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A rangefinder camera.

Cin-Kodak Special II - 16mm movie camera (ca. 1948)


A camera is an optical instrument that records images that can be stored directly, transmitted to another location, or both. These images may be still photographs or moving images such asvideos or movies. The term camera comes from the word camera obscura (Latin for "dark chamber"), an early mechanism for projecting images. The modern camera evolved from the camera obscura.

Functional description
Cameras may work with the light of the visible spectrum or with other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. A camera generally consists of an enclosed hollow with an opening (aperture) at one end for light to enter, and a recording or viewing surface for capturing the light at the other end. A majority of cameras have a lens positioned in front of the camera's opening to gather the incoming light and focus all or part of the image on the recording surface. The diameter of the aperture is often controlled by a diaphragm mechanism, but some cameras have a fixed-size aperture. Most cameras use an electronic image sensor to store photographs on flash memory. Other cameras, particularly the majority of cameras from the 20th century, use photographic film. A typical still camera takes one photo each time the user presses the shutter button (except in continuous-fire mode). A typical movie camera continuously takes 24 film frames per second as long as the user holds down the shutter button, or until the shutter button is pressed a second time.


Camera obscura
The forerunner to the photographic camera was the camera obscura. In the fifth century B.C., the Chinese philosopher Mo Ti noted that a pinhole can form an inverted and focused image, when light passes through the hole and into a dark area. Mo Ti is the first

recorded person to have exploited this phenomenon to trace the inverted image to create a picture. Writing in the fourth century B.C., Aristotle also mentioned this principle. He described observing a partial solar eclipse in 330 B.C. by seeing the image of the Sun projected through the small spaces between the leaves of a tree. In the tenth century, the Arabic scholar Ibn alHaytham (Alhazen) also wrote about observing a solar eclipse through a pinhole, and he described how a sharper image could be produced by making the opening of the pinhole smaller. English philosopher Roger Bacon wrote about these optical principles in his 1267 treatise Perspectiva. By the fifteenth century, artists and scientists were using this phenomenon to make observations. Originally, an observer had to enter an actual room, in a which a pinhole was made on one wall. On the opposite wall, the observer would view the inverted image of the outside. The namecamera obscura, Latin for "dark room", derives from this early implementation of the optical phenomenon. The actual name of camera obscura was applied by mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler in his Ad Vitellionem paralipomena of 1604. He later added a lens and made the apparatus transportable, in the form of a tent. British scientist Robert Boyle and his assistant Robert Hooke developed a portable camera obscura in the 1660s. The first camera obscura that was small enough for practical use as a portable drawing aid was built by Johann Zahn in 1685. At that time there was no way to preserve the images produced by such cameras except by manually tracing them. However, it had long been known that various substances were bleached or darkened or otherwise changed by exposure to light. Seeing the magical miniature pictures that light temporarily "painted" on the screen of a small camera obscura inspired several experimenters to search for some way of automatically making highly detailed permanent copies of them by means of some such substance. Early photographic cameras were usually in the form of a pair of nested boxes, the end of one carrying the lens and the end of the other carrying a removable ground glass focusing screen. By sliding them closer together or farther apart, objects at various distances could be brought to the sharpest focus as desired. After a satisfactory image had been focused on the screen, the lens was covered and the screen was replaced with the light-sensitive material. The lens was then uncovered and the exposure continued for the required time, which for early experimental materials could be several hours or even days. The first permanent photograph of a camera image was made in 1826 by Joseph Nicphore Nipce using a sliding wooden box camera made by Charles and Vincent Chevalier in Paris. Similar cameras were used for exposing the silver-surfaced copper Daguerreotype plates, commercially introduced in 1839, which were the first practical photographic medium. The collodion wet plate process that gradually replaced the Daguerreotype during the 1850s required photographers to coat and sensitize thin glass or iron plates shortly before use and expose them in the camera while still wet. Early wet plate cameras were very simple and little different from Daguerreotype cameras, but more sophisticated designs eventually appeared. The Dubroni of 1864 allowed the sensitizing and developing of the plates to be carried out inside the camera itself rather than in a separate darkroom. Other cameras were fitted with multiple lenses for photographing several small portraits on a single larger plate, useful when making cartes de visite. It was during the wet plate era that the use of bellows for focusing became widespread, making the bulkier and less easily adjusted nested box design obsolete. For many years, exposure times were long enough that the photographer simply removed the lens cap, counted off the number of seconds (or minutes) estimated to be required by the lighting conditions, then replaced the cap. As more sensitive photographic

materials became available, cameras began to incorporate mechanical shutter mechanisms that allowed very short and accurately timed exposures to be made. The electronic video camera tube was invented in the 1920s, starting a line of development that eventually resulted in digital cameras, which largely supplanted film cameras around the start of the 21st century.


