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March 25, 2019
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Photography

AI photo startup Polarr raises an $11.5 million Series A

in Apps/Delhi/India/Photography/polarr/Politics/Recent Funding/Samsung/Startups by

Bay Area photography startup Polarr announced this morning that it has raised an $11.5 million Series A. The new round of funding, led by Threshold Ventures with participation from Pear Ventures and Cota Capital, brings the startup’s total funding to around $12.5 million, according to the latest Crunchbase figures.

At the moment, the company is probably best known for its photography app for iOS and Android, which utilizes machine learning and AI to improve image editing. The company says it has around four million monthly active users.

This round of funding will go toward research and development, engineering and partnerships, the latter of which are starting to become a big business for Polarr. In fact, it’s using the news to highlight the fact that it was tapped to bring its technology to the Samsung Galaxy S10’s native camera app. Polarr has previously teamed with other big hardware names, including Qualcomm and Oppo.

“As deep learning compute shifts from the cloud to edge devices, there is a growing opportunity to provide sophisticated and creative edge AI technologies to mobile devices,” CEO Borui Wang said in a release tied to the news. “This new round of financing is a tangible endorsement of our approach to enable and inspire everyone to make beautiful creations.”

Polarr’s tech is becoming increasingly valuable as phone makers look to differentiate their handsets’ imaging outside of the hardware. Notable recent generations of handsets from top companies like Samsung, Apple and Google have leaned heavily on AI and ML updates to stand out from the crowd.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Leica’s Q2 is a beautiful camera that I want and will never have

in cameras/Delhi/Gadgets/Hardware/India/leica/leica q2/Photography/Politics by

Leica is a brand I respect and appreciate but don’t support. Or rather, can’t, because I’m not fabulously rich. But if I did have $5,000 to spend on a fixed-lens camera, I’d probably get the new Q2, a significant improvement over 2015’s Q — which tempted me back then.

The Q2 keeps much of what made the Q great: a full-frame sensor, a fabulous 28mm F/1.7 Summilux lens, and straightforward operation focused on getting the shot. But it also makes some major changes that make the Q2 a far more competitive camera.

The sensor has jumped from 24 to 47 megapixels, and while we’re well out of the megapixel race, that creates the opportunity for a very useful cropped shooting mode that lets you shoot at 35, 50, and 75mm equivalents while still capturing huge pixel counts. It keeps the full frame exposure as well so you can tweak the crop later. The new sensor also has a super low native ISO of 50, which should help with dynamic range and in certain exposure conditions.

Autofocus has been redone as well (as you might expect with a new sensor) and it should be quicker and more accurate now. Ther’s also an optical stabilization mode that kicks in when you are shooting at under 1/60s. Both features that need a little testing to verify they’re as good as they sound, but I don’t expect they’re fraudulent or anything.

The body, already a handsome minimal design in keeping with Leica’s impeccable (if expensive) taste, is now weather sealed, making this a viable walk-around camera in all conditions. Imagine paying five grand for a camera and being afraid to take it out in the rain! Well, many people did that and perhaps will feel foolish now that the Q2 has arrived.

Inside is an electronic viewfinder, but the 2015 Q had a sequential-field display — meaning it flashes rapidly through the red, green, and blue components of the image — which made it prone to color artifacts in high-motion scenes or when panning. The Q2, however, has a shiny new OLED display with the same resolution but better performance. OLEDs are great for EVFs for a lot of reasons, but I like that you get really nice blacks, like in an optical viewfinder.

The button layout has been simplified as well (or rather synchronized with the CL, another Leica model), with a new customizable button on the top plate, reflecting the trend of personalization we’ve seen in high-end cameras. A considerably larger battery and redesigned battery and card door rounds out the new features.

As DPReview points out in its hands-on preview of the camera, the Q2 is significantly heavier than the high-end fixed-lens competition (namely the Sony RX1R II and Fuji X100F, both excellent cameras), and also significantly more expensive. But unlike many Leica offerings, it actually outperforms them in important ways: the lens, the weather sealing, the burst speed — it may be expensive, but you actually get something for your money. That can’t always be said of this brand.

