Nathan Mhyrvold, Penguins and Digital Photography
BoingBoing has a nice link today to Nathan Mhyrvold's penguin photos from the Falkland Islands.
In June, Mhyrvold wrote a fantastic piece on the future of photography in the New York Times which I encourage all technologists and digital photographers read.
I'm eagerly awaiting Canon's next move, probably to 25-plus megapixels. I'm what marketing people call an early adopter, but mark my words - you'll own a 16- or even a 25-megapixel point-and-shoot in a few years, and it will not stop there. By some estimates, your eyes have an effective resolution of more than 500 megapixels. If you can see it, why shouldn't a camera record it? The reason many pictures don't turn out is that in daytime the human eye can easily perceive a dynamic range of 10,000:1, while at night it is more like 1,000,000:1. Meanwhile, color slide film can record only about 32:1, and digital cameras, about 64:1.
In many situations, this forces a choice - do you expose for the light parts of the scene and let the dark parts go dead black, or save the shadows and turn the bright parts pure white? Future digital sensors will fix this, with ever broader dynamic range and greater light sensitivity (the ISO rating).
Focus is another problem. How many of your pictures wind up fuzzy? Autofocus technology can help, but cameras today still have a limitation on how much of a scene can be in focus at one time, known as depth of field. If you focus on the flower in front of you, the mountain in the background is apt to be fuzzy. Yet technically there is no reason we can't get essentially infinite depth of field, again by using more digital processing.
My neighbor emailed this photo as a reminder that the artists will always want to control depth-of-field. What will that feature be called? Old-school Focus?
"One comment about your post, though: lack of depth-of-field is not necessarily a limitation. How often do you really want everything in focus?"