Gary’s Parries 17/12/06

December 17, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Gary's Parries | 18 Comments |

Gary's ParriesThis week’s Gary’s Parries topics are:

1. Why G7 Lacks Raw Support
2. New Techniques In Image Refocusing

Introducing this week’s Gary’s Parries column. Everything you always wanted to know about digital cameras, but were afraid to ask. No question too difficult, or too easy. As a Senior Principal Software Engineer, and a former Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, as well as a recording studio owner/operator, inventor, and now, a digital camera enthusiast, GARY has more digital camera knowledge in his entire brain than most people have in their little finger. In the unlikely event that GARY would not know the answer to your question, he will answer it anyway, true to the spirit of the word “Parries”, a fencing term which, in this context, implies “cleverly evasive answers”. So let your imagination run wild. Email all your nagging digital camera questions to: garysparries@photographyblog.com , and then, En Garde!

You may also attach to your email an ORIGINAL PHOTO of your choosing. A preview of the photo will be displayed with your question, and a full-sized version will be just a click away. No personal information will be published with your question unless you specifically include it in the text or attached photo of your email, which may be further edited for grammar, content, or other reasons.

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*** QUESTION 1—- WHY G7 LACKS RAW SUPPORT
***

Hi Gary,

I have read in the forums of PhotographyBLOG, and other websites, that the Canon PowerShot G7’s lack of Raw support was purely a marketing decision by Canon, designed to prevent the G7 from impacting Canon’s DSLR sales, which were obviously more important to them.

I have also read, in a recent statement from Canon’s Director of Media and Customer Relations, Chuck Westfall, that Canon omitted Raw support from their G7 because the G7 does not have the same high image quality as previous G-series cameras, and therefore Raw mode would offer “no discernible improvement in image quality” compared to JPEG SuperFine.

Now I don’t know what to believe. The predominant theory on the forums remains that it was a total marketing ploy by Canon. But why then would Canon release a statement admitting to the fact that the G7 has inferior image quality to its predecessors?

Thank you in advance for your response.

Sincerely,
Jack


***
*** ANSWER 1
***

Jack, one thing is for sure, there has been much dissatisfaction (to put it mildly) with Canon’s decision to omit Raw support from their G7. But you know, Jack, there had to have been a lot more dissatisfaction just a few months earlier, when Canon announced at PMA 2006 the total DISCONTINUATION of the G-series.

Looking back on that PMA announcement, we now know that it was nothing more than a deceptive marketing ploy. Canon knew all along they would be releasing the G7. They also knew it would lack the traditional G-series features of Raw support, a flip-out and twist LCD, and a high-speed lens, and they must have known that these omissions would disgruntle current G-series owners looking to upgrade. So they were hoping that the reversal of the G-series discontinuation would be enough to alleviate this discontent, but they were wrong. Their deception backfired.

As a result, Canon was left with an explosive situation, a rebellion against the G7, and more importantly, against Canon itself for putting their DSLR interests above the needs of G-series customers. Canon needed to do something quickly to save face, hence, the statement by Chuck Westfall, but no one bought it. Yet another deception that backfired.

And why wouldn’t it? Their contention that higher image noise would render Raw mode ineffective is simply not true. The biggest advantage of Raw is that it provides the option to defer irreversible image processing decisions until post-processing, and it does this regardless of a camera’s level of image noise. The addition of Raw to the G7 would have allowed for much more shooting flexibility than can be achieved with JPEG, where all such decisions must be locked in at the time of shooting.

If ineffectiveness were the reason Canon decided to omit Raw support from the G7, why then did they up the G7’s resolution another 3 megapixels over the G6? How ineffective is that? Why do they include a red-eye flash mode, when automatic red-eye removal is much more effective? Why do they even bother with ISO 1600? Raw mode would have been much more useful than any of these current G7 features.

