The Digital Age

I love my cameras. From film through early digital models to now the Canon EOS 80D, I have always enjoyed photography. And I love the possibilities in today’s digital cameras.

SLR / DSLR

SLR denotes a “single lens reflex” camera (or “digital single lens reflex”). This camera uses a mirror and prism setup that allows the user to look through a viewfinder and see exactly what the lens is going to capture. (Mirror = “reflex,” as in reflection.) Some cameras now feed that information to a display screen, in lieu of a viewfinder, while others may have both. I’ve always preferred the viewfinder.

With digital cameras, we’re finding there’s really no need for a mirror, since images are captured as pixels. This digital information can be fed directly from the sensor to either a display or “viewfinder,” without the need for the middleman mirror. Thus, we are now seeing more and more “mirrorless” cameras. This also removes the extra moving parts involved.

SLRs are known for their “bokeh” (boe-kay), which is that lovely blur to the background of a photograph. Compare this with a modern cellphone, which wants to have EVERYTHING in sharp focus, all throughout the image. Digitals can do that and, indeed, they want to do that by default. An SLR usually focuses on one element of the photo, with everything else blurred out according to distance. Often, this blur (bokeh) is desired, as in headshots or having the subject stand out from the background. SLRs are often rated as to the beauty of their bokeh.

Today I’m using the HTC U12+, an amazing cellphone with one of the top-ranked cameras onboard. No question, it takes wonderful photos in a variety of settings:
1:1 (9MP)
4:3 (12MP)
16:9 (9MP)
18:9 (8MP)

As example, the 16:9 image will fit the normal High-Def TV screen. The 18:9 version fills the U12+ display, which has a slightly wider (or taller) aspect. The 4:3 is more square, sort of like the old television screens.

Here’s a sample from the U12+, a photo of the produce section at the local grocery store. Click here for a larger version (1920×1080).

As you can see, the camera wants to keep everything in focus, from the red peppers up front to the cut flowers way back yonder. It’s a lovely image, if you want everything in focus.

But set the camera to the 4:3 aspect and hit the Bokeh Button, and you can now focus on anything you want and have the background blurred out. In fact, you can control HOW MUCH blur the camera gets. This is wonderful! Now we’re taking photographs! Click here if you want to see the HUGE original, right from the phone.

But wait, there’s more.

AFTER YOU TAKE THE SHOT, you can use the onboard Bokeh Mode Editor to “change your mind.” Maybe you don’t want the foreground in focus, you can CHANGE THE FOCUS POINT to anything else in the photo! AND you can again dictate how much or how little blur there is in the image. AFTER you take the shot.

The red fire hydrant is in focus, the white car in the background is blurred. Simply tapping on the car brings it into sharp focus, while applying a foreground blur to the hydrant. Or, if I want, I can have BOTH in sharp focus or both blurred (though, why would I?).

This is what digital photography does for us. The camera captures millions of pixels, and knows which pixels are sharp, which are blurred. And it can change them at any time.

Pretty soon, it will be impossible to take a bad photograph. But I’ll keep trying!

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