The Leica Q2 typifies the type of camera I’d like to own: no real accessories, nothing to swap in or out, great image quality and straightforward operation. I’m far more likely to get an X100F (and even then it’d be a huge splurge) but all that time I’ll be looking at the Q2 with envious eyes. Maybe I’ll get to touch one some day.

News Source = techcrunch.com

This custom ‘hyperfisheye’ lens can see behind itself

in Delhi/Gadgets/Hardware/India/lens/Lenses/Photography/Politics by

If you’re doing ordinary photography and videography, there’s rarely any need to go beyond extreme wide-angle lenses — but why be ordinary? This absurd custom fisheye lens has a 270-degree field of view, meaning it can see behind the camera it’s mounted on — or rather the camera mounted on it.

It’s certainly a bit of fun from Lens Rentals, the outfit that put it together, but it’s definitely real and might even be useful. Their detailed documentation of how they put it together piece by piece is fascinating (at least I found it so) and gives an idea of how complex lens assemblies can be. Of course, this one’s not exactly standard, but still.

The C-4 Optics 4.9mm f/3.5 Hyperfisheye Prototype, as they call it (hereafter “the lens”) first appeared as what seemed at the time to be an April Fools’ joke, at best half-serious. “The Flying Saucer,” as they called it, AKA the Light Bender, AKA the Mother of all Fisheye Lenses, included a vaguely plausible optical diagram showing the path of light traveling from the far edge of its view, from about 45 degrees rearward of the camera.

Sure, why not? Because it’s ridiculous, that’s why not!

But the beautiful bastards did it anyway, and the results are as ridiculous as you’d imagine. There are lenses out there that produce past-180-degree images, but 270 is really quite beyond them. Here’s what the output looks like, raw on top and corrected below:

Naturally you wouldn’t want this for snapshots. It would be for very specific shots in high resolution that you would massage to get back to something resembling an ordinary field of view, or somehow incorporate into a VR or AR experience.

The camera has to mount in between the legs that support the lens, which is probably a rather fiddly process to undertake. The enormous lens cap, or “lens helmet,” doubles as an upside-down stand to ease the task.

It’s a fun project and adds one more weird thing (two, technically, since they built a second) to the world, so I support it wholeheartedly. Unfortunately because it’s a “passion project” it won’t be available for rent, so you’ll be stuck with something like the Nikon 6mm f/2.8, with its paltry 220-degree field of view. What’s even the point?

News Source = techcrunch.com

Gift Guide: 11 picture perfect gifts for your photographer friends

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Photographers are tricky to get gifts for because every one of them has preferences they may already have spent years indulging. But we have blind spots, we photographers. We will spend thousands on lenses but never buy a proper camera bag, or properly back up our shots, or splurge for a gadget that makes certain shots ten times easier. Scroll on for gift recommendations that any photographer can appreciate.

Gnarbox or Western Digital backup drive

Okay, these are definitely expensive, so keep scrolling if you’re on a budget, but they can also totally change how someone shoots. If your photographer/loved one tends to travel or go out into the wilderness when they shoot, a backup solution is a must. These drives act as self-contained rugged backup solutions, letting you offload your SD card at the end of a shoot and preview the contents, no laptop required.

They’ve been around for years but early ones were pretty janky and “professional” ones cost thousands. The latest generation, typified by the Gnarbox and Western Digital’s devices, strike a balance and have been pretty well-reviewed.

The Gnarbox is the better device (faster, much better interface and tools), but it’s more expensive — the latest version with 256 GB of space onboard (probably the sweet spot in terms of capacity) costs $400. A comparable WD device costs about half that. If you and a couple friends want to throw down together, I’d recommend getting the former, but both do more or less the same thing.


Microfiber wipes

On the other end of the price spectrum, but no less important, are lens and screen wipes. One of the best things I ever did for myself was order a big pack of these things and stash them in every jacket, coin pocket, and bag I own. Now when anyone needs their glasses, lens, phone, laptop screen, or camera LCD cleaned, I’m right there and sometimes even give them the cloth to keep. I’ve been buying these and they’re good, but there are lots more sizes and packs to choose from.


SD cards and hard cases

Most cameras use SD cards these days, and photographers can never have too many of them. Anything larger than 16 GB is useful — just make sure it’s name brand. A nice touch would be to buy an SD card case that holds eight or ten of the things. Too many photographers (myself included) keep their cards in little piles, drawers, pockets and so on. A nice hardcase for cards is always welcome — Pelican is the big brand for these, but as long as it isn’t from the bargain bin another brand is fine.


