Pixel: What You See Is Not What You Get!

Viewing the image contained inside a JPEG file is unlikely exactly as the digitized image originally created by your camera’s lens, sensor, and processor. What you see on your LCD screen has been grossly enlarged.  And, the image recreated by the display subsystem has been manipulated during the process to adapt the original onto its screen.

That image may have looked awesome on a smart-phone’s small LCD screen, but when that same file is viewed on a PC’s display-monitor, it somehow looks less appealing. Why?

My take: The primary reason may well be that the original image was captured using a tiny photo-sensor module. And, image quality is inversely proportional to the amount of enlargement (magnification) of the original image.

Digitization of the original capture temporarily held within the photo-sensor is where picture elements (pixels*) are created from a matrix of tens of millions of individual micro photo-sensors.  Some modules contain over 20 million individual micro-sensors; arranged horizontally and vertically in various aspect ratios.

The resultant matrix of of pixels produced and recorded into the JPEG file by the camera’s processing unit replicates an amazingly physically very small, thumbnail size 2-dimenional image matching the physical size and shape of the sensor module’s array of micro-sensors.   A smart-phone’s sensor module is much smaller than a typical digital camera.  The larger sensor modules found in full-sized DSLRs produce a more meaningful sized array, but even these represent an image just 1.5” x 1” in approximate size.

The digitized file from these small sensors hence represents that matrix of pixels at its original high density-resolution, often exceeding over 20,000 pixels per inch. I know of no displayable device that can replicate and view this image without some degree of pixel manipulation. I also doubt it can be directly printed on even the best photo papers at its original size and density. And besides, even if you could display it, you would likely need a powerful magnifying glass to examine any detail of the image.  The matrix of pixels must be altered to match the display subsystem’s  own matrix and to enlarge the the captured photo.

Smart phones have small flat display screens. The newest screens can boast as high as 500 pixels per inch. Hence, photos sourced from its own tiny camera sensor almost always look best when viewed on the same smart-phone’s screen. After all, the image has been enlarged the least, sometimes only (sic) ten times or so.

For example, my Galaxy’s digitized image file is 16MP specifically arranged 5312 x 2988 via its tiny CMOS sensor, which has a photo sensor density of over 25,000 photo sensors per inch.  Its LCD 5.7″ subsystem offers a resolution exceeding 500 pixels per inch arranged 2560 x 1440, the same aspect as its sensor module.  Hence, it’s pixel manipulation process to display the digitized image is the least obtrusive of almost any other display subsystem.

To fill the screen of my 23” PC LCD wide-screen PC monitor, the JPEG image needs to be enlarged 85 times. And, somehow the original’s pixels need to be manipulated because my monitor can only display 1920 x 1080 pixels.   If I tried to display that on my 55” HDTV screen, it needs to be enlarged over 200 times.   Rare to say the least, I’m lucky with this particular smartphone because no cropping, trimming, or stretching of the image is required when using my own external display subsystems.

No fret: Despite drastic enlargements and/or post processing pixel-manipulations, the resultant presentation by almost all flat-screen display systems is more than not, still quite impressive.  But, what is produced may just lack the punch experienced when first viewed on the small screen of the originating camera.

*   Click here for definition of “pixel.”



Editorial: Smartphone Photography

If one would be able to count the number of photo snapshots taken and shared daily by all types of cameras, smart-phones likely exceed all other types by magnitudes. After all, they have the advantage that millions are in the hands or pockets of humans that are ready, willing, and eager to snap-way. And, they do it with vigor and publish them on worldwide via social-media with ease.

Meanwhile, serious photographers, professional and/or hobbyists invest millions of dollars in top-end camera and photographic accessories. Always seeking to better the image quality and improve their yield of artwork to be more worthy to enlarge, display, and/or publish. Clearly, image quality is proportional the size of the photo-sensor and glass optics.

The smart-phone’s built-in camera technology and editing-archiving-sharing software has improved to where it begins to encroach into the realm of top-end camera photography, both stills and video.   Likewise, top-end camera technology has improved its own technology and even incorporated built-in image sharing capability that encroaches into the smart-phone’s realm.   High-end cameras with integrated fast zoom lens optics have been reduced in size and made easier to handle.

At this stage, the realm of the smart-phone’s camera will unlikely suppress the high-end camera realm, and visa versa. Here’s what I conclude:

Most people can live their life entirely with only the smart-phone camera. Home movies and sharable family snapshots will prevail.   Professional photographers will always be around for wall-worthy and commercial work. Movie making and the evolving virtual-imagery will likely remain a novelty in any smart-phone evolution but otherwise left to high-end equipment.   I suspect, however, the number of photographic “hobbyists” willing to invest in high-end photographic tools will be reduced. It’s a matter of diminishing returns; the price and learning investment in high-end photography is substantial in order to out perform what smart-phones are beginning to do.

