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Mirrorless cameras are overrated… by a lot!

I strongly believe that there is way too much hype around mirrorless cameras. While they seem to be a marketing success, they are also way too overhyped. With YouTubers switching to mirrorless for seemingly no reason, it sometimes is hard to understand the motive of buying mirrorless beyond just owning a newer model. I’m writing […]

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RUHAcam Is A Raspberry Pi-Powered Digital Camera You Can 3D Print

Inspired by do-it-yourself camera parts and projects, Ping-Hsun Chen and Ruha Cheng took things a step further and released a retro-style RUHAcam kit built around a Raspberry Pi Zero W connected to the High-Quality Camera Module.

DIY photography kits have been the source of lots of incredibly unique and creative projects. One of the most recently loved and praised is the Raspberry Pi-powered digital camera released in March of last year.

As noted by Digital Camer World, the RUHAcam takes the 12.3MP Sony IMX477 Sensor powered Raspberry Pi digital camera with adjustable back focus support for C- and CS-mount lenses — shown in the video above — and adapts it into a fully 3D printed digital camera that can be built at home. Builders will need some additional components, the details of which can be found in the project’s GitHub page here, as well as the link to the software required to run the system for free using the MIT license.

This little homemade system boasts a built-in 2,000mAh Li-Pi battery, a 2.2in Thin-Film Transistor (TFT) display that behaves as both the viewfinder and review screen, and the 3D-printed body that is inspired by classic film SLR cameras. The C and CS-mount lenses are typically found on CCTV systems and 16mm film cameras, so there should be no shortage of online stocks for those who don’t already own them. To save some time, the Raspberry Pi dealers offer two lenses with their camera kit: a 6mm CS-mount for $25, and a 16mm for $50 (14mm and 37mm full-frame equivalent field of view, respectively).

The Sony sensor included in this kit is also capable of capturing 4k video, so with future updates from the Raspberry Pi community, this little system could be used to capture some incredibly versatile and creative works of art. The Raspberry Pi High-Quality Camera Module is a small and very affordable programmable computer that’s about the size of a credit card. This particular system costs about $50 and is meant to encourage people, especially children, to learn computer programming languages like Python and Scratch.

Cheng and Chen have also stated they plan to improve the software for the RUHAcam to add new and better controls to the user interface, as well as being able to communicate with smartphones to easily share and edit images captured by the device.

Image credits: Photos by Ping-Hsun “penk” Chen and used per MIT license here.

The Impermanence of Life Highlights the Importance of Photography

Just outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, in my childhood home’s partial basement, there were only two rooms without windows: the darkroom and the crawlspace, which younger me had deemed the “icky space.”

When the darkroom was in use, there weren’t any lights — only noises. When I stood in front of the door and cupped my ears towards my father, I could hear the film making its way out of the canister as it bent its way onto the spool until it was wound up. That is when my dad would give me the “OK” to turn on the light and hurt our dilated eyes.

Other times, in the dim, paper-safe red light of the darkroom, I would look in the developing trays and watch the cut-down 5×7 paper turn from its semi-gloss ivory white to a plethora of grays. Every single shade of gray between black and white would slowly land on the surface and settle before it was deemed “developed,” which qualified to move it to a new tray for the rinse, before going into the fixer bath. Then the enlarger would flash again, only staying lit for 5-10 seconds, before the other piece of paper would follow the same fate of the baths as the piece of paper before it.

As I stared into the developer bath — where the photo would start appearing on the paper — I would think back to what story my dad was telling me when I took it, or what I learned from the photo.

Such was the case every weekend: Saturdays were for going to the Lake Elmo Park Reserve to walk around and take pictures, and Sunday was for developing film and making prints before the Minnesota Vikings or Minnesota Twins game started, whichever season it was.

This was the case except in September. On Sunday mornings before the Vikings played, we would skip doing the developing and printing ourselves. Instead, we brought the film to a local Walgreens to be developed and printed. We always ordered 4×6 doubles in a matte finish. The color film used too many chemicals and was too difficult for us to do at home, but the football weather deemed color film particularly favorable.

