New Digital Camera Technologies

Most new digital cameras come with sometimes remarkable but predictable new features...more resolution, better anti-shake features, wider ranging zoom lens, etc. Every now and then something really new turns up that has the potential to change everything. This time it’s the “light field” camera. The ideas has been around in science labs for a while, but now we have commercial examples that anyone can buy. What is a light field camera? The concept is to record not only the intensity of light at each spot in an image but also the direction that each light ray came from. The ultimate light field camera would act light a mirror. A mirror is a flat surface that light bounces off depending on the angle it originally came from. When we look into a mirror, we not only see an image of what the mirror is reflecting but also we can focus on any part of the image and see it in 3D without any tricks or special glasses. The light field cameras that are becoming available are far short of mirror images but they capture enough information to do some interesting things. Through computer processing, they can refocus a captured image to just about any point from front to back. This eliminates the need to focus when taking the original exposure. These cameras, with software that will probably be available soon, can produce a picture with any depth of field from soft focus to sharp from close to infinity...all for you to decide after you’ve already taken the shot. Captured images could have the option of 3D display as well. What’s the catch? Well to capture the information to do these tricks, you have to give up some resolution. As more and more processing elements are packed on to chips that may not matter because there will be enough resolution for any normal use. Here’s a link to a You Tube video that shows what can be done with a light field camera.

As I write, there are at least two sources of light field cameras. One is for commercial use and the other is aimed at the causal photographer who didn’t want to know anything about focus anyway.

The Lytro camera company is selling the consumer model for $399 or 499 with more memory.

The company website gives you a good picture of the camera and its current features. They also have sample pictures that give you an idea of what you could do with the camera. This camera, in its present form, is not going put Nikon and Canon out of business, but version 2 or 3 might have them worried.

The commercial use light field is made by a Germany company:  Raytrix. This company produces several models with various features and resolutions.

To learn more, here’s the Wikipedia article on light field cameras.

Stealth Developments in Digital Cameras

By paying attention only to what things are called and not to what’s really going on, we sometimes don’t notice significant developments in fields like photography. Something that’s crept up on us is the increasingly capable cell phone camera. When these first appeared, there was little worry that they would replace “real” digital cameras. The picture was low-res and fuzzy even for the quoted resolution of the camera. Recently, I got a cheap smart phone that has a camera. The picture size is 3.5 megapixels and it auto focuses. The pictures it takes are sharp and clear and look pretty good at 8.5x11. I used to carry an obsolete but still serviceable digital camera in my car “just in case.” Now I just have the cell phone. The phone will take pretty good movies too...and they can be sent to another phone or email address with little fuss. My daughter’s IPhone 4 has an even better camera.

What these cameras still lack is an optical zoom lens and there is a little more “shutter lag” than with a conventional digital camera. They probably won’t satisfy a serious photographer looking for the great photo that will be the prize of his collection, but for many routine uses, they get the job done and are the camera of choice because it’s the camera you have with you. The picture on the left is a cell phone shot taken at a Ferndale, Michigan street fair.

A tip when using a cell phone camera: make sure the lens is clean. The lens is so small that it is easy to forget about it, but, because it is small, it is easy for it to fog over and collect so much dirt that the picture looks like it was taken through a fog bank.   

For more on digital camera history, go to the history page. To find links to manufacturers of digital cameras, go to our links page. For more on digital imaging, open or download our "Working With Images" PDF file. While it's a little dated now, it still covers the basics well.
(Requires Adobe Acrobat viewer from
Adobe Systems.)

Back to Explainamation Home Page.
All rights to the material on this Web site reserved to the authors unless otherwise noted. Some of the pictures of cameras on this page provided by the manufactures and used with their permission.

A Guide to Post Industrial Detroit is Theresa’s first ebook that was composed and written as an ebook (not converted from print). Here’s what she has to say about the book:

This book is a guide to the real Detroit, with its natural assets like the riverfront and its many beautiful buildings, as well as its abandoned neighborhoods and "fabulous ruins."

My interest in Detroit and its history is personal. I came to Detroit in 1963 to attend Wayne State University where I met my future husband, David. In 1967, we were newly-weds living in the heart of the riot area and experienced a city in chaos, with fires burning in all directions from their apartment building. Today, I and my husband are retired and on a mission to return to places where we have lived and worked in Detroit to photograph and observe what has happened to a city whose downward slide seems to have hit bottom.

In the book, I share my observations, stories and photos of my adventures as an urban explorer in a city I and David have known well over 45 years.

The book covers Detroit's past and present, with plenty of facts and stories about neighborhoods, buildings and the changes in the landscape of the city over time. The narrative, which takes you from the Woodward corridor, to the East Side and the West Side, is liberally illustrated with photos (over 190 photos taken by Theresa and David Welsh), plus links to more photos and commentary online.

A guide to Post Industrial Detroit Buy it for the Kindle for only $4.95.

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To see more about this book, see The Seeker Books description page.

Our first eBook is a collaboration between the writing of David Welsh and drawing by Amy Welsh, his daughter. It's a quick and funny read with a bite, chronicling the biggest oil spill in history as a child might understand it. All of the events it describes are true and all the characters are based on the real people...which is why they are so funny...if you have the right point of view.

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Who is DetRiotGirl? That's our daughter's alter ego when she's interviewing defunct arcade game characters for laughs and inside information while promising "journalist integrity at least 20% of the time." See her Arcade Recall cartoon panels, her picture Bio, her blog, and her charming beg page.


Theresa's Website: book reviews -- alternative history, science, business, fiction, photos and stories about Detroit

Theresa has more Detroit photos on Flickr.

Theresa's book reviewer profile on Amazon where she is a top reviewer

BUY USED BOOKS from The Seeker Books collection as listed on

a site devoted to the TRS-80 and selling our book.

Who is guppyart? Rachel Gutek, a Grammy winning artist. Visit her site.