Tag Archive | "camera"

If Seeing Really is Believing… Never Point Your Smartphone’s Camera at an Airplane Propeller

Tags: ,


If I saw this out the window of a plane, I’d be a little bit terrified:

 

This seemingly horrifying scene is the result of the way that images are captured by the sensors that we find in many modern smartphones.

Unlike real film cameras, active pixel sensors (like those found in many smartphones) don’t expose every pixel at the same time, but rather, do so in sequence. While the consequences of capturing photos this way is trivial for most things, objects moving at high speed may seem to exhibit some strange behaviors, like the propeller above which appears to be literally falling away from the airplane.

This is definitely tough to explain with text alone but you may find this visual explanation helpful. In the video, the line that moves from the top to the bottom represents the sections of the sensor that are actively capturing data:

If seeing really is believing… never point your smartphone camera at a propeller while in an airplane!

The Wonder of Mobile: A Look at Software, Services, and Devices of the Past and Present

Tags: , ,


river panoHere I am, sitting on the shores of the Shenandoah River. A smartphone rests in my pocket. Removing it, I fire up an app to take a series of photos, and in seconds, I’ve got a panoramic photo ready for sharing. The simplicity of the processes gives me pause to stop and think about how far we’ve come in the last 10 years. While convergence seemed like a dream to many (and still does to some), for a number of uses, modern smartphones are the convergence devices that we’ve always dreamed about, offering incredible convenience, utility, and value in a single, pocketable package.

From one device I was able to capture, stitch, and wirelessly upload a panoramic photo to instantly share with my friends around the country and around the world, literally from the shore of a river. When it comes to technology, instant gratification is a whole lot more instant than it was 10 years ago.

So I decided to take a look at the process of capturing, stitching, and uploading a panoramic photo – what hardware, software, and services I would need – to accomplish that same task presently, as well as 5 and 10 years ago. Please note that there are likely alternative solutions, but this is how I would have gone about it (please share your experiences in the comments!):

Present:

As mentioned, I used a smartphone, an app, a mobile data connection, and hosted my photo on a free web service, but let’s talk about specifics.

My smartphone of choice at the moment is the iPhone 4, though any smartphone should have access to such capabilities. This gives me the ability to capture each photo, that will eventually turn into the panoramic, at 5MP, and in HDR if I so choose (a photographic technique that was once very complex to perform). I used the awesome and free Photosynth app to stitch together the photo in real time, it was literally done in seconds flat. To host the photo and share with friends, I had a range of choices, including: Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Twitpic, Photosynth and perhaps hundreds of other free services. Getting the photo to those services is an easy task for my 3G connection which sees around 1 Mbit/s on average. I could have even used a service like PixelPipe to upload my photo once and have it distributed to many hosting services.

Five years ago:

Five years ago, in 2006, the best digital camera I had access to was the 3.2MP camera on my old Sony Clie UX50 Palm Pilot, which actually took decent pictures compared to consumer digital cameras of the time. To my knowledge, there was no application that could stich together a panoramic directly on the device – as it ran Palm OS — and definitely not one that could do it in real-time. I would have to take the photos and line them up manually as I did, then off-load them to a desktop computer later for processing.

I could send each photo via Bluetooth from the Clie UX50 to my Sony Vaio UX180 [tracking page link to UX280, same basic device] right there in the field. On the UX180, a UMPC running a full version of Windows XP, I could process the photos using some desktop software, though the process was much less automated than it is today. Photoshop would be the obvious choice though I believe there were a few free tools at the time as well.

After stitching the photos and cropping the output, I’d need to decide which service I would use for hosting. Facebook did exist 5 years ago, but definitely didn’t support the display of a large panoramic photo. Twitter was just coming into existence in 2006, so most photo-hosting services made with twitter in mind didn’t yet exist. This puts TwitPic, which launched in 2008, out of the picture. Flickr, did exist in 2006, but even in its modern form, the site still limits the maximum resolution to 1024 for the widest side of the photo – not preferable for panoramic photos. More likely than a dedicated photo hosting service, I would have gone to a file-hosting service like box.net to upload my picture in full without any resolution/format restrictions, then sent a public link to my friends through email or IM, wherein they’d download the file itself and view it locally on their computer.

Actually uploading the photo could be done through the EDGE modem that was built into the UX180, and connected to Cingular. Yes, Cingular still existed back then! The EDGE data connection saw transfer rates around 400 kbit/s (50 kbytes/s) and would have taken 10 seconds on a good day to upload the 487kb photo that’s included at the top of this post.

