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Nikon teases its first full-frame mirrorless cameras

July 23, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Nikon

If you thought Nikon was going to introduce its first full-frame mirrorless cameras without some fanfare, you had another thing coming. Nikon has posted a teaser video and “In Pursuit of Light” campaign website that might just hint at what its first pro-oriented mirrorless cams will look like. Provided the brief view is representative, it backs up a number of rumors, including the large mounting format (which could support super-bright f/0.95 lenses), an electronic viewfinder and a more ergonomic design. The lineup could be public as soon as July 23rd, so you may see much more in the near future.

To recap, Nikon is reportedly working on two models aimed at pro photographers who’d otherwise be tempted by a Sony A9 or A7 III. The flagship would pack 45 or 48 megapixels, while a step down would include ‘just’ 24 to 25 megapixels. You’d have a high-resolution 3.6-megapixel electronic viewfinder for composing shots. You could also expect many of the creature comforts associated with modern high-end cameras, such as 5-axis in-body image stabilization, more than 400 autofocusing points and 4K video.

Whether or not Nikon succeeds is up in the air. The pricing would be competitive at roughly $4,000 for the 48-megapixel model with a kit lens and $2,400 for its 25-megapixel counterpart, but the aftermarket lens selection may be slim at first. You’d see a standard 24-70mm f/4 zoom lens as well as fixed 35mm and 50mm options, and… that’s it. Telephoto, macro and other more specialized lenses would be in the works, but would have to wait. And that’s a bit risky. While Sony was criticized for having few lenses when its first mirrorless cameras arrived, it now has a fairly robust ecosystem that accommodates most shooting demands. While Nikon’s rumored hardware is still leaps and bounds above the ill-fated 1 series cameras, it may be some time before you see full-time photographers switching to this system.

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Sony unveils world's first 48-megapixel smartphone sensor

July 23, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Sony

Is it best to have a high-resolution smartphone camera sensor or a lower-resolution one with better light sensitivity? Sony says you can have both with its latest stacked CMOS image sensor. The IMX586 has the “industry’s highest pixel count” with 48 megapixels, bettering high-end cameras like its own A7R III, all squeezed into a phone-sized 8.0 mm diagonal unit. At the same time, four adjacent pixels can be added together during low light shooting, yielding a 12-megapixel sensor that delivers “bright, low noise images,” Sony said.

Putting 48 megapixels on a chip that size yields a 0.8 micron pixel pitch, which would normally give you high resolution but poor nighttime shooting capability. However, Sony’s “Quad Bayer” color filter array can also merge four pixels into one. That yields an effective pixel pitch of 1.6 micrometers, significantly better than Google’s Pixel 2 XL (1.4 microns), one of the best low-light smartphone cameras out there.

Quad Bayer sounds much like the “Pixel Fusion” tech used by Huawei in its P20 Pro smartphone. It reportedly uses Sony’s 40-megapixel IMX600 to deliver high resolution images, but can also join four pixels together to create a 10-megapixel sensor with much better light-gathering capability.

Sony’s signal processing tech also allows fast output speeds and dynamic range “four times greater than conventional products.” To wit, it would let you record 4K (4,096 x 2,160) video at 90 fps, and 1080p at a time-stopping 240 fps.

Sony, which spun off its image sensor division in 2015, currently dominates sensor sales for both smartphones and premium DSLR/mirrorless cameras. Last quarter, it vowed to maintain that position by spending up to $9 billion developing new tech. First samples of the 48-megapixel chip will arrive in September 2018, but Sony generally reserves new sensors for its own devices — so you might see it appear first in Sony’s Xperia XZ line of premium smartphones.

Tech News

Nikon phases out 1 series mirrorless cameras

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

PA Archive/PA Images

Nikon’s 1 series mirrorless cameras never quite set the world on fire, and now it looks like they’re on the way out. The company’s home division has listed all 1 cameras as discontinued and removed them from its website, while Nikon Rumors has learned that they’re no longer available at major camera retailer B&H. They’re not completely gone (you can still find them on Nikon’s US website or stores like Adorama, for example), but they’re on the way out.

In a statement, Nikon told Engadget that 1 cameras, lenses and add-ons are “no longer in production.” You could still find the 1 J5 and other models in “some regions,” it added.

Provided this represents a full-fledged discontinuation, the timing would be convenient. Nikon is rumored to be announcing two full-frame mirrorless cameras on July 23rd ahead of an August release, hinting that the 1 line is going away to make room for new models. There’s looming competition, too, with Canon Rumors hearing about a possible full-frame Canon mirrorless model launching sometime between September and early 2019.