So, Jack, getting back to your question, why would Canon release a statement pointing out the G7’s higher image noise, if not to offer the ‘real’ reason why the G7 lacks Raw support? The answer is quite simple. Sir Walter Scott said it best, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” :)

***
*** QUESTION 2—- NEW TECHNIQUES IN IMAGE REFOCUSING
***

Dear Gary,

There was recently an excellent article in PhotographyBLOG, Refocusing Photographs After Taking the Image, which explains a new technique in image refocusing developed by Stanford graduate student, Ren Ng. It was an ‘excellent’ article, except for the fact that I totally did not understand it … but I want it. Gary, could you please shed some light on this new refocusing technique for me?

Thank you so much.

Jill


***
*** ANSWER 2
***

Jill, I must admit, the article was confusing to me, as well. The key to understanding this new refocusing technique is all in the understanding of ‘plenoptic’ cameras, which are ‘single-lens’ 3-D cameras, as compared to conventional 3-D cameras that utilize a pair of lenses separated horizontally by a few inches (much like a pair of eyes).

In plenoptic cameras, there is an array of, say, 90,000 microlenses placed directly in front of, say, a 16-megapixel CCD. Each of these 90,000 microlenses illuminates only a tiny section of the 16-megapixel CCD with the light from a correspondingly positioned tiny ‘spot’ on the object under view. This yields 90,000 sub-images consisting of 178 pixels each, where each pixel of a particular sub-image represents a slightly different angled view of its associated spot, and where correspondingly numbered pixels from different sub-images represent identically angled views of their associated spots. With this arrangement, it is possible to construct a complete image of the object under view from any one of 178 angles by selecting the identically numbered pixel from each of the 90,000 sub-images.

For example, if pixel #1 in each sub-image (i.e., spot on the object) corresponds to a view of that spot from the top-left, to construct a top-left view of the complete object, we would simply select pixel #1 from all 90,000 sub-images. Similarly, to construct a bottom-right view of the complete object, we would simply select pixel #178 from all 90,000 sub-images. To construct a straight-on view of the object, we would select pixel #89 from all 90,000 sub-images.

Notice that, while the CCD in the above example has a 16-megapixel resolution, all 178 views of the object will have an image resolution of only 90,000 pixels (i.e., the number of microlenses in the array). This severely reduced resolution is one of the drawbacks of using plenoptic cameras for 3-D imaging.

Now that we understand plenoptic cameras, it is a simple matter to visualize that Ren Ng has developed a mathematical formula for analyzing their 3-D image information, and for then extrapolating new focal points from that information, thereby refocusing the image. The proof of this is left as an exercise for the reader. :)

[Note: Much thanks to Nick in Japan for capturing these wonderful fall colors with his Canon EOS 20D. – Ed.]

***
[Column photo “The Photographer” by Brenda LaFleur of Brenda LaFleur Photography.]



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18 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 nick in japan

#1..Obvious that the 10mp is something that sells a camera, probably alot of emotional conflict at Canon over "G" Series survival, so as a last-ditch effort to boost sales.. Walla!
#2.. I'm having a serious problem with understanding this subject too, and your comment, Gary," severely reduced resolution" just endorses my confusion! Resolution from the example you give us would actually be so poor that it would be unacceptable for the cameras we use... so, are we sure that this "plenoptic" adaptation is what this is all about?
#2a.. I love backlit subjects , and this branch was just begging to be adjusted to the 16X9 size, too!

1:35 am - Sunday, December 17, 2006

#2 Sid

Canon must have done a survey of the owners of previous G-models and found out that a majority of those owners never actually used Raw, or used it so very little. Just doing a quick survey of digicam owners will tell you that a majority don't do much post-processing either.
If there was a ploy to discontinue the G-series, it's also probably because they wanted to introduce models in the future that would be appropriate for the expected changes (read: improvements) in upcoming camera technologies (such as clear-cut definitions of what various technologies consumers actually put to use).
It's also getting to that point where the numerous varieties of digicams that a company like a Canon has in the market was affecting their profit margins by cannibalizing each other with too many similar models overlapping each other (sorry about the redundancy of these statements ha-ha-ha, to put the pun mildly).

