I was at Safeco Field on May 20th watching a baseball game between San Diego and Seattle. In addition to peanuts, cracker jacks, and Ichirolls, I thought that Safeco might a good venue for an HD View. So, I was carrying my Canon 20D and 100-400 zoom lens. Seeing the Space Needle out past center field did inspire me to shoot off a set of 26 8MPix images. I stitched the images using the MSR Image Stitcher and produced a 145MPix HD View. The result is OK, but I was disappointed with parts of it.
For example in box 1, the roof supports are nicely in focus, but the back ground isn’t
While in box 2, the interesting details in the roof structure are lost. I tried to revive the shadows in Adobe Camera Raw but the dynamic range is just too large:
Finally the result has jagged edges at the bottom where I missed the capture of the last bits of this HD View.
You could blame all of these things on the photographer, but I’m going to pick on the camera. The 20D is a great camera, I’ve taken many of my favorite pictures with it. However,I wish it and other cameras had a ‘capture everything’ mode. Sometimes I want to capture all of the detail present in a scene, and often there is more detail than can be captured in a single snap shot. Today there are good software solutions for merging focus bracketed images (CombineZM, Photomontage), merging exposure bracketed images for high dynamic range(Photoshop CS2, Photomatix), and stitching panoramas (Autopano, PTGui). However I don’t think any camera available today is an ideal front-end for this software. Yes most cameras today have exposure bracketing, some even have auto focus bracketing (Canon Powershot G6) and there are various stitch assist features available (HP, Canon). But no camera puts all of this together into a good ‘capture everything’ mode.
What I want is that the camera automatically makes the right choices. When it’s pointed at a scene that has a large variation in depth, it should automatically fire off multiple shots focused at those depths. Similarly when the dynamic range is too great, the camera should shoot multiple exposures. Finally the camera should be image-merging aware, so that I can preview my composition in the camera to make sure I’ve captured everything. These are fairly straight-forward features to add to a digital camera, I’d guess that many models could even add this as a firmware update.
Of course there are times where merging multiple photos isn’t appropriate, like action shots or portrait photography. But, there are many cases where I want the camera to sample as much of the scene as possible and let me defer the final picture making to later. It’s time to stop thinking about the camera as a tool to capture a single snapshot or single moment in time. Camera designers should also endeavor to build cameras that capture the entire scene and this may require working well with post production software. As more of the picture making process moves into software, I’d like to see cameras that work better with the state of the art software that is available today.