Even My Dog Will Be Able to Shoot Like Henri Cartier-Bresson

Convergence, Lytro and Thoughts About New Technology and Capturing the “Decisive Moment”

 

red epic

Red Epic from Red Digital Cinema

If my dog could hold a camera and press the shutter-release, she would still have a hard time shooting as well as Henri, but when you take a close look at some of the photography innovations headed our way, you have to wonder…

I was reading in the New York Times on Tuesday about the Lytro camera that is under development by a small Silicon Valley start-up created by 31 year old Ren Ng. If you haven’t heard about the Lytro yet, it is a camera that captures enough light data from different angles to let the user adjust the focus in software to any point in the captured image after it is taken. Put more simply, it means that the photographer doesn’t have to worry about focus, since the focus can be adjusted later. Not only does this alleviate the stress of capturing sharp images, it opens up a world of creative possibilities that the photographer can control in post production. Consider matching this technology with a video camera like the Red Epic.

If you are not familiar with the Red, it’s a modular camera designed for shooting digital cinema. The Red can shoot at very high frame rates for super slow motion, at a resolution that is about five times that of 1080p HD video, and at shutter speeds that are fast enough to freeze the motion in every frame captured. With these capabilities the video camera can capture incredibly sharp images for every frame of video. Heck, who needs a Red, the first video capable DSLR, the Canon 5D Mark II, can capture High Definition video at 1080p at a shutter speed that is fast enough so that any frame pulled from the video will make a sharp still image.

Now forget about all this technology for a minute. Let’s think about one of the critical aspects of capturing still photographs, and that’s timing, or in the words of the great photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, capturing “The Decisive Moment”. Knowing when to press the shutter release on a camera to capture the “decisive moment” can take years of practice. If you look at the work of Cartier-Bresson, you would swear that he could see into the future, because of his uncanny skill of knowing exactly when to press the shutter release.

Now imagine owning a Lytro/Red camera of the future. You have a client who wants you to shoot both video and stills of her wedding. Do you worry about capturing the “decisive moment”? No, but maybe that your camera is pointed in the right direction. Do you worry about focus? Not really, because you know you can fix it later. So you just shoot video of the entire event and then pull from the thousands of frames those shots that capture the “decisive moments” of the wedding. If a frame is out of focus, no problem, you fix it in post. You want to add a follow focus to a segment of video? No problem – you do it in post.

Convergence, the combination of still and video, is here. The Red Epic is here. Soon there will be a more affordable Red Scarlet. As with most tech, these types of technology will be pushed down to the consumer level. Add some of the incredible technologies that may be coming like Lytro’s focus capabilities, and you have to wonder how this will impact today’s still photographers.

If you have thoughts on this, leave a comment…

 

 


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2 Comments

  1. Posted June 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm by Dr. Elliot McGucken | Permalink

    Yes, but a Canon-based 9shooter system (with the Canon 5D Mark ii & HFS200) costs less than 1/10 cost of the RED EPIC and can be hand-held, as it is far lighter and smaller. The 9shooter also carries the advantages of redundancy and both dedicated stabilization for stills and dynamic stabilization for video, and one can use standard Canon lenses. In a showdown, the <$5,000 9shooter system would beat the $58,000+ EPIC RED hands down. And just you wait until the 9shooter with a Canon 5D Mark III & Mark IV!
    http://blog.9shooter.com/2011/06/canon-based-nine-shooter-9shooter-4500.html

    In a showdown, the 9shooter beats the EPIC RED hands down.

    Canon will eat into Red's market share far faster than Red will eat into Canon's market share.

    The 5d Mark III & IV, sdhx cards, USB3 hard drives–all these things will erode the Red Market share.

    Think about it–are google and facebook and amazon built from IBM mainframes? Or from off-the-shelf components designed for the masses? What happened to Sun Microsystems? RED is the Sun Microsystems. Canon is the Microsoft/Dell/Apple in this case. Today's $299 laptop from Fry's electronics beats the $20,000 Sun Ultra Spark Station from ten years ago.

    Moore's law tends to favor companies reaching up far more than companies reaching down.

    • Posted June 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm by Phil Nelson | Permalink

      Yes, I could not agree more. I wasn’t really plugging Red as much as I was pointing out the incredible capabilities of their products. As always technology is introduced at a steep price point and over time makes its way into products that are more reasonably priced – and that can be from any manufacturer. And to your point we are seeing incredible capabilities already in products like the 9shooter. With the amount of time that Canon has taken to introduce a new 1Ds Mark IV (or whatever it is going to be), you have to wonder what they are cooking up. Same goes with the 5DMIV. That said, there may still be a market for high end products like the Red. Look at what’s going on in medium format. Phase One, Hasselblad and others keep pushing the envelope on resolution (and ridiculous pricing) and still seem to be in business.

      Really the point I was trying to make is that these technologies like what you see in current high end HDSLRs or the Lytro are knocking off some of the things that photographers have spent years mastering, like precise focusing or capturing a critical moment. If I can blast away with my camera capturing 60 frames per second and pull a frame in post production that captures “the decisive moment” and also do some creative focusing long after the picture is taken, I might not need to spend time developing these skills.

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