Digital Photography Review - News

June 26, 2019
Report: Apple stops development of quantum dot image sensors

Last week, shares of Nanoco Technology, a UK company specializing in quantum dot (QD) technology, dropped by nearly 80 percent after news broke that a high-volume supply-contract had been canceled by a major customer.

The Telegraph now reports this customer is Apple which has been working with Nanoco on the development of QD technology for image sensors that could have been used in future iPhone generations. According to market research firm BlueFin Research, Apple decided to stop the development of QD image sensors because it was too expensive for mass production.

Nanoco first announced a partnership with a ‘large, undisclosed U.S. listed corporation’ in 2018. In January of this year it announced the contract had been expanded to cover stress testing and refinements. According to the report, the contract had a volume of £17.1 million ($21.7 million) which is more than half of Nanoco's total revenue.

The UK company specializes in cadmium-free QDs, which are currently predominantly used to improve image quality on TVs and other high-resolution large screens where the dots' light-emitting properties allow for more accurate color rendering. In an image sensor Apple and Nanoco were hoping to apply the technology to enhance image quality and help with the development of advanced augmented reality features.

With QD technology off the table, it remains to be seen if Apple's iPhone cameras will rely on more conventional technologies for the foreseeable future or if the US company has another innovative image sensor card up its sleeve.

June 26, 2019
Syrp's Genie Mini II portable motion control system adds USB-C and improved connectivity

Syrp has unveiled Genie Mini II, a sequel to the original pocket-sized camera motion controller introduced in 2016. The second generation model retains the same general design and features as the original, but with the inclusion of USB-C instead of micro USB, Bluetooth 4.2 instead of Bluetooth 4.0, and WiFi.

The Genie Mini II offers the same portable panning functionality as the original, enabling filmmakers to capture smooth motion in real time and photographers to capture time-lapses. The motion control system supports multi-row panorama capture, offers Astro Time-Lapse and HDR modes, and offers an Ease In/Ease Out feature.

The device works with Syrp’s Genie 2 app for Android and iOS offering keyframed motion control in addition to various presets for easily initiating shooting sessions. According to Syrp, the new Bluetooth 4.2 support makes it possible for advanced users to ‘advantage of more complex, custom motion control settings and multi-row panoramas to create 360/VR images.’

The Genie Mini II, which has a total load capacity of 3.9kg (8.8lbs), is designed to sandwich between a tripod and camera. The device is powered by an internal lithium-ion battery capable of powering six hours of continuous smooth panning, an increase from the previous version’s five hours, or up to a 15-hour time-lapse, a noticeable decrease from the original’s 24-hour duration. The new model has a max 360-degree capture speed of 33 seconds.

Syrp has launched the Genie Mini II for pre-order at the same $249 price as the original model.

June 26, 2019
Apple smartwatch patent hints at future Apple Watch models with built-in cameras

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published an Apple patent detailing a method for adding a camera to future Apple Watch models. Rather than packing the camera module into the smartwatch body like some competing models, Apple’s design embeds the camera into an adjustable strap over the wrist band.

Based on images included with the patent, Apple envisions a smartwatch camera that is hidden out of sight against the wrist band when not in use. To capture images, the user extends the flexible strap in which the camera is embedded, making it possible to capture selfies without contorting one’s wrist at an uncomfortable angle.

Apple explains in its patent:

‘Such functionality can replace or at least meaningfully augment a user’s existing camera or camera-enabled device (e.g., smartphone, tablet). Such a wearable device that captures images and video may do so via an optical lens integrated into a distal end portion of a watch band that retains the device on a user’s wrist.’

Apple’s design involves a ‘core’ in the camera band that enables it to hold its position at whatever angle the user chooses. The patent indicates that some Apple Watch models may feature two cameras on the flexible band, making it possible to capture scenes both facing toward and away from the user.

In its latest iteration, the Apple Watch enables users to leave their iPhone behind by offering built-in cellular capabilities. The newly published patent indicates Apple views the camera as a possible future element for expanding the wearable’s independent functionality -- users won’t have to choose between being able to snap images or leaving their iPhone at home.

The patent explains:

‘A smartwatch that has the capability of capturing images and video may provide an opportunity for users to be more reliant on their smartwatch and less reliant on other devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, digital cameras) to capture images or videos. Thus, a smartwatch with the capability of capturing images or videos may enable a user to forego carrying a smartphone when doing some activities, especially activities or environments where it would be difficult to take a smartphone (e.g., hiking, running, swimming, surfing, snowboarding, and any number of other situations).’

The patent raises questions over whether camera functionality is something consumers truly want from a smartwatch. Though it would be convenient for taking stealthy images (that is, without pulling out a phone), the image quality would likely be considerably lower than what can be captured with the iPhone. As well, a camera positioned at the end of a thin extended band on one’s wrist would likely face blur issues due to slight tremors and other movements.

As with any patent, it’s possible Apple will never bring an Apple Watch with built-in cameras to the market.

June 26, 2019
Oppo reveals world's first smartphone with under-display front camera

Earlier this months both OPPO and Xiaomi teased technology that allows the front camera on a smartphone to be located under the display, avoiding any notches, pinholes or other screen interruptions.

Today OPPO has shown a first device with the feature at MWC Shanghai and provided more information about the under-display technology. In order to make things work both customized displays and camera modules are required.

The display section covering the camera is made of a highly-transparent material and features a redesigned pixel structure that is optimized for the transmittance of light. Still, some light will be absorbed by the display, so the camera comes with a bigger sensor with bigger pixels and a larger aperture than you'd find in conventional front cameras.

There are also customized white balance and HDR algorithms to help boost camera performance and to further reduce the transparent display's unavoidable detrimental impact on image quality OPPO has developed a haze removal algorithm for sharper and clearer image output.

In its announcement OPPO said it is developing a “futuristic, notchless, unibody and highly-recognizable smartphone,” but has not provided any detailed specs or information on pricing or availability.

June 26, 2019
Loupedeck+ 2.7.0 update brings with it Adobe Camera Raw integration

Loupedeck has announced its latest editing console, Loupedeck+, now includes integration with Adobe Camera Raw, adding yet another program to its list of supported post-production applications.

The version 2.7.0 update, implemented via the Loupedeck desktop app, adds the ability to control the various editing tools within the Adobe Camera Raw workspace. Considering the Adobe Camera Raw workspace is at the core of Adobe Lightroom Classic, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the various editing tools and adjustments are nearly identical on the Loupedeck+ console between the two programs.

As with the Lightroom Classic integration, the Loupedeck+ console offers Adobe Camera Raw users the ability to crop, make basic adjustments, color correct, add various details and more. If the default layout doesn't fit your workflow, the Loupedeck app makes it easy to customize what the various dials and settings. Below is a video Loupedeck has posted to its YouTube channel that takes a look at the Adobe Camera Raw support with photographer and filmmaker Adam Karnacz.

The Adobe Camera Raw integration brings the total number of supported editing apps to eight. Loupedeck already supports Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Adobe Photoshop CC, Adobe After Effects CC, Adobe Audition and Skylum's Aurora HDR.

The 2.7.0 update is available on Loupdeck's website for both macOS and Windows computers. If you already have the software installed, you can manually update the application from its settings menu.