Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stick on Lenses: Future of Mobile Photography?

At CES 2014, clues were being tossed about the future of Lens Cameras with Vivitar jumping onto the QX wagon created by Sony. 

To be fair, the Sony QX lens cameras were fantastic as they were both innovative and revolutionary but the application of the system to a existing smartphone device didn't quite gel with consumers, at least for now.

Part of the reason I suppose is that the product specification, of which consumers are not all that enthusiastic about. To invest in a lens camera is to expect better imaging results. These days, smartphone cameras already have so much to offer in daylight shooting that it hardly seems necessary to use an external camera anymore, until of course you get to shoot in low light with great results.

Lens cameras right now do not offer full manual operations or RAW file capture. This might change in the future though I suspect that you only need a FIRMWARE upgrade to do this. Sony has always been slow with such stuff. Trust me I know. I worked with them before.

What Has the Vivitar Got to Offer?

Sorry but the technical specification is kinda sketchy. There is no megapixel infomation nor there a price. It can be cheaper than the QX10 but not by much.

The rules of exposure holds true for film and digital photography. Some smart ass photographer on a blog even goes out to say that there is no such thing as a right exposure. Well, I will like to see him shoot with one aperture and a fixed shutter speed setting to see if he fucks up his professional clients. A correct exposure is needed to reveal the details of a scene, getting it wrong means you don't have any detail let alone a picture.

Just coz you can't select the best optimum aperture doesn't mean you can do so with ISO and shutter speed. From what we know from Sony so far, full manual isn't possible. But Vivitar isn't the only one showing up with a prototype. Here's one from JK Imaging with a Kodak badging.

No one Shoots in Manual anymore?

The difference between the Pros and Amateurs is this, in a challenging lighting environment, a Pro will always adapt his shooting style with manual options as oppose to a neophyte who goes all Auto with the shutter.

Smartphones are not made for low light capture. This is a fact. They are also not made for slow shutter speed capture either.

For these Lens Cameras to catch on, you need to appeal to both amateur and professional demands with the following:-

1. Quality of Bokeh with aperture controls
2. RAW image capture
3. Manual shooting and capture
4. External Flash sync
5. Good battery life

So far, none of the lens cameras meet these demands, except maybe for Vivitar, which has an external flash coupling.

Bokeh is extremely important, at least in my opinion. There is no point in having a lens camera that gives you the same imaging quality found in Smartphone cameras. The creamy bokeh one gets from a DSLR lens with a large aperture is what gives us photographers more artistic freedom.

RAW image capture is more for Dynamic Range milking. Larger sensors have better dynamic range and this will outshine the range found in Smartphones. For me, I think that dynamic range is far more important than having more mega pixels. I don't buy into the mega pixel bullshit. The next megapixel jump for Smartphones will be in the ballpark of 15 megapixels. Sony and Nokia both have a 20 megapixel shooter in existence for a while now so the rest should play catch up.

Manual controls is a must for any advance amateur. It defeats the purpose of having a lens camera as all you are going to get are semi automatic controls.

Lastly, we have battery life. A tough option really as any cylindrical shaped lens camera can't possibly hide a respectable battery to power it up. This is something that most lens cameras will suffer from. A wifi connection is what allows the image to be delivered to a Smartphone and this takes up plenty of juice.

Frankly, I don't see the likes of Samsung or Apple challenging the technical leader in cameraphones in terms of sensor capability. Nokia is just too far ahead for both Samsung and Apple to catch up at least for now. Serious mobile photographers should only shoot on a Nokia and that's how it is.