Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More real-world lighting that looks like a graphics bug

Here is a scene from my house.  No nightlights or floor lighting.  These pictures are not exaggerated.
That looks like there is a light!
The light actually comes from the window but still it looks like there is a light under the couch

Another view.  The sun on the couch is just very very bright

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A curious search fail

I have just moved from a Windows Mobile Phone to an iPhone, and I am super-impressed with both devices' hardware and software.  However, I am equally surprised at the failure modes of Apple's and Microsoft's app stores.  We have a Windows app called "Pando".  If you search for "Pando" you don't find it.  Apple manages to fail as impressively on our app "Pic!" which one cannot find searching by title.  In each case, you can find it by searching under "Pixio", our partner whose app store portal we use (Pixio had 2 of the first 300 apps on the Apple app store, and we love the name!).  If anybody knows what channel to submit a bug report on either of these things, let me know.  App discovery is hard enough if you ARE in the index :)

Smartphone camera ratings

Mike Herf pointed me to a really serious evaluation of the iPhone6 where it came out the current leader (dxomark link).

Their numeric ratings I collected from their various pages (take with a grain of salt as any single number has issues-- look at their detailed tests before you buy anything based on it):

  1. 86  iPhone 6
  2. 79 Galaxy S5 
  3. 79 Galaxy S4
  4. 76 Sony Xperia Z1
  5. 76 iPhone 5s
  6. 74 Nokia Lumina 1020
  7. 73 LG G2
  8. 72 iPhone 5
  9. 63 HTC One M8   
Bottom line appears that everybody has caught up to the 5s, but Apple has created a gap again.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Rebuttal to the Daily Mail

Having just got out an app to beat the iPhone6 launch (Pic!  try it!),  I am catching up on all the reading I haven't done the last few months.   People who know me well will not be surprised that the Daily Mail is my favorite paper.  I try to be intellectual enough to read The Guardian and the FT, but the Mail is my kind of paper.   I was pleased to see an app by my buds at Pixio featured in the Mail during my news blackout.  Further, it got trashed by the Mail, which I know often says good things about a person, place, or thing.  I actually had never used the app, so I bought it for 99 cents US and in fact I think it is a nice little app that you can use to teach yourself how to use an abacus.   Further it was one of the first 300 apps on the store!  Not sure what the Mail has against the abacus, maybe some left over animosity from the Roman Empire (being stuck on the wrong side of that wall would make anyone mad). It’s cheaper and easier than going out and buying a physical one, the counters on it make it obvious how it works unlike the real ones which I never  understood before today.   So you can make yourself smarter for 99 cents, or you can buy a Sunday Daily Mail for $2 and make yourself dumber reading stories about Honey Boo Boo and seeing pictures of buxom Octoberfest waitresses.  Or you can spend $3 and come out exactly as smart as you were before you started.  That being said, I will use the language I have learned reading the Mail and tell them that on this issue they are a bunch of stupid gits that should probably be using two cans and a string instead of a reviewing apps for smart phones.

While I am talking about Pixio, let me tell you that its co-founder, Lorenzo Swank, got in line 33 hours before the iPhone6 was available, and he got one.  Exactly 33 hours later he dropped it in the toilet.  I think that he is probably the first person on Earth to test an iPhone 6 with a toilet dunk, results as expected (it does come with a prize: paying Apple more money).  Maybe the Daily Mail should do a story on that, because things involving idiocy and bathrooms seem to be more up their alley.  Like what ever happened to Honey Boo Boo for example...

More iPhone6 tests: app using the camera

As I thought about how almost absurdly good the iPhone6 is in low light, I became concerned this was only available in the Apple camera app.  I just took pictures on the inside of my cabinet (it's quite dark) and did a side-by-side test of the Apple Camera app and an app taken inside Pic!

taken inside Apple Camera app

Taken inside Pic!

Thankfully, whatever low-light mojo is going on under the hood, is the default for 3rd party developers.  For fun I also tried posterizing it to see how the noise looked, and the "random dithered" nature of the noise has a cool look to my eye.

Posterization inside Pic!

Just so my blog doesn't devolve into a Apple Fanboy festival, note that as an App Extension our app often crashes in the real phone but is fine with all the simulators.  Not surprising for a new feature (and in our case a new language: Swift), but it appears this is Apple's bug.  We eagerly await iOS 8.01.  But the app seems to work great as an app, so far from a wipe-out.  The other two apps with photo extensions we are aware of (Camera+ and Fragment) are faring a little better, and it would be nice to see if they are written in Swift or Objective-C.  Further if you search the Apple Store for "Pic!" it doesn't find our app.  Talk about an app discovery problem!  So search for "Pixio" or use this link.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A test on moving objects and the iPhone 6+

Here is a low-light moving object (2 on the stand mixer scale).  Impressive!  I will not include my real camera until I find the charger :)

iPhone 5c

iPhone 6+

And here are some 200x200 pixel close-ups with the 5c on the left of each
Here is the post on the right
Moving object (farthest white part on the left of paddle)
Clearly the 6+ is way better.  But interesting that the noise is really at the pixel level with smaller blobs you see there is a better dithering effect.  As a Monte Carlo guy, I like the path tracing look, and with so many pixels it will work.  Whatever is going on under the hood it is impressive, because as far as I know the sensors are not that different.

Test of iPhone6+ camera in low light

I have been out of the iPhone world (as an everyday user) for a year as I tried the Android and Windows phones.   I just got a 6+ and have heard rumors it is a serious contender in the camera world.   So I decided to try it in the conditions I break out my real camera: low light.  I also tried an iPhone 5c because I had access to one (I would love to see how the 5s fares which I am sure we will see from other users).    The test scene subjectively was about as dark a picture as I would take that's not some night image and I had adjusted this picture to "seem" like what I saw.   Basically a tavern illumination level.
The specs of the cameras I used were:
  • iPhone 5c, 3264x2448 pixels, 1/3.2" sensor (1.4um pixel size)
  • iPhone 6+, 3264x2448 pixels, 1/3" sensor (1.5um pixel size)
  • Canon G1X, 4352x2904 pixels, 1.5" sensor (4.3um pixel size)
Here is a nice image from gizmag to show how ginormous that canon sensor is (it's almost as big as the serious DLSR cameras now):
 So the area of the big pixels is about 8 times that of the phone pixels.  If pixel size tells most of the story at low light levels, as I have always said, we should expect the phones to not do nearly as well.  But to listen to the interwebs, the phones are now competitive.  In my test let's see:
iPhone 5c

iPhone 6+
Canon G1X
 To my surprise, they all did quite well on color.  The tone mapping does crank up the brightnesses and make the scene appear brighter, but that is not wrong; it's a matter of taste.  The blurry foreground of the Canon shows it was opening up its aperture to get more light, so more than sensor size should come into play.  Let's look closer to see if the phones can possibly compete with the Canon's big sensor/aperture working in concert.  Here are 100x100 pixels of each near where things are in focus.
Left to right 5c, 6+, Canon G1X

My only conclusion is WOW.  Apple really has a home run here.  Granted the Canon is a few years old and I skipped the 5s and maybe this is old news and the 6 isn't much better than the 5s (and other cameras of that generation are competitive from what I have seen) but I am amazed Apple could pull this off.  I am looking forward to seeing how the other manufacturers respond (for example, if Nokia, which has a great camera track record, makes a phone with a much bigger sensor, can they do even better), and how the DSLR makers do as this technology makes its way to the high end.

I suppose I have a more personal conclusion.  If I don't need defocus blur effects, the Canon is going in the drawer for now.