The death of the 1 has been a long time in coming, and wouldn’t exactly be a surprise. Like Canon, Nikon was slow to recognize the appeal of mirrorless cams and misjudged the market when it jumped in. It positioned the 1 range as a high-quality point-and-shoots (complete with smaller sensors and limited features) rather than the DSLR alternatives many people wanted, effectively handing the market to Sony. Nikon recognized this and has been hinting at a fundamental change in strategy for a while — it knows it needs to cater to pros and enthusiasts who want mirrorless cameras, and it’s just been a matter of when the technology would be ready.

Tech News

NVIDIA's AI can fix bad photos by looking at other bad photos

July 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

NVIDIA, MIT, Aalto University

A team of researchers from NVIDIA, MIT and Aalto University have found a way to fix pixelated photographs using AI — even if the AI has never seen a clean example of the target photo.

The group used deep learning — a type of machine learning that can teach AI to piece together images, text or video — to restore images with noisy input. While previous work trained AI to reconstruct photos with missing facial features by showing it complete photos, the current method means AI can rebuild a clean photo by only using “corrupted data”, or two tarnished images. And surprisingly, its ability to clean up artifacts, remove text and beautify photos occasionally produced a better outcome than methods requiring cleaner reference material.

The AI does this by utilizing a neural network that’s been trained using corrupt photos. It doesn’t need a clean image, but it does need to observe the source image twice. Experiments showed that target material affected by different kinds of synthetic noise (additive Gaussian, Poisson and bionomial noise) could still yield results that were “virtually identical” in quality with photos restored using clean targets. One of the most exciting things about the system is that it can significantly reduce the amount of time required for image rendering — we’re talking milliseconds.

More practical applications of this deep learning-based approach are promising for the medical field, where the quality of MRI scans and other types of imaging could be further enhanced.

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Gigapixel timelapse captures a day in the life of London

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

There’s a real chance you’ve seen gigapixel city shots before, but they’ve rarely had a dynamic element — you’ve had to be content with that one sliver of time. Now, there’s something a little livelier. Lenstore, Nikon and Canary Wharf have partnered on what they say is the first gigapixel timelapse, 24 Hour London. As the name implies, the project provides 7.3-gigapixel snapshots of the city for every hour of the day — you can see how the roads come to life in the day, or how Tower Bridge illuminates the night. The trick, unsurprisingly, revolves around some robotics.

The camera and lens are off-the-shelf parts: a Nikon D850 (whose 45-megapixel stills no helped with detail) and an AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens. It’s the machinery around the camera that matters the most. The team used robotic motion control of the sort movie studios use for fast panning shots. This let the photographers capture 155-degree panoramas over a 24-hour period while maintaining consistency down to the pixel level. You don’t have to worry that a close-up view will suddenly change just because you wanted to see that nighttime scene at dawn.

Is it a promo piece? You bet. But it also shows how gigapixel photography is evolving along with camera gear. Where it used to be that any gigapixel photo was a novelty, the technology is now powerful enough that multi-shot scenes area realistic option. Just don’t expect gigapixel video any time soon.

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AI-powered instant camera turns photos into crude cartoons

July 4, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Dan Macnish

Most cameras are designed to capture scenes as faithfully as possible, but don’t tell that to Dan Macnish. He recently built an instant camera, Draw This, that uses a neural network to translate photos into the sort of crude cartoons you would put on your school notebooks. Macnish mapped the millions of doodles from Google’s Quick, Draw! game data set to the categories the image processor can recognize. After that, it was largely a matter of assembling a Raspberry Pi-powered camera that used this know-how to produce its ‘hand-drawn’ pictures with a thermal printer.

The best part? You never see what the original photo was supposed to look like. You’re putting all your trust in the neural network, and part of the beauty is watching it get things spectacularly wrong. A plant might become a wine glass, or a friend might be reduced to a completely unrecognizable blob. This is more about using AI technology to produce unpredictable art than it is a stab at accuracy.

Tech News

500px closes its photo marketplace

July 1, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

studioEAST/Getty Images

Photo platform 500px is ditching its efforts to help you buy and sell photos through its own online service. The company has closed its in-house Marketplace as of July 1st, and will now rely on moving photos through Getty Images in most of the world as well as VCG (which acquired 500px in February) in China. Your royalties won’t change if you had photos on 500px, but don’t expect to have full control over how you share photos — the company is scaling things back, at least for now.

