The i of the retina: Part 2
Jun 25th, 2010 by scaredpoet

Last week, I began a little experiment to test out the veracity of Apple’s claims about one of the new iPhone 4’s most touted features: the Retina display.  In particular, the claim is: “the Retina display’s pixel density is so high, your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels.”

Well, after subjecting the previous iPhone model, the 3GS, to a little bit of optical testing, we here at the lab have managed to gain access to one of the new specimens and have repeated our tests.  And as promised, here are the results.

First, a general overview of the iPhone 4 screen:

Obviously the above image is a greatly scaled-down view.  To see the whole thing, you’ll want to click here (sorry, slow-internet users).  Right off the bat, you hold this phone in your hand and you see a HUGE improvement over the previous display.  For the most part, the 3GS screen isn’t that bad when you look at it alone.  It does a pretty good job of doing what it has to do to deliver a decent image.  But the iPhone 4… wow.  Just… wow.  It’s incredibly crisp, and puts the previous generation screens to total shame.

Is it like holding a sheet of paper in your hand, like Apple claims?  No, not exactly.  Paper still has a better crispness to it.  But, this screen is still pretty damned clear.  And at least to my eyesight, Apple is right: I couldn’t make out individual pixels.

But, what about our little friend, with the much bigger eye and the much better eyesight?

Well, he’s been waiting for this moment. 🙂

The lab was set up as before: the camera fitted with a 60mm macro lens, and mounted at the closest distance it would focus (0.2m).  And here’s what it saw:

Again, this is reduced.  Here’s the full size version.

Long story short: yes, the Canon with the nice macro lens can still see the pixels on the new display.  But, that doesn’t really tell us much.  How does the new display stack up to the old one?

Let’s compare.  Here’s a reduced-size, side-by-side image of the Calculator app icon on the 3GS (left), and the iPhone 4 retina display (right):

And here of course, is the full-size image.  But even from the reduced image, it’s blatantly evident: there’s a BIG improvement between the old display and the new.

To drive the point home, here’s a pixel-for-pixel closeup:

Apple’s hard technical figures are spot-on: there’s effectively a 4:1 pixel increase in the new display over the old one, and the resulting improvement is significant.  In fact, it’s actually pretty hard to go back to using the previous-gen display after playing with the new one for a while.

Realistically and objectively though, is this alone worth the upgrade?  For some people, I would argue yes, particualrly if you use your iPhone a lot.  The new display is easier on the eyes, and has a nice vibrance to it.

On the other hand, a casual user might get the same wow-factor from looking at the new screen but wouldn’t quite benefit that much.  At the very least, there aren’t any iPhone apps as of this writing that absolutely require the better screen.  Though, that may change in time.

I certainly would wait until after the current waiting-line hysteria has died down.  It should be clear to any reasonable that until the lines start to dwindle as the early adopters finally get their gadgets, the chances of getting one in the immediate future if you haven’t already are slim.

As with the previous screen test, a gallery of test pics can be viewed after the cut:

Read the rest of this entry »
The i of the retina
Jun 16th, 2010 by scaredpoet

Ironically, a mere two hours before the great iPhone theft debacle that occurred earlier this week, I was busy photographing my beloved (and now lost) cell phone for a little project I wanted to work on.

In particular, I wanted to see just what kind of a difference there is between the previous model’s screen, and that of the new iPhone 4.  One of the new model’s oft-touted features is the retina display, which is purported to offer a resolution so high that the human eye can’t make out individual pixels.

Whether this is true or not is subject to heated debate in the blog and pundit arena. But I’m willing to bet that although my own naked eyes might not be able to make out individual pixels on the new iPhone, I think I know an eye that can.

With the right optics and magnification, my current 18 Megapixel digital camera should be able to give me what I’m looking for: the ability to really compare, pixel-for-pixel, between the existing iPhone 3GS display and the new iPhone 4.  While I still don’t have an iPhone 4 to test with, I figured I might as well get the first subject – the previous model – ready for its closeup, and then compare when I ultimately could get my hands on the new one.

And so, I got to work setting up the lab…

My Canon EOS T2i was fitted with an EF-S 60mm macro lens, and mounted directly above a comfortably-resting iPhone 3GS at the closest distance this lens will focus: 0.2 meters.  Simple enough, and pretty straightforward as seen from the image above.  Though I think the title shot, taken with lights-out over 25 seconds, with only the camera’s red-eye light and the iPhone display providing the lighting, makes it much more dramatic looking.

The actual shots themselves were taken in complete darkness (aside from the display of course) and the camera set to 100 ISO.  And the phone’s display brightness was set to full.

So how did it look?  See for yourself…

Hmm, that does seem pretty grainy, doesn’t it?  Well, We haven’t even scratched the surface.  This is a hugely-downsampled version of the original image, which you can download here.  But, in case you have a slow internet connection, here’s an enlargement of a small section of the image:

And now, we can see through the power of high-end digital photography, that the iPhone 3GS screen is pretty damned pixelated!

There are more images after the cut, showing additional examples of the screen at close range and at angles.  With any luck, I’ll be able to repeat this experiment with a brand new iPhone, and see what kind of difference a retina display can make.