19th century studio camera, with bellows for focusing

Traditional cameras capture light onto photographic film or photographic plate. Video and digital cameras use an electronic image sensor, usually a charge coupled device (CCD) or a CMOS sensor to capture images which can be transferred or stored in a memory card or other storage inside the camera for later playback or processing. Cameras that capture many images in sequence are known as movie cameras or as cin cameras in Europe; those designed for single images are still cameras. However these categories overlap as still cameras are often used to capture moving images in special effectswork and many modern cameras can quickly switch between still and motion recording modes. A video camera is a category of movie camera that captures images electronically (either using analog or digital technology).


Leica M9 with a Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH Lens

The lens of a camera captures the light from the subject and brings it to a focus on the film or detector. The design and manufacture of the lens is critical to the quality of the photograph being taken. The technological revolution in camera design in the 19th century revolutionized optical glass manufacture and lens design with great benefits for modern lens manufacture in a wide range of optical instruments from reading glasses tomicroscopes. Pioneers included Zeiss and Leitz. Camera lenses are made in a wide range of focal lengths. They range from extreme wide angle, wide angle, standard, medium telephoto and telephoto. Each lens is best suited a certain type of photography. The extreme wide angle may be preferred for architecture because it has the capacity to capture a wide view of a building. The normal lens, because it often has a wide aperture, is often used for street and documentary photography. The telephoto lens is useful for sports and wildlife but it is more susceptible to camera shake.


The distance range in which objects appear clear and sharp, called depth of field, can be adjusted by many cameras. This allows for a photographer to control which objects appear in focus, and which do not.

Due to the optical properties of photographic lenses, only objects within a limited range of distances from the camera will be reproduced clearly. The process of adjusting this range is known as changing the camera's focus. There are various ways of focusing a camera accurately. The simplest cameras have fixed focus and use a small aperture and wide-angle lens to ensure that everything within a certain range of distance from the lens, usually around 3 metres (10 ft) to infinity, is in reasonable focus. Fixed focus cameras are usually inexpensive types, such as single-use cameras. The camera can also have a limited focusing range or scale-focus that is indicated on the camera body. The user will guess or calculate the distance to the subject and adjust the focus accordingly. On some cameras this is indicated by symbols (head-and-shoulders; two people standing upright; one tree; mountains). Rangefinder cameras allow the distance to objects to be measured by means of a coupled parallax unit on top of the camera, allowing the focus to be set with accuracy. Single-lens reflex cameras allow the photographer to determine the focus and composition visually using the objective lens and a moving mirror to project the image onto a ground glass or plastic micro-prism screen. Twin-lens reflex cameras use an objective lens and a focusing lens unit (usually identical to the objective lens.) in a parallel body for composition and focusing. View cameras use a ground glass screen which is removed and replaced by either a photographic plate or a reusable holder containing sheet film before exposure. Modern cameras often offer autofocus systems to focus the camera automatically by a variety of methods.

Some experimental cameras, for example the planar Fourier capture array (PFCA), do not require focusing to allow them to take pictures. In conventional digital photography, lenses or mirrors map all of the light originating from a single point of an in-focus object to a single point at the sensor plane. Each pixel thus relates an independent piece of information about the far-away scene. In contrast, a PFCA does not have a lens or mirror, but each pixel has an idiosyncratic pair of diffraction gratings above it, allowing each pixel to likewise relate an independent piece of information (specifically, one component of the 2D Fourier transform) about the far-away scene. Together, complete scene information is captured and images can be reconstructed by computation. Some cameras have post focusing. Post focusing means take the pictures first and then focusing later at the personal computer. The camera uses many tiny lenses on the sensor to capture light from every camera angle of a scene and is called plenoptics technology. A current plenoptic camera design has 40,000 lenses working together to grab the optimal picture.

Exposure control
The size of the aperture and the brightness of the scene controls the amount of light that enters the camera during a period of time, and the shutter controls the length of time that the light hits the recording surface. Equivalent exposures can be made with a larger aperture and a faster shutter speed or a corresponding smaller aperture and with the shutter speed slowed down.

