Selfies spur Sony sensor sales


sony-curved-sensor-chartSony is already leading the market when it comes to the primary image sensors in smart phones — but many shots these days are “selfies” taken with the lower-resolution secondary camera …and now Sony wants a piece of that action, Reuters reports.

Sony will invest $345 million to increase production of image sensors for smartphones and tablets as the company courts handset makers to get more orders for front-facing camera sensors, the news story says. “The Japanese firm said it will increase production of stacked CMOS sensors at two factories on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, while completing work on a factory in northwestern Japan it bought from Renesas Electronics.” The investment will allow Sony to raise production by 13 percent to 68,000 wafers a month by August 2015.

Sony currently supplies sensors for the main camera in Apple’s iPhone, Reuters adds, and the company leads Omnivision Technologies “whose sensors are mostly used in front-facing smartphone modules that typically have lower specifications than the main rear camera.”

The full article is here.

There are also reported rumors that the company’s curved sensor design is already heading to phones as well.

480 cameras snap 3D

carnagie camera dome

carnagie camera dome

Many SFX creations in movies today rely on motion capture, which covers actors in specialized suits with markers to record an their positions and movements. Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University report they’re capturing 3D motion without the suit — just a new algorithm, and a whole lot of cameras.

The tracking system is housed in a geodesic filled with 480 cameras to track 100,000 different points in motion.

“The 3D tracking is so accurate that it can actually capture the motions of every individual particle in a handful of confetti tossed into the air,” Gizmodo reports. It uses off-the-shelf camera technology, and can be scaled almost indefinitely.

The full article is here.

Carnegie Mellon University’s paper, MAP Visibility Estimation for Large-Scale Dynamic 3D Reconstruction, is here.


Drones light photo subjects, win awards for image capture

mit drone light

mit drone light

We’ve seen a lot of photos and videos captured by drones lately — but did you know they could also help you capture better shots yourself?

Researchers at MIT and Cornell University think the autonomous vehicles could automatically assume the right positions for photographic lighting.

“Lighting is crucial to the art of photography,” MIT says. “But lights are cumbersome and time-consuming to set up, and outside the studio, it can be prohibitively difficult to position them where, ideally, they ought to go.”

They might change that by providing “squadrons of small, light-equipped autonomous robots that automatically assume the positions necessary to produce lighting effects specified through a simple, intuitive, camera-mounted interface.”

The researchers will present a prototype system at the International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics, Visualization, and Imaging in August.

More information is here.

 drone stagram-eagle

That’s how drones might help you take better pictures — but of course, they also take shots “by themselves.” And now they are winning awards for it.

The 2014 Dronestagram Photo Contest “rewards the photos that show the best the fantastic potential offered by drones,” the organizers say.

The contest was sponsored by National Geographic, Go Pro, and others.

The full list of winners — and several amazing photos — are here.


Small 360-degree lens “revolutionizes selfies”

immervision lens

immervision lens

A new thin lens design may enable “every mobile and wearable device to deliver an unprecedented 360-degree experience,” claims optics developer ImmerVision.

The 3.8 mm panomorph (wide-angle panoramic) lens is the world’s smallest, the company adds, and makes “distorted fish-eye views and camera accessories obsolete.” It’s designed for compact phone or wearable devices, “yet it is capable of doing what no other lens can: deliver a distortion-free 360×182-degree view without having to pan the camera.”

Lens manufacturer Kolen is licensed to produce the lens, and plans to make it available by the end of this Summer.


“Skinny lens” could yield cheaper surveillance cameras

french thin lens thermal cam

french thin lens thermal cam

“Dark alleys might not feel so dangerous someday thanks to a new ultra-thin type of lens, which could pave the way to making smaller and cheaper heat-sensing imagers.” That’s the claim of a team of French researchers who say they’ve found a way to make a thermal infrared camera with a lens made of  a much less expensive material: silicon.

The silicon lens is as thick as a fingernail with a diameter less than that of a No. 2 pencil, according to a report from The Optical Society. “Although its resolution is not superb, the lens is good enough to reveal the presence of a person and some general features.”

Potential applications for the imager include more affordable surveillance, particularly for home use, the researchers say. “It could detect people in a room, on a street corner, or in a dark alleyway.” The thin lens design could be a breakthrough in lowering the cost of thermal infrared camera lenses by using materials that are cheaper than traditional ones such as germanium and chalcogenide.

The design has been patented, but further work remains to make it marketable at a truly affordable price.

There’s more information here.


The July/August issue of PMA magazine is now available


Magazine_issue072014_700x454The July/August issue of PMA Magazine – Connecting the Imaging Communities is live and online.

In this issue, discover the excitement of The Big Photo Show LA 2014! Read about all the opportunities this event, held in May, brought to photo enthusiasts and imaging businesses; check out interviews with attendees; and read (and even watch) interviews with exhibitors.

In addition, this issue revisits retailers we interviewed a year ago about getting consumers to make prints and photo products from mobile images. Discover what a huge difference a year has made in technology, ease of use, and big profits.

