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15 Years of Digital (Night) Photography

15 Years of Digital (Night) Photography

Prague 1996
Stone Bridge.. 320×240 should be big enough?

In 1995 I purchased an Apple Quicktake 100, one of the first consumer market digital cameras. It could store just 8 photos at 640×480 resolution (0.3 megapixels) on an internal 1MB EPROM. It had no LCD preview, no focus, and no zoom controls. Images were transferred via serial cable. What more would you want for $750?

At 320×240 resolution, uhhh.. 0.08 megapixels, the device could store 32 photos. Competitive with a roll of film! Sadly, I took quite a few photos in this mode. Nowadays, those same photos make nice thumbnails, or desktop icons.

QuickTake 100 at Night – Zurich

Low-light performance was poor, there were no sensor sensitivity controls, and no way to preview shots. Still, the device did manage to take some decent night photos without excessive noise. Of course, there wasn’t much opportunity to overexpose with a minimum shutter speed of just 1/30s..

iPhone4 vs. Nikon D300

iPhone4 vs. Nikon D300

iPhone4 HDR
iPhone4 HDR

Much has been written lately about the high quality of the latest iPhone’s camera, how megapixels aren’t the only metric, and how it outperforms other cell and consumer cameras.

The ability to easily take HDR and panorama shots, with zero postprocessing effort, and instantly share them, gives the iPhone4 some advantages over even the highest-end SLR’s.

Even the low-light performance has improved dramatically. With previous generation iPhones, I wouldn’t even bother to reach in my pocket unless there was an abundance of light.

Boston Common Bridge, iPhone4
Boston Common Bridge, iPhone4

It is about the software.

Despite the improvements, though, low-light continues to be one area where small, noise-sensitive sensors like the one in the iPhone have a very long way to go. They say “the best camera is the one you have with you”. If it is dark, and you aren’t far from home, then it might just be worth going to get the camera you don’t have with you.

Compare the following two photos taken on subsequent nights with the iPhone4 and Nikon D300.

Boston Common Bridge, Nikon D300
Boston Common Bridge, Nikon D300

It is impressive that the tiny phone sensor is able to resolve any image whatsoever. But, beyond the engineering marvel, the photo isn’t worth much.

The same scene was shot again, a few days later with the Nikon D300.

EyeClops BioniCam

EyeClops BioniCam

salt at 200x
table salt at 200x

Received an EyeClops BioniCam for Christmas.

Device records magnified movies/images to a removable USB stick, in FAT16, which is hence, Linux (and Mac OS X) compatible..

Manufacturer warns that “the Eyeclops is a handheld bionic microscope meant to be used as a fun toy – not as an educational aid.”

I’m no expert, but a tech gadget, particularly an electronic microscope, which is easy to use, magnifies whatever you point it at to 400x, and captures live video or photographs… that seems fun, and educational, to me..

serrated blade at 200x
serrated blade at 200x
Fowler-Hilliard Photographs

Fowler-Hilliard Photographs

Attached are some photos from a trip to Fowler-Hilliard, a 10th mountain division hut near Minturn.

I shot these pics with a Nikon D100, a 6 megapixel camera which takes SLR lenses.

The original images are 3008×2000. Click for higher detail.

Shot with a 105mm macro lense plus extension tube to allow extreme closup and high magnification. The big sphere is a dew drop on a small leaf measuring about 1/2 centimeter long. If you look closely at the surface of the droplet, you can see the faint reflection of the whole plant.

Backlit shot of an ‘Indian Paintbrush’, using the same 105mm macro lense without extension tube.


Moon at sunrise with a 300mm telephoto. Overexposing the image by several stops ‘blows out’ the details you’d normally see in the bright crescent but makes it possible to capture detail in the ‘dark’ part of the moon which is normally only faintly visible.

The hazy streak in the lower left is a lense flare.


Sunrise over the 10-mile range shot from the top of Resolution peak with a 17mm wide angle.




Indoor Panoramas

Indoor Panoramas

Indoor Equirectangular Panorama

360×180 panorama


I used a Nikon D200 and Sigma 8mm lense and hugin to assemble the image data.


sinusoidal projection

In the past, I’d used Arcsoft’s Panoramamaker. Hugin is more difficult to use, but can handle image sets and scenarios that Panoramamaker would never be able to process.


stereographic projection

The first attached image is an equirectangular projection of six circular fish-eye images shot using an 8mm Sigma lense on the Nikon D200.

The individual shots are taken facing north, south, east, west, up and down. The camera is carefully aligned so that it is rotated for each shot around the nodal point where light enters the lense, rather than around the base of the camera.

Hugin is used to set control points which interlink all six images and to optimize image alignment for position, view and barrel distortion. Finally, an equirectangular projection is generated which has a total field of view of 360×180 degrees.

Other projection types, such as sinusoidal and stereographic, were generated.

Denver Night Photography Scanned

Denver Night Photography Scanned

My father just picked up a Nikon 8000 slide/negative scanner.

The following images were shot in film and scanned with a Nikon 2000. The images are shrunk to 1/16th the size of the originals.

If you shoot with large format analog film, it is capable of scanning images at a resolution of 13,176×10,000 pixels with a bit depth of 16 bits per color channel.

That’s 791MB uncompressed per image, yet it doesn’t capture as much detail as a professional drum scanner, and doesn’t surpass the grain structure of the highest quality and lowest ASA film.

So, if you want to compete with high-end consumer grade analog equipment, digital cameras have a way to go, but that is changing fast.


Total Solar Eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse

Here’s a few pics of the event last night, shot with the D100 with 2x tele-extender + 500 mm lense.

As the moon falls into the earth’s shadow:

As the last bit of direct sunlight disappears from the moon and total eclipse occurs:

Illuminated only by ambient light and the glow of light refracted around the edges of the earth:

Mount Royal

Mount Royal

Climbed Mt. Royal this weekend. This is a small peak at the very end of the 10-mile Range above Frisco. The 10-mile range continues to the south and includes some impressive peaks including some of Colorado’s 14’ers. This particular peak is barely 10,500, but it shoots vertically up from the edge of Main St. in town, providing some nice views of the town and lake Dillon.

An extreme telephoto zoom of Jeanya, standing on the side balcony of my parent’s place below..

In the distance, you can see I70 running between Frisco and Dillon/Silverthorne..

Side-view of the summit cliff..