AI is everywhere, and cameras are no different. Whilst the high-end DSLR cameras focus on RAW photography, more digital devices such as smartphones tend to focus more on the software side of photography, given their limited lens capacities.
As a result, computer vision solution has become a point of increasing competition, with the likes of the Pixel 6 competing against some of the flagship Samsungs and iPhones despite having weaker hardware. The same goes for smart action cameras, like GoPro, which have an array of brilliant features and software to optimize their limited hardware.
Automatic settings were one of the first steps toward smart cameras. Even DSLRs will have Auto modes on them which will decide on a set of settings based on the combination of inputs from its sensors. For example, taking multiple pictures in dark environments and then stitching them together.
Asking the user if they want this exact setting each and every time they take a picture is likely to not only be an inconvenience but produce worse results due to uneducated, nonoptimal decision-making. Though, this depends on the use case of the hardware and its target audience
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AI in Computation photography
The Pixel 6 has shown just how far AI has come when it comes to smartphone photography. When a picture is taken, if you’re fast enough to view it afterward you will see a processing loading sign, and then the image will change a second later. This is because Google’s software is leveraging AI to automatically edit after the picture has been taken.
This is known as computational photography. One incredible example is the ability to “Photoshop” out an object in which the phone will predict what the background would be. So, instead of complex editing, you simply highlight a person or object in the background and it will make them vanish from the image. Whilst not perfect, as machine learning becomes more sophisticated, the results seem to be improving as time goes on.
This also goes for simulating the bokeh. Nowadays, many phones have a portrait mode in which the aperture is stepped up to make the depth of field narrow. However, this is only a phone camera, and much of the background blurring is simulated in the automatic editing.
A big part of photography is in taking either long exposure photographs or multiple pictures in a given location. However, even when using a tripod, clicking on the camera to take the picture can slightly move the lens, ruining the rest of the photograph(s). To get around this, remotes are used, but voice-activated actions could be a lower-cost alternative given that microphones are commonly built-in.
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Always a manual mode
Regardless of how intelligent smart cameras become and the software that accompanies them, manual mode is always a must. Many people think they do know better, or perhaps, they don’t want the conventionally “optimal” picture but rather an artistically creative version of it, perhaps overexposed on purposed, for example.
As we head into the future in an age of filters and greenscreens, the potential for the software and computational side of photography is exponential in its capacity and far more exciting than the inevitable linear development of hardware.