Although a range of different shutter devices have been used during the development of the camera only two types have been widely used and remain in use today. The Leaf shutter or more precisely the in-lens shutter is a shutter contained within the lens structure, often close to the diaphragm consisting of a number of metal leaves which are maintained under spring tension and which are opened and then closed when the

shutter is released. The exposure time is determined by the interval between opening and closing. In this shutter design, the whole film frame is exposed at one time. This makes flash synchronisation much simpler as the flash only needs to fire once the shutter is fully open. Disadvantages of such shutters are their inability to reliably produce very fast shutter speeds ( faster than 1/500th second or so) and the additional cost and weight of having to include a shutter mechanism for every lens. The focal-plane shutter operates as close to the film plane as possible and consists of cloth curtains that are pulled across the film plane with a carefully determined gap between the two curtains (typically running horizontally) or consisting of a series of metal plates (typically moving vertically) just in front of the film plane. The focal-plane shutter is primarily associated with the single lens reflex type of cameras, since covering the film rather than blocking light passing through the lens allows the photographer to view through the lens at all times except during the exposure itself. Covering the film also facilitates removing the lens from a loaded camera (many SLRs have interchangeable lenses).

Professional medium format SLR (single-lens-reflex) cameras (typically using 120/220 roll film) use a hybrid solution, since such a large focal-plane shutter would be difficult to make and/or may run slowly. A manually inserted blade known as a dark slide allows the film to be covered when changing lenses or film backs. A blind inside the camera covers the film prior to and after the exposure (but is not designed to be able to give accurately controlled exposure times) and a leaf shutter that is normally open is installed in the lens. To take a picture, the leaf shutter closes, the blind opens, the leaf shutter opens then closes again, and finally the blind closes and the leaf shutter re-opens (the last step may only occur when the shutter is re-cocked). Using a focal-plane shutter, exposing the whole film plane can take much longer than the exposure time. The exposure time does not depend on the time taken to make the exposure over all, only on the difference between the time a specific point on the film is uncovered and then covered up again. For example an exposure of 1/1000 second may be achieved by the shutter curtains moving across the film plane in 1/50th of a second but with the two curtains only separated by 1/20th of the frame width. In fact in practice the curtains do not run at a constant speed as they would in an ideal design, obtaining an even exposure time depends mainly on being able to make the two curtains accelerate in a similar manner. When photographing rapidly moving objects, the use of a focal-plane shutter can produce some unexpected effects, since the film closest to the start position of the curtains is exposed earlier than the film closest to the end position. Typically this can result in a moving object leaving a slanting image. The direction of the slant depends on the direction the shutter curtains run in (noting also that as in all cameras the image is inverted and reversed by the lens, i.e. "top-left" is at the bottom right of the sensor as seen by a photographer behind the camera). Focal-plane shutters are also difficult to synchronise with flash bulbs and electronic flash and it is often only possible to use flash at shutter speeds where the curtain that opens to reveal the film completes its run and the film is fully uncovered, before the second curtain starts to travel and cover it up again. Typically 35mm film SLRs could sync flash at only up to 1/60th second if the camera has horizontal run cloth curtains, and 1/125th if using a vertical run metal shutter.

Film formats

French 1212" collodion camera (ca. 1878) next to a 35 mm SLR Nikon F (ca. 1970)
A wide range of film and plate formats has been used by cameras. In the early history plate sizes were often specific for the make and model of camera although there quickly developed some standardisation for the more popular cameras. The introduction of roll film drove the standardization process still further so that by the 1950s only a few standard roll films were in use. These included 120 film providing 8, 12 or 16 exposures, 220 film providing 16 or 24 exposures, 127 film providing 8 or 12 exposures (principally in Brownie cameras) and 135 (35 mm film) providing 12, 20 or 36 exposures or up to 72 exposures in the half-frame format or in bulk cassettes for the Leica Camera range. For cine cameras, film 35 mm wide and perforated with sprocket holes was established as the standard format in the 1890s. It is still used for nearly all film-based professional motion picture production. For amateur use, several smaller and therefore less expensive formats were introduced. 17.5 mm film, created by splitting 35 mm film, was one early amateur format, but 9.5 mm film, introduced in Europe in 1922, and 16 mm film, introduced in the US in 1923, soon became the standards for "home movies" in their respective hemispheres. In 1932, the even more economical 8 mm format was created by doubling the number of perforations in 16 mm film, then splitting it, usually after exposure and processing. The Super 8 format, still 8 mm wide but with smaller perforations to make room for substantially larger film frames, was introduced in 1965.

