Category Archives: Technical Aspects of Photography

Favorite Photographs 2016 #9, NASA, “John Glenn on Friendship Seven in Orbit, 1962”

Figure 1 - John Glenn in orbit on the Friendship 7 Feb. 20, 1962. photographed automatic sequence motion picture camera. NASA Public domain. during

Figure 1 – John Glenn in orbit on the Friendship 7 Feb. 20, 1962. photographed automatic sequence motion picture camera. NASA Public domain.

I was searching through the NASA photograph archives looking for a picture that would commemorate John Glenn’s Friendship 7 flight on Feb. 20, 1962. What struck me the most was how many pictures there were of people. Yes there were planets and galaxies, but so many people. While NASA gives us some of the most stunningly profound images of space it all ultimately comes back to people. NASA and the exploration of space are human endeavors.

As a result it really all comes back to the image of Figure 1. I remember the thrill when these images were first released – fifty five years ago. Man in space. Man in orbit. Man on the moon. This is human destiny. Men and women shall move forward in this realm of exploration that ultimately dwarfs and, indeed, eclipses all other exploration in the history of the human race.

And it all evolved photographically. Black and white image and videos. Color images and videos. Building a compact lightweight video camera in those days wasn’t so easy. Certainly thye space race was a motivating factor in these innovations. But with the moon landing we were effectively there, as if the Goddess Selene had sent out her personal camerawoman to photograph the event.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot
Also posted in History of Photography

The albumen technique

Figure 1 - Alois Locherer "Transporting the Statue of Bavaria to , 1850" in the public domain in the United States becuase of its age.

Figure 1 – Alois Locherer “Transporting the Statue of Bavaria to Theresienwiese , 1850” in the public domain in the United States because of its age.

The technical process of making an albumen print is relatively straight forward and it is still accessible to photographers today through alternative photography sites such as Bostik and Sulilivan (see also). Interestingly, in the nineteenth century the albumen process did not lend itself to mass production and was largely done by hand.  Also the vast majority of albumen print workers were women.

  1. A piece of paper is first coated with an emulsion of egg white (albumen) and salt (sodium chloride or ammonium chloride), then dried. The albumen acts as a sizer to seal the paper, creating a semi-gloss finish upon which the sensitizer can rest. In commercial manufacture this coating was typically done by floating the paper on a bath of albumen and salt.
  2. The paper is bathed in a solution of silver nitrate, the sensitizer,  making it sensitive to ultraviolet radiation.
  3. The paper is then dried in the absence of UV light. That is out of the sunlight.
  4. When ready to use the paper is placed in a frame in direct contact with the negative. Analogue photographers will remember the critical rule of emulsion side down.  Typically in the nineteenth century the negative was a glass plate. If glass is not used then a sheet of glass is used to maintain contact of paper and negative.  The frame typically opens in halves so that the exposure can be observed without moving the paper relative to the negative.
  5. The frame and therefore the paper is exposed to sunlight, or today UV lamps, until the image achieves the desired density.
  6. The paper is removed from the frame and fixed in  bath of sodium thiosulfate to remove unexposed silver.
  7. And then,  – The Beauty – the image is optionally toned by soaking in a toning solution of gold or selenium.

Today we are reminded of the nasty chemicals of analogue photography, although albumen printing uses the sun for developing.  We are much more eco-conscious than our predecessors. But compared, for instance, to making a daguerreotype this was nothing from a toxicity point of view.

Again, I think that all of this technical stuff earns us the right or privilege to marvel at another great nineteenth century albumen print. I discovered on the Plaidpetticoats blogspot  this wonderful photograph by nineteenth century German photographer Alois Locherer (1815-1862) entitled “Transporting the Bavaria Statue to Theresienwiese, 1850”.  The first thing that crossed my mind on looking at it was Gulliver in Lilliput.


Also posted in History of Photography

The problem of the photographic emulsion

Figure 1 - Albumen print by Frances Frith, "Travelers boat at Ibrim (1856-1859) in the public domain in the United States because of its age.

