Digital Zeiss Ikon Mark II Concept

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I have spent countless hours trying to figure out what is the process of photography. How does the eye and mind connect? I am not talking about neurology here, but rather a higher level, kind of primitive understanding of the simple act of taking a photo. I do this by a simple observation of me the photographer taking a photo. It goes something like this: I get interested in a scene in front of me. I don’t know why and I don’t ask why. I try to visualize how I want to take this shot by deciding on the frame which includes a quick observation of the light, then the depth of field, I decide on the key, I look at the geometry, the lines, make sure the point of interest or the idea is clear and then I take the shot. Now this may not seem a lot. However if you start breaking every step down into observing the 2 available scenarios ‘now I am thinking’ and ‘now I am reacting (or feeling)’, things start to get wired and taking the shot becomes an impossible task. Thinking blocks the emotions and art without science tends to be not very interesting. Go figure. Luckily statistics works to our favor. If we shoot 5,000 photos just randomly, there’s got to be one that is good. You have to be the unluckiest person on earth to not have one that is good out of the 5,000. This is what keeps me going. Don’t Stop. I am messing with you. Keep reading…

By definition the art of photography is a process of selection or mostly elimination based on emotional responses. Therefore it is safe to assume that everything else is science. When and where does the art start? When does it end? When does the science take over? How do we swing back and forth between both poles?

Can I skip this science thingy and become a pure artist?

This camera concept answers this last question. Through the help of machine learning and computer vision an advanced camera should be able to quickly analyze the frame and visually overlay the scene with additional metadata describing the frame dynamics, tensions, alternative framing of the scene, visual path, juxtaposition, clarity of point of interest, patterns… etc. This should be done in real-time and on demand.

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This might sound like science fiction but the truth is that what I have described above is very scientific. These technologies are already available in modern cameras in a limited form. Some cameras do scene matching to calculate exposure in complex wide dynamic range scenes. Many cameras can detect faces to nail the focus. Why not detect every object in the scene. If it does not recognize the object, teach the camera how to recognize it. Who knows perhaps you may share what you taught your camera with your friend’s camera over Instagram if he pays for your coffee. Pass him your talent over NFC for 10 minutes only and let it expire afterwards. Then sell it as an in-camera purchase at a high price because he got a taste of it and he liked it.

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All photos at the back of the camera are taken from the Zeiss website and are copyrighted.

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4 thoughts on “Digital Zeiss Ikon Mark II Concept”

  1. Jawad, thank you for this post. You have made me realise that I haven’t fully examined and understood how I approach photography. Your post has stirred my thoughts, for which I am thankful. Only a handful of people here manage to do that. Sergio, and Richard (whom you haven’t met), do a similar thing to me from time to time.

    So, essentially, if I understood correctly, the science behind it will recognise (or learn to recognise, initially with some interactive help) a set of “emotions” a particular scene can represent. These “emotions” would be presented to the user in a form of an overlay (or otherwise), to show frame dynamics, alternative crops, etc. allowing the user to select a potentially “better” or rather more visually pleasing image to shoot?

    If so, then I wonder if the “art” made with such a camera will have been reduced to a mere choice between selectable options such science would offer, e.g. “I choose this type of crop because I can see (or perhaps camera tells me) that it looks better”. Yes, we would most likely increase the 1 in 5,000 chance of making a good image – at least from a composition, dynamics, lighting, etc point of view, and the unaware connoisseurs of art thus created will most likely offer their favourable critique.

    The commercial industry would most likely benefit from the increase in the volume of “good” images (from stock photography point of view). However, what I think we will have lost, from a personal point of view, a point of view of an emotional beast, is the intensity of that emotion which initially inspires us to make something, regardless of its worth in the eyes of a critique. Look, I don’t know. As I said, I haven’t quite analysed what makes me push the shutter button and at which particular moment… but something inside me clicks, so I click. Yes, my internal mechanisms have probably been conditioned by the years of observation and recreation of something my subconscious mind remembers. I would probably like this process to remain instinctive. I do not need to fully understand it. As long as I am free to feel unaided, without an overlay to tell me that perhaps I could be expressing my feelings a bit “better’.

    I am trying to think how I would feel about an image that I made with such a camera.
    I guess I would initially be amazed by the technology – I always am. But I have an inkling that any such initial amazement would swiftly turn into boredom and I would again look towards Minolta, Yashica, Hasselblad or a Mamiya to feed my thirst.

    In summary, I am sure this type of tool would have a commercial success. However, I think that the less strenuous the process of creation becomes, or rather the less emotional control we have over what and how we create, the less worth our creation ultimately has, whether this “worth” is judged by ourselves alone, or by someone in the know. Yes, we would probably still own the copyright, but the image would be a step away from being ours.

    Anyhow, these are just my two cents (I reserve the right to change my mind at any point in time :). In any case, I really enjoyed reading your article. Most of all, I enjoyed the hours of after thought it inspired. Thank you.

    • Atif, the camera does not understand emotions. It only deals with the science part of photography. Juxtaposition for instance is scientifically defined. Same with frame dynamics and so on… It is only the selection part that is art. How you select the frame is up to you. You pick up the camera and you point it to the scene. It is you who have selected this scene. You turn on frame dynamics and the camera will overlay the arrows which represent the dynamics of the scene. You pan the camera left and right, those arrows will change in realtime and reflect the new dynamics in the scene. You mysteriously find yourself happy with the available dynamics (that’s the art part) and you click. In some situations the logic can get fuzzy and the camera will try to make some assumptions. If you disagree with the camera, you teach it. Hence, the more you use the camera, the more the camera learns about you. Now this is where it gets interesting. You point to a scene and you request alternate frames. The camera knows about the dynamics and/or other parameters you respond to. It looks at the scene and it tries to match what you like by providing you subframes, and at the same time giving you options that you have not considered to push your envelop. It is still up to you to make the selection. You are always the artist.

      From your comment, it is clear to me that you are not clearly defining the border between art and science. I don’t claim that I have accurately defined it, but I have simplified its definition by making art a simple process of selection or mostly elimination based on emotional responses and everything else is science.

      You make a scientific decision which in turn triggers an emotional reaction. You like the reaction and you select it. Now the camera makes the scientific decision which triggers an emotional reaction in you. Still the same rule applies. You like the reaction, you click. You don’t like the reaction you don’t click.

      All these learnings your camera has gone through can be packaged and shared with others.

      I know this is difficult to accept. I have been internally rejecting this concept for years and my left brain is telling this fact to my right brain over and over and my right brain’s response was always “you are silly. You still don’t know me. You think you do but you don’t ” 🙂

      No, I am not schizophrenic.

  2. I understand well I just need that machine 🙂
    Simple and nice explanation
    Thanks

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