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Focussing On Focussing

17th October 2011 General Articles

We live in the future – to me, two parts of the future being NOW are voice control of computers (and Siri on the iPhone 4s is the first quite effective example of that) – and CSI type forensics with photos (my first real memory of which was watching Harrison Ford zoom in on images in what remains pretty much my favourite movie of all time, Blade Runner (Director’s or Final Cut, please!).

Anyway, there are some very interesting developments on the horizon for image sharpness.

The first is effective de-blurring – not just a crude sharpen filter like all the ones currently on offer, but real effective recovery of ‘lost’ detail. Still a ways to go with this one but the results are beginning to look very impressive. Full details at this Adobe blog post.

This example solves one type of image blur only, but it's pretty amazing - you can see the full size version at the Adobe blog linked above.

This goes hand in hand with soon-upcoming developments in the area of ‘complete focus’ – that is, RAW shots that contain every point in focus from front to back, and simple tools to choose the point of focus, and the desired depth of field, in post production when RAW processing. You can go from pin sharp, front to back landscape photography style to nothing but the eyes romantic blurry background type shot – all in post production with easy tools.

Think about that for a second – this means never having to focus your camera again – and never missing focus because of crappy auto-focus decisions your camera made.

It will presumably be achieved by very very rapid ‘focus bracketing’. Several raw images taken in extremely rapid succession with the focus point moved from near to far – similar in concept to exposure bracketing. They’re calling it Focus Stacking.

Very exciting stuff. Currently there’s several software packages that can do this after the fact, but its slow and laborious. When it moves to hardware and becomes part of the standard RAW workflow, it’s going to open up some very interesting opportunities in capture.