Users no longer have the option to upload photos under a Creative Commons license that would let buyers remix photos or otherwise reuse them. There’s no way to migrate, download or even search for these images. You won’t have another CC-style license in its place, either. At best, you’ll have a royalty-free 500px License that distributes pictures through either Getty or VCG. This isn’t strictly a ploy to make photographers charge money, though. 500px informed The Verge that there weren’t many people using CC images, many of which had outdated licenses. There were bugs searching for them, too.

In many ways, this marks the end to what was left of 500px’s history as a social photo sharing service. It initially served as a community for serious photographers and even got a 2015 redesign that turned it into an Instagram for pros. However, it faced pressure from multiple directions. Flickr has long been a rival for photographers primarily interested in showcasing their work, and Instagram quickly claimed the crown for social-oriented photo services. If you’re interested in spreading word of your portfolio, wouldn’t you want to use the social network that now has a billion active users? The VCG purchase and Getty pact are acknowledgments that the online photography landscape has changed a lot in the past several years.

Tech News

LG may squeeze five cameras into its next flagship phone

June 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Chris Velazco/Engadget

LG may be taking a cue from The Onion when it comes to overkill product design. A source talking to Android Police claims that the next V-series smartphone (possibly the V40 ThinQ, according to Evan Blass) will include five cameras. Suddenly, Huawei’s P20 Pro seems downright conservative. Two of them would sit on the front and might be used for depth-based face recognition, while the remaining three would sit on the back and could provide new depth-of-field or zoom effects.

Otherwise, you’d be looking at what you’d largely expect: an upscale version of the G7 ThinQ from earlier in the year. It would include a notched display, a Snapdragon 845 chip and a Google Assistant button while throwing in V-series staples like a Quad DAC for improved audio quality.

Earlier scoops had the V40 arriving in late summer or early fall. The question is whether or not it’ll see a lot of uptake. LG has muddied its lineup somewhat with two in-between V phones (the V30S ThinQ and V35 ThinQ), and there’s no guarantee that customers will be entranced by yet another iteration regardless of how substantial an upgrade it is. If there’s any certainty, it’s that this won’t be the last five-camera phone you see.

Tech News

Leica C-Lux brings style to long-zoom compact cameras

June 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

leica-c-lux-midnight-blue-960x640.jpg

Leica

When you think of compact cameras with long-zoom lenses, “fashionable” probably doesn’t come to mind. They tend to be very utilitarian devices where looks take a backseat to the optics you need for a dramatic vacation shot. Leica wants to change that: it’s introducing a new C-Lux camera that gives the category some flair. It’s ultimately a reskinned Panasonic Lumix ZS200, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The C-Lux combines the ZS200’s 15x (24-360mm equivalent) f/3.3-6.4 lens and 1-inch, 20.1-megapixel sensor with a considerably posher design in an attention-grabbing “Light Gold” or a more sober “Midnight Blue.” This is a camera that wouldn’t look out of place at a classic car show or a polo match.

The similarity promises some solid performance, too, with 49-point fast autofocus, continuous shooting at 10 frames per second and 4K videos at up to 100Mbps (albeit with a 15-minute time limit). You can also rely on a 2.33-megapixel electronic viewfinder as well as Bluetooth and WiFi to transfer your photos.

Not surprisingly, you’ll be paying a stiff premium for the looks and Leica’s signature red dot. The C-Lux will cost you $1,050 when it arrives in mid-July, or a solid $250 more than the Lumix. That’s utter overkill if you’re purely interested in functionality, but it might be tantalizing if you’re determined to get an all-purpose camera that stands out in a sea of drabness.

Tech News

Google Photos' web version now behaves like a native app

June 4, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Not everyone can justify downloading the Google Photos app on their phone, and that just hasn’t been an option on computers. Now, however, you don’t have to think about that choice: users have discovered that Photos is now available as a Progressive Web App. You may have to manually enable PWA support in Chrome to make them work, but this provides a look and feel closer to that of the native photo management tool without a sizeable download. You can install the app on your Android phone’s home screen or, with Chrome 67, as a shortcut on your desktop.

There are still limitations to the web version. You can’t see offline photos or receive push notifications (say, when the Assistant has produced a new edit). If those aren’t deal-breakers, though, this should be a viable alternative when you can’t (or just don’t want to) install conventional software to manage your image library.

NIIIICE, Google Photos web is now a Progressive Web App #PWA!!! pic.twitter.com/zOKQ6UG7Pb

— KΞNNΞTH Christiansen in .dk 🇩🇰 (@kennethrohde) June 2, 2018