Read the rest of this entry »
Down On the Farm…
Apr 17th, 2010 by scaredpoet

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, and this isn’t a doctored photo.  You are in fact looking some dude “carving” sculptures of turkeys and bears with a chainsaw, while kids are riding an elephant in the background.  Welcome to New Jersey.

Specifically, welcome to the New Jersey State Fair, also known as the Sussex County Farm & Horse Show, held every fall.  Indeed, most people who don’t live in NJ think the place is only smokestacks, garbage dumps and Mafia families.  But believe it or not, we actually have trees and plants!  And Farms!  With real animals!

This fair actually melds a lot of different state pastimes together: old style carnival rides and attractions, “shore food” (even though it’s not near the shore), and agriculture. This is the place where all the city slickers and suburbanites can see the more rural side of the state.

There was also plenty of random stuff too. There were robots (yes, robots!). there was an old beekeeper who kept getting stung by his very angry bees. And various random but interesting farm equipment.

Lots of additional photos of random events at the 2009 fair appear after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »
Polaroid’s Instant Film has its last run
Dec 8th, 2008 by scaredpoet


Some might say its death was long-overdue in a digital world. Others continue to cling to it and bristle at the changes in photographic technology. Regardless of what side you’re on, the demise of the Polaroid instant film format has been slow and tortuous, and if finally reaching its end.

This month marks the final production run of Polaroid film, with availability of the format expected to dwindle by late 2009. And although Polaroid is trying to assuage fans of the format with a digital surrogate, the PoGo Instant Mobile Printer, There’s still a dedicated group of Luddites format zealots who insist that the format’s discontinuation will be a serious crimp on their artistic creativity. Most of them have congregated at Save Polaroid, a site where technophobes enthusiasts hope to either convince Polaroid that their business decision is unwise, or get some other manufacturer to keep making the film.

Polaroid’s business case for dumping the format needs little explanation, really. For the price of a couple of packs of Polaroid film, anyone can buy a basic digital camera that creates images of arguably much better quality. And that’s assuming you don’t already have one built into your cell phone. And in the time it takes to wait for a Polaroid to develop and the image to fade into view, a digital image can be on flickr, or Myspace, or MobileMe or dozens of other sites, seen by anyone who cares to view it.

Before you criticize: I agree, a cell phone camera or a $75 Walmart special isn’t going to give you gallery-quality photographs. But then again, neither will a Polaroid. I mean, really… in my childhood I was given a cheap drugstore 110-film camera that produced images way better than the bulky, expensive, handed-down Land Camera the parents brought out from time to time. Even before I got my photographic chops, I knew the images from the Polaroid were embarrassingly bad. But if you wanted an image right away before the 1990s, well, that’s what you had to put up with. And lots of childhood photos and memories were recorded on those thick, white-bordered sheets.

Perhaps I’m just a digital purist at heart, and that’s why the imperfections of Polaroid make it repugnant to me. But for some reason, those dingbats fine, dedicated people at Save Polaroid find the flawed nature of Instamatic Film to be the very reason the format should be “saved.”

I can’t argue with the convenience and clarity of digital imaging. I use my digital camera all the time. It takes beautiful pictures and I don’t have to worry about loading film. But of the thousands of digital photos I have taken in my life, 99.9% of them will likely sit on a hard drive as raw data for an eternity, never to be transferred to paper, displayed, or shared.

With instant film you don’t get to make the choice of whether or not a picture is “good enough” to make a print. You get a print every time. You can’t just hit delete because someone was making a weird face, or the framing wasn’t quite right or in some way the image doesn’t live up to the unattainable idea of perfection we have all have in our heads from being exposed to too many Photoshopped images. The picture comes out no mater what.

Call me dumb, but can’t these issues be resolved through the use of photo sharing sites, printing digital photos on a printer, and just plain refusing to hit the “delete” button when you don’t like the way an image came out? Camera memory and hard drive space are cheap these days. Cheaper in fact, than… well, film.

I suppose a point can be made here that some find artistic value in imperfection. This is the very foundation of Lomography – the “art” of crappy photos taken on crappy cameras by mediocre amateurs, solely for the kitsch of the weird effects made by flawed optics. To some, the washed-out colors, poor image depth and sub-standard clarity of Polaroid instant film makes it a similarly accessible artform to the masses of shutterbugs who find the challenge of making a good photograph on a good camera just a little too demanding.

In any case, while some are bemoaning the loss of this film format, I’m fairly confident that in a way it proponents have little to worry about… the motto “don’t think, just shoot” will surivive just fine in the digital age.

Step 1 of brand identity 101: Learn how to spell your own name.
Jul 31st, 2005 by scaredpoet


So if Pentax is the “Official Digital Camera of the InternetTM, does that mean that Petnax is “teh l33t3st cam EVAR for teh Intarweb L0LZ?!”

UPDATE: Pentax has discovered their error and corrected it. But thanks to screen capture, I can make sure they’ll never live it down. I think it’s only fair turnabout considering they’re parading their stupid trademark like it’s an official award or something. Considering there is no standards body to declare anyone the official anything of the internet, I could call myself the Official Scared Poet of the InternetTM and no one could contest it… nor would it have any real meaning.

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Rights: Creative Commons License