Tuesday, 1 November 2016

as Computer Camera and Phone gradually intersect

Since buying the Oppo phone I've been gradually doing more of my photography with the phone than with the camera. Not just because its convenient to have the camera in my pocket (which I've had for years now anyway) but because the on device post-processing is just that much better.

This started out as me wanting to test how well my Phone's camera did with Snapseed compared with the PC but ended up asking the question of "is my Phone a suitable platofom for image processing" in general. The answer is "almost".

Know your tools

The phone is a 1.7GHz Quad Core (well actually its an OctaCore but the other quad core is 1GHz) and my PC is a 2.5GHz dual core i5 (running quad virtual cores), so they're both quite fast enough to do processing.

In the past I've had Android tablets which have had lousy cameras, and if I'm going to send an image to a device from my Nokia it may as well be my PC because I'm usually at home when I want to do something like that, and the PC is just easier.

However having my new phone with a decent camera, that does RAW capture and enough grunt to do the processing it seemed obvious that I'd start to do this (and I have).

Today I wondered if Snapseed was actually doing as good a job at taking a RAW file and doing something with it as my previous work flow of

  1. capturing on my Panasonic m43 camera
  2. transferring to my PC (and in this swapping out PC for Phone)
  3. processing there
  4. publishing from there

So to answer that question I thought why not do the counter intuitive and transfer a RAW file from my GF-1 to my Oppo and process there? I wanted to do what I consider the "hard work" image processing which pushes captured image data to the limits, and that is to make a HDR (yes, I know, its really a tonemap, as I'll need multiple images to properly make a HDR ... but this is for the general public too)

The Panasonic RAW format is proprietary (aren't most of them) but the Oppo uses DNG. Snapseed (my preferred RAW processing tool on the phone) only works with DNG, so to do this I used Adobe DNG converter to convert my GF-1 file into a DNG and transferred it.

I took two shots of the same things and did some comparisons. I'll present one here as they all more or less led to the same conclusion.

So I took this shot with my GF-1 using the Panasonic 14mm  f2.5 lens (to provide almost the same angle of view as the Oppo F1) 

that is of course the camera JPG .. and then this shot with the Oppo

they aren't totally perfectly exposed the same, but if you've ever worked with a phone you'll know why .. That too is the camera generated JPG.


So to make the comparison I did three processes:
  1. processed the RW2 on my PC using Photomatix (as I normally would do directly with the RAW file)
  2. then I converted the RW2 into a DNG and loaded the DNG onto my Oppo and generated an image with Snapseed
  3. then I used the Oppo's DNG on snapseed and processed that
This is what I got:

GF1 on PC with Photomatix

GF-1 on Phone with Snapseed 

and lastly the Oppo's own camera (as DNG) on the phone with Snapseed

which has a colour balance difference to the pretty similar renderings of the GF1 (in both places) but you know it doesn't make you point and shake your head going "oh dear, that's terrible".

They look pretty darn close if you ask me.

What this says to me is that Snapseed is doing a pretty good job of processing the images, either from Cam or Phone. As we have the (I'll assume higher quality) RAW file from the GF1 processed on both systems looking similar I think its fair to say that the phone RAW files won't benefit much from being moved over to the PC and processed there.

The astute will spot that the GF1 has not had lens corrections applied by Photomatix but has had it done on Snapseed (it applies same to the Oppo too). (award points for either way as you see fit)

Pixel peeping

Processing on the phone has never been what I intend for doing "gallery prints", however as (at the moment) I'm unable to process the DNG's made by the Oppo (I could do that on another machine I no longer have access to which has PS CS6 on it) anywhere else but on the Oppo it seems just as well to do that.

So for the completeness, lets have a look at some 100% crops

GF1 - PC - Photomatix

GF1 - Oppo - Snapseed

Oppo - DNG - Snapseed

Even at this level, almost nothing stands out as being "gosh" ... all have good details, all show similar noise (especially of interest being the two processing locations for the Panasonic GF RAW file). Minor disparities like colour grading and saturation can be easily fixed and the differences only exist because of comparing them.

The GF RAW file shows better contrast (thank god) in both places and better colour saturation (which was hard to balance between PC and phone because my Phone screen is so much more punchy in its colour range).

Not much in it really and clearly the processing of the GF file was good in both places. Meaning that I may as well just process my Phone RAW files on the Phone ... unless I'm really wanting to work it.


So this shows to me that RAW and then the more challenging HDR processing of those files seems quite equivalent on both locations. Actually if one is after a "rock and roll" processing look, then the advantage is on the Snapseed Tonemapping because it was literally far less work. It was literally:
  1. load
  2. develop (tweak exposure if desired)
  3. click HDR and pick the look
  4. click done
Whereas on the PC I've never had it so easy, its been (and was again):
  1. load into Photomatix
  2. pick the HDR look I liked
  3. save
  4. open again in Photoshop (because it saves as not quiet the right profile) and convert to sRGB
  5. adjust the curve (because I usually end up processing as a gamma of 1.4)
  6. add in some local area contrast (cos it often looks a bit flat)
  7. save

the future

As an outcome from this process I'm of the view that I'd actually like to process more from my camera on Snapseed on my phone (especially when out and about).

Why? Well the screen on my Phone is just beautiful while the screen on my laptop is a bit "flat" in gamut (and really most of the new OLED phone screens are beautiul ... and 1080p too.

To do this would be great, but while tantalisingly close but not yet there. Why?
  1. getting the camera native files from camera to phone is tricky, products like EyeFi do not handle RAW files from all the myriad formats well so you're going to be stuck using the JPG, and so what's the point?
  2. Snapseed (which is free) only processed DNG, which means you'll somehow need to convert your cameras RAW file to a DNG before you move it to your Phone
So essentially this means (in my view) that on phone processing (or on Tablet processing) will need a better job of moving those RAW files over to the device from the camera.

There is no doubt in my mind that once the software makers of the WiFi SD card systems (needed for transport from Camera to Device) get their act together and stop using (what seem to be) antiquated file filtering methods and get the various RAW files onto the Devices we should be able to do this. Already DCRAW is available for Android and it will make a 16 bit file from my Panasonic RAW files

Maybe next year.

1 comment:

Anthony Coates said...

At work, where our photography group does fortnightly portrait sessions for charity, some of the team *are* now processing their camera photos on their phones, so they can make hay while commuting, & you wouldn't know mostly that the photos were post-processed on a phone. (Tony)