A software engineer from Google was challenged to take a nighttime photo using a smartphone. He used a series of innovative methods to shoot and edit the takes which resulted into an incredibly clear image. Although he did not reveal anything, this method might end up in Google’s future smartphones, such as Pixel.
Kainz’s colleagues dared him to take a clear low light smartphone photo
Florian Kainz is part of the Gcam research team. Everything started when he showed his colleagues a picture he took of a night landscape using a DSLR. Then, knowing that smartphone cameras have some limitations, especially when it comes to taking low light photos, they challenged Kainz to capture the same image with a smartphone.
In his attempt, Kainz got inspired from several tools. First of all, there is HDR+, which aims to create the perfect smartphone photo by combining more images. Another useful tool is SeeInTheDark, an app which drops the resolution and merges photos to capture the best images in low light.
However, Kainz did not resort to any of these methods completely, as they imposed certain limitations. He also chose to take several shots of the landscape and put them together. However, he used long exposure takes. He argued that such photos turn out brighter, and putting more brighter photos together would provide a better result.
He had to combine multiple shoots and edit them
Then there came the challenges. One of the main issues when shooting night photos is focus, which has to be manually set even for DSLR. Thus, Kainz created an app which allowed him to set the focus of the camera manually. Besides, he could shoot multiple takes, control the ISO, and produce photos in a different format, DNG, which makes their editing much easier.
After the shooting session was over, he took the numerous photos and started editing them by using a desktop program. He combined all the images, refined those takes where ISO was visible, and obtained an amazing photo. It still did not look like one shot using a DSLR, but it still was the most detailed low light image ever taken using a smartphone camera.
Kainz declared that a smartphone app might allow users to take multiple low light photos and then merge them into one single shot, even if they do not know how to edit photos or combine them. Thus, he confirmed that a software might be able to process all these images and create successful nighttime photos.
However, he did not confirm that any such app would be available on one of Google’s future smartphones. Thus, we cannot say for sure if such a software is in development or if we will soon be able to use such a tool on our smartphones.
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