Saturday, December 14, 2013

RAW Camera Files Support: No luck with KitKat Yet

What you have read recently about KitKat is true. The API to allow RAW file saving is there but Google doesn't see the reason to allow this to happen anytime soon due to hardware concerns.

Google's own Nexus devices, which are partly to blame, have limited storage capacity and you need to be generous to allow for raw file storage. An 8 megapixel camera sensor yields an approximate 8 megapixel RAW file. If you have a JPG file created alongside the RAW file, you're looking at over 10 MB of files to deal with.

In recent past, both Apple and Google have been accused of making money from Hardware storage. Think for a moment on how much it cost to put in a microSD card reader/writer into a device and having one that has a fixed storage. Google makes money from selling a Nexus device with a larger 32GB storage. Such storage jumps, from 16GB to 32GB is negligible in cost but Google doesn't want you to believe that.

The same can be said for HTC, Samsung and Motorola. The bigger the storage, the pricer it is to the end user. Power users will opt for devices that offers expandable storage but that too is limited as not all devices will support the larger 128 GB microSD storage cards. Newer Android devices all support 64 GB cards and if they get upgraded to KitKat with the new RAW camera API going live, just imagine the outcry.

The Nokia 1020 is the supreme leader in camera phone imagery for now so if Android wants to gun down that crown, it better get going with a new with a 4.5 update.

Would RAW files make my Photos Better?

Technically it won't be a huge difference and don't expect better Bokeh or low light handling. RAW image files gives you access to exposure data— which you can tinker with to bring out the best Dynamic Range.

Dynamic range is really about how much data a camera's sensor is able to capture before it loses the ability to register details in high light and low light areas of a scene.

If you look at today's camerphone sensor, it would do about 7 EVs. Small compact cameras are already capable of up to 8 to 9 EVs. Full frame DSLRs can hit a whooping 15 EVs.

That puny sensor on your iPhone? Well, don't hope too much about it. That is why it works best in daylight, when all the areas in a scene is lighted up and details rendered beautifully. Put that in challenging lighting, you can see why the DSLR will pummel the iPhone's image into a pulp.

A small sensor just doesn't quite cut it in low light dynamic range handling. So don't expect the sky to change when all you got is a smarpthone.

Will the Smartphone Replace the DSLR?

No. Dynamic range is part of the equation if you are going to shoot in various lighting conditions. No point trying to diss the DSLR when your iPhone can't handle the truth!

iPhones and Smartphones can do plenty of tricks, but eventually, you have to understand its limitations. In the age of analogue film, people knew what it was like working with a slow ISO64 film. You don't take that out to shoot in low light while hand holding the camera. It was simply not possible. This acceptance is what made them professionals in their day.

Today, we have smartphones, which promise you low light handling so that you can shoot it hand held. This is probably as misleading as what RAW files on smartphones can do for you images. If you want a picture, just an ordinary picture, the smarpthone can deliver one in low light with some difficulty. It cannot deliver a beautifully exposed picture in the same way as a DSLR can in low light.

So the DSLR is still relevant in the future?

Only if professionals get paid to do what they do best at the right rate. Photography equipment hasn't gotten any cheaper. The lenses, computers, DSLR and video rig has made such an investment very expensive. Paying clients will eventually dictate the rise or demise of a DSLR.

Even when DSLR prices are heading south, you have to remember that you can't do much with the image without a computer and software. Once you factor all the equipment you need to do digital photography, you'd realize that you are investing too much money on something that people value less these days doesn't quite make sense.

It is very easy to start a photography business, but it is much harder to stay in business and earn your keep when everyone thinks that a photo can be captured with something as simple as the iPhone.


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