samedi 20 octobre 2018

Low light photography

Like a lot of people, I've always loved taking photos. First, with my parents' cameras, mainstream Kodak or Pentax analog cameras, then in 2000, with my brother's one megapixel digital camera. I bought my first camera only in 2003: a cheap 3 megapixel HP camera. For the first time I could finally take pictures of anything without having to worry about anything.

One of my first shots with the HP PhotoSmart 735, in low light, trying not to use the flash...

It was awesome! I probably took one thousand photos with that camera in two years. One third of what my parents took in 30 years. Of course most of those photos are as uninteresting as the one above, but still, when I look at those photos it reminds me of what I was doing back then, a memory that would otherwise be completely lost in my brain. For me, photography has always been first and foremost a way to keep (good) memories. The beauty of a photo only has always come second to me. So I've always tried to take photos as close as possible to what my eyes witnessed. That's why I've always avoided flash or why I've never liked photo filters.

Most of the time I've managed to get the picture I wanted, unless it was in a low light environment, like inside a room. Without flash, those pictures has always been hard to take: I often ended up with blurry pictures and red tones like the one above. It didn't look like what I saw with my eyes.

Since 2003, I bought multiple cameras, each time hoping I would no longer have trouble taking photos in low light. It indeed improved each time. Nowadays, I mostly take photos with a FujiFilm X-E3 and I'm often happy with the result!

Taken in Rotterdam with the FujiFilm X-E3

The photo above was taken on the go, without a tripod. Thanks to the somewhat large sensor and the optical stabilisation of the lense, I can now take those kind of pictures in one shot. I just love it. Though it's not perfect yet. That picture was taken in 1/4 seconds. Which means that the people moving on the bottom right of the picture are blurry.

Fortunately, a lot of companies are working continuously on improving digital photography. And one company recently started working on it: Google. With their Pixel phones, they showed what can be done by adding a lot of computing power to a camera. And the results have been quite impressive. So I can't wait to finally get the Pixel 3 that I pre-ordered and check how good it is, particularly in low light.

I'll try to make a series of blog posts comparing real life uses of a camera with a great APS-C sensor like the X-E3 and a smartphone that heavily uses computational photography like the Pixel.

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