Image Quality vs. Low Fi


My story is an attention-grabbing one. I labored behind the scenes within the movement image business for 15 years. I bought my large break at a spot referred to as Clairmont Digital camera repairing cinema lenses.

A cinema lens is a unique sort of beast than a pictures lens. They’re constructed like tanks, their picture high quality is mostly cutting-edge, they usually price some huge cash. In at this time’s {dollars}, a brand new 25-250mm zoom would simply price $40,000.

The work was exact and methodical. I might tear down a lens, make small changes, re-assemble the lens, and consider the picture. Rinse-repeat if obligatory. To do that I might take a look at the picture on a tool that projected a exact decision goal by means of the lens and onto a wall. I might study the picture high quality within the middle and all edges. If you do that you’re searching for issues like uniformity, chromatic aberration, coma, flatness of area, and on zoom lenses, you’ll additionally search for points with monitoring, focus, and weave.

I used to be educated to be extraordinarily discriminating, fussy even. In a world of 0.0005” shims and M1.4×0.Four set screws, you needed to be.

Sooner or later I got here throughout an Angenieux 23-460 lens. It was terrible…In projection. On movie this lens bought loads of work finished. It was used extensively for tv and carried its personal weight.

That day was a paradigm shift in my considering. That day I began to actually surprise what made a picture good or unhealthy, by way of the gear that was used to seize it.

It seems that loads of what we did was to instill confidence within the individuals utilizing the gear. Some points that present in testing would by no means be famous on the display screen, others in fact have been vital, but it surely all bought me considering.

Later in my time at Clairmont Digital camera, I began enjoying with units that threw sharpness out the window. Single component lenses, tilt/shift lenses, warped plastic filters, and different “in digital camera” results. I even invented a few cool results units and picked up an Academy and Emmy award for a few of them. You probably have seen X-Males, Minority Report, Saving Personal Ryan, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek Discovery, or Star Trek Picard then you have got seen my units in motion.

I left Clairmont Digital camera after 7 years to work at a spot referred to as Panavision. Panavision designed their very own lenses, from the prescription up. They’d design an optical prescription, order the lens components, design the mechanics, construct, take a look at, and hire. One lens I labored on had 41 separate lens components, if reminiscence serves me appropriately. At Panavision, I designed take a look at fixtures, movement management units, and meta-data stuff, and I used to be much more involved with picture high quality, however low constancy was nonetheless in there, at the back of my head, gnawing away.

My pictures pastime was on maintain. My additional monies went towards supporting my household for essentially the most half, and shopping for cameras was not on the high of my checklist, so the whole lot I did on the earth of picture creation was for others.

After one other 7 years I moved on to an R&D place referred to as Utilized Minds. At Utilized Minds I labored on ultra-precise army optics. I additionally developed colour evening imaginative and prescient techniques, 20-gigapixel imaging techniques, and miniature optics for handheld units. I performed with digital camera and lens techniques from all of the producers as properly, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Sigma, Olympus, Hasselblad, and others. This work required much more rigor than cinema. In cinema, budgets are at stake, within the work, I used to be doing, lives may rely upon it.

And low constancy was nonetheless in my coronary heart.

Lots of people discuss lenses lately.

Micro distinction.

Bokeh, a lot discuss bokeh.

Not as a lot discuss AR coatings lately.

Chromatic aberration… repair it in submit, it’s simple with Photoshop some contend.

Lens stuff is a 3D problem. A lens is the bodily embodiment of a switch perform. The sunshine of a discreet, luminous level in entrance of the lens is transferred by means of the completely different floor figures, glass varieties, and spacing of every air to glass, glass to air, and glass to glass interface and is projected out the rear of the lens. A lens represents the most effective functionality of its design and building to supply that time. The mismatch between an ideal switch perform and what’s realized is an aberration, whether or not a design flaw or a producing flaw.

That time’s projected gentle goes in by means of the doorway pupil, out the exit pupil. Factors nearer to the doorway pupil are rendered farther from the exit pupil, macro extension being an excessive instance, and factors that enter from infinity are rendered nearer to the exit pupil, A.Ok.A. infinity focus.

In impact, you have got a miniature illustration of the scene in entrance of the lens, reproduced behind the lens, as seen from the lens’ standpoint.

Mess with the switch perform and attention-grabbing issues occur. Flip your Helios’ entrance component, i.e., make a brand new switch perform and bam! a extra bokehalicious lens.

However a picture isn’t a 2D picture till you intersect it with 2D object like a sensor. And this interface is the place I’m extra involved on this article, although a few of what I’ll present right here has 3D elements, it isn’t the main target, nonetheless.


Noise. We keep away from it just like the plague…for essentially the most half.