Backfired? I don't think so, personally. Going back just 5 years ago, would you have said at that time that we would reach the 10 Megapixel barrier in compact digicams and that we would all be complaining about not enough pro-sumer choices in compact DSLRs???? I doubt it. In fact, i think we would've been complaining a lot more about how computers would always lack the Hard-Drive spaces and speed to process such large files in the first place to get good results from post-processing. Printing 10 Megapixel photos at home on a consumer printer gives tremendous results - and it is possible to make some decent fixes still, even from those JPEGs. Side-by-side, you would be hard-pressed to be able to detect that much of a difference. Plus, you could always learn to know the camera's tendencies so that you could make those learned adjustments and squeeze nice results (as I used to do with film, using such learned anticipations).

Shoot, I could go on and on, but to flat out say that Canon is WRONG and DECEPTIVE is rather out of order. It also shows that you don't really know what you're talkning about.

8:30 am - Sunday, December 17, 2006

#3 Gary's Parries

Nick, unfortunately, until sensor resolutions increase by two orders of
magnitude, this refocusing technique will not be very useful in normal
photographic endeavors.

Sid, to put this all in perspective, I view most marketing techniques as
'exercises' in deception. As for your rationalization that Raw was really
not used by most G-model owners, so why include it, I think you could
make a similar rationalization for eliminating Manual mode.

And yes, Sid, as you pointed out, I really don't know what I'm 'talkning'
about. :)

4:59 pm - Sunday, December 17, 2006

#4 Itai

With regards to the G7, or any other camera for that matter, the manufacturer's goal is not to please every desire of every potential user. Their goal is to produce the least costly camera which the user will buy.

So, if Canon thinks that the G7 without RAW support would sell just as well, then they have no incentive to put it in. The proof comes from Luminous-Landscape (http://tinyurl.com/yapgfd).
Firstm the review there says that with RAW support this camera would have been a great contender. However, in the postscript, is says that he still bought one anyways. There we have it, Canon wins. Canon produced a camera without RAW support and someone who says RAW support is essential buys it.

5:02 pm - Sunday, December 17, 2006

#5 Donna Ford

I just purchased the Fuji F20 for my pocket camera.

I am so envious of the beautiful street nightshot you displayed. How in the world did you get this camera to produce the deep colors
and the total ambience that the photo projects?

I want to learn how to get the most out of this camera but your shot seems impossible to me.
Great pictures!
Donna Ford

9:41 pm - Sunday, December 17, 2006

#6 Gary's Parries

Itai, excellent analysis and deduction, except for one 'tiny' flaw in your
logic. Adding Raw support to the G7 would NOT have increased its cost.

Donna, thank you for the compliments on the photo. While the Fuji F20
is an excellent camera, NO camera is going to produce results like that
without some post-processing. In the case of the 'bird perched on tree'
night shot (which was actually shot in the middle of the day), the levels
used were Brightness/-30, Contrast/+20, Saturation/+100, and a bit of
Unsharp Mask. The processing took all of about a minute, and was well
worth the investment in time. Oh, and the lens flare was just plain luck. :)

As for the 'autumn leaves' shot, I'll let Nick say what he did on that one.

