Canon develops Super Huge CMOS sensor

Canon announced on august 31 that they’ve developed the worlds largest CMOS sensor measuring a whopping 202 x 205 mm. Thats the beast up there to the left of a full-frame CMOS chip. Apparently this thing is so light sensitive, it is able to capture great images at just 100th of the light required by my EOS 5D Mark II full frame camera. Knowing how good a performer my camera is in this regard, its just mindblowing to think of the capabilities of a sensor this large. For instance, this sensor is able to do video at 60 frames per second at light equivalent to just 0.3 lux. That is one third the light off a single candle. At 60 FPS.

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Technology and photography

Just a few short years ago, high ISO color photography was virtually non existent. Anything above ISO 400 would mean shooting with B&W film. Some specialist ISO 800 films existed (such as Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 800), but the image quality was.. well, not good enough. The first digital cameras did not improve on this. Not only would you get a smaller image with less detail than with film, but digital noise would overcome your image, sometimes even at low ISOs, and the mantra was ‘always shoot at ISO 100’.

The game has now changed, though. As you may know.

Canon 40D with 50mm 1.4 at 1/500s f/2.5 ISO 1600

I am first and foremost a performance documentarist photographer, and today I shoot what was impossible to capture just a few years ago. Indeed, half of my work is done at ISO 1600 and above, and this is now possible to do, retaining high image fidelity and relatively low noise. Each time I buy a new DSLR body (which is not often – as I said I’m a documentarist photographer!), the evolutionary changes are very visible to me in terms of image noise and image quality, shooting the same demanding low-light work.

Now Nikon has released their new flagship low-light beast, the Nikon D3s, and I’m salivating. Lately Nikon has taken the téte for low noise at high ISO, and the Nikon D3s delivers everything you’d need in that department in a pro body, albeit at only 12MP full frame to keep the pixels large.

Robert Galbraith has done a review of this camera already in november, as he has ties with Nikon. Check out his review, with image samples comparing the D3s to Nikons former low-light king, the already very impressive Nikon D3. Keep in mind that this is a pre-release date camera, so final image quality is likely even better. He also takes a look at Nikons new AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens. Also note that the downloadable files are in AdobeRGB color space, and should be viewed in a color managed environment, such as Photoshop (you won’t see accurate colors in your browser, unless it is color managed, which is unlikely).

You can also compare the Nikon D3s to other cameras at DCResources’ Comparometer.

And here at Prophotohome comparing the D3s to Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 7D and Nikon D300.

I swear, ISO 3200 on this camera looks like ISO 100 of yesteryear. Just jawdropping high ISO performance.

I can’t wait to see some more images from this camera, performance, concerts, sports and astro… Oh, and video too!

On top of the hasty pace of hardware technology, software keeps improving as well, making revisits of old photos worthwhile. More on this soon.

More Canon 5D Mark II News: Magic Lantern firmware hack for videographers

Magic Lantern is an unofficial firmware update to the Canon 5D Mark II that enables a variety of wanted features for videography.

The firmware enables features such as: Manual audio gain (as opposed to the default auto gain), on-screen level audio meters and lower audio noise. On the picture side, you gain zebra stripes (live clipping warning), and crop screen for various motion picture formats.

This sounds promising. More hacks please!

Link

Canon 5D Mark II update: Manual Video Exposure

And speaking of the Canon 5D Mark II, canon just announced a firmware update for it, enabling manual video exposure. One of the top customer feedback points. With the new firmware, you’ll be able to select the following in video mode:

Full aperture control
ISO Speed: Auto, 100 – 6400 and H1
Shutter speed from 1/30 to 1/4000

The update will be available here on june 2nd.

Thanks for listening Canon. Now enable a choice between 24 and 30 FPS shooting, and you’ve got a winner.

Subway shorts are the new resolution charts

… Says Stu Maschwitz, visual effect wizard on films such as The Spirit, DV rebel and, as I know him, Photoshop beta tester, following a debate on Rebel Café.

Did you ever wonder what happened to Vincent Laforet’s Canon 5D Mark II? No? Well, here it is being tested again!* In a true DV rebel style subway short (the subway is at the end) made by Stu. This is probably a more realistic and down to earth test of the 5D II’s video capabilities than the far fetching eye candy of Vincent Laforets Reverie, provided you know some stuntmen, and that you ignore the fact that it really is a true master of visual effects actually filming it.