Moment smartphone lens case

The best camera is the one you have with you, and more often than not, even for photographers, that’s a phone. There are lots of stick-on, magnet-on, and so on lens sets but Moment’s solution seems the most practical. You use their cases — mostly tasteful, fortunately — and pick serious lenses to pop into the built-in mount.

The optics are pretty good and the lenses are big but not so big they’ll weigh down a purse or jacket pocket. Be sure to snoop and figure out what model phone your friend is using.



Waxed canvas camera bag (or any good one really)

Every photographer should have a padded, stylish bag for their gear. I’m partial to waxed canvas, and of the ones I recently reviewed I think the ONA Union Street is the best one out there as far as combination camera/day trip bags go. That said everyone is into these Peak design ones as well.


Lomo’Instant Automat or Fujifilm SQ6 instant film camera

Everyone shoots digital these days, but if it’s a party or road trip you’re going on and capturing memories is the goal, an instant film camera might be the best bet. I’ve been using an Automat since they raised money on Kickstarter and I’ve loved this thing: the mini film isn’t too expensive, the shooting process is pleasantly analog but not too difficult, and the camera itself is compact and well designed.

If on the other hand you’d like something a little closer to the Polaroids of yore (without spending the cash on a retro one and Impossible film) then the Fujifilm SQ6 is probably your best bet. It’s got autofocus rather than zone focus, meaning it’s dead simple to operate, but it has lots of options if you want to tweak the exposure.


Circular polarizer filter

Our own photo team loves these filters, which pop onto the end of a lens and change the way light comes through it. This one in particular lets the camera see more detail in clouds and otherwise change the way a scene with a top and bottom half looks. Everyone can use one, and even if they already have one, it’s good to have spares. Polaroid is a good brand for these but again, any household name with decent reviews should be all right.

The only issue here is that you need to get the right size. Next time you see your friend’s camera lying around, look at the lens that’s on it. Inside the front of it, right next to the glass, there should be a millimeter measurement — NOT the one on the side of the lens, that’s the focal length. The number on the end of the lens tells you the diameter of filter to get.



Wireless shutter release

If you’re taking a group photo or selfie, you can always do the classic 10 second timer hustle, but if you don’t want to leave anything to chance a wireless remote is clutch. These things basically just hit the shutter button for you, though some have things like mode switches and so on.

Unfortunately, a bit like filters, shutter release devices are often model-specific. The big camera companies have their own, but if you want to be smart about it go for a cross-platform device like the Hama DCCSystem. These can be a bit hard to find so don’t feel bad about getting the camera-specific kind instead.


Blackrapid strap (or any nice custom strap)

Another pick from our video and photo team, Blackrapid’s cross-body straps take a little time to get used to, but make a lot of sense. The camera hangs upside-down and you grab it with one hand and bring it to shooting position with one movement. When you’re done, it sits out of the way instead of bumping into your chest. And because it attaches to the bottom plate of your camera, you don’t have the straps in the way pretty much from any angle you want to hold the camera in.

If you feel confident your photographer friend isn’t into this unorthodox style of shooting, don’t worry — a nice “normal” strap is also a great gift. Having a couple to choose from, especially ones that can be swapped out quickly, is always nice in case one is damaged or unsuitable for a certain shoot.


Adobe subscription

Most photographers use Adobe software, usually Lightroom or Photoshop, and unlike back in the day you don’t just buy a copy of these any more — it’s a subscription. Fortunately you can still buy a year of it for someone in what amounts to gift card form. Unfortunately you can’t buy half a year or whatever fits your budget — it’s the $120 yearly photography bundle or nothing.


Print services

Too many digital photos end up sitting on hard drives, only to be skimmed now and then or uploaded to places like Facebook in much-degraded form. But given the chance (and a gift certificate from you) they’ll print giant versions of their favorite shots and be glad they did it.

I bought a nice printer a long while back and print my own shots now, so I haven’t used these services. However I trust Wirecutter’s picks, Nations Photo Lab and AdoramaPix. $30-$40 will go a long way.


