Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Major Innovations Of The Last 25 Years
In the quarter-century since OP began publication, there have been incredible strides in imaging. Here are some of the most significant and their implications for photography moving forward.
One of the tremendous advantages of today’s DSLR systems (and their film-based predecessors) is the ability to change lenses quickly and easily. The trouble is, whenever you change lenses, you’re leaving the image sensor exposed to the elements, introducing the potential for dust, moisture or other contaminants to come in contact with it. That can result in dust spots or other blemishes that will appear in every single image you capture until the sensor is cleaned.
Olympus introduced the first DSLR with self-cleaning technology for the image sensor in 2003, and now many camera models include a self-cleaning feature. In most cases, this consists of a high-frequency vibration that literally shakes any dust or other contaminants from the sensor, with an adhesive area that collects the dust that’s shaken loose. While this won’t eliminate all contaminants from the image sensor, it greatly reduces the dust spots and other blemishes you’d find in your images otherwise.
For many years, still images and motion pictures required completely different equipment. It seems video almost developed a bad reputation among photographers because, when video was readily available in a digital still camera, it generally was at a very low resolution, resulting in videos that were often of marginal quality at best.
In 2008, the Nikon D90 became the first DSLR to capture high-definition (HD) video, and now it seems you’d have a difficult time finding a digital SLR that doesn’t capture HD video. This opens up the potential for photographers who may have focused exclusively on still photographs to include motion in their images. Whether that translates into including motion in a single frame that otherwise could have been a still capture or producing your own short film, the ability to capture high-quality HD video with tremendous lens flexibility represents a huge innovation.
Fixed Pellicle Mirror
If you ask a photographer what’s the defining feature of an SLR camera, I suspect interchangeable lenses would be the top answer. But very close behind would be a mirror that swings up and out of the way so the image can be captured. That mirror movement includes a number of negative consequences, including camera vibration that can affect image sharpness and the inability to see the scene through the viewfinder during exposure. Sony has recently addressed these issues by releasing two new digital cameras that make use of a pellicle mirror. A pellicle mirror (which has been available in some film cameras previously, but never in a digital camera) splits the light projected by the lens into two streams. One is reflected upward toward the viewfinder and the other passes through the mirror to the image sensor. As a result, there’s no need for the mirror to move in order to capture an image. This removes the issue of camera vibration caused by mirror movement, enables you to view the scene through the viewfinder during exposure (even when capturing video) and makes faster shutter speeds possible, among other benefits. While the fixed mirror makes sensor cleaning a bit more challenging and causes some loss of light, the potential benefits are huge for photographers.
Tim Grey has authored over a dozen books on digital photography and imaging for photographers, including the new Real World Digital Photography, 3rd Edition. He publishes the Digital Darkroom Quarterly print newsletter and the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter. Details can be found at www.timgrey.com.
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