12:45 am - Monday, December 18, 2006

#7 nick in japan

Gary, feel free to add what-ever, comments, to the images I send you.
Donna, Please don't use "impossible", nor "can't" when you are talking about your photography, IMHO, it takes some motivation away, and we all need help along the way.
The image I submitted for Gary's use, is an on-going adventure of working with a very fast lens, and seeing what kind of bokeh ( pronounced "bouquet") I can get.
The colors are pretty near what Mother Nature provided, I DO tweak all my images a bit tho, trying not to cross the line slipping into the dreaded "Un-natural" zone.
I love back-lit shots, especially when I can isolate the subject against a dark back-ground. With this set-up, an old Canon FD 85mm 1.2 with doubler/adapter for the EOS mount, the area in focus is very shallow, and with strong light, alot of soft, glowing blurred effect is evident.
I believe that a VERY similar effect could be obtained with an aperture of, probably, 1.4 and 1.8.
The wonderful thing about digital is that you can experiment all day long, and your test results are immediate, and the only thing holding you back is keeping fresh batteries and a storage card ready to go.
Please keep a positive attitude and read, read, read about the camera you are using, having it become an extension of your desire to get better and better images, we are anxious to keep abreast of your feelings about your camera, your experiences along the way, AND, your images.
I think I can speak for Gary, and Mark, in that we will be here for your questions, Gary gets the hard ones, please! I take this liberty because I really have felt at home here, a real nice feeling to say the least.
Good luck, good shooting and good health!

1:58 am - Monday, December 18, 2006

#8 Sid

Unbelievable.

You are so petty, Gary, that you have to point out other people's cheap typos and put them down for it, instead of admitting to the fact that you are out of order.

Deceptive marketing? Huh? They make a product, they sell a product. You don't like it, you wish it to be some other way - then go make one yourself then.
According to your "humble" opinion, THEY'RE WRONG. You said that they are WRONG, my man. Huh? What gives? How can they be wrong, when you couldn't even manufacture a camera yourself at your place? I don't get it. How can a manufacture be WRONG in making a product that is just like all the other products on the market, even with all these billions of opinions and suggestions that float in and out every minute of the day all across the globe that all seem to act like the correct, proper, precise and perfect suggestion for what a camera in the class of G7 should exactly be like? How can they be so WRONG, after all these years of ideas and suggestions from such opinionated folks such yourself, that they still DO NOT make a camera according to your preferred specifications of what a mid-range consumer digicam with Raw support should be? Oh yeah Canon has to be deceptive, what they do and produce must be wrong.

No Gary, there is no FLAW in what Itai said - he never said anything that including Raw would have increased the camera's costs. Go read it again.

2:41 am - Monday, December 18, 2006

#9 nick in japan

Sid, IMHO, Gary wasn't making fun of your typo, Gary has his opinions, and, I think his humor is , maybe, different than yours.
I feel alot of anger developing here in Mark Goldstein's house, and, I learned a long time ago that there are two things you should do when visiting, one is leaving all anger outside before you come in.

4:32 am - Monday, December 18, 2006

#10 Gary's Parries

Anger is a good way to make a point when the facts are against you.

Bottom line, Canon discontinued their G-series in February 2006, and
then announced the 'G7' in September 2006, but without many of the
features that had previously distinguished the G-series. When Canon
was accused of abandoning their loyal G-series customers, they tried
to save face by rationalizing that Raw wouldn't be very useful. If that
really is the case then there would be no reason for Canon not to add
Raw to the G7 via a firmware update. Okay, Canon, the ball is in your
court.

6:06 am - Monday, December 18, 2006

#11 Sid

You felt abandoned? Awwwwww we're all so sorry then.

Hold on -

the G7 is $150 cheaper than the G6 at their respective introductions, and the G7 is, excepting the Raw and the flip-out LCD, is better in every other respect than the G6. More pixels, bigger zoom, image-stabilized, bigger LCD, better focus, better macro, faster shutter, better movie recording, SD card instead of CF, faster USB, and it is lighter and smaller.

So instead of hanging on to the name, pretend that it's a whole other camera then. It's a hybrid A & G, an in-between camera that merges the 2 groups of loyal users, probably - and bumping others looking for much more "true" photographic features into stepping up and buying a DSLR. If anything, Canon was darn right smart in blurring that line between their higher A-series cameras and the G series. Cos for those that wanted a few more features in an A, now they can buy this G7 instead of having to step all the way up to a DSLR and get a really nice package - for such typical consumerist shooters.

What was that you were saying about marketing? Are you apologizing now?