In my case, the rate and number of my photos taken and archived has increased substantially. But, the numbers of photos taken with my top end photo equipment has been almost negligible in comparison.

I look less and less to upgrade my DSLR bodies and less in buying new optics. I bring the big gear out for purposeful cases, formal photoshoots, architectural commercial situations, etc.

I find that many smart-phone images can be tweaked and made into a terrific piece of art, some even wall-worthy. Built-n features like HDR, panoramic, selective-focus, photographic filters, special effects are easy to invoke and use. The latest smart-phones sometimes include OIS, fast optics, offer RAW, manual modes, even dual lens.  These photographer features will usually satisfy many hobbyists.   Sharing and printing can be done wirelessly and the free “Apps” can provide Photoshop-like editing and enhancing on images.  A hobbyist quick snapshot can be turned into a piece of art.

I am well aware that no matter how smart-phone camera technology advances, it cannot match the potential image and artistic capability of the large sensor/big glass photographic equipment when manned by experienced artisans.   Photographic equipment is a mere toolset of artists and craftsmen. The more sophisticated, flexible, and assorted the toolset, the better the artist can perform. A smart-phone is just another item to be added to an artist’s visionary toolset. Alone, a smart-phone is inadequate, for example: lacking a large glass-optic, “bokeh” is limited.

While smart-phone cameras have been a good addition to a photographer’s toolset, it has exposed a new issue. Just like most everyone, I now take so many photos that managing the collection has emerged as the single major drawback of smart-phone cameras. Similarly, all my friends and families have shared so many photos via social media like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. Hobbyist like to share their images with other hobbyists and now, it’s difficult to separate hobbyists from the masses for snapshot jockeys.

All in all, I am happy to be a smart-phone camera junkie and photography hobbyist..



Digitizing Old Color Film Negatives

Assuming you refuse to mail or take a few old color negatives to a film processor and pay for the service, you will need the right equipment and lots of patience. Likewise, you do not want to invest any money and learning time in film-scanner hardware and special software.   So, all you need is a digital camera, PC with a photo-editor.  Latest iterations of  smart-phones work too.   Negatives can be done manually digitized in just three easy steps:  1) Take a close-up/macro digital photo of the original negative, 2)  Invert the Colors on the digital Image within photo-editor and then,   3)  Crop and touch up the image using a photo-editor.  Here is a more detailed explanation:

Step 1 – You will need to be a bit creative in order for you to take a good close-up photo of your negative. It’s the most important step. It would be best that you have the proper “light-table” equipment to insure the negative is back-lit with the proper color-temperature lamp while being held uniformly flat. Lacking this, a primitive way is to tape the negative to a piece of glass with a piece of mat white translucent paper on the backside. Experimentation is suggested, the better the digital photo the better the result. I use a 100mm macro lens on my Canon EOS with a preset holding technique against a skylight with a plastic or paper diffuser. I use an even more primitive setup when I take a quick snap of a negative (or slide) using my Galaxy Note 5 smart-phone. I create RAW image files when using the Canon. Even though the newest smart-phone can create raw image, standard full-sized JPEG files work just fine.


Example Photo of negative taken by DSLR camera




20160405_161900_smartphone_orig   Example photo of negative taken by smart-phone

Step 2 – The colors of the image within the negative are the obviously opposite to what is normally viewed in a photograph (positive.)   The must be inverted. The full-sized original photo-file taken in Step 1 needs to get transported into a PC that has a photo-editing software application (program) installed. I use Photoshop CS and Elements but almost all editing software have a color “invert” function.   Even free editors (like Goggle’s “Picassa”) have this capability too. Smart-phone users can download free “apps” like Photoshop Express” that have the feature too so the image file can be processed on the same smart-phone as what took the photo.



Example of color inverted image via Photoshop editor:







Example of color inverted JPEG image via smart-phone ‘s built-in editor app:



Step 3 – Unfortunately, a simple color invert of the original photo seldom is ready to show, print, or archive. The colors are unlikely correct and the image needs cropping, straitening, and trimming.  A photo-editor will usually have tools to correct these and also have other functions to correct contrasts, exposure, etc.    Most likely, the original film negative was photographed in Step 1 using lighting unlike the lighting at the time that the original negative was snapped.  For example, it may have been taken in mid-day sunlight while the close-up of the negative was shot using a tungsten lamp bulb in a light-box. Hence the inverted image colors are unlikely correct.   Further, fifty year-old negatives may have lost or shifted its color profiles.  So, after “cropping/trimming” the original image into your desired size-shape, the primary work needed in Step 3 is to correct and/or enhance the resultant final photo colors.  A photo-editor must be used to color-balance the general color-temperature of the image and make any other corrections.  Some editors makes this easy and have “Auto-Color-Correct” functions and correcting tools.


Example: Final digitized photo via DSLR camera using Photoshop:


Example: Final digitized photo using a smart-phone: