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Sony Creates Groundbreaking Backlit CMOS Sensor with Global Shutter
Sony just announced a groundbreaking development in the world of camera image sensors: it has created a 1.46-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor that has global shutter. This is the first-ever CMOS sensor of over 1MP that has both back-illumination and global shutter.
Backside illumination (BSI) is an image sensor design that uses its arrangement of imaging elements to increase the amount of light that’s captured, leading to improved low-light performance. While this type of design was previously used for things like astro cameras and security cameras, it has become a prominent technology in consumer still photography cameras.
Those BSI CMOS sensors are all rolling shutters, though, which means the pixels in a photo aren’t all captured at exactly the same time but are instead captured by scanning across the scene very rapidly row-by-row. While this can produce identical results in most cases, it does cause distortions when the camera or subjects are moving rapidly during exposure.
Sony’s newly developed sensor is a BSI sensor that has a global shutter function, allowing every single pixel in the frame to be captured at exactly the same time. Here’s an excerpt of the company’s technical explanation of its breakthrough design:
The new Sony sensor comes with newly developed low-current, compact A/D converters positioned beneath each pixel. These A/D converters instantly convert the analog signal from all the simultaneously exposed pixels in parallel to a digital signal to temporarily store it in digital memory. This architecture eliminates focal plane distortion due to readout time shift, making it possible to provide a Global Shutter function […]
To achieve the parallel A/D conversion for all pixels, Sony has developed a technology which makes it possible to include approximately three million Cu-Cu (copper-copper) connections in one sensor. The Cu-Cu connection provides electrical continuity between the pixel and logic substrate, while securing space for implementing as many as 1.46 million A/D converters, the same number as the effective megapixels, as well as the digital memory.
Here’s a sample photo Sony captured with the new sensor (notice how the spinning fan blades don’t exhibit any rolling shutter distortion):
RED and Foxconn Team Up to Make 8K Cameras at 1/3 the Price
Cinema camera maker RED and Foxconn (best known for manufacturing the iPhone) have announced that they’re teaming up to create affordable professional-grade cinema cameras for the general public.
Nikkei reports that the two companies are aiming to slash both price tags and the physical size of cameras.
“We will make cameras that will shoot professional-quality films in 8K resolution but at only a third of current prices and a third of current camera sizes,” says Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou. RED’s cameras are popular in the filmmaking industry but cost upwards of $30,000.
Foxconn manufactured an estimated 40% of all consumer electronics sold worldwide in 2012, and in addition to the iPhone, it manufactures well-known products like the Kindle, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, PlayStation, and Xbox. Apple’s products account for over half of its sales, though, and Foxconn is working to reduce its dependence on Apple by branching out to new segments, Nikkei reports.
Photographer Accidentally Captures SpaceX Falcon Heavy Exhaust Plume
Photographer Reuben Wu was at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona last week shooting photos for his gorgeous Lux Noctis project (landscapes at night illuminated by drone-mounted LEDs) when he captured something unexpected: the exhaust plume of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket that launched during the day.
“I managed to capture the dissipating exhaust plume of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy as it left the Earth’s atmosphere,” Wu tells PetaPixel. “Had no idea it was launching that night so it was a tremendous surprise to see it fly into my shot.”
The Falcon Heavy was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, during the day, so you may be wondering how this exhaust plume sneaked into Wu’s shot at night.
“This was the final burn which took place 6 hours after launch around 7:30 pm (I always wait until dark before I make these pictures),” Wu says. “The second stage had 3 separate burns: the first just after launch (about 8 mins in) then it shut down, coasted for an amount of time, re-lit and burned again for a short while to alter the orbit. Then it shut down and then, six hours later it re-lit a third time for solar orbital insertion.
“I was puzzled by the same thing and had to ask a friend!”
Here’s the same solar orbit insertion burn as seen from the MMT Observatory on Mt. Hopkins, Arizona:
“At first when I clocked the rocket it looked like an usually bright and fast moving satellite (or missile) which had a glowing haze around it as if it were shining through cloud (it was a very clear night), but then the haze rapidly expanded into the final exhaust plume and then dissipated as Starman left the planet’s atmosphere,” Wu says.
