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Sunday, 21 December 2008


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This all sounds very cool, thanks.

... which means as these goodies happen we're not going to like whatever we buy today so don't agonize over your buying decision now, you'll change it.

A very nice read, Ctein; you topped up my geek reserves for the day. You've also convinced me to not upgrade my camera this decade. In fact, I've decided to give up photography altogether until I can use a 20-stop camera; anything else is simply to rudimentary for me. ;-)

That was a breathtaking list.
Nowadays sensors are just amazing even the older designs, surely. And then your simple list shows us that the real sweet things are just coming :)
That makes me skip another few generations of cameras (and stay with my "good old" 20d further) and wait for completely new things. I'm not in a hurry, I can wait (and the regression helps me waiting anyway:)

Merry Christmas to you!

"random filter arrangements will improve sensitivity, sharpness, and reduce noise."

The latter two I can see, but sensitivity too?

Bah, humbug, I still love film and my Nikon FA and all my manual lenses. Though I no longer challenge the fine improvements in digital photography, the new digital camera only seems to get more complicated all the time. Love your writing, thoughts and the trouble you take to delve into these matters.

John R.

You know, the cynic in me says neither one of the Big Two will be a trailblazer in any of these technologies. More megapixels yet, but I bet it will take someone else to prove the concepts first.

Re the illustrating photo: it's nice to see that not all Americans over-decorate for Christmas like the cliche goes.

In the mid 70's I felt that 35mm cameras were at 90% of their potential. With the introduction program automation, controlling both shutter-speed and aperture what else could the designers come up with? I and perhaps many others were blindsided by the developments in computer processing power and electronic sensors that has changed my hobby beyond recognition. Now it seems that the revolution continues unabated. Of your list the only things I've heard about is the non-bayer array and GRIN optics. (Olympus experimented with an 85mm f1.4 GRIN lens in the 90's but was not able to get it into production). I don't consider myself a Luddite but I find the fast pace of technology somewhat disturbing and disorienting. I know I'm not alone in this disquieting feeling and can't put my finger on why exactly it happens. It's just that there is a certain comfort in picking up my old cameras and the arrival in the post of my first dSLR did not engender near the excitement I felt a couple of months later when a 43 year old camera I won on E-bay appeared at my address. I think I'm just waiting for the right camera to arrive on the digital scene, and in fact, the Panasonic G-1 has piqued my interest. It's the first time I've actually wanted to get my hands on a digital since their start to ascendency in the late 90's. Yes, I know, do what pleases you and don't worry about all the esoteric developments in the pipeline. Easy to say, hard to do.

Dear Eolake,

Pixels smaller than 1.5 microns do not add anything to sharpness in sensors 1/2 (35mm size) or larger. This leaves designers free to use the 'extra' pixels for things other than resolution enhancement. Going to non-regular filter patterns also frees up design parameters.

For example, here are two filter ideas that have been suggested for markedly higher sensitivity:

-- panchromatic emulation: assign pixels in inverse proportion to the sensor's spectral sensitivity. Silicon sensors have really low blue sensitivity; they should have 2-3 times as much area devoted to blue as to red.

-- luminance channels: 'salt' the RGB array with pixels that are either unfiltered (save for IR) or have a broad-band photopic filter. Use those to capture pure luminance info in a scene.

Both of these are less artifacty in non-repeating patterns.

pax / Ctein

Dear Richard,

The cynic in you is already wrong. This isn't the trailblazing stuff. This is the routine stuff. Some of it's even been done in the past (guess who used non-Bayer arrays?)

Again, I emphasize, this is not the exotica.

pax / Ctein

One of the long term technologies that have me excited are quantum dots om polymer substrate sensors.
The interesting things about this are that they could have much higher resolution , random non bayer arrays , much higher sensitivity etx.

The most interesting two things though are that since they are on a polymer ( plastic) substrate rather than silicon they could be really cheap to make , you can make them really large, and with the much higher resolution map out any bad receptors for very high yields. Even more interestingly they can be made on spherical surfaces since you don't have to slice the substrate off of a big chunk of silicon. With a concave spherical sensor , with lenses that create a spherical real-image , most of the hard problems of lens design go away, or at least the expensive ones.

