Photography Without Wires

The iPhone is actually the most popular “camera” on flickr.  And by a wide margin too.  That said it takes awful photos.  Like unbelievably, ridiculously awful.  And it’s actually among the very best camera-phones.  Camera phones have much worse actual resolution, especially in less than ideal lighting conditions, worse color depth, dynamic range, noise artifacts… The only thing they have going for them is portability and connectedness.  And I would claim that the latter is about the determining factor in getting photos from on a device to out into the world where everyone can see them.

The question is then what are my options for easily getting photos off a real camera.  And I have the feeling that this will be of temporary use given the number of cameras which are starting to incorporate connected features.  But anyways, for the moment:

At the moment there are three ways of getting photos off your camera without resorting to taking out the storage or using wires.  The best is wifi/cell data inside the camera, but this is still limited as of the moment.  Next we have the dongles, these plug into one port or another on the camera and can then connect to some wireless network.  I am avoiding these at the moment because I don’t want a dongle hanging off of or sticking out of my camera.  These also tend to be specific to a camera manufacturer or even a specific camera model.  Finally we have the networked flash storage.  These are memory cards which connect to wireless networks.  This was started by Eye-Fi, but by now numerous other manufacturers are joining in.  For me the real appeal is automation, reducing the number of steps between pressing the shutter button and having a photo online.  And as far as automation is concerned eye-fi seems to still be leading the crowd, since one can set it up to transfer files automatically.

These methods of getting photos off the camera are slightly flexible in terms of where the images end up, but it’s still not great.  Eye-Fi will automatically push photos onto my android phone (I imagine one can do the same with an iphone).  And from there I actually have a number of options of moving the photo further along.  First eye-fi offers an application, but the interface is kind of a pain to use, and requires windows (possible also osx, but in either case, no linux).  

Navitar DOZ-6X12.5 on Micro Four Thirds

I have a 20mm security tv camera lens which is hands down my favorite micro four thirds lens.  It has flare like you wouldn’t believe, and the aperture doesn’t even try to approximate a circle as you stop down, but indoors neither of these present real problems, and at 1.4 it lets you keep the iso way lower than the kit lens.

Anyways, I was intrigued by the idea of a fast zoom offered by some of the c-mount zoom lenses.  The issue is that there is none or at least very little documentation telling you what sort of coverage you might get with these lenses.  While I have only experimented with one lens it’s likely that the same would apply to other lenses of approximately the same focal length, 12.5-75mm.  You’ll probably get better coverage with lenses that start at a slightly longer focal length, but some of these lenses are really quite large relative a micro four thirds camera, they’d probably look almost comically small and balance much better on an aps-c or full frame camera.  They’ll probably be more comfortable on a dslr styled camera (think g-series) than a compact styled camera (think e-pm1, gx series).  In fact the reason I chose the particular lens I did was that it was very small relative the other options.

The navitar 12.5-75mm DOZ-6X12.5, has an image circle of about 13mm (a little less at the wide end, a little more at the long end).  If you crop to minimize vignetting you get a little more than half the resolution out of your sensor at the wide end, and more than that at the long end.  Nothing is as valuable as examples, so I put some uncropped and cropped images up here.  I would only really look at the coverage, because I wasn’t shooting at reasonable apertures and there’s no guarantee I nailed focus on these photos.  But it’s slightly more interesting than shooting newsprint.
Because of the vignetting these make great toys, but I’m still not sure how frequently I’m going to grab it when going out.  Also, I think its motivated me to add a grip to my e-pm1, because it really is easier & more comfortable to hold the camera steady with something on there.

Choosing Black & White Film

It seems that black and white film is just a little harder to find than color film.  Or at least my amazon search wasn’t instantly successful.  Anyways, Kodak T-Max and Tri-X seem to be two of the most popular.  And it’s a little difficult to find just how they differ on a user’s level.  The most useful comparison I found was here, and after looking at that, I think I might have a preference for T-Max, but I’m going to get a couple of rolls of each and see how it plays out.

Developing Film in NYC

I’ve put together a map with some likely locations of getting film developed inexpensively in NYC.  I haven’t visited all of these yet, but will hopefully update the list as I make the round.

Update: Hands down the best place I’ve visited is Cardinal Camera on the upper west side.

Smart Sharpening in Imagemagick

So, I’ve found that the Smart Sharpening workflow described here can give really stellar results. But I’m lazy, and was interested in a way that I could adjust images without having to open them in a graphical environment, and preferably do a bunch at once. I essentially converted the steps described by gimpguru into imagemagick and ended up with something that works. I’m still testing a few different ideas, but I find it’s working reasonably well at the moment (you can judge for yourself on the basis of examples, though the flickr images will give you a better idea). But in the spirit of sharing… you can find it here.

Timings: 10 MP image, about 35 seconds
Note this will avoid name collisions presently, so if you have a 2, 4 or 8 core cpu, and you use (ls *.jpg|xargs -n 1 -P # smartsharp.pl) you can get a 2, 4 or 8x speedup, or 20, 10 or 5 seconds per image. This is really not a lot of time, and trivial compared to the amount of time you could expect to spend in the gimp doing the same thing.

Apparently someone has already tried to implement this in the gimp. This would be a nice way to try a bunch of different parameters, unfortunately it does not have a preview (and that would be very hard to do), and parameters would not be a perfect match from that one to this one, as I use a different edge detection method. And I don’t believe I can use the gimp edge detect method without quite an investment. I’ll investigate though.

Some examples: These are crops from three larger images (full size available here), the images are the original, the final and the mask generated by the script used for sharpening,.







PTlens Database for linux

Can be found here. Because I had to search entirely too long.

I’m still testing with this. I’m going to do some image diffs and see what sort of corrections are made.

Geotagging without a dedicated camera gps, part 2

The Garmin Edge 500 cycling computer is a pretty clever unit doing most of what you might want it to, at least if you’re a cyclist.  I would like to use the garmin edge 500 to tag my photos with the location at which they were taken.  This would avoid the need for 1) a dedicated gps tagging thing-a-ma-bob, like the nikon gp-1, and 2) a camera which can interface with the gps tagging thing-a-ma-bob, and at least the nikon d3000 is lacking this capability.  But not to worry a little bit of hacking later and there is a solution.

This solution comes in a few parts, first a class used to parse the garmin .fit file format, second a utility to dump the contents of the .fit file format into a readable format that I could deal with.  Finally a little thing that goes through the gps data, and makes a path and reads the time from the photo and interpolates photo location.  Pretty awesome.  Requires exiftool, which can be found here.  And finally, the goodies can be found here, unzip and drop where you want them.  To run do

./fit_geotag fitfile.fit jpg1.jpg jpg2.jpg …

Please let me know if you have any issues.  It’s quite possible that this is an hour off at the moment due to daylight savings time issues.  Should be ironed out quite soon once I have a chance to do some more testing.

Update: I’ve added the ability to geotag using a csv file generated by the smartphone app mytracks. This is available for both the iphone and android operating systems (and possibly others, I don’t even know if there are others). The method is exactly the same. I find this easier, as often when I’m out taking photos I have my phone, but the gps thing, while small would be just one more thing to remember.

Update 2: If you send me an example trackfile and a photo taken during the trackfile, so long as the trackfile is in some sort of a text format, I should be able to add it to this utility. I see some visitors arriving with search terms of other sorts of devices than the mytracks (android or iphone) or garmin .fit.