I really like noise, extra precisely I like grain. I get pleasure from gritty photos. I name it noise right here as a result of grain is a random or pseudo-random impact on the looks of the picture. Noise just isn’t grain however grain is a type of noise.

Many people love movie shares with ridiculous ISO numbers like Ilford Delta Professional 3200 and Kodak TMAX P3200. At the moment, till I resolve in any other case, I’m a digital man. I’ve left my movie behind and offered most of my movie cameras. I’ve a couple of cameras stowed away, some 30 rolls of movie, (principally Fuji Acros) within the deep freezer within the storage, and a bottle of Rodinal, however the entirety of my day by day workflow is digital from stem to stern lately.

Like I mentioned, digital noise just isn’t grain. It’s its personal beast, it’s usually garish to me at finest, no less than in colour photos. It rears its ugly head in the dead of night elements of the picture the place there’s little or no sign and pulls you away from the topic. It’s reticulated on a pixel by pixel foundation and reminds you of the decision restrict of your sensor. It is sort of a brick wall. You’ll be able to’t ram by means of it and you may’t climb over it. It’s important to acknowledge it’s there and work round it.

My first digital digital camera, a Nikon D40 was a disappointment in even barely darkish circumstances, however with little exception (cameras meant to be destroyed) each digital camera buy I’ve made since has had an advance in ISO efficiency. For the report, ISO efficiency is on the high of my checklist alone for assessing a digital camera buy.

And generally noise is there it doesn’t matter what I do, so I’ve tried to make it a function.

I’m not a lot of a fan of pinhole pictures, the even defocus/focus and lengthy exposures are off-putting. I made a decision to make some zone plates for a undertaking and although they have been 2-Three stops sooner than the pinholes I used to be making, they have been sluggish at about f/40.

I took some experimental zone plate photographs on the Koi pond at my workplace at ISO 12800 and located that although the photographs have been noisy, there was one thing attention-grabbing there:

It took me loads of processing to get so far. A number of pulling sliders to the max and iterating in-camera RAW. It additionally revealed all of the dust on my sensor. And this was an issue as a result of the strategies I usually use for cleansing up dust have been destroying the noise.

I resorted to a trick I play with once I wish to deal with the luminance and the chrominance of a picture individually, I transformed the photographs to LAB colour house. LAB is neat to work in, and it allowed me to muck about with the photographs extra simply. By addressing the luminance individually, I can alter native sizzling spots or darkening, like dust on the sensor, with out inducing adjustments within the chrominance.

Smaller brushes for issues like dodging and burning additionally assist and arduous edges work higher, particularly for cloning.

This zone plate work wasn’t my first foray into enjoying with grit, grain, and noise, but it surely was my first work utilizing the digital camera’s noise as a function.

Artificial Noise

I additionally performed with making noise masks, producing noise and making use of it to pictures to simulate grain. This synthetic grain is one thing I take advantage of to unravel a loud picture generally. Conquer one thing else’ noise with my very own, like turning up your music to drown out your neighbor’s music…

This led me to make my very own procedural noise turbines to create my very own grain results.

Finally, this led me to attempt to re-create the look of autochrome with out the huge endeavor of constructing my very own autochrome plates.

Autochrome is attention-grabbing. The unique course of used dyed grains of potato starch to behave as a stochastic array of coloured filters, a lot the identical approach a contemporary sensor makes use of a Bayer sample. The emulsion is uncovered by means of the filters, then is processed as a constructive, not a detrimental, and when backlit, the numerous emulsion density behind every particular person coloured starch grain preserves the brightness data and the coloured grain re-encodes the colour.

After 15 minutes of studying on the method I used to be decided to not make my very own autochrome plates, and as an alternative try to emulate the method.

I began with the colour masks. I checked out dozens of scans of autochromes and determined I wanted a clumping noise masks. I tried this a number of instances in Photoshop and eventually determined to jot down some procedural noise era code to make my very own masks.

Autochrome isn’t simply in regards to the stochastic take a look at the granular stage, it’s also in regards to the colour filtering. The pattern right here is RGB, however the unique autochromes have been extra reddish, greenish, and blueish. I made my software program in a position to generate masks in a wide range of colours.

Right here is an early end result after making use of the digital masks to a picture in Photoshop.

One infuriating factor I found is that Photoshop (or some mysterious agent between Photoshop and my eyes,) renders my photos otherwise at completely different magnifications. Photoshop additionally didn’t have all of the picture instruments I needed so I ultimately wrote some code to permit me to course of photos in a approach that rendered them extra precisely on-screen.

I just like the outcomes; I simply actually don’t like coding. (As a notice, I shot this picture with an Industar 69 for extra low fi goodness.)


I wrote my Autochrome era code throughout the first months of COVID-19 isolation. I had the time, isolating at house, so why not. This COVID factor has accentuated a couple of of my character traits to a significant diploma. I’m an early riser. I usually get up at 4:00 am, =/- Three minutes, no alarm obligatory. However I began waking up at 3:00 and even 2:30 within the morning.