With cheap fast big sensors , you could see practical digital large format cameras, some really interesting lens designs that don't need to correct curvature of field , spherical aberrations , coma etc.


Of course this technology would also work really nicely with synthetic aperture photography, my favorite long term technology , which would render lens design a software problem.

With synthetic aperture photography you would get "raw" files that were so raw that you could determine the lens design , f/stop , point(s) of focus etc. at the time that you process the file.

A F/.01 software lens with after the fact programmable bokeh. Think about that.

"(guess who used non-Bayer arrays?)"
Ok, I'll bite, would the earliest be Autochrome, patented in 1903 by the Lumière brothers ?

Thanks for these interesting snippets, Ctein.

One of these technologies stood out because it has been available for years - diffractive optics. It has continually surprised me that we have not seen more use of this technology since it has already brought big savings in size and weight to telephoto lenses from Canon.

Is this due to cost or is it simply that Canon is not challenging the user base enough with some intersting designs?

We wait in awe for a 20 stop DR sensor - maybe I shoudl delay the upgrade from a 20D to something a little more zappy :-)

Thanks and Merry Whatevers

Dear Hugh,

There's a lot of very interesting exotica out there. Along with what you mentioned, which is really interesting stuff, I'm looking to superresolving metalenses, pixelless sensors, and photon-counting/energy-measuring sensors.

All stuff off the current manufacturing paths, so no idea of when it sees our front doors, if ever.

The ultimate future is indeed computational/synthetic photography. Everything we're getting now is just the transitional phase, mimicking of analog methods in silicon and software. It's not the smart way to do it. 50 years from now (40? 30? 20?) lenses and 'raw' photographs will not be recognizable as such by folks today.

pax / Ctein

A trivia digression.

I went back and saw your post from last year Ctein. So, thought would add this X trivia.
Some folk think that using "Xmas" is a modern thing, derogatory of using "Christmas".
But, it ain't that simple.

The modern usage of Xmas does come from advertising, specifically, newspaper ad copy (print big, save space and fee) during the late 1800's.
But, actually, Xmas, is older than Christmas.


"Christ" (from the Greek "Christos", aka Yoshua Ben Josepf, Jesus, etc), and "mas", a Saxon (Germanic) word for celebration, or party.

But that is relatively new.

"XP" was the abbreviation used in the early days of Christianity, for the name of Christ. it shortens The labarum, often called the Chi-Rho, a symbol, you can still find on th vestments of some practioners.

As the religion spread into greater Europe the P was dropped, and tied to the widely used word Mas. Hence Xmas.

It eventually became the name for the major commercial (shopping) holiday in the empire on December 25, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, "the birthday of the unconquered sun", (Roman solstice celebration).

Glad Sol Invicti everyone!

"superresolving metalenses"

What's that, pray tell?

Oh boy, I can't wait! Hundreds of thousands of new "photographers", so excited by breakthrough technology ... posting gazillions of crap pictures on flickr, smugmug, photobucket. Yay!

We have face detection; when will someone invent junk detection that triggers camera lock up? ;)

Dear Wee,

Well, that post wins the "Scrooge" award for the season.

Is someone MAKING you look at all those photos? If not, then so long as they're making the photographers happy, it's really not any of your concern.

Photography is the preeminent folk art form of the 20th and (so far) the 21st centuries. So long as the people practicing it are enjoying the results, it's not your place to diss them.

pax / Ctein

Dear Andrew,

Speedy adoption of these lens technologies doesn't happen because they're all considerably more expensive to fabricate than ordinary lenses (to begin with), design tools have to catch up, and it can be tricky to maintain quality control and to accurately characterize the deviations from specification in commercial runs. That's why these things get invented well before they appear in camera lenses and why the first lenses to use them tend to be exotic and/or expensive ones.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Eolake,

Metamaterials let you build optics that resolve better than normal diffraction limits. Entirely capable of doing seemingly impossible things. In fact when these materials were proposed around the turn of the decade, some reputable physicists thought it would be impossible to fabricate them because the consequences of doing so would be so outrageous.

Turns out that's not the case; they can be made. They have a long way to go before they'll appear in ordinary photographic systems. But at some point lens designing is going to get very, very weird.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

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