Bloomberg reports that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation into a helicopter crash that occurred on Daniel Island in South Carolina on Wednesday.
A student pilot and instructor were flying the Robinson Helicopter Co. R22 helicopter at around 2 pm when “a white ‘DJI Phantom quad-copter drone” appeared and flew into their airspace, says a Charleston Police Department report. The instructor grabbed the controls and attempted to avoid the drone, but the tail of the helicopter clipped a tree, causing a crash landing on its side.
Both the student and the pilot escaped the incident without injuries, but the helicopter’s tail was “significantly damaged” and the aircraft was totaled, The Post and Courier reports.
“The NTSB is aware of the pilot’s report that he was maneuvering to avoid a drone, but the NTSB has not yet been able to independently verify that information,” says NTSB spokesman Chris O’Neil.
“DJI is trying to learn more about this incident and stands ready to assist investigators,” DJI says in a statement. “While we cannot comment on what may have happened here, DJI is the industry leader in developing educational and technological solutions to help drone pilots steer clear of traditional aircraft.”
Authorities have not been able to locate the drone or identify its owner.
Do Photojournalism Contests Glamorize Pain and Suffering?
In a break from the past, World Press Photo (WPP) released the short list of finalists in advance of naming the winners to their annual contest – arguably the most prestigious in all of photojournalism. The photos are remarkable for their composition, exposure, and intimacy. But judging by the subject matter one might surmise that we’re living in a hellish dystopia, or that the jury believes pain and suffering is the most valid form of photojournalism.
A more nuanced look at all the finalists reveals a broader range of subject matter, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the Photo of the Year candidates have an obvious and often despair-laden quality to them (as do many photojournalism contests).
The tendency to value these types of scenes and subject matter made the 2014 selection of John Stanmeyer’s photo all the more startling. In contrast to most years, Stanmeyer’s photo of migrants in Djibouti trying to catch cheaper cell signals from neighboring Somalia depicted an everyday struggle of strangers in a strange land without relying on bloodshed or violence.
This matters because awarding the industry’s top prize to fire and brimstone images flies in the face of the actual trend of improving conditions around the world (if Bill Gates and Steven Pinker are to be believed).
Most contests provide very little guidance to their juries, which tend to rotate annually. Consistency or a longitudinal vision for a contest’s raison d’être are typically not a part of a jury’s purview. Juries are therefore likely to conform to their “brand perception” of a given contest.
Jurist Thomas Borberg said in a WPP-produced video that “You have to be able to feel a World Press Photo in your stomach. If not, it’s not a World Press Photo.” Given this position, it’s not surprising that violent images are the ones that provoke stomach churning reactions.
Media reinforces and shapes public perception whether intended or not. And the same photos and photographers tend to win multiple awards in a given year, thus generations of photojournalists are led to believe that contest-worthy images must conform to a certain look-and-feel. This isn’t just conjecture. A well-known documentary photography who eschews photo contests told me in response to the WPP images, “Disaster porn photojournalism is corrosive to that idea by constantly saturating our media world with the message that the world is hell and never gets any better. Therefore, the logic goes, things like foreign aid are a waste and trying to help places like Africa is doomed to unending failure.”
Why do the final photos have to be of a man on fire or legs beneath a body bag? Why not the world’s largest lithium-ion battery that solved an energy crisis in Australia? Why not a portrait of Tarana Burke? Are these images not salacious enough for a contest-sized appetite?
Contests (and portfolio reviews) are, for better or worse, efficient mechanisms for photographers to market themselves. This isn’t a clarion call for the elimination of either. But photographers, photo editors and contest organizers might reconsider how the selection of winners forms its own narrative of the world, and whether this narrow distillation creates a restricted and distorted view of reality.
About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.
Image credits: Header photo by Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse
Fireworks Shot Up-Close by a Drone and Played in Reverse
This is awesome: Perfect_Tz flew a DJI Phantom 4 Pro camera drone through fireworks in Yunnan, China, reversed some of the footage, and set it to music. What resulted is this mesmerizing 3-minute short film titled, “Fireworks From Above.”
