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Friday, January 26, 2007

Beyond Megapixels

Today's camera manufacturers are thinking about more than pixels

"Image processing plays a big role," says Fujifilm's LaGuardia. "Someone said that image processing is the 'secret sauce' for every manufacturer. It's that image processing that helps produce the color and the effects that make each digital camera, each manufacturer unique to itself."

Such processing allows the camera to take full advantage of the data recorded by the image sensor, as in the example given by LaGuardia of the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro, which utilizes its sensor's expanded dynamic range to simulate the color and tones of negative and slide films.

Whether photographers want the camera to handle everything automatically or desire to maintain complete control, today's cameras are designed to provide the best of both worlds.

"Photographers who don't want to spend a lot of time in front of the computer influenced one of the design concepts behind the Nikon D70," explains Heiner. "The D70 produces in-camera the kind of colors people expect in their photographs. In the case of the consumer camera, we want it to be as good as it can possibly be so the consumer can go directly to the printer and get the best results.

"If it's a professional, we want to give them the most versatility possible by offering them the NEF file [Nikon's version of RAW] that gives them all sorts of image-processing options, but maintains the integrity of the original file."

The concept behind many of today's digital cameras, particularly SLRs, is to make a camera that can automatically produce images with excellent color, tonality and exposure that lead to an efficient and speedy workflow. They're also being designed with controls and features, including RAW, that offer photographers total control.

"It really depends on the photographer and the type of imaging that's being done," says Canon's Westfall, explaining the choice between RAW and JPEG. "For example, photojournalism and sports photography is heavily based on a JPEG workflow for speed, whereas commercial studio photography relies on RAW files for quality."

"The workflow is constantly changing" says Olympus' Knaur. "It was once simply about downloading. Now RAW is like developing film and prints during the old darkroom days. RAW allows you to tweak your digital negative to a much higher level for a much greater use. It has made it all much faster and more reliable to produce a higher percentage of better pictures."




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