pitch, roll, and yaw, for smoother video.


With an app and mobile device, the planes 700-foot range WiFi will show you what its aerial camera is capturing as it happens, as well as altitude, the plane’s distance from you, and its battery strength (a charge is good for 25 minutes). The drone also has GPS.


The Phantom 2 Vision+ drone is $1,299. 




Ricoh debuts faster low-cost medium-format camera

pentax medium format

pentax medium format

Of course, “low-cost” is a relative term when it comes to a medium-format camera and the larger sensor it requires, but Ricoh Imaging’s newest SLR will be “only” $8,500 — a category-low, the company says.

The Pentax 645Z SLR features a 51-megapixel sensor, with a 43.8mm x 32.8mm imaging area that is approximately 1.7 times larger than that of a 35mm full-size sensor. It captures three frames per second, as well as full HD video.

“It is not often that a camera can be referred to as a game-changer,” Ricoh says, “one that can provide photographers with the tools that not only enrich their craft but are capable of producing images so distinct they are easily set apart from the competition… thus altering the landscape of professional photography… The Pentax 645Z assures super-high-resolution images with a stunningly realistic sense of depth combined with vivid colors and rich shadow detail. The resulting images feature a uniquely distinct look and an unmistakable brilliance that clearly differentiate professional photographers to their clients.”

The camera has a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second, a top ISO of 204,800, and a 3-inch articulated LCD. The magnesium alloy frame and  a die cast aluminum chassis have 76 weather-seals “for a cold-resistant, weather-resistant and dustproof shooting experience.”

 The Imaging Resource has a detailed look at the camera here.

reShoot: easier editing of iPhone video

reshoot S

reshootWhen making a video on an iPhone, “there’s no easy way to correct a mistake without having editing skills, say the developers of reShoot, which lets you rewind and re-shoot unwanted portions of video without resulting in multiple clips that you would have to piece together.

“reShoot enables almost anyone to be a film producer without requiring editing skills,” Wally World Media says. Its free app for iPhone and iPad lets you “add new footage to existing video recordings… Instead of capturing dozens of clips, it provides a single video stream or montage.”

There’s an explanatory video here.

The app is here.


Retailers can profit from “3D Selfies”

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 12.49.13 PM

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 12.49.13 PMIn my market overview presentation at PMA@CES 2014 I pointed to solid 3D objects as near-future high-margin output products for retailers. Well, the future comes fast these days, as San Jose, Calif.-based Artec Group launched its Shapify.Pro, which it bills as “a new iteration of its 3D selfie technology designed for small businesses and retailers who want to provide customers with scale model figurines of themselves, their kids and more.”

The kit uses a Microsoft Kinect sensor array to scan customers in 3D. The scans are then uploaded to the Shapify website, and figurines are delivered to the business or customer within five days.

The Shapify figurines are 3D printed in monochrome or color plastic. The small businesses kit includes a $999 printing credit—matching the initial investment of $999 for the Shapify.Pro — “and special rates designed to allow 3D selfie businesses to become profitable,” the company says.” Base prices range from $40 for a 1:20 (small size) printed figurine, $80 per 1:15 (medium) figure, and $140 for each 1:12 (large) printed model. Suggested retail prices are $79, $129,  and $199. Artec Group says it estimates “business owners can make almost $5,000 per month by selling two small and three medium figures every work day, and one large every other work day.”

There’s more information here.


Ultra HD and 4k cams from Blackmagic, AJA



Last week we noted that many were jumping on the 4k video bandwagon, and here are a couple more crowding on for the ride:

AJA Video Systems announced the Cion production camera with an APS-C sized sensor that the company says can output 120 frames per second at full 4K resolution. The camera accepts PL mount lenses, and records to a 512GB SSD drive. It has Ethernet and Thunderbolt ports. It will sell for $8,995.

Blackmagic Design claims its new Studio Camera is the smallest broadcast camera with the largest viewfinder. It has a 12.48mm x 7.02mm sensor ,a Micro Four Thirds lens mount, and a 10-inch viewfinder “that allows incredible creativity when framing and accurately focusing,” the company says. “The viewfinder’s LCD is extremely bright and has a very wide viewing angle so it is perfect for use even in direct sunlight. The camera also includes a large fold up sun shield making it perfect for outdoor use and the sun shade also acts as a privacy shield when in use.” The camera has remote management features and ports for aviation headsets and fiber-optic and SDI connections. The 4K version will sell for $2,995; basic HD is $1,995.


Blackmagic also introduced its Ursa, which it calls the first “digital film” camera designed to revolutionize on-set workflow.” It has a user-upgradable sensor and lens mount, as well as a 10-inch fold-out monitor. “Customers can easily dress the camera with high quality cinema lenses, rails, follow focus, matte boxes and more,’ the company says. “With built in scopes for exposure, focus and audio levels, built-in dual recorders, and the …monitor, customers can dramatically reduce on-set equipment because it’s all built into the camera.” With a 4K Super 35mm-sized sensor, it’s $5,995.

Also, JVC Kenwood joined the Micro Four Thirds association and said it’s developing 4K prototypes of its own, with larger-than-MF43 Super 35 sensors.

Nikon adds features to Android camera

nikon android camera

nikon android camera“Whether photographing friends dancing into the night or fast-action sports,” Nikon says, “the S810c helps users never again settle for sharing a sub-par cell phone photo to their social networks.”

Is a camera or media device? Sounds like both: “You can surf the web, read the latest emails, browse photos and videos, navigate with maps as well as many other functions offered by Android apps,” Nikon adds. Also, when a WiFi network is unavailable, you can connect to a compatible smartphone or tablet via an app to transfer images to the device, and share from there.

In addition to WiFi, the camera has built-in GPS for location-based apps, and a stereo headphone jack, “which allows users to operate their camera as a mobile media player device.”

The Coolpix S810c has a 16-megapixel sensor, 12x zoom, and 3.7-inch touchscreen. It’s $350.