Figure 1 – Albumen print by Frances Frith, “Travelers boat at Ibrim (1856-1859) in the public domain in the United States because of its age.

I wanted to talk about the albumen process from a technical point-of-view.  But first, we need to deal with a sticky issue: what is an emulsion? Back in the day when science was still taught in American schools most people would have answered: mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is an answer to the technical problem in cooking of how do I get two imiscible liquids, oil and water to mix, and the answer is that you add egg yolks. Egg yolk contains a compound called lecithin which acts like an “emulsifying agent.”

OK so far, what about photographic emulsions? Well photographic emulsions are not technically true emulsions, because what they are are silver halide crytals (so a solid) dispersed or suspended in a liquid (typically gelatin nowadays). Well, the distinction between emulsions and colloidal suspensions is really a big snore and quite besides the point.

The important point is that the photographic emulsion was invented to solve a very important problem in the development of photography. You will recall that the Daguerreotype was invented in 1838 and produced truly magnificent images. You could examine them with a magnifier or loupe and they would reveal exquisitely resolved detail. But its image was merely a silver-mercury amalgam film lying precariously atop a silver plate. It was fragile and delicate. And perhaps, more significantly it was a direct positive process that didn’t lend itself well to the creation of multiple copies, ideally on paper.  Public demand is the mother of invention.

Reproduction was, of course, the goal of William Henry Fox Talbot’s calotype process, where the vehicle for the negative was paper and the second image was produced from the negative onto a similarly light-sensitized sheet of paper. An artistic, luminous, softness image is the essence of the calotype process. But it could not equal the sharpness and realism of the daguerreotype. In the calotype the light-sensitive salts are suffused into the paper. What was needed was to produce a transparent sharp layer that could be placed on either glass to produce a negative or on shiny paper to produce a positive from the negative. The use of albumen from eggs as an emulsion for glass negatives was invented independently by two Frenchmen in 1848, Niepce de Saint Victor and Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard. As it turned out the production of glass negatives with albumen “emulsions” proved technically difficult on a large scale. There was just two much variability. But its use as an emulsion on paper became the dominant process for the next half century, with negatives produced first by Frederick Scott Archer’s wet collodion process and subsequently by dry plates, which used gelatin as the emulsifying agent.  The dry plate was invented in 1871 by Dr. Richard L. Maddox. Maddox’s dry plates were extremely sensitive to touch. A method of hardening the gelatin emulsion was discovered by Charles Bennett in 1873. Significantly, Bennet also discovered that prolonged heating of the emulsion significantly increased its light sensitivity. The era of high ISO films was born. The rest as they say is history…

With all this technical talk I think that we deserved a lovely nineteenth century albumin photograph to look at. Figure 1 is by the great nineteenth century travel photographer Francis Frith (1822-1898 ), taken in Egypt (1856 – 1859) and entitled “Traveler’s Boat in Ibrim.”


Also posted in History of Photography

Seeing double

Figure 1 - Seeing double. (c) J. P. Romfh 2015 reproduced with permission.

Figure 1 – Seeing double. (c) J. P. Romfh 2015 reproduced with permission.

A colleague of mind came back from a vacation to the Lassen Volcano National Park and was showing me some very beautiful pictures. The one of Figure 1 really caught my eye.  I’ve never seen seen this particular trick before and I think it very cool and fun.  Basically, he took a panoramic image with his IPhone (what else?) starting with the kids in the left hand side. When they went out of view he told them to run quickly to the other side and as a result they appear twice in the image. It is very reminiscent of Joel Myerowitz’ classic “A Day on the Beach, 3″ image.   I may just have to try this myself.

Shopped or not shopped? That is the question!

The other day an old friend asked me how to tell a real photograph from a fraudulent one, or more specifically, “how I can tell a touched up, photo shopped, photograph from the real thing?” It is a subject that we have spoken about before, but one I think revisiting, especially since there are about to be midterm election campaigns in the United States.

