Sunday, 25 September 2016

Oppo F1 - expert mode (more details)

well most people don't seem to dig through the details of the workings of their (phones) cameras, and as the "selfie expert" is probably aimed at people who are "selfie-ists" (handing it to themselves?) few will realise just how good the native camera app actually is ...

So (having already dug into advantages of using RAW over here, here and  here) lets have a look at what else (as a photographer) I love about this tool.

First, getting there. Open the camera then click the little bunch of circles which are on the right of the shutter button. That takes you to the settings. From there pick "Expert Mode"

annoyingly (like most phones) the orientation does not switch fully (or even switch at all) despite the phone being oriented ... so you'll have to live with that.

Once in Expert Mode you'll find some interesting features:

You will see that you're in expert mode by the display note (and you can restore "default" by just tapping the X beside Expert Mode) and the new controls and a new focus point picker.

First the most useful control sets are innocuously hidden under the EV  The astute will also observe that the "focus point" box has changed shape a little ... more on that in a tic.

Because this screen does not rotate well (I've rotated it a little to make it easier to read. The key adjustment areas are:

  • Shutter control (auto and pick your own up to 16 seconds)
  • ISO control (auto or pick your own)
  • Exposure Compensation (sort of pointless and I'll explain why in a tic)

This is an enormously powerful feature set and liberates the phone from being frustrating for photographers doing low light work to making it a fully functional camera that any photographer will find handy. Lets look at them one at a time

Shutter control

Having control over the shutter is an enormous benefit, especially when you fix the ISO. In the modern age of digital cameras that Auto ISO things it leaves people confused as to what is happening. For a film user, once you loaded the film in the camera it was decided ... you were using (say) 200 ISO and that's that. Film users were intimately aware of how change in ISO was a give and take affair. Sure it gave you the ability to have faster shutter speeds in low light, but it took from you the clarity and sweetness of 100ISO images. The same is also true in digital.

So if you want to get the sweetest images (from a noise perspective) from your camera, always bias towards the lowest ISO you can get your hands on and then lengthen the shutter speed to give the right / desired exposure . Which leads me to:


So being able to pick your own ISO means you can make images where adjusting the shutter (sorry, no aperture control on phones for "diffraction limit" reasons) will show you exactly the changes you are making to shutter as brightness changes in the picture. So when its really dark, and you've already set the longest shutter you can then start increasing ISO in steps that you're happy with..

Exposure Compensation

So this leads us to Exposure Compensation which (when you have ISO and Shutter locked to your preferences) is sort of a a spare foot ... maybe handy but for what? Its about the least useful component to one who wants to be in control. I suspect its only use is when you've locked the ISO to your pref (say 100) and left the shutter on Auto (because there isn't a choice for anything less than 1/4 of a second which isn't any good in daylight)

But rather than muff about with Exposure Compensation the Oppo F1 camera offers you a more potent tool ... that of Spot Metering.

Watch this spot

So, looking at the screen in Expert mode again we see that "changed" focus point when you go into Expert Mode. This is how it works.

So lets say you move the "focus point" in the usual way (by tapping on the screen somewhere) to over there on the wall (default is center)

because you don't want the foreground in focus ... now the astute will also see that doing such has also altered the exposure, because (for most cameras) the chosen point is also where exposure is biased towards. But that could be too bright or too dark resulting in a dark or light photograph. 

This is where you drag the circle out  of the square and place that where you want the exposure spot to be metered from ... voilla .. Spot Metering

You can then move the spot to other places (drag it) and find the exposure you like ... thus there is little need for Exposure Compensation (but its not heavy to carry right).

(I'm adding this in 2019 as since I posted this page its been in my top 10 weekly posts, I've recently bought an R11s and found that its actually got less features than the F1, but none the less here's a video I made for that post showing perhaps more clearly how well the "expert mode" actually works)

Pretty handy stuff isn't it. So go out and be creative with your camera phone...

Thursday, 22 September 2016

visual dad jokes

yes, I realise there is no excuse for this ...

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Oppo F1 vs Samsung Galaxy S6

as much of this has been dragged about in the other Oppo F1 posts I've made (for instance), rather than dissect again here, I'm going to just present the basics. Please go to that other post on the iPhone 5 for an analysis of what I'm presenting quickly here. Its worth noting that the SG6 seems to give its 'native' resolution at 16:9 ratio, and that 4:3 is a crop




So, the well observed (*by me at least) Oppo crummy light and colour balance holds the Oppo back (as it did with the iPhone 5s). Knowing that the Oppo camera actually can capture more with DNG, I took a DNG with the Oppo (already knowing the benefits of that) and developed that in Photoshop


which to me has better colour balance than either of the above JPG's and better preservation of tones. What about details?


Ok ... some 100% crops



Oppo DNG

Better shadow details, soft look (from not being over sharpened) and yet way more texture and colour fidelity. Note the basketball hoop  ... its actually orange! Look also at the Norfolk Pine showing more details and the TV ariel in the tree leaves above the cream building.

To me the differences in the JPG's from the two cameras are insubstantial, and while the S6 may have more pixels its not really holding more information. There is some obvious heavy handed automatic sharpening in both, with the S6 making the clouds look like they were drawn, and neither actually showing the basket ball hoop up as orange (except the DNG).

The S6 does produce a wider image but then you could pano that tiny bit with the F1 and equal it if you were at Grand Canyon or something which needed that.

Myself I don't really use 16:9 as a ratio much, except for landscapes.

Sure there is a wee bit of organic looking noise in the DNG from the Oppo, its a bit "soft" because it hasn't been processed in a heavy handed manner.

For the snapshooter either the F1 or the S6 give "ball park" JPG images, and the Oppo benefits from the RAW for a photographer seeking more.

If the S6 gave RAW options then it may nudge the Oppo out, but not by a "holy cow" amount.

Lastly, don't just take my word for it, go check out the less interesting (but informative) comparison tool at GSM Arena. I've linked that to the iPhone 6 as well cos that essentially has the same camera as the 5s (which as I mentioned above, I compared in an earlier blog post)

Saturday, 3 September 2016

digi-scoping my phone

well the idea of using a telescope or binoculars to make a telephoto on a digital camera is so old that the term digiscoping has been around for ages.

The origins of the activity called Digiscoping has been attributed to the photographic methods of Laurence Poh, a birdwatcher from the Malaysian Nature Society, who discovered in 1999 almost by accident that the new generation of point and shoot digital cameras could be held up to the eyepiece of a standard spotting scope and achieve surprisingly good results.
So naturally I've tried it on almost every digital camera I've ever had.

I thought I'd put my Nikon binoculars (8x25) onto my Oppo and have a look. So here's the over views:

and then the scoped version

obviously coverage is an issue, but its interesting how well the phone's AF works to bring that into focus.

Let me zoom into that segment a bit ... first 100% on the standard image:

which is as lousy as you'd expect ... then lets crop out the vignetting on the binoculars:

which is pretty darn good really ... but as this still isn't 100% lets look at that:

wow ... not bad given all I did was hold my phone to the back of the eyepiece.

I think I'll be taking my phone and binoculars around more often than my 300mm lens on my big camera for "just in case" stuff.

The binoculars are quite compact too!

Makes me tempted to try one of those optics