Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Projection Plane Photography Challenged



Digital and film are the same, at least as we know them today, and differ only in one small detail - the image capture device. Both use a lens to project an image on a planar surface and then that image is captured as a charge. In film, the charge is a precursor to a chemical reaction. In digital, the charge is a precursor to generating an electrical signal. Otherwise it's pretty much the same process, and very lens-dependent, which is why lens prices continue to climb.

And while this new technology still uses a lot of the language and technique, including lenses, that look like our familiar projection plane photography, it really has more in common with holography, or optical coherence domain reflectometry, confocal imaging, phased array imaging, synthetic aperture, and lenticular array imaging techniques brought together in a more conventional format so you can take "a picture" that is a file that can be read and reprocessed in many different ways, sometimes simultaneously.

Do not overlook this innovation, which will impact displays as well as capture devices on all of our appliances, and eventually back onto planes, such as paper. It's cool and frightening at the same time, as we enter a period of highly accelerated change, unprecedented in human history.

6 comments:

Bob Crowley said...

What will this do to the price of Aero Ektars? Should I sell mine now?

Bob Crowley said...

Fuji will have this

Bob Crowley said...

And they will have a better ad for it too. This is nonsense.

Anonymous said...

A picture is a chunk of optical reality

Anonymous said...

Well first of all I disagree with Bob. Sorry B.

Lens talk not withstanding, digital and film photography are most definitely not the same. If they were, most of us wouldn't be reading this blog, hoping and praying that Bob isn't nuts and can actually bring to market a 55 that is both practical to use, and financially available to those of us without deep pockets.

I would dare say his "one small detail" that differentiates digital and film is the whole kit and kaboodle to most artists who shun digital. I for one think digital is tawdry, easy, and produces images that are extremely boring to look at in their computer manipulated, popcorn-colored universal perfection. The only thing conventional and digital photo have in common is output to a 2 dimensional paper medium. However the journey they each take to getting there are worlds apart.

That being said, I see this new image capturing system as just a subset of digital. Looking past the oohs and ahhs of the multi-focus stuff for trade show displays and billboards, when Joe on the street outputs his family Christmas pics to paper he will still have a fixed focus, two-dimensional image that was digitally processed, chewed, and spewed, one blissful pixel at a time. Holding two identical looking prints side by side he wouldn't be able to tell which digi-wonder camera made what photo and neither would you. And whether a traditional optical lens is utilized or some sensor array seems irrelevant to me. You're still capturing light rays and bringing them together to form an image.

Is it cool technology? Sure. Will these Lyt-Doh people try to weave an irresistible buzz that lures and hypnotizes the masses like moths drawn to flame? Absolutely. Americans are insatiable consumers after all.

Would I trade my collection of large format gear and mountains of hoarded Polaroid film for any of it? Take a guess.

Bob Crowley said...

I see Ken Rockwell and others are also dismissing this without understanding its importance. The departure from focal plane image capture to field imaging, this time using lens arrays but in the future using imaging-enabled surfaces - eventually leaving the lens as we know it altogether - is a profound step in the evolution of optical image recording. Never mind that Lytro's product is so poorly directed toward lazy camera users today. It is what it shall certainly lead to, and it will change photography forever.