Actually, the word “fraud“ is a telling one. We “Photoshop” (isn’t it great how that has become a verb) for one of three reasons: to entertain, to create art, and to deceive. The evil is obviously in the act of deception. There lies the lie! Fraud may be for monetary or political motives. It always bears that self-serving component.

People tend to be gulible and people want to believe.  But with very little effort you can usually find the fly in your ointment.

First of all to the age old point – if it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t. So much for the zebra standing next to the lion at the watering hole.

Second, look for incongruities. How come Theodore Roosevelt is riding on a moose across a lake and his pants legs aren’t wet? Why does the picture suddenly go out of focus where his hands hold onto the moose? Right, it’s because it’s otherwise hard to obscure the fact that in the original photograph he was on a horse and holding onto the reigns. Also he’s a bit large for the moose in question. Well, that’s just bully. And don’t forget to look at the shadows in the picture. Are they consistent?

Third, zoom in as close as you can and look at the edges.  Yep, all the way to the point that the pixelation of the image is obvious and apparent. A great example of this was the “Money”/”Romney” fake from the 2012 elections. When you cut and paste in Photoshop or other image processing software you form sharp edges, which are tell-tale. So to avoid these people use a process known as “feathering” which kind of scrambles the transition between regions and is itself tell-tale.

Fourth, if you know how to do it, increase the contrast. These edge effects tend to pop out at you when you do that.

Finally, recognize that revealing fraudulent photographs can make you unpopular. President Obama was not born in Kenya. But there are lots of people who want to believe that he was.


Also posted in Reviews and Critiques

The dimensions of photography

Night view from the deck of the Empire State Building, January 11, 2011, from the Wikimediavommons uploaded as original work by Yorumac under creative commons license.

Night view from the deck of the Empire State Building, January 11, 2011, from the Wikimediavommons uploaded as original work by Yorumac under creative commons license.

The word dimension, in a physical sense, really strikes at the heart of what a digital photograph is.  You might start off by saying that a photograph is a two-dimensional representation of the three-dimensional world.  That’s OK as far as it goes.  However, believe it or not, the subject deserves further examination not only to help us understand what a digital photograph really is, but also to understand what it is becoming. And “becoming” is ultimately where our interest lies!

So first of all some physics “mumbo jumbo.” Actually, it’s mathematical “mumbo jumbo,” but if I said that, it would cause many of you to shut down perception – always a bad thing.  Don’t want to lose you; so please bear with me.

The Empire State Building is located in New York City at the intersection of E33rd Street and 5th Avenue.  New York is laid out in some kind of a grid, well kinda, just like a sheet of graph paper, and we can abbreviate the coordinates of the Empire State Building as (+33, 5). Note that I’ve replaced the E with a plus.  Imagine that you were standing at the intersection of Houston and Fifth Avenue in lower Manhattan.  I know for New Yorkers this takes a lot of imagination, because Fifth Avenue doesn’t go down that far and sorta becomes LaGuardia Place – but not really.  The grid system was added later and really only applies to Midtown Manhattan.  But I’m assuming a perfect city, and New Yorkers never claim the Big Apple to be perfect.  So anyway, Houston and Fifth would be the origin of your graph – the magical point with coordinates (0,0). But if you were standing at that intersection and looked toward the Empire State Building (It’s big and tall, which is why I chose it) you could imagine an arrow running from your feet to the Empire State.  Physicist call this kind of arrow, as opposed to the ones used in archery, as a vector.  And for that reason the point (+33,5) is referred to as a vector.

Of course, there are other ways to describe the address of the Empire State Building.  One way is to give its latitude and longitude; so (-73.9857, +40.7484).  This too is a vector; only its origin is at the intersection of the prime meridian and the equator.  It is in the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean, about 380 miles (611 kilometers) south of Ghana and 670 miles (1078 km) west of Gabon.  Hmm, hard to stand there for sure.  This address is, of course, the one that your phone’s GPS system uses.