Ten years ago:

analog panoramaIn 2001, things were far different. At this point, using an analog SLR would have been a practical solution. That is, unless I had $4500 to drop on a DSLR like the Nikon D1X, released in 2001, which had a whopping 5.3MP resolution! Or I could go with a more realistic camera like the Sony Cybershot DSC-S75 which was launched in 2001 to the tune of $700. Still, I wasn’t about to drop $700 on the DSC-S75’s measly 3.1MP, so an SLR would have been my tool of choice.

I would have captured the photos with the analog camera on the bank of the river, using manual/mental alignment (and I’d have to hope that I did it well because I wouldn’t be able to digitally review the photos I just snapped). Then I would have waited to get home and have my film developed at a photo shop. With the photos in hand, I would manually align them and glue/tape them together, then use a scanner to capture the whole panoramic into the computer. Of course, the dimensions of the panoramic would have been constrained by the physical size of the scanner!

Sharing would be a whole different story indeed. In 2001, there was no Facebook, no Flickr, no Box.net, and some email providers might not have supported the size necessary to attach the photo to an email. A floppy disk or could have have been used to physically share the file with friends, in lieu of a modern day flash drive, or of course I could have printed multiple copies to hand to friends! But more likely is that I would ask people to come over to see the picture on my old 1024×768 CRT monitor!

How About You?

I only looked back 10 years, but it felt like a serious trip down memory lane. What alternative solutions (devices/software/services) might you have used 5 or 10 years ago to accomplish such a task? Or perhaps there’s something you do every day with your smartphone but would have only been accomplished with an ever complicated workflow as you go back in time; let’s hear it!

HTC Thunderbolt Testing Notes and Camera Quick-test

Tags: , , , , , , ,


IMG_5414If you’ll recall, the HTC Thunderbolt was released as Verizon’s first phone compatible with their 4G LTE network, which provided impressive speeds which are even capable of functioning as a high-end gaming connection for consoles. Beyond the impressive 4G speeds, the phone has HTC’s hallmark build-quality, a good camera, and a great kickstand to boot.

The HTC Sense overlay that takes place of the default Android interface is liked by some, but hated by others. While I don’t hate Sense, I will say that I lean more toward the latter group. Not that I don’t see the value in HTC Sense, they’ve actually build an impressive number of widgets and mini-applications for users to choose from, but I tend to prefer multi-platform solutions (and official ones at that), so that I don’t have to wait for a company like HTC to get around to updating their software to take advantage of updates to Twitter, Facebook, etc. I spoke a bit more about HTC Sense in my HTC Thunderbolt overview video.

Because the Thunderbolt has been on the market for some time, I’m going to give you a quick rundown of notes that I’ve taken during testing, rather than a full fledged review. If you’re looking for a formal review, the folks over at Laptop Magazine have a great one waiting for you.

Notes

  • Haptic feedback motor can’t keep up – if you type too quickly, the motor won’t be able to vibrate the phone as quickly as you type, this makes it feel as though the phone is dropping key presses when it’s really not.
  • Custom skinning (HTC Sense) is visually clunky, especially in the People (contacts) application
  • Twitter for HTC Sense is a nightmare – the widget for the homescreen is called ‘Twitter for HTC Sense’ but the corresponding app is called ‘Peep’ in the application screen; the DM section of which inexplicably doesn’t tell you who sent you the DM, or even the time that it was sent (looks to be a bug). The widget that interacts with Peep shows, at most, three tweets, and has no indication of what tweets have arrived since the last time you checked. You can’t directly click on anything within the tweets of the widget, such as a username or link, instead you have to click the tweet in the widget which launches Peep, then you can go ahead and click on the link or the username.
  • The ‘dismiss keyboard’ button is where the number pad toggle or shift key usually is on other handsets – annoying!
  • The lock button on the Thunderbolt is too small and too flush with the top of the phone. It’s a little bit hard to find with the finger and the feedback should be better.
  • HTC has included a cursor handle to make it easier to move the cursor around in text which is tremendously frustrating to do without such a handle. Thanks to HTC for adding this as it doesn’t get officially implemented into Android until 2.3 (Thunderbolt is running 2.2). It’s oddly inconsistent though; you can tap in the text field to evoke the handle, but if you hold your finger, a small magnifier will pop up and move with you as you move the cursor. It almost seems like they tasked two people to come up with a solution for cursor selection then accidentally implemented both.
  • When looking from a high angle, there is backlight leakage at the bottom of the LCD screen, and at two small points under the capacitive buttons.

