Sunday, August 23, 2009

Smart Cameras

Powerful processors and advanced technology give today’s digital cameras some remarkable features
By Mike Stensvold Published in SLRs
Smart Cameras
Olympus was the first to introduce Live View operation in the E-330. The new E-P1 includes this capability and leverages it for cool features like in-camera multiple exposures


Styles basically provide the digital photographer with the ability to "change films" to get a different look ideally suited to a specific photo situation. Canon calls these Picture Styles, Nikon calls them Picture Controls, Olympus calls them Picture Modes, Pentax calls them Custom Images, and Sony calls them Creative Styles. Basically, these provide a number of presets, such as Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Monochrome (black-and-white) and more. You can then, if desired, fine-tune the sharpness, saturation, contrast and color tone. For monochrome images, you can apply colored-filter effects and tone the images sepia, blue and other hues. You can even create your own styles, save them and recall them when desired.

Compacts and D-SLRs Share Processors?

You may notice that some compact digital cameras seem to use the same image processors as their manufacturers' D-SLRs. For example, some of Canon's newer PowerShot compact models feature the company's latest DIGIC 4 processor, as do the EOS 50D, EOS 5D Mark II and EOS Rebel T1i D-SLRs. Canon tells us that in its case, it's indeed the same processor hardware, but the programming is unique to each camera model.

In the case of other brands, the processor itself may vary from camera model to camera model. Nikon's recent digital cameras employ the company's EXPEED processing system, tailored to the needs of each specific camera model. Likewise, Sony's Bionz system used on its D-SLRs and most Cyber-shot compacts is optimized to each camera model's specific features and needs. Pentax's PRIME processing is found only in its D-SLRs. In any event, you can rest assured that each new D-SLR and compact digital camera has a processor and processing system optimized for its specific needs and users.

Built-in Special Effects

A number of entry-level and midrange D-SLRs offer built-in special effects. For example, Nikon's new D5000 lets you apply fisheye, color outline, color intensifiers, cross-screen (starburst) and soft effects to already-shot images in-camera. Olympus' E-30 lets you apply six Art Filters as you shoot, checking them on the Live View monitor. The company's new E-P1 lets you apply the Art Filters in still and HD video mode. Both also let you display a previously shot image on the Live View LCD monitor and use it as a guide to position a second image over it—handy for placing a telephoto moon in a nighttime landscape image, for example.

Panoramic Capability

Software that makes it easy to stitch several digital images into a wide panorama has been around for quite some time. But now there are cameras that have this ability built-in. For example, with the Sweep Panorama mode in Sony's DSC-HX1 compact, you press the shutter button and move the camera horizontally or vertically. The camera will shoot continuously at high speed and then seamlessly stitch the images together. This is another part of a trend of incorporating features into cameras that previously could be done only after the fact via software.

High-Speed Shooting

Some pro SLRs have always been able to shoot rapid sequences, great for sports-action. Now, even some point-and-shoots offer such capability. In fact, some can outdo the best SLRs. For example, Casio's Exilim EX-F1 can shoot 6-megapixel still images at up to 60 fps and video at up to 1200 fps, with a top shutter speed of 1?40,000 sec.!

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