Random musing on the current camera technologies of the new smartphones.

Hong Kong 2015

Holiday seasons have always mean an increase in social media activity specially the number of photos uploaded by people documenting their travels/celebration. Now more than ever, many are capturing memories with smartphones instead of using traditional cameras (P&S, Mirrorless, DSLR…). Why not? Since it is much more convenient to just travel with one device instead of having to lug around so many things. With the proliferation and advancements of new camera technology for smart phones, I am seeing so many nice “bokeh & portrait” shots being posted complete with super subject isolation and blurred background. I have to admit that the new software technology has indeed come a long long way.

In photography, bokeh (originally /ˈboʊkɛ/, /ˈboʊkeɪ/ BOH-kay — also sometimes pronounced as /ˈboʊkə/ BOH-kə, Japanese: [boke]) is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”. (Source: Wikipedia)

However, for those who have been into photography for a while, a quick look at the photos produced by this new technology will immediately leave you with a sense that something is not completely authentic with these photos. There is just this sense of artificiality in its rendering of the bokeh.  One thing that immediately caught my attention was the transition from the focused subject to bokeh is still a bit too abrupt giving the final rather disconcerting artificial look. The edges/borders of the isolated subject are simply too sharp and too defined. You’ll also see other inconsistencies in the photos. Some part of the subject (even when they are on the same linear plane) with less contrast appeared to be blurred while some parts of the main subject (which are not on the same linear plane), with more contrast appears sharp which makes no sense in real life photography. The difference in contrast is somehow confusing the software algorithm.

Software technology for this has indeed come a long long way and made awesome strides, but at the same time, it still has ways to go before it can really come that close to  the rendering of bokeh/subject isolation from a really fast lens or a long zoom lens at full zoom or at least lessen the “artificial” look due to the inconsistencies. I love photos with shallow depth of field but I would rather have a photo with a deep depth of field rather than one that has a simulated shallow depth of field, but that’s just me. 😛

This is not a knock against this new technological advancement but rather, it is a praise for how far it has advanced and that sooner or later the gap will be closer but I still believe that no software can render the same image quality and depth of field as that of a larger sensor coupled with a larger and faster lens (At least not now yet). At the end of the day, Physics is still physics.  A large sensor with a large optical glass with a large opening will draw in more light, and give a better and shallower depth of field.  But that should not stop people from capturing memories with their smart phones or whatever camera they have with them because after all the best camera is the one you have with you when you need it.  God bless y’all 🙂

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