Tuesday, June 7, 2011

iphoneography update

It has been some time since I wrote a dedicated blog for photography from my iphone. I have been pissed off that the wi-fi mysteriously stopped working just after the 90 days for my warranty replacement 3G. This is a widespread problem that Apple has not acknowledged. Suspicious types ask if Apple is killing older devices to clear the market.

Earlier this year, I got pretty excited about taking great photographs with lousy cameras. If anything, this seems to be my modus operandi all along. The world keeps moving past me. The tiny sensor of the 3G camera has been replaced by steadily more sophisticated sensors. The 3G camera has 1200x1600 pixels; the iphone 4 has 1936x2592 pixels, remarkably the same as my Sony DSC-H1. For spec geeks like me, here is a nice post about the current iphone camera. The iPhone 5 may up the stakes to an 8mp Sony CMOS sensor (rumor). I’ll probably be the last guy to get it. (I think Sony makes the CMOS sensor in my Nikon D5000, too.)

My issue, aside from being a starving artist, is that I simply cannot keep up with the pace of change in tech devices. I don’t think it is that important, either. Something as trivial as a two year contract and a steep monthly data fee is what keeps me on the cheap and shooting with my iphone 3G.
Owle Bubo with 52mm filter, Andrew D. Barron©6/7/11
I enjoy shooting with the Hipstamatic. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that it is very well mated with the Owle Bubo. Here is why: the Bubo’s wide angle optics are rather distorted on the wide edges, yet the square Hipstamatic image format clips off much of this distorted portion. Thus, you get a much wider field of view, or at least more options. The Hipstamatic camera does a good job of cloaking certain lousy color and noise characteristics of the 3G camera. So I almost never shoot with the straight camera app, unless to do a photo merge of three vertical images (explored fully here. That brings me to the distortion of the wide angle lens of the Bubo. I have not been able to merge three images shot through the wide angle adapter. The sturdy mount of the Owle Bubo is definitely for camera dorks like me. The stability of the camera is improved substantially which helps eek out the slightest bit of improved sharpness from the pixel-challenged iphone 3G. The old familiar problem of ‘camera shake’ is greatly reduced.

One shouldn’t expect sharpness from a wide angle lens adapter unless you are in the big bucks ‘real camera’ world. My only other experience with a wide angle adapter was for my ’05 Sony. I was lucky to recoup some expenses from that woefully dull wide angle adapter, the VCL-DH0758. In early 2010, I put that lens through some final field tests, feeling that ultimately it was not sharp and really exaggerated the H1’s purple fringing (or chromatic aberration).
Reno thrift store, Andrew D. Barron©6/4/11
While thrift store shopping, I got a red filter and a yellow filter. These thread onto the wide angle portion of the lens; the Owle Bubo has 49mm threads, and somewhere I picked up a 49->52mm step up ring.
Owle Bubo with 52mm filter, Andrew D. Barron©6/7/11
I thought it would be an improvement for black and white photography and to a certain extent it is. There are things I just don’t understand about the 3g camera, such as what the aperture is, how ISO varies, and how the exposure time is determined. These details are not reported in the EXIF information of this old camera phone. With the yellow filter on, I got some very provocative images using a great free camera app called Vint B&W, written by Erik Pettersson. It still surprises me that images like these can be captured with a 3 year old smart phone. That surprise keeps me shooting with it. Below, three with my sturdy Vivitar yellow No. 8 (K2) filter on.
Red Rocks California, Andrew D. Barron©6/5/11
Red Rocks California, Andrew D. Barron©6/5/11
Red Rocks California, Andrew D. Barron©6/5/11
A one trick kind of thing I guess. I do some stuff to the images, too. For these, I ran NeatImage to remove some noise, then applied an Unsharp Mask to the Lightness channel, at 105%, 1 pixel radius, 0 threshold level. I often run unsharp mask prior to downsampling my photographs when they are headed for this blog. I use it sparingly for prints. There is quite a dance between removing noise and adding sharpness. I tend to waste my time driving around taking pictures or writing these decidedly profitless blogs.

Here is a Hipstamtic take on the middle scene imaged above, using Claunch 72 film and a yellow filter over the Owle Bubo.
Red Rocks California, Andrew D. Barron©6/5/11
Color filters are primarily used in black and white photography. I have three black and white options on the Hipstamatic: BlacKeys b+w, BlacKeys Supergrain, and Claunch 72. There may be more by now, but sadly, as stated above, the downfall of the ‘in-app wonder’ is that I am unable to add to my Hipstamatic 190 with a dead wi-fi. With the filter on, the camera has a difficult time exposing. They come out dark, making me think the metering on the 3G camera is not measured at all. There may be only a couple of fixed settings. Ah, the mysteries of obsolete technology.
Red Rocks California, Andrew D. Barron©6/5/11
There are various ways to consider photography with a phone. To many, paying for an app is stupid, even if it is $5. I find the Hipstamatic worth paying for the ad-free app. The Instagram is gaining quite a reputation, but I am unable to try it because it requires a login to the internet to use it. Really? Oh well.

To many folks, buying the Owle Bubo is an absurd thing to do. For the money, one could get a much better camera. To each his own.

If I had just one black and white film in the Hipstamatic, it would be BlacKeys b+w. I like that it leaves a little color in the image.
Van, Hallelujah Junction California, Andrew D. Barron©6/5/11
I will keep trying the filters over the Owle Bubo lens and find what works and when. With a yellow filter on over BlacKeys Supergrain, the photograph was not exposed well, but fixed up acceptably in photoshop.
Red Rocks California, Andrew D. Barron©6/5/11
My blogs often contain photos from the Hipstamatic because it is just one of several types of photographs I take. For reference, here are a few of the more focused iphoneography entries I’ve written over the last year:
01.22.2011 : Hipstamatic walkabout (most substantial entry)
01.07.2011 : Hipstamatic Hike
01.03.2011 : Three in row
12.31.2010 : Pistil Thursday / All Night / Sunrise
12.09.2010 : Hipstamatic
12.04.2010 : Photomerge / iPhone / Humbug Photomerge
06.12.2010 : Juneuary becomes June
08.13.2009 : Walkin’ Through The Days (so differently)

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