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Hey Nikon, Canon: I Want The Ability Run Apps on My DSLR!

December 5th, 2010

I was watching a live.twit.tv re-run this morning and Leo Laporte was ranting about a new App he was using that creates 360 cylindrical panoramas on the fly as you pan your iPhone around. As a long time 360 image hacker that has spent 100s of hours stitching 360 images, I couldn’t help myself. I blew 99 cents on the app to try it out. Wow, I want this app in my Canon 5DMkII, not my iPhone!

I know, in-camera panorama stitching isn’t anything new. HP point and shoot cameras have had in camera stitching for several years and the new Sony A55 has it. Probably many others too. In any case,  this little app by Occipital is really interesting. Here are a couple of panos that I stitched:

  1. One of my living room –  This one is just one 360 degree rotation so it doesn’t have the maximum possible vertical field of view that the is possible with the app. You have to move much slower when inside with the low light level and of coarse the windows are all blown out. Also it doesn’t do such a good job of stitching the beginning and end together, probably because I wasn’t rotating around the lens entrance pupil like you have to, to get a good stitch.
  2. One in front of my house – This one is three complete rotations, one to get the center row, another to get the area above the center rotation, and a third to get the lower area. Again, there are a lot of stitching errors.

Yea, no doubt about it these are crappy looking 360s by anyone’s standards. But they aren’t all that much worse than the first time I shot a handheld pano with my Canon and Sigma 8mm fish eye. Most of the stitching errors and artifacts are from the way I moved the camera.  With practice you can train yourself to rotate smoothly around the entrance pupil. I’m out of practice. I can imagine a little mono pod attachment that would help out a lot. Sure a tripod would fix the errors too but who wants to carry one around. Also, much of the poor quality is that these were shot with a iPhone 3Gs.

To me the significant thing that this little app gives you a hint of what it would be like if camera manufacturers realized that if they built a operating system in their DSLRs that would run apps anyone could write instead of thinking that they can code every DSLR feature themselves. We already have pretty big processors and large LCD screens on our DSLRs. All we need is Wifi access and Android or IOS on them and people can start writing apps. Wait a minute, maybe a faster route to get apps on my DSLR is to convince SmartPhone manufacturers to put lens mounts on their SmartPhones.

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3 Responses to “Hey Nikon, Canon: I Want The Ability Run Apps on My DSLR!”

  • Cool panos!

    Once we start seeing some high-end point & shoot capabilities on the iPhone or Android phones you will have your wish. I for one won’t hold my breath for leadership from Canon or Nikon on the whole idea of an App driven DSLR.

  • I got super in to my iPhone and iPhoneography… I have about 50+ photo applications currently on my cell phone. I have downloaded almost every significant photo program made.

    I have the one you talked about along with every other auto stitching program. Autostitch is the only one that is worth a damn. All it does it batch together a bunch of single images in to a panorama. It works wells…. but it feels no more different then using a camera and taking the photos to a computer to process them with Photoshop. I even have a little mobile panorama head that keeps the lens over the center of the pivot point.

    Personally I would not want the applications to be in my phone. I think it produces lower quality work in the long run. It becomes about instant gratification. Think about how many people consider them self a better photographer with an iPhone and those stupid applications (Hipstamatic).

    What would happen if we put applications that made it as easy to create a panorama on a NikonD70000 as it is on my iPhone? My guess is the agents would buy the expense camera, and make crappy panoramas using the in camera software. I would loose buisness because for them they would believe the quality is good enough. Even though a true professional would probably be able to pick apart their work instantly.

    The last thing I generally want is to make it easier for normal people to take better photographs. Sounds selfish but it is my bread and butter. If the cameras, programs, apps, and everything else become automated enough that an average person can create better photos it makes my life much much much harder.

    I always say what other profession do you know of that people go around calling them selves one of? You can’t be a doctor, mail man, TV repairman, without being hired, trained, getting schooling, or getting an extremely lucky break in life. On the other hand though anyone can pick up a camera hold it to their eye and call themselves a photographer.

    Back to the iPhone. Most images that I end up printing I run though Photoshop to tweak. The only time I ever only use the iPhone software is when I want to prove that is was shot, processed, and printed from the iPhone with no computer interaction. I suspect if you add a similar program to my Nikon I will still end up going through and using Photoshop to do any of the editing.

    For me proof of that can be seen in the NikonD7000 and how I use it. It has a large filter, and effect processor built in the the camera. I love to do fake tilt-shift images for fun and the new NikonD7000 has a automated Miniaturizing Tilt-shift effect. I used it once… now I go back and use Photoshop to do the process. I don’t use any of the current in camera filters, color correcting, or anything.

    I think apps are a fad. They are everywhere now. Phones, TV, Computer, Bluetooth Headsets. I hope our cameras don’t get infected too. When I think about the future of cameras I tend to always step back to a lecture I sat through about 3 years ago. Check out the Plenoptic Camera. http://graphics.stanford.edu/papers/lfcamera/

  • “The last thing I generally want is to make it easier for normal people to take better photographs. Sounds selfish but it is my bread and butter. If the cameras, programs, apps, and everything else become automated enough that an average person can create better photos it makes my life much much much harder.”

    No offense Robert but if the bread and butter of your business plan relies upon the general public’s access (or lack thereof) to technology then your business is going to fail. Whenever I hear a photographer (especially a real estate photographer) say stuff like the above I can’t help but wonder if they recognize the absurd irony of such statements. Let’s face it, you and I simply would not be in business had it not been for new technologies and inexpensive digital cameras.

    Back on topic – Thom Hogan’s thoughts on camera design, technology and the future of digital cameras are a must read.

    I don’t know about the usefulness of a full blown app OS like an iPhone or a Droid phone but I would like to see camera makers make their firmware more accessible to third party developers. Trammell Hudson and his Magic Lantern firmware for the Canon 5DmkII single-handedly changed the face of DSLR filmmaking and made Canon really the only choice in the game. That was one guy working on his own for no money. Just imagine what others could do if Canon or Nikon allowed access and developed an SDK for their cameras. Sadly, I think it’s going to happen any time soon.

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