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Apple Patents Directional Flash Tech For Cameras 145

tekgoblin writes "A patent application has surfaced that shows Apple's attempts at creating a new way for a flash to work on a camera. The way the new flash works is very intriguing: a user can select a dimly lit area of the photo and the camera will try to illuminate just that area with the flash. The way Apple is attempting to accomplish this is similar to the way the autofocus works on the iPhone 4 where you can touch the screen in certain areas to focus on that area. Instead you will be able to light up that area with the flash. This is accomplished by the camera flash passing through a 'redirector' so the flash can be placed other than directly centered when a photo is taken."
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Apple Patents Directional Flash Tech For Cameras

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  • by inpher ( 1788434 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @05:27AM (#33709118)
    The difference from what I can tell is that Apple is seeking a way to make all this work automatically in a pocket-sized system (as far as I know this is the first time this has been attempted). Don't worry, you can keep doing what you are doing, almost no amount of technology can compete with a good human who knows what he/she is doing.
  • Call me crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LBt1st ( 709520 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @05:28AM (#33709126)

    The only time I bother taking a picture with my phone's camera as opposed to a normal camera is if it's something happening spontaneous and I want to take a shot immediately.

    If I'm going to take the time to make adjustments and setup lighting I'm not shooting with my cell phone.

    That said, if the camera can auto-select dark spots and light them without over-lighting other areas or otherwise screwing up the shot, I could certainly see that as a good thing.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @05:30AM (#33709130)

    well its stuck on the back of the phone. You cant aim the flash without aiming the stupid iphone camera in the direction of the flash:)

    Its not an SLR with a real flash... its a solid phone you hold in one direction with the lense and flash on the same plane no matter how you angle the damn thing.

  • by LBt1st ( 709520 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @05:32AM (#33709148)

    Photoshop filters are no replacement for actual light.

  • Re:Call me crazy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adolf ( 21054 ) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Monday September 27, 2010 @05:47AM (#33709226) Journal

    Sounds like it's more about getting better* spontaneous shots out of a small, portable device, than trying to replace a proper camera+lighting.

    I don't carry a dedicated camera, unless I'm planning on doing some photography. I've always got my phone, though. Any improvement is welcome.

    *"Better", as in, an improvement over what similar devices could do before, not "better" as in that which can be accomplished by less-convenient means.

  • by chomsky68 ( 1719996 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @05:54AM (#33709250)
    It doesn't matter how and/or whether it works. The point of the whole excersize is that if anybody is going to figure out and implement it, the brave is going to have Apple's lawyers breathing down his neck for patent infringement.
  • Will never work... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cbope ( 130292 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:21AM (#33709334)

    Yet another way to really fuck up your photos. If you know anything about professional photography, you immediately know this is a failed "solution". In many cases when you light a scene for photography, it's the DIRECTION that the light comes from that is important together with the amount of light. That's why you rarely see camera-mounted flash used in the studio, strobes (flashes) are positioned away from the camera so as to light the scene in a certain way from one or more directions. With the proposed "invention", the direction light comes from will always be the same, close to the lens. It doesn't matter that it's only lighting a part of the scene.

    Now, if Jobs has found out how to use the reality distortion field to his advantage and actually BEND light passing through the air... that would be impressive.

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:43AM (#33709416) Homepage Journal
    My first thought on this was actually that it'd look like shit (spotlight effect), and the real solution is to take two (read: many) rapid pictures while diddling the flash. Use the dark photos and the light photos to blend a composite effect and digitally light up the area in such a way that you have a smooth transition into a brighter, better-contrasted area; or even leave it "dark" but compensate for the CCD's poor performance in the dark by correcting the dim colors and improving the contrast.
  • Re:Call me crazy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:44AM (#33709418)

    Anyone with a brain would know the best camera is the one you have with you -- I welcome such options as touch-directed spot focus, raw mode, etc. that are already on my phone's camera, because sometimes (having not anticipated taking any photos) I don't have any of my "real" cameras along, and I like to be able to take the best shot possible with the gear I have on me -- if it still turns out crap, I can always delete it later...

    So I for one welcome our flash-steering overlords -- here's hoping Nokia will license it or find a non-infringing method to accomplish the same thing for future Meego phones.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @07:00AM (#33709476)

    That's only partially true. In a photo the received surface's color comes from the position and angle of that surface relative to the camera and the lights. If you know the 3D map of the object you can reverse that composition and gather the original information. That original information is what I called the "color data".

    Yes, and said colour data cannot be gathered in any way other than collecting light bounced off the surfaces... No light, no colour, it's as simple as that.

  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @07:35AM (#33709574) Homepage

    Try to take a picture of a male common damselfly or even a dragonfly in different light conditions. Light is not just reflection, it is also refraction (especially on the more "interesting" photographs). That cannot be modelled realistically based on color data from light falling from the wrong direction. You need knowledge of the actual material to model that and even then it is least likely to be realistic.

    There are many examples - the colour of the wings is different depending on the angle at which the light falls on it; same for any other insect; same for rocks, crystals, birds (try taking pictures of a common kingfisher or a sunbird from different angles); open water; in fact nearly anything worth taking a picture I can think of. Even human face if done properly. Try taking a portrait in a standard "halo" shot (works best on pretty blonds :-). Try that with flash and/or additional supporting lights and try taking a "plain" shot and try to get the same effect with photoshop afterwards. You will see what I mean - if you do not have the lighting from the right angle in the first place there is no way you can simulate that "gold shimmer" look from a l'Oreal commercial after that.

    In photography light is everything. It is what makes the 10000$ difference between a work of art and POS produced by a point-n-shoot. If the light was not there in the first place and _at_ the right angle the necessary colour data will not be there to record.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @08:11AM (#33709700)

    Aside: The person who did the beating down uses an iPhone.

    Lesson: don't be a twat and call people unintelligent because of the technology they chose to use, many made an informed choice and just had different requirements to you.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday September 27, 2010 @12:02PM (#33712508)

    Why do all Iphone users insist on telling the world that their platform is okay? Could it be a proxy for homosexual tendencies?

    Not really very rhetorical that one – the reason is simple... Because the entire geek world insists on telling iPhone users that their platform is not okay.

    No matter how much you spend on computing technology, you will never find the cute boyfriend you seek by displaying Apple devices.

    That's okay, I'm happily married.

    However, if you think that Apple crap is easy to use, then you're more deluded than the typical meatbag.

    I rest my case about twats and telling people apple kit isn't okay ;)

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