* Actually, its way unlikely to be the same-same camera, but its a loaner from Laforet in any event.

Worlds fastest camera

My Canon 40D has an impressive 6.5 second frame rate. Fast enough for the occasional animation shoot. About a year ago, I got acquainted with Casios Exilim Pro EX-F1. It can do 60 FPS in full resolution, and up to 1200 FPS in a small format (336 x 96). Today, we use this camera for rocket engine tests.

Even this speed is effectively dwarfed though, by the Steam Camera. Capturing 6 million FPS(!) @ shutter speed of 440 trillionths of a second, and, for now, comprising of only a single ‘pixel’, this detector is potentially useful for analyzing flowing blood samples in the medical field.

A quick quote from the BBC article explains a bit of the underlying science:

It works by using a fast laser pulse dispersed in space and then stretched in time and detected electronically.

So thats clear, then.

A white christmas

I apologize for the non-updates over the past few weeks, but news is slow at this time of the year, and instead of re-iterating the black-spots-on-5D-II hysteria and posting the obligatory link to Sony a900-Nikon 3dx-Canon 5DII comparisons, I’ve chosen to let Christmas peace settle on my blog.

I wish you all a very merry christmas and New Year, and I hope to serve you even better in the new year.

But, since its literally t-shirt weather in my area (Denmark), to fake a white christmas, here’s a link to Canons white papers on the new Canons (PDF).

David Michauds 5D Mark II video

Here’s another teaser video shot with a Canon 5D Mark II.

Many photographers whine about the video feature of this camera – ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ video’ – ‘Video is for consumer cams’ etc. etc.

I believe these people are in a dark hole. Stop being conservative and start being creative!

I don’t have much video experience (yet!), but I know that a video chip of this size is any videographers wet dream. Couple that with the ability to use Canon L glass and you’ve got a mean video machine, with certain shortcomings ofcourse (AF being one), but many more advantages.

David Michaud has posted a new video recorded with the 5D Mark II. Take a look.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II to ship at end of month

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II is scheduled to ship by the end of November 2008, at least in the USA, according to Chuck Westfall, Technical Advisor at Canon USA.

I dont know about you, but I’m looking forward to get my greasy hands on one of these babies.

Canon 5200mm 1:14

Speaking of lenses, here’s a real blast from the past I came by over at eBay. Not a toy, and far from inexpensive, it doesn’t even matter if you’re already shooting a Canon system, because the cost of the camera body would be infinitely insignificant in comparison…

14 lens. Camera (circled in red) not included...

The Canon 5200mm 1:14 lens. Camera (circled in red) not included...

This lens uses two aiming telescopes, just to help you focus it… Apparently it was produced in very, very low quantities in the early 60s – 1962 to be exact.

From Canons own info:

This is the only ultra-telephoto lens in the world capable of taking photographs of objects 18 to 32 miles away (30km to 52kms away). Having a focal length of 5200mm, Canon Mirror Lens 5200mm can obtain one hundred times as large an object image as that of a 50mm lens.
For focusing this mounted or fixed lens on an extremely distant object, two aiming telescopes are set on the side of the lens barrel, and the entire lens is placed on a rigid stand which rotates smoothly. Minimizing the overall length had been a big problem in designing this lens. However, the Catadioptric system that is applied to the other two Canon mirror lenses has succeeded in reducing it down to one third of the nominal focal length. In general focal length and optical aberration increase with each other, however, our long and persistent research and development have succeeded in solving this problem. Canon mirror lens 5200mm composed of spherical main and secondary mirrors and a correction lens would assure you of clear images.

First of all, the claim that this is the only telephoto lens to be able to produce a photo of an object more than 30kms away is, ofcourse, bullocks. As some of you may well know, the earth is round, and the curvature of the earth is blocking your view of anything that far away. Should you, with the help of your well-trained army of assistants, manage to point this thing upwards, you’ll no doubt be able to take some nice moon shots, but many other telephoto lenses are able to do this, even though the moon is about 385000 kms away!

Secondly, whatever chinese spying program this was part of, them now decommissioning it probably means there’s even larger and better optics available.

You know what they say about the size of ones lens…

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