You will, needless-to-say, realize that these coordinates do not fully describe the situation.  Standing on the top floor (373.2 m above the ground) of the Empire State Building is quite a different story from standing at street level. So we tend to add a third dimension and give the coordinates as (+33,5,373.2).

All well and good.  We seem to be saying that the world, our world, is described as a three dimensional space, that one of those fancy-pants physicists would call a 3D vector space.  Well, not so fast!

But before we move on I want to point out that there are other ways to represent the location of the Empire State Building.  The United States Postal Service is happy with 350 5th Avenue.  But that is really a different way of saying the same thing.  We’ve still got a 2D vector with coordinates (350, 5) instead of (+33, 5).  But more importantly, all the address that you really need for a letter to the Empire State Building is the zip code 10118.  Most zip codes to really define a location are 8 digits long, but the Empire State Building only needs five because it is cool and special. There are also IP internet addresses that specifically designate the Empire State Building’s location as a single number.  Zip codes and IP addresses are examples of compressive addresses.  We don’t need two numbers only one.

Wait compression.  You mean like TIF to JPG.  Yes, Virginia, that is what I mean.  I’m not just dragging you along here for no reason.

OK, well probably I have exhausted everyone’s patience by now.  So I thought that I would stop for today. But I do owe you some historic and/or beautiful photographs.  Hence, Figure 1 which is a view from the observation deck at night looking downtown and portraying New York as the beautiful constellation that it is.  More on this dimensionality story to come.

Bromoil printing

Figure 1 - Emile Joachim Constant Puyo, Montmartre, ca. 1906.  This is one of the images featured in the MFA exhibit on Pictorialism.  This image is from the Wikimediacommons and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  In the public domain in the United States because it is more than 75 yrs. old.

Figure 1 – Emile Joachim Constant Puyo, Montmartre, ca. 1906. This is one of the images featured in the MFA exhibit on Pictorialism. This image is from the Wikimediacommons and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. In the public domain in the United States because it is more than 75 yrs. old.  Note the painterly quality of the image.  Is it a painting or is it a photograph.  This is the effect that the pictorialists were after.




Yesterday I discussed photographic Pictorialism and I got interested in what exactly their bromoil process entailed.  There is a lot of information about it to be found on the web, both at the Wikipedia site and, if you want to try it for yourself at the Alternative Photography site. We have previously discussed the world’s first photograph and this is a good place to begin considering the bromoil process.

For his first successful photograph Niépce, in 1826, used a pewter plate as a support medium that he covered with bitumen of Judea (an asphalt derivative of petroleum).  He exposed the plate for approximately eight hours. The exposed regions of the plate became hardened by the light, much like dentists currently cure cements with UV light.  Niépce removed the plate and used a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum to dissolved away the the unhardened bitumen.  This produced a direct positive image on the pewter, which has now lasted close to two hundred years.  Pretty cool, I think! And you will note oil-based.

In a more modern “oil print” the paper is covered with a thick gelatin layer photosensitized with dichromate salts. You layer a conventional negative above this sensitized paper and expose to light.  This is referred to as “making a contact print.”  The light exposed regions like in Niépce’s image become hardened. After exposure the paper is washed in water.  The less exposed non-hardened regions absorb more water than the higher exposed hardened regions.  You then remove excess water with a sponge and while the paper is still damp parts, you apply an oil-based lithographers ink.  Oil and water don’t mix, and as a result the ink preferentially sticks to the hardened regions thus creating a positive image.

The “bromoil print” is a variation of the oil print.  Here one starts with a normal silver bromide print on photographic paper.  This is then chemically bleached and hardened. The gelatin which originally had the darkest tones, is hardened the most.  The highlights will absorb more water.  Finally, you ink this print as you did in the “oil print.”