News Source = techcrunch.com

Flickr revamps under SmugMug with new limits on free accounts, unlimited storage for Pros

in Delhi/flickr/India/Photography/Photos/Politics/Smugmug/TC by

Flickr is making some big changes, following its acquisition by SmugMug earlier this year. The company announced this week it’s addressing a series of issues on the site, including spam, customer support, and use of the Yahoo login, for example. But more notably, it’s also revamping its account structure to impose increased limits for free users, while rolling out unlimited storage for Pro subscribers.

Back in 2013, Flickr introduced a full terabyte of free storage for members – a move it hoped would bring more users to its service. But in the years since, consumers have shifted to services like Apple’s iCloud and Google Photos, which are integrated with iPhones and Android smartphones, as a way to backup their photos.

The free storage attracted the wrong kind of user to Flickr, says Andrew Stadlen, VP of Product at Flickr, in an announcement explaining the move.

“In 2013, Yahoo lost sight of what makes Flickr truly special and responded to a changing landscape in online photo sharing by giving every Flickr user a staggering terabyte of free storage. This, and numerous related changes to the Flickr product during that time, had strongly negative consequences,” Stadlen writes.

“First, and most crucially, the free terabyte largely attracted members who were drawn by the free storage, not by engagement with other lovers of photography. This caused a significant tonal shift in our platform, away from the community interaction and exploration of shared interests that makes Flickr the best shared home for photographers in the world,” he adds.

In other words, the company doesn’t want to be an online shoebox any more – it wants to return to being a real photo community.

The other issue Flickr’s new team has with the “free storage” giveaway is that it meant the Yahoo-owned Flickr was beholden to advertisers. Shifting to a subscription model allows Flickr’s new owners, SmugMug, to focus on building features for members, not advertisers.

Stadlen also says that giving away storage devalued Flickr in users’ eyes – they no longer saw it as product worth paying for.

Flickr now aims to change that by revamping who Flickr is for. It’s reducing free storage to 1,000 photos – a limit it came up with based on observations of how free and Pro members were already using the site. The vast majority of free users have fewer than 1,000 photos uploaded, so won’t be impacted, the company claims.

Pro members can now choose to upgrade to a paid plan for $5.99 per month, or they can save 30% and pay $50 per year, when they opt for annual billing.

The Pro membership includes unlimited photo storage, an ad-free experience, advanced statistics, automatic backup through Auto-Uploader, and discounts from Adobe, Blurb, SmugMug, and Priime.

Alongside the news of the account changes, the company announced product changes to the site itself. Flickr is rolling out support for photo resolutions up the 5K (5120 x 5120) – that’s 26 Megapixels, or up to 6X larger than Flickr’s current 4 Megapixel maximum, notes Don MacAskill, Co-Founder and CEO at SmugMug.

He says Flickr will also offer full support for embedded color profiles across all modern browsers, devices, and displays; and will introduce improvements to the photo ingestion process for faster uploads with fewer errors.

Customer support is getting a revamp, too, with a dozen experts who will respond to members’ issues, an expanded self-help section, and a new Trust & Safety department.

The company says it’s now partnered with Sift to help fight spam, and with cybersecurity firm HackerOne to continually test its defense systems. The latter is particular helpful given the stain Flickr has on its name by being associated with Yahoo, whose data breaches impacted billions.

The new Flickr will also dump the Yahoo Login, with a new login rolled out to the site in early 2019 that will allow users to sign up with any email address, not just a Yahoo account.

The changes go to address a number of complaints users – especially pro photographers – had with Flickr during its Yahoo years. The challenge, however, is to win back the disgruntled customers, and get them to pay for storage and features.

MacAskill believes SmugMug will be able to do so, by listening and working with Flickr’s community.

“We bought Flickr because it’s the largest photographer-focused community in the world. I’ve been a fan for 14 years. There’s nothing else like it. It’s the best place to explore, discover, and connect with amazing photographers and their beautiful photography,” he says. “Flickr is a priceless Internet treasure for everyone and we’re so excited to be investing in its future. Together, hand-in-hand with the the most amazing community on the planet, we can shape the future of photography.”

(Disclosure: Yahoo merged with AOL to become Oath, which also owns TechCrunch. Flickr is no longer owned by Yahoo or Oath as SmugMug bought it in April, 2018.) 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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