Monday, March 30, 2020

$1K "G" Lens vs. $100 "Kit" lens (Don't laugh...)

Sony offers two lenses considered to be “general purpose” or “walkaround” lenses for their APS-C E-mount cameras like the A6000 series:

The 16-50 f3.5 – 5.6 power zoom lens which is tiny and compact and offers a motorized zoom ideal for shooting video.  This lens sells for $100 when purchased as a bundle.

A high-end 16-55 constant f/2.8 “G” lens that sells for over $1000 USD.

So one lens is 10x the cost of the other.  Is the expensive one 10x better?  Let’s do a quick test: I took two pictures of the really cute subject under ideal conditions; one with each lens.  100% crops from both appear below (click on image to view larger and sharper):

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

I invented a camera whose output could be authenticated. Nikon and Canon stole the idea. What happened next will shock you.

"Deepfakes" have been around for years, like this Coca-Cola commercial mixing living and dead celebrities.  But how can you prove if a video hasn't been manipulated?

(Note: This is an expanded version of the article I wrote for Cameracraft magazine.  I'm sharing it now because the idea needs to be out there.  Plus, I was on tap to give a TEDx talk about this subject in April 2020, but of course it was cancelled due to pandemic concerns.  So I'm putting it out there.  The world needs this invention!)

Once upon a time there was a saying: “The photograph doesn’t lie”.  While mostly true, you could still lie in the old days by attaching false captions or using a forced perspective.  Lying by manipulation came much later -- it was used heavily by the Soviets during the time of Stalin, and then by the advertising industry (which is synonymous with lying, really) with the invention of the Scitex imaging workstation in the 1970’s.  But the ability to really lie via manipulation didn’t reach the masses until Photoshop came along. 

1989.  US Ambassador Vernon Walters presents photographic evidence at the United Nations Security Council, supporting his claim that a Libyan MiG-23 shot down by US fighters had been armed.  “It is untrue!” exclaimed the Libyan ambassador.  “The pictures were fabricated; they were directed in the Hollywood manner!”
People (journalists and academia, mostly) started to sound the alarm in the 1970s about how you can’t rely on the photograph for evidentiary purposes anymore.  And I started to collect examples of famous photo manipulations in history which made a difference (good and bad).  Some historic examples are sprinkled throughout this article.

Back in my NASA days I identified this as a problem that needed solving – in my view, society was relying too heavily on the image whose sanctity was eroding, and I made it my mission to restore it.