The first point is obvious.  This process requires a lot of skill.  But corollary to that you wind up with an enormous level of artist control over the process, once you have mastered it.  I also find intriguing how akin this process is to the printing process of lithography.  In bromoil printing the photographer essential releases him/herself from the bonds of the silver gelatin process and gains a delicate and moody control of the art, which is precisely the effect that the pictorialists sought.


Also posted in History of Photography

Digitizing 35 mm slides


Figure 1 - Using a slide projector to digitize slides.  Insert top right shows slide projected on screen.  Method proved to be unsatisfactory because of the projector's lens quality. (c) DE Wolf 2013.

Figure 1 – Using a slide projector to digitize slides. Insert top right shows slide projected on screen. Method proved to be unsatisfactory because of the projector’s lens quality. (c) DE Wolf 2013.

I am a little perplexed, but I was doing some housekeeping on Hati and Skoll and discovered this blog that was meant to post on May 5 of last year, never did.  The world went on.  However, it covers what I think is a relatively important technical topic; so I thought that I would correct the error and post it today.

Recently, I decided to digitize my fairly voluminous collection of 35 mm slides.  This is not a trivial undertaking, but it does serve a couple of fun purposes.  First, you get to revisit all those “Kodak moments,” and second all the manipulations and subtle modifications that you wanted to do but couldn’t are no at your fingertips.

Actually, this last point is interesting.  In the glory days of film, you had three choices: take slides, where once you mastered the medium, what you took was what you got; take color prints, where what you got was invariably washed out by the commercial lab’s print machine’s compulsion to set overall intensity to neutral gray;  do your own color work, which was a truly daunting task, because of the level of temperature control required. This is not to mention expense. This all sounds like whining, but is pretty much true.

So, I went to the closet and unearthed the hundred of slides that I have squirreled away there and sorted them out into three not so neat piles: rejects, maybes, and definites.  So far so good.  Now I had to figure out out how to digitize them.  1. flatbed scanner? – don’t even think about it. 2.   Have a service do it for you? – I’ve had bad experiences with this, but obviously it’s going to depend on the service and their equipment. 3. – get a slide copier? – I’ve not been happy with the sharpness this provides, but others have had success. 4. Get a slide copying attachment that screws into the from of a camera lens? – I’ve read such bad reviews of this approach that I decide that even at ~$40  it wasn’t worth the effort. 5. Put the slides in a slide trade.  Put the slide tray in a projector. Project the slides on a sheet of paper, and take digital images.  6. Put the slides one by one on a viewing box and copy them with some kind of closeup lens system.

Figure 2 - Using a clos-up lens and opalescent light box to digitize slides. (c) DE Wolf 2013.

Figure 2 – Using a close-up lens and opalescent light box to digitize slides. (c) DE Wolf 2013.

The first method that I tried is number 5, and I have an picture of my setup in Figure 1.  Basically, you’ve got a slide projector, which tips the image slight vertically and then the camera behind the projector with a compensating tilt.  This would be so great and convenient, if it worked.  The problem is that the projector lens is the rate limiting factor.  I chose a Leica Slide Projector in the hopes that the lens would be up to the job.  And bottom line there is nothing that I hate more than a fuzzy picture. REJECT!

So then I setup the system shown in Figure 2, which is method 6 above.  Since it works well let me explain it in detail.