During halftime of the Vikings game, typically around 1:30 on Sunday afternoons, my dad and I would thumb through our stacks of photos and critique them. I didn’t know what I was talking about yet and I had no real concept of composition, but I knew what I did like and what I didn’t like. Younger me never understood why my dad took so many photos, but now I can’t understand how he took so few.

“Why do we take so many photos anyway?” I asked one Sunday as the Vikings prepared to get set into formation.

“To practice,” he would respond.

“Practice what?”

“Practicing, I guess,” he said as the play began. He waited until after the whistle to continue. “Apparently more than Jackson!”

Jackson would go on to get four interceptions on the road against the Detroit Lions, a third of his total interceptions for that season, and I would watch the game and ponder on what practicing practice meant, and whether my dad meant we were practicing practice, or that we practiced more than Jackson did.

Practicing photography didn’t make sense to me at the time. I didn’t think of it as an art to capture or say anything. I figured it was just a hobby to have pretty pieces of paper to hang on the wall and to have something to do with my dad.

“Is there any way you can fix this photo?” the gentleman asked me from the entrance, as he walked towards the counter with wet cheekbones.

This would be the first time I dealt with something like this, but I quickly learned we would rarely go a week without this sort of scenario at the photo and film processing store I worked at. We frequently had customers come up to the counter holding the last photo of their parent — occasionally the last photo of their spouse — and, a handful of times, the last photo of their pet.

“We can do our best! What happened?” I asked, opening Photoshop on the computer that sat on the front counter.

The man continued to explain to me between sobs that when he was taking the photo out of the frame — to bring to us and make more copies of in the first place — that he had dropped it and a corner had been chewed by his pet dog.

“It was such a stupid mistake. I don’t know why I took it out at home, or how I even dropped it,” he said, as he pushed his palms into the sides of his head and then into his wet eye sockets.

“It’s the only photo I have of my wife and me at our wedding, and she just passed this summer,” he said as he continued to insult himself for his mistake.

I stood in shock. I knew how to process film orders and photos, but I didn’t know how to process what I was looking at in front of me.

“Let me see what I can do,” I told him, grabbing the photo to scan it.

A few minutes later, I had pulled it up at the computer on the counter and was attempting to repair it in Photoshop right in front of him. It wasn’t that badly damaged, really: just a few dimples in the corner and a small crease that hardly even showed up in the scan. It was just a few clicks away with a spot healing brush from being nearly as good as it was. None of the damage on the photo was over any of the subjects, just the background.

“How did you do that?” he asked me, sniffling his sadness back inside.

“Practice,” I told him, “I’m just glad I was able to help you today.”

The customer made his way out the door after placing an order for six 8×10 photos, and I started to think:

“How many photos do I have of my dad and me?”

When I got home from work that day, I plugged in my portable drive with all of my photos and looked around. It took about five minutes, but I eventually found a selfie he and I had taken when I had my first digital camera.

I continued to look, and by the time I had gone through each folder, I realized that, just like my customer, this is the only photo I had with someone who means so much to me.

Just outside of Montgomery, Alabama, in a town of 310 people called Pike Road, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Travaris Jackson would die in a car accident at the age of 36, just 17 days before his 37th birthday, survived by his wife and three children.

While there are plenty of photos of him in football uniforms as a player, I hope his family has pictures of the father and husband he was, too.

I still don’t know what kind of practice my dad was talking about when I was a kid, but looking back I’ve decided that the practice is making memories and making them into a physical copy — whether in a darkroom, a lab, or even just a polaroid — and if those memories involve other people, you should always make as many physical copies as you can.

All of this is why I’m asking my dad for one more selfie this summer: partially as a joke, but mostly in seriousness as a way to double the number of pictures he and I have together.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

“Disaster Girl” meme sold as NFT earns its owner $430,000

I believe there are few people who haven’t seen the “Disaster Girl” in one of a million memes circling around the internet. The adorable girl is now 21 (yes, we’re old) and she found a way to make money from the viral photo of her. She sold it as an NFT and earned almost half […]

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Smaller and Better Smartphone Cameras Coming Within 5 Years: Report

Over the last several years, smartphone cameras have started to meet and exceed expectations when it comes to photo quality. For example, it could be argued that the current iPhone camera can capture better photos than the Nikon D100 from just over a decade ago, and is much smaller and easier to use.