Also in this issue:

  • Hans Hartman of Suite 48 Analytics reveals trends in mobile photography and output
  • LifePics is betting on 3D printing
  • The 2014 AIE Future Imaging Summit panel on output explains current trends
  • Panasonic’s Darin Pepple explains how 4K and hybrid photography are changing the game
  • How the Tran family escaped terrors in Cambodia – then built one of the most successful imaging businesses in Australia
  • In the U.K., The Photography Show picks up where Focus on Imaging left off

Amazon’s Phone to set fire to showrooming?


FirePhone-D-Right-App-GridLast week, we covered the cool new imaging technology in Amazon’s first mobile phone (four cameras used to sense position!) — but now alarms are going off that it might set ablaze the ongoing problem of “showrooming” as it makes it much easier to take a photo of any product, anywhere, and see at what price it’s sold on Amazon.

“When Amazon builds a new gadget, it’s almost always designed to help sell other Amazon products to users,” says business writer Timothy Lee. “The Kindle, of course, was part of Amazon’s strategy for building its ebook store. The Fire Phone Amazon released on Wednesday also allows users to read digital content purchased from Amazon. But it will help Amazon sell more of its physical products too. The Fire Phone includes an app called Firefly that helps users identify things they point their cameras at, from books to paintings. For some items, Firefly will present useful information, like the Wikipedia page for a famous painting. If it’s an item Amazon sells, Firefly will let you click to buy it.

“This should terrify brick and mortar retailers.”

Here’s the full article. What do you think?


Amazon fires off its first phone, offers unlimited image storage



After many months of rumors, Amazon officially debuted the Fire Phone — and with it, a promise to provide plenty of picture storage online… in fact, unlimited access to its Cloud service, free for photos taken with Fire.

The phone has a 13-megapixel camera has an f/2 lens with optical image stabilization (and a dedicated camera key), and a 4.7-inch display.

Amazon says its Fire Phone has “two new technologies that allow you to see and interact with your world through a whole new lens.”

• Dynamic Perspective responds to the way you hold, view, and move your phone, the company says. “It opens up a new class of immersive apps and games not possible on other smartphones, as well as one-handed navigation and gestures like auto-scroll.” Its custom-designed sensor system is comprised of four ultra-low power specialized cameras and four infrared LEDs built into the front face, a dedicated custom processor, real-time computer vision algorithms, and a new high-performing and power-efficient graphics rendering engine.

• Firefly recognizes printed web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, artwork, movies, music, and millions of products, “making it easy to discover information, share items with friends, and more,” Amazon adds — the “more” most likely being “make a purchase on Amazon.”


Adobe intros Focus Masks and Mix – updates almost everything else


Adobe updated many of its Creative Cloud applications Wednesday, and for photography users, the company debuted new software, new hardware — and made permanent the oft-extended “special deal” of Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month.


• Photoshop Mix is designed to be intuitively easy on the iPad, while also tapping into more advanced Photoshop techniques through Cloud computing that would otherwise require the CPU power of a desktop PC (including Upright, Content Aware Fill, and Camera Shake Reduction). Adobe claims Photoshop Mix is “the most precise app for compositing and masking on iPad.”

adobeink and slide

• The Ink digital pen for the iPad delivers something many of the other styli out there do not: pressure sensitivity to vary line thickness when used with Adobe’s new Sketch (bitmap) and Line (vector) apps, as well as a thinner, more accurate nib. Sketch is much like many other iPad paint apps, but Line “recreates the art of drafting,” Adobe says.

• The Slide module is “a category-defining ruler” that takes “a modern twist on traditional tools used before computer graphics and desktop publishing… Slide enables precision sketching – straight lines, perfect circles, and balanced shapes.”

(Adobe gave Ink and slide a sneak peek more than a year ago.)

• Also, the update to Lightroom Mobile lets it run on the iPhone, not just the iPad.

(Adobe cites a survey of 1,000 that found “nearly half of creatives use their mobile devices to capture inspiration on-the-go, and one in three would like to create more content on tablets.”)

• On the desktop, Photoshop CC adds Focus Masks to let you more easily select a foreground subject and blur the background to increase “bokeh.” There are also new Path Blur and Spin Blur effects to add a sense of motion to an image, and Content-Aware Fill, Move, and Patch are improved.


Sony curves sensors



A new sensor design may yield both better images and simpler lenses.

While standard image sensors are flat, Sony debuted its new sensor shape recently. “It appears they are fabricated flat, bent into shape using a custom machine, and then backed with ceramic to maintain the bent shape permanently,” DP Review reports.

The design combats standard field curvature caused by lenses taking in a scene and imaging a plane on a flat imaging sensor. Also, curved sensors may be more sensitive to incoming  light, according to Sony.

“A curved sensor mimics the retina of a human eye, which effectively allows for simpler lens design,” DPR adds. “It also realizes significant image benefits by avoiding traditional problems encountered when attempting to record oblique light rays using pixel wells of finite depth on flat sensors.”

The full story is here.