  1. Slide is copiously clean with compressed air.
  2. Slide is placed emulsion side up (that’s the duller side) on an opalescence (untextured) light box.  Again the box is tilted and the camera has a compensating tilt so that it is perpendicular to the light box. You can also obviously use a copying stand, or use a piece of opalescent plastic taped to a window.  Note the black paper jig that I built to mask out excess light and hold the slide in place.  This way you will get the exposure right and also there will be no glare in the image.  It is important to position the slide so bottom is bottom and top is top, that is so that the subject looks right.
  3. I am using a zoom lens at 100 mm focal length, with manual focus, and there is a closeup extension tube on the camera body.  I had some interesting problems with this.  First, my Tamron zoom lens was not up to the job of getting a crisp image.  It never is.  I then tried my Canon EFS 18-55 mm zoom and found that it would not work with my extension tube.  the electrical connection wouldn’t work.  I then resorted to my Canon L Series 70 to 200 mm zoom.  This worked beautifully, with the one exception that the ideal is to totally fill the field of view with the image.  I had to settle for only half filling the field of view.  However, my Canon T2i offered enough pixels that this was not a serious drawback (as you will see).  I set the f-number to 7.0, because as we have shown previously this is approximately where maximum sharpness is achieved on a flat subject.  I shot at 100 ISO and adjusted the exposure compensation according to the detail on each slide.  (Yes, this is a lot of work.  But it is worth the effort).  I always take raw image format. FOCUS VERY CAREFULLY!
  4. Next take the picture, making sure that things look right in terms of the focus and the dynamic range.
  5. Convert the image to a TIF file.
  6. Next in your image processor you NEED TO FLIP THE IMAGE HORIZONTALLY.  That is you need to make a mirror image.
  7. Then crop the picture to get rid of any images of cardboard.
  8. Then adjust the levels to set a reasonable white, black, and gamma.
  9. You are now ready to make any additional adjustments.  One important point is sharpening.  I tend to use Smart Sharpen for Lens Blur in Adobe Photoshop.  I usually sharpen between 4.0 and 8.0 pixels (depending upon the subject) with an average of about 6.0.  If you need to sharpen more, you’ve got a lens or focusing problem.

As an example, Figure 3 shows and image that I took of the San Francisco skyline from the Sausilto Ferry in 1975.

Figure 3 - "San Francisco from the Sausilito Ferry, 1975," Digitized 35 mm Kodachrome Transparency." (c) DE Wolf 2013.

Figure 3 – “San Francisco from the Sausilito Ferry, 1975,” Digitized 35 mm Kodachrome Transparency.” (c) DE Wolf 2013.




Also posted in Personal Photographic Wanderings

Camera Optics – the single lens reflex (SLR)

Figure 1 - Cross-section of a modern SLR camera. Image from the Wikipedia and created by CBurnett, in the public domain under creative commons attribution license.

Figure 1 – Cross-section view of SLR system: 1: Front-mount lens (four-element Tessar design) 2: Reflex mirror at 45-degree angle 3: Focal plane shutter 4: Film or sensor 5: Focusing screen 6: Condenser lens 7: Optical glass pentaprism (or pentamirror) 8: Eyepiece (can have diopter correction ability). From the Wikipedia and created by CBurnett, in the public domain under creative commons attribution license.

I’d like to return today to our technical discussion of camera optics.  We have looked at what mirrors do to light and at what lens do to light.  Based on what we learned so far take a look at Figure 1 which shows the innards of a single lens reflex or SLR camera.  The first object that we see is the lens.  The lens is actually a composite of multiple lenses.  However, we know that the lens is going to invert the object on the sensor or film.  Up and down is flipped, and so is right and left.  Look at Figure 2.  If the object was the letter F (Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter F) then what appears on the sensor or film is the “lens inverted image.” This is what you see in a large format camera on the ground glass.

Figure 2 - Image inversions in a modern SLR camera. Image may be used under Creative Commons Attribution license.

Figure 2 – Image inversions in a modern SLR camera. Image may be used under Creative Commons Attribution license.

It is also all that you need to make a camera if it is to be purely digital. This is because in a digital camera you can make all the corrections that you need computationally.  You display and store the file with all the corrections made.

The In the next generation of camera, makers decided that this inversion needed to be fixed.  By putting a mirror into the camera at a right angle they could create a “righted mirror image”  where up and down were fixed but right and left were still flipped.  You can do this with a single lens, in which case the lens needed to be flipped out of the way when the picture was taken.  A second approach was the twin lens reflex, which had two identical lens: one for the picture and one for the viewfinder.  This is, of course, a bit costly and also introduces what are called parallax effects as the object gets closer and closer to the image.