“Today’s smartphone cameras can make a better image than cameras I paid NZ$10,000 (~$7,110) for only 20 years ago,” says Tom Ang, who’s written over 30 books on photography and digital cameras.

The cameras in smartphones have gotten so powerful that many people opt to not even carry a separate camera when just traveling anymore, hence the collapse of the fixed-lens camera segment. But while modern smartphones are incredibly good from the perspective of their advancement over time, there is still room for them to improve before they can start to meet or exceed expectations in modern DSLRs and mirrorless systems.

But it doesn’t seem like those updates are that far away as according to a report from the BBC, smaller, sleeker, and more powerful smartphone cameras are closer than you think.

Teams around the world are constantly developing new lens technology including improved camera zooming and features that will help provide brighter photos, while reducing the space and weight in the actual device.

One such Canadian-based company, Scope Photonics, aims to create a lossless zoom for all kinds of photos and will allow photographers to capture a zoomed-in close-up image that will remain consistently sharp and free of artifacts that typically exist in current max zoomed smartphone photos. The company has been working on a technology that harnesses liquid crystals, much like what’s found in LCD TVs, and allows them to “spin like tops” and reorganize themselves based on how light moves through them. This effect is to mimic a zoom lens system: instead of relying on a series of stacked lenses, Scope’s system can zoom in and out with just a single lens.

This technology is being initially prototyped for medical devices, but the company aims to bring the lenses to smartphone systems within three years.

“I’m comfortable in predicting we can achieve 10 times zoom with our liquid crystals, but this innovation offers a lot of opportunity for growth so you never know where we’ll be at in a few years’ time,” Scope’s CEO Holden Beggs says.

Another start-up from Cambridge, Massachusetts — Metalenz — is looking at removing the “camera bump” that has become the norm over the last few years, even to the degree that it has grown to gigantic sizes in the latest phones like the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

The Metalenz nanostructures.

Leveraging a design that uses a single lens built on a glass wafer between just one and three square millimeters in size, the silicon nanostructures manipulate light rays in a way that will allow for brighter and sharper images when compared to a standard lens element. Metalenz also aims to fine-tune the focus for photo and video imaging on smartphone devices to ensure the camera is picking out the right object to put into focus.

A group of researchers in Utah have developed a lens a hundred times lighter and a thousand times thinner than the iPhone 11’s lenses. This new lens design is made of thousands of microstructures instead of one large curved element which reduces the size but still manages to correct for color aberrations, simplifying the capture process. The reduction in weight, even by just a fraction of a gram, can have a significant impact on delicate technologies like satellites and drones as well.

This technology is also being adapted first for the Department of Defense but the team hopes to have it adapted for smartphones within three to five years as well. With all of these updates in technology, the key for the teams is to keep it simple once adapted to smartphones.

“If you offer, say, true optical zoom on a smartphone that rivals proper cameras, you also raise the barrier to use. If people need an instruction manual for their smartphone camera, you’ve stuffed up,” Ang says.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

Playboy Enters the NFT Market, Plans to Sell Art and Support Creators

Lifestyle and entertainment giant, Playboy, is entering the non-fungible token (NFT) market with plans to sell its extensive art collection and to support emerging artists.

Today, Playboy is a far cry from what the company was during its peak years in the 1960s and 1970s. It ceased its print publication in 2020 and went fully digital, but with 67 years of regular print magazines published throughout its history it holds decades of archives and photographic content under its belt.

MarketWatch reports that following this recent move towards strictly digital content, Playboy is also partnering with Nifty Gateway, a blockchain technology incorporated marketplace where digital assets or NFTs can be purchased, stored, and sold. The partnership sees an 80% and 20% split for Playboy and Nifty Gateway, respectively.

