Photography Equipment Dongles

Canon, one of the heavyweights in the imaging business, has just presented its latest DSLR camera, the EOS 5D Mk. IV. The 5D Mk. IV is a professional piece of equipment and priced accordingly at roughly 4.100 € in the Eurozone. The latest EOS body's most interesting new feature is called dual pixel RAW, the second mass-market implementation of a concept out of the toolbox of computational photography after Lytro had its shot for establishing a plenoptical camera system.

Dual pixel RAW gives the photographer more control over the recorded picture, he can shift the plane of sharpness up to a certain grade or optimize the "bokeh" in the out of focus areas.

In order to access those advanced features one has to use the software provided by Canon - the customer doesn't have to pay extra for it. Adobe has announced that it will support dual pixel RAW in one of the next versions of Photoshop / Camera RAW and Lightroom. It's not clear as of now whether Canon has opened the specification so that developers of Free and Open Source (FOSS) solutions can integrate dual pixel RAW features into their solutions.

Camera bodies are computers nowadays, inseparably intertwined with software. The RAW data formats as defined by industry leaders like Canon, Nikon or Sony are proprietary and partially encrypted and have to be re-engineered in order to be processed by FOSS projects like dcraw.

Another aspect of proprietary camera technology is software correction of optical weaknesses in a maker's lenses. Contemporary systems with a short flange (MFT or Sony Alpha) can accomodate almost every 35mm lens ever made via simple adaptors. But it won't be so simple to use lenses made for those systems on future third party bodies as the lenses are inseparable from the correction software in the original maker's cameras. The lenses could be used, but they won't deliver their full performance, unless some knowledgeable person does some re-engineering. So the camera is the hardware dongle for the lens.

Those business practices might be in order for amateurs, but for professional photographers and archivists they are annoyances, especially in the long run. Even important camera system makers can disappear as Minolta has shown not too long ago. Their formats can be forgotten, dropped from commercial converter software. Canon's dual pixel RAW shows that new proprietary technologies will continue to play an important role in the field. They have to convert their RAW data into DNG or another standardized open format. In the end, it's up the FOSS community again to preserve the artifacts of digital culture, make them futureproof. Market leaders like Canon and Nikon could learn from smaller makers like Pentax or Leica who offer a DNG recording option in their cameras.

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Language Shift

To google so./sth. (2010) = To search for something on the Internet
To google so. (2018) = To bamboozle and/or drone somebody

To like so. (2010) = (sic.)
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Tweet (2000) = Bird noise / Female soul singer
Tweet (2018) = Locator in several govt. databases (US, China, Neo-USSR) for future extortion/violent death/droning


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