0621111756a0621111756b

  • SMS doesn’t vibrate the phone by default which seems a bit silly (dig through the settings and you can fix this)
  • Thanks to HTC Sense, many of the default icons have been changed visually for no reason that I can think of, other than to be different, which isn’t a good thing if you are trying to cater to users who are already familiar with Android (perhaps they are going for people already familiar with Sense?).
  • I may rag on HTC Sense a good deal, but if you like to customize your phone, it has a number of great themes and options to do so.
  • Between the keyboard and the predictive input pop-up, little room is left for what you’re actually looking at on the screen.
  • The space bar on the landscape keyboard is off-center which causes me to hit the period key frequently when I meant to hit the space bar.
  • The Thunderbolt’s kickstand is top-notch and springs up and down with satisfaction. As a bonus, it also holds the phone up in portrait mode which is great for video calling. Sadly, HTC missed a golden opportunity with the stand. They should have placed the micro-USB port on the bottom of the device so that it could sit in landscape with the stand and be an excellent bedside alarm clock/info center while charging. Unfortunately they placed the micro-USB connector on the ‘bottom’ of the phone when the stand holds it in landscape, which blocks the micro-USB port.

IMG_5418

IMG_5422IMG_5420

  • HTC added four arrow keys to the already clunky keyboard which take up lots of space and I’ve never desired to use them.
  • You can calibrate the keyboard for a better typing experience, which is something that I haven’t seen any other phone manufacturer allow you to do (it’s unclear whether or not this calibration affects keyboard input only, or all touch input {I would hope the latter}). After calibration, typing on the Thunderbolt’s keyboard is a better experience than most Android phones. Unfortunately this advantage is counteracted by the fact that the Thunderbolt’s screen is overly sensitive. It’s quite easy to press a key by holding your finder near the screen without actually touching it (and issue I’ve found on other devices as well). This means that accidental key presses can (and likely will) occur during fast typing.
  • At 4.3” the screen is too large in my opinion, especially when asked to reach all the way up to the status bar for notifications, then all the way down to the capacitive buttons.

Camera

In my review of the Nexus S, I noted the following about the device’s camera:

What you see is not what you get. It’s very hard to visualize exactly how your photo will turn out after you press the capture button. Pictures are often suddenly brightened after you hit the capture button. Shooting good photos with the phone would be much easier if the viewfinder gave a more clear idea of what will actually be captured once you pull the trigger.

I’m very happy to report that the Thunderbolt is the opposite of the Nexus S. When you hit the camera button, you can be assured that what you see on the phone’s screen is exactly what you’re going to capture. This makes it much easier to snap good photos. Noisy low-light photos and the lack of an HDR mode makes the Thunderbolt’s 8MP camera still inferior to the iPhone 4’s 5MP camera.

The Thunderbolt is capable of capturing great photos given the right conditions (as with many smartphone cameras). Here’s a few unedited sample shots I took with the phone (click to enlarge):

IMAG0006

IMAG0007IMAG0010

IMAG0008

IMAG0020

IMAG0043

The colors could pop a bit more on some of these photos, but it does work in daylight as a great point-and-click camera.

Editing HD Video with Movie Studio on Android 3.0 / Motorola Xoom [video]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


xoom androidTablets increasingly seem to want to go from companion device to dedicated device, but there’s a lot of catching up to do in terms of productivity before that can actually happen. Today, most modern smartphones are capable of capturing 720p video, that means that if a tablet wants even a chance at being a standalone device, it’s going to need to at least be able to edit those files.

Android 3.0 (honeycomb) comes pre-baked with a Movie Studio application which wowed the press with what appeared to be full-fledged video editing on the tablet. But now that the Xoom [tracking page] is available to the public, we have to ask (and I can’t believe I haven’t seen people be more critical about this): Is the video editing really up to the task? You be the judge:

Incidentally, this video was shot, edited, and processed on an iPhone 4 (but not uploaded, damn YouTube file size limitations!).

Video Recorded Entirely with Nokia N8 Shows Off Its Camera Capabilities

Tags: , ,


n8 macroNokia has a long history of building quality cameras into it’s phones. Chippy swears by his trusty N82 as a pocket camera, and I was very impressed with the N900’s camera. Nokia’s latest phone, the N8 is certainly living up to the family name.

We’ve seen the N8 used to shoot the cover of a magazine, and now it’s been used to shoot a short but entertaining video with impressive quality. Using a macro lens and a telescope, the entire following video was recorded with the N8, check it out:

N8 dreams [“Night” dreams] from keirux on Vimeo.

This makes me want a pocketable steady cam rig!

Carrypad Sites and Partners