Similar to auction houses, Nifty Gateway releases a new collection available to be purchased for a limited time and at a specific time, which is referred to as “a drop.” To launch its new partnership with Nifty Gateway in the second quarter, Playboy is releasing two drops: the first is an original work by Slimesunday, a digital collage artist who explores “bizarre and erotic topics” and has previously collaborated with Playboy. The second is a Pride-themed curation by digital artist Blake Kathryn.

Long term, Playboy and Nifty Gateway plan to use this digital ownership market in three different areas: to cultivate collaborations between artists and Playboy’s art archive, to support and commission the creation of new NFT works through grants that support emerging or underrepresented artists, and to curate and sell Playboy’s own extensive photographic and art collection.

Artists will receive a revenue share paid out from Playboy’s 80% share in the partnership. Any subsequent marketplace sales will have a 10% fee paid out to Playboy, which will also contain a revenue share for the artist.

This entry into the ever-growing digital art world by Playboy is not particularly surprising. In its colorful past, the publication has supported a variety of artists of the time and given them a platform to express themselves, including art world icons Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Keith Haring, and Salvador Dalí. MarketWatch reports that Playboy is also appreciative of the vast original artwork collection it holds in its archive, noting that these works are now “ripe for exploration by digital audiences, art lovers and collectors.”

Bitcoin reported that Playboy’s interest in the digital asset market comes from seeing it as “an enormous business opportunity”, which explains the company following the footsteps of other media corporations, such as Time Magazine, the Associated Press, The New York Times, and others who have already joined in on the latest NFT trend.

Image credits: Header photo by Les Anderson

This photographer is using video games to teach photo composition

Game screenshots are common and popular on social media, and have been a thing ever since streamers started streaming. I’ve never been a big fan of calling “video game photography” photography (they’re still just screenshots), but they can still be a valuable teaching aid when it comes to things like composition and lighting (depending on […]

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Museum Wins Case Against Photographer Who Claims It Stole His Photo

A panel of judges has ruled in favor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art over a copyright case. Florida-based photographer Lawrence Marano alleged that the museum stole his 1982 photo of the band Van Halen in the 2019 exhibition Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll.

As reported by Artnet, Marano’s initial case was dismissed in July of 2020 by a U.S. District judge who stated that Marano and his attorney “failed to show why the Met’s use of [the image] is not protected by the fair use exception.”

The museum’s use of the image, according to the ruling, fell under educational purposes, which classifies its placement as fair use. Marano appealed that decision, but a panel of three judges in New York’s Second Circuit court upheld the initial ruling.

“Whereas Marano’s stated purpose in creating the photo was to show ‘what Van Halen looks like in performance,’ the Met exhibition highlights the unique design of the Frankenstein guitar and its significance in the development of rock n’ roll instruments,” the judges wrote in their five-page summary.

The judges continued by stating the use of the image by the museum in no way detracted from the commercial value of the photo nor did it diminish the value of the image.

“The Second Circuit’s decision in the Marano case is an important one recognizing that museums, as cultural institutions, have the freedom to use photographs that are historical artifacts to enrich their presentation of art objects to the public,” Linda Steinman, an attorney for the Met, said in a statement to Artnet. “The Metropolitan Museum of Art values the contributions of all artists, including photographers, and also appreciates that fair use is a key tool for the visual arts community. The mission of the Met and all museums is to provide the public with access to art—and this important decision protects, indeed strengthens, this important societal role.”

Marano’s attorney did not provide a statement to Artnet when asked about the ruling.

The United States Copyright Office defines fair use as a legal doctrine that promotes the freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works under certain circumstances. Defined under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, Fair Use protects criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research when it comes to publishing or using copyrighted material.

While this sounds straightforward, the concept of fair use can find itself muddled because of the ambiguity of those protections. In this case, the judges looked at the 2006 Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley Ltd. case for precedent. In that case, Dorling Kindersley published a Grateful Dead coffee table book that included seven Grateful Dead event posters. Bill Graham Archives was initially contacted for permission to use the images, but negotiations fell through. Dorling Kindersley used the images anyway and the Bill Graham Archives sued. The Archives lost their suit, as the publication of the images was deemed to be fair use.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.