I needed to take walks, however out within the deep suburbs, it’s actually darkish at evening. As I discussed, I’ve expertise with evening imaginative and prescient techniques, so I bought myself an evening imaginative and prescient monocle for strolling about and a few junk off eBay to make a rig for taking pictures evening imaginative and prescient photos.

Evening imaginative and prescient intensifier tubes are a contemporary miracle. Photons are available in, are transformed to electrons, after which amplified 10,000x by a wafer-thin machine referred to as a microchannel plate (together with loads of circuitry.) These amplified electrons are then transformed again to photons by a phosphor display screen, all in an area thinner than a millimeter. This amplified picture is then conveyed to the attention by means of a viewer to a picture sensor by means of relay optics or by means of a direct bond to a picture sensor.

There are some attention-grabbing traits of evening imaginative and prescient techniques and the way they relate to human and digital imaginative and prescient techniques. In extraordinarily low gentle you must combine the resultant photons generated into photos, there merely aren’t sufficient photons, even with magnification, to realize correct publicity in a handheld digital camera time-frame. In much less darkish circumstances, you’ll be able to obtain exposures handheld. With out going into it too deeply, you find yourself with odd traits in publicity. Compounding that is the truth that picture intensifier tubes usually don’t have publicity controls on them and solely have auto-gain, which is a part of this weirdness. Some have display screen brightness controls, however that isn’t of a lot use to me.

The cityscape at evening is dominated by shadow, and evening imaginative and prescient photos can actually amplify that.

This scene is fairly dim to my eyes at evening, however with the evening imaginative and prescient monocle I’ve all types of dynamic vary to play with and the shadows really feel extra pronounced.

FYI, the portholing impact is from the truth that the picture relay produces a picture that’s smaller than my sensor. The softness on the edges is brought about each by the taking lens and by the picture relay.

Evening imaginative and prescient units leverage infrared radiation and a lot of the seen spectra (they have a tendency in the direction of insensitivity within the blue area,) so that you do get that infrared impact off of foliage, relying on the wavelength of the illuminating gentle supply.

This scene was dominated by pure illumination, so it has extra “infrareddiness” to it.

I like this one rather a lot, the quick evening imaginative and prescient optic with its shallow depth of area yield a miniature shadowbox really feel. It is usually “noisier” as there was rather a lot much less illumination. (it isn’t really noise, it’s simply not sufficient photons to render the picture on the shutter speeds I used to be working with)

Certainly one of my favorites is that this picture of a fireplace hydrant. The “grain” is splotchy and has a grit I actually like.

One attention-grabbing and unfavorable artifact is that this hexagonal array which you can actually see within the gentle areas close to the hydrant. That is attributable to the character of the fiber optic parts within the intensifier tube. With the intention to make bundles of hundreds of thousands of collated fiber optics, you first make hexagonal bundles of fused fibers then stack these bundles into multi bundles, with loads of cautious melting, stretching, and twisting in there.

I could attempt to shoot some masks that I can use to take away them in the future.

I additionally performed round with making colour evening imaginative and prescient photos once more. Even with a really inefficient filtering scheme, and an inefficient relay optic, I used to be in a position to produce some attention-grabbing colour evening imaginative and prescient photos. Total, I’m not a fan, however I really feel they deserved to be right here.

Intermediate Image Digital camera

My most cumbersome technique of including grain was to seize photos on intermediate picture planes made of various diffusing media and capturing that with a further lens and imager. That is akin to taking an image of your floor glass, but it surely lets you use non-planer, nontraditional supplies on the picture aircraft.

This yielded some enjoyable outcomes.

Right here is the digital camera I used to create the photographs.

I mainly made a rig that holds an previous Graflex and my Fuji MILC digital camera. I additionally constructed a customized “movie holder” that holds the intermediate medium to seize the picture, normally some sort of paper. I made a smaller model for 35mm lenses however the outcomes have been to not my liking.

Winter is my photographic doldrum interval, and 35-degree mornings aren’t any enjoyable, however I think that when the climate warms up I shall be out at evening taking pictures snails, or one thing equally obscure.

P.S. Here’s a Flickr gallery through which yow will discover full-res variations of the gritty pictures above.

In regards to the creator: Michael Keesling is an Academy Award-winning and Emmy Award-winning technologist with a deal with fast prototyping and deployment. The opinions expressed on this article are solely these of the creator. His work has been seen in dozens of movies, commercials, and tv reveals, together with Saving Personal Ryan, First Man, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek Discovery, Minority Report, in addition to The Bourne and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. Keesling has additionally been awarded a number of patents for his innovations. Yow will discover extra of his work and join with him on his website and LinkedIn.

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