Technology and Computational Photography

What does tech bring? Technology advances in the days of analogue photography were mostly around slow improvements to film emulsions and fast development of autofocus - both of these are now mature technologies. 

Mirrorless cameras and computational improvements have opened the door to a new wave of change in a mature product. For someone like me who still works manually and conventionally, I initially thought many of these features would be wasted, but in fact they are more than gimmicks and when the time is right, can really help without taking away control.

Computational Photography

iPhone 8 Plus - Portrait Mode

Perhaps this is the most extreme type of advances we are seeing and maybe the most controversial too. Being able to have a computer combine images from two lenses, detect and blur background and simulate lighting could easily be described as cheating, but to get pictures like this from a phone that’s always with me is terrific, if maybe a bit too easy!


Somerset House - handheld on Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 5 axis stabilisation

Stabilisation has been around for a fairly long time, but appears now to be approaching maturity, if not the limits of what is physically possible. With 5 stops of stabilisation quite normal now for mirrorless cameras, tripods are now less necessary (though not without value) and for static subjects, where fast shutter speeds are less necessary, I can get great depth of field and optimal ISO easily by shooting as low as 1/8th second without a second thought.

Live Composite

Lightning - Live Comp on Olympus OM-D E-M1

To capture lightning in this way seems truly magical and could only really be achieved otherwise with time consuming image composites, or sheer good luck. The ability to capture a base image and then just add light is brilliant for several previously difficult subjects including lightning, fireworks, streaks of light from cars, etc.

Live Time 

Live Time - 4 minutes on Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II

This is another one of the truly magical developments for me. This technology allows you to see the image “developing” on screen during a long exposure, so rather than relying on manually calculating exposure when using neutral density filters, you can just watch and close the shutter when you are comfortable with the histogram and what you see on the display. I am not a landscape photographer but from time to time I like to try different things, seeing the image slowly appear on the screen was close to watching a print appear under the red light of a darkroom.

In fact the list of “new” is very big including things I don’t use such as focus stacking and things I might, like pixel shifting to achieve higher resolution photos of static subjects.

I do look back nostalgically to my days of film photography with my Leica MP and still hold a yearning for another film rangefinder camera, but in fact for both new and traditional photographers, it is once again a most exciting time to be a photographer.

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