The film was made to celebrate the Chinese Near Year — today is the first day of The Year of the Dog.
ProGrade Digital: A New Memory Card Brand by Ex-Lexar Execs
Say hello to ProGrade Digital, a new brand of pro-grade memory cards and card readers for photographers. The company was founded by former Lexar executives who are aiming to offer the highest quality memory cards on the market.
A group of former Lexar executives has now banded together to compete against the likes of SanDisk and Lexar in the camera storage space. The founding leadership team all held managerial or technical leadership positions at Lexar and have over 60 years of combined experience in the memory card niche.
“Leveraging its experience and industry relationships, the team will focus exclusively on developing and marketing memory cards, card readers and software optimized for use within professional cinema and photography markets,” ProGrade Digital says.
“Our goal is to be the professional’s source for top performing, professional grade memory cards and workflow solutions,” says founder and CEO Wes Brewer. “We will be committed to focusing our efforts on the digital imaging pro who is meticulous about his equipment and workflow-delivering the best service, plus best product quality and reliability.”
The company will start out with lines of CFast 2.0 (550MB/sec) and SDXC UHS-II (200MB/sec) cards at pro-level capacities. The controllers in the cards are optimized for pro-grade cameras, and each card will undergo rigorous full-card testing (component-level down to individual memory chips) for “the highest quality control.”
Each card will also ship with a 3-year warranty when they hit store shelves later this month through the company website, B&H, and Amazon.
The CFast 2.0 cards will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities for $230, $350, and $700, respectively.
The SDXC UHS-II cards will be available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities for $55, $95, and $190, respectively.
Memory Card Reader
The ProGrade Digital memory card reader features dual slots for both CFast and SDXC, and it uses USB 3.0 Gen 2 for transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/second. You’ll be able to multi-task thanks to the fact that the reader supports full-speed data flow concurrently from cards in each slot.
Each reader comes with two 18-inch-long cables (a Type A to Type C cable and a Type C to Type C cable) and a 2-year warranty.
The small percentage of users who have the warning feature activated during this test can see everyone who screenshotted their story by opening up the list of story viewers and looking for the new camera shutter icon next to usernames.
TechCrunch confirmed the existence of this new feature being tested with Instagram, which stated that, “we are always testing ways to improve the experience on Instagram and make it easier to share any moment with the people who matter to you.”
“To be clear, creators won’t get a specific notification when someone takes a screenshot of their story, it will only show up in their list of story viewers,” TechCrunch writes. “Instagram is likely using this test to see if the feature has any noticeable impact on engagement, before deciding whether or not they’ll roll it out to all users.”
Instagram also currently notifies all users when someone snaps a screenshot of a private direct message.
Lensbaby Unveils the Burnside 35, the First Wide-Angle Petzval Lens
Lensbaby has announced the new Burnside 35, a creative 35mm f/2.8 lens that’s the first-ever wide-angle adaptation of the Petzval lens design.
Photos captured with the Burnside 35 have a bright central area of sharp focus and “striking” color rendition. This area is surrounded by a region of swirling bokeh and vignetting, which is variable and controlled by the photographer.
An effect slider on the lens operates as a second internal 8-blade iris, changing the shape and intensity of the swirl in the bokeh while controlling the brightness of the center and vignetting on the edges.
“You can toggle the gold-anodized effect slider on the barrel of the lens to create variable balance and harmony between center brightness, bokeh and vignette,” Lensbaby says. “The effect slider features a four-stop range of vignette and bokeh enhancement so you can dial in the exact look that appeals to you.”
Other specs and features of the Burnside 35 include a 6-blade main aperture, a minimum focusing distance of 6 inches (~15cm), a 62mm filter thread, manual focusing, a weight of 13.2oz (~374g), and 6 multi-coated glass elements in 4 groups.
Here are some sample photos captured with the Burnside 35 that show the effect:
Lensbaby started its history with plastic, tilting, selective-focus lenses, but in recent years the company has been branching out into all-metal, non-tilting lenses (such as the Velvet 56mm f/1.6 and Velvet 85mm f/1.8.