8:49 am - Monday, December 18, 2006

#12 Gary's Parries

Sid ('Vicious' I presume), if the G7 had included Raw, it STILL would
have been $150 cheaper than the G6, it STILL would have had more
pixels, longer zoom, larger lcd, etc., and it STILL would have been a
nice upgrade for A-series users. The only difference would be that it
now would encroach on Canon DSLR sales as well.

And yes, my apologies, Sid, for sticking to the facts. :)

9:42 am - Monday, December 18, 2006

#13 carl hamilton

that's right Sid , the G7 is CHEAPER vis a vis the G6 , its predecessor . a perfect camera for all those EL CHEAPOS out there who were effectively bamboozled lock , stock and barrel by the G7s feeble attempt at assuming a pseudo - rangefinder camera's countenance with the aid of 3 more megapixels housed in an impossibly thin body . please allow me to Christen this camera , " THE GRIPLESS ONE " or more suitably , " THE GLAMORIZED DIGITAL BOX CAMERA " ahem , with all pun intended .

11:23 am - Monday, December 18, 2006

#14 Itai

Lets say Canon enables RAW support using a firmware update in the G7. Lets even say that it is a simple task: add a menu option, skip the JPEG conversion code and don't even test it. Here you go, zero-cost RAW support.

What would we expect to happen when we take a picture in RAW mode? Obviously we get a RAW file.What do we do with it? We can't see it without conversion. OK, lets get some software guys to patch us a RAW converter for free. OK, now we got usable RAW support and it did not cost anything, but why is it so damn slow?

How come it takes dozens of seconds to write this file? Well, Canon probably chose a memory controller designed to write smaller JPEG files at a reasonable rate. With 10 megapixels RAW files, the camera chokes. I won't bother calculating how slow, but I've seem cameras which do 2 FPS in JPEG an take 20s per-frame in RAW mode.

At this speed, most people would consider RAW support useless. Then they would ask: why do they bother putting a feature in if they can't do it right?

Luckily for Canon, they didn't.

3:41 pm - Monday, December 18, 2006

#15 Gary's Parries

Itai, you raised some good points, although a bit over-exaggerated.
A more 'likely' scenario is Canon had intended to include Raw mode
in their G7. However, upon realizing what a 'dog' it was, decided at
the last minute to ditch it, thus requiring a firmware update. I doubt
they changed any G7 hardware to accommodate Raw exclusion, so
putting it back would only require reverting to the previous firmware
version. As for Raw software, I completely agree Canon would have
had to include their Digital Photo Professional with the G7.

Still, your main point was right on. If they can't do it well, better not
to do it at all. We'll never know.

7:43 pm - Monday, December 18, 2006

#16 Sid Vicious 'Ere

Oi Oi Oi now be'ave proper like, or I'll trod on yer 'ead, mate!

Gaz - you just repeated what Itai said. Have you got some sort of pituitary disorder disorder? LMAOoooooooooo

Time to move on. Get over it. You want to shoot Raw, then step up to a proper camera, like? Cos you're gonna want them features/options of faster lenses, bigger lenses and crisper images, know wot I mean?

2:07 am - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

#17 Gary's Parries

RBAY, Sid, RBAY. :)

1:20 pm - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

#18 Gary's Parries

I received this email from CNET reporter, Stephen Shankland, who
broke the story about Westfall's announcement at CNET News.com.
Thanks for the info, Stephen. - GP

Gary,

In case you want to add a link to the original comments or see the discussion in full, it's here at the CNET News.com:

http://news.com.com/2061-10801_3-6139374.html

He gave some hard numbers on pixel size I found interesting. (Many of those posting feedback were unimpressed with Westfall's reasoning.) Westfall also got a little bit of air time on the subject in this related story:

http://news.com.com/Adobe+taps+the+power+of+negative+thinking/2100-1041_3-6136875.html

sts

7:55 pm - Saturday, December 23, 2006