To create the right side up image of the modern SLR viewfinder, makers use a pentaprism, which is actually a set of reflective (like a mirror) surfaces that multiply flip the image until it is corrected and do this in a fairly confined space.  For illustrative purposes you can follow the multiple reflections of the blue and red rays in Figure 3 to convince yourself that geometric points wind up where they need to be.  This is shown in Figure 1 and in more detail in Figure 3.  Again with the modern SLR it is necessary to flip the mirror out of the way during the exposure.  This can be done either automatically or manually before exposure if you are afraid of vibrations affecting your image.

Figure 3 - Schematic showing operation of a pentaprism in a modern SLR camera. Image from the Wikipedia created by Paul1513 and in put in the public domain  under creative commons attribution license.

Figure 3 – Schematic showing operation of a pentaprism in a modern SLR camera. Image from the Wikipedia created by Paul1513 and put in the public domain under creative commons attribution license.


Selfie delusions – the quest for good front-facing cameras on cell phones

Figure 1 - IPhone 4S image taken with the low resolution front-facing camera. (c) DE Wolf 2014.

Figure 1 – IPhone 4S image taken with the low resolution front-facing camera. (c) DE Wolf 2014.

Why does the Nokia Lumina cellphone offer a honking 41 mega pixel camera on the back and only a 1.2 megapixel front facing camera.  That’s the one you use for all those important selfies.  Remember that the selfie is the new self-expression medium.  So this is important people.  And why is this what all the cell phone companies do?  Well you’re not going to get an answer.  It has become one of those great rhetorical questions like: what is the meaning of life and why is there air?

Fortunately, New York Times reporter Molly Wood has posted a very entertaining and informative video “Your Best Selfie” to answer the next best question: what cellphone gives you the best selfie?  And since she’s done a nice side by side, apples and apples comparison you can weigh in with your own opinion.  Ms. Wood compares the IPhone 5S with its 1.2 megapixel camera, the Nokia Lumina also 1.2 megapixels the Samsung Galaxy S4 at 2 megapixels, and the HTC One with its 2.1 megapixels.


Figure 2 – IPhone image taken with higher resolution rear-facing camera. (c) DE Wolf 2014

Ms. Wood correctly points out that it’s not all about the number of megapixels.  This agrees with all that we have said here about image sharpness.  There’s also optics and sensor quality as well as focusing accuracy.  For my mind there’s also the ability of the camera to accurately judge the white balance.  I mean you can do it yourself, but who wants to do that.  I find that warm orange glow of incandescent light kind of soporific and yucky.

Ms. Wood disses the consistency of the IPhone 5S.  I’m not so hard on it.  But her winner for the best selfie sharpness and color is the HTC One, with the Nokia Lumina being the runner up.  Look at the pictures that she shows and I think that you will agree.

I also decided to do a little testing myself.  Figure 1 was taken with my IPhone 4S’s low resolution front-facing camera – not so great.  Figure 2 was taken with the rear-facing 8 megapixel camera – better but still less than I like.  I decided to leave the glare in the pictures.  It’s a common problem with my IPhone.  Yes, it’s due to the overhead lighting, but my Canon T2i would do a much netter job dealing with it.  And ultimately that’s why we sepend big bagels on cameras.  Both of these selfies could use a lot of improvement.  I have not yet tried out the newer versions of the IPhone or other cellphone cameras myself yet.  But Molly Wood does a pretty nice job in her video.

The thing is that a cellphone is becoming much more than a wireless on the go telephone. People use it to surf the web and take pictures.  A selfie photography with the front facing camera is becoming more and more a popular sport.  So the important question, of course, is when will the industry respond to the user.  I mean cellphones are already growing in size suggesting that two points: first that the initial read about the market that smaller and smaller would always be better and second that people just don’t like squinting at their cellphones.  Makes one wonder if we will retro-evolve (retrovolve?) back to the Maxwell Smart shoe-phone size cellphone all the way back to “Hey why don’t we put this baby on the desk?”