The Rise of Computational Photography

Computational photography is coming up more and more as a topic these days, driven largely by developments in the smartphone world. Apple and Google, specifically, have worked diligently over the past few years to overcome the inherent limitations in the cameras of their pocket-size phones—small sensors and tiny lenses—to produce better images than would be available solely from the phones’ optics alone. By using custom chips, advanced software, dual lenses (in the case of newer iPhones and some Android phones) and more, these phones can create photographs that once required high-end cameras or painstaking compositing to produce. (For more, see Jeff Carlson’s piece on DPReview.com about the computational aspects of the iPhone XS.)

The result is that our phones now use this technology to provide impressive images, ones combined in the phone from multiple “shots.” They include things like automatic high-dynamic range (HDR) photos, seamless panoramas, and portraits with shallow depth of field. Sure, you can find many online commenters who rail against the bad portrait shots and wonky panos as proof that this iPhone or that Pixel is not as good as a basic SLR or mirrorless camera, but that misses the point (something we talk about extensively in Taking Better Pictures Doesn’t Mean a New Camera). Read more »

Is the 13″ Macbook Air A Good Laptop for the Digital Photographer?

I travel a lot, and when on the road I typically carry several cameras, a computer, my Kindle, all the associated chargers, cords, extra hard drives and other accoutrements necessary to move my digital world with me. If there’s any room left over, I also consider taking clothes and those other secondary items. Needless to say, my bag’s heavy, so I’m constantly looking for ways to lighten it. For the past couple of years I’ve been carrying a 13″ Macbook, which has been a great computer, and fully capable of everything I need for months-long excursions. But it was very difficult not to note the new 13″ Macbook Air upon its release. More specifically, to note that it weighs 1.5 pounds less than my 13″ Macbook. What wasn’t obvious was whether it was enough computer to handle a digital photo workflow. So I bought one. Here’s how it stacks up. Read more »