Camera accessories

Medium format SLR camera 6x7cm with accessories: TTL-prism, wide-angle lens, matte box, motorized film cassette, double cable release, tripod
Accessories for cameras are mainly for care, protection, special effects and functions.

Lens hood: used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source to prevent glare and lens flare (see also matte box). Lens cap: covers and protects the lens during storage. Lens adapter: sometimes called a step-ring, adapts the lens to other size filters. Lens filters: allow artificial colors or change light density. Lens extension tubes allow close focus in macro photography. Flash equipment: including light diffuser, mount and stand, reflector, soft box, trigger and cord. Care and protection: including camera case and cover, maintenance tools, and screen protector. Large format cameras use special equipment which includes magnifier loupe, view finder, angle finder, focusing rail /truck. Battery and sometimes a charger. Some professional SLR could be provided with interchangeable finders for eye-level or waist-level focusing,focusing screens, eye-cup, data backs, motor-drives for film transportation or external battery packs.

Tripod, microscope adapter, cable release, electric wire release.

Camera designs
Plate camera

Graflex early SLR plate camera for 4x5" glass plates (1924)
The earliest cameras produced in significant numbers used sensitised glass plates and are now termed plate cameras. Light entered a lens mounted on a lens board which was separated from the plate by an extendible bellows. There were simple box cameras for glass plates but also single-lens reflex cameras with interchangeable lenses and even for color photography (Autochrome Lumire). Many of these cameras had controls to raise or lower the lens and to tilt it forwards or backwards to control perspective. Focussing of these plate cameras was by the use of a ground glass screen at the point of focus. Because lens design only allowed rather small aperture lenses, the image on the ground glass screen was faint and most photographers had a dark cloth to cover their heads to allow focussing and composition to be carried out more easily. When focus and composition were satisfactory, the ground glass screen was removed and a sensitised plate put in its place protected by a dark slide. To make the exposure, the dark slide was carefully slid out and the shutter opened and then closed and the dark slide replaced. Glass plates were later replaced by sheet film in a dark slide for sheet film; adaptor sleeves were made to allow sheet film to be used in plate holders. In addition to the ground glass, a simple optical viewfinder was often fitted.

Cameras which take single exposures on sheet film and are functionally identical to plate cameras are still used for static, highimage-quality work; see Large-format camera, below.

Large-format camera

Linhof Technika III 5x7" large format camera (1948)

The large-format camera, taking sheet film, is a direct successor of the early plate cameras and remain in use for high quality photography and for technical, architectural and industrial photography. There are three common types, the view camera with its monorail and field camera variants, and the press camera. They have an extensible bellows with the lens and shutter mounted on a lens plate at the front. Backs taking rollfilm, and digital backs are available in addition to the standard dark slideback. These cameras have a wide range of movements allowing very close control of focus and perspective. Composition and focussing is done on view cameras by viewing a ground-glass screen which is replaced by the film to make the exposure; they are suitable for static subjects only, and are slow to use.

Medium-format camera
Medium-format cameras have a film size between the large-format cameras and smaller 35mm cameras. Typically these systems use 120 or 220 rollfilm. The most common image sizes are 64.5 cm, 66 cm and 67 cm; the older 69 cm is rarely used. The designs of this kind of camera show greater variation than their larger brethren, ranging from monorail systems through the classic Hasselblad model with separate backs, to smaller rangefindercameras. There are even compact amateur cameras available in this format.

Folding camera
The introduction of films enabled the existing designs for plate cameras to be made much smaller and for the base-plate to be hinged so that it could be folded up compressing the bellows. These designs were very compact and small models were dubbed vest pocket cameras. Folding rollfilm cameras were preceded by folding plate cameras, more compact than other designs.

Box camera
Box cameras were introduced as a budget level camera and had few if any controls. The original box Brownie models had a small reflex viewfinder mounted on the top of the camera and had no aperture or focusing controls and just a simple shutter. Later models

such as the Brownie 127 had larger direct view optical viewfinders together with a curved film path to reduce the impact of deficiencies in the lens.

Rangefinder camera

Leica Rangefinder camera circa 1936

As camera and lens technology developed and wide aperture lenses became more common, rangefindercameras were introduced to make focussing more precise. Early rangefinders had two separate viewfinder windows, one of which is linked to the focusing mechanisms and moved right or left as the focusing ring is turned. The two separate images are brought together on a ground glass viewing screen. When vertical lines in the object being photographed meet exactly in the combined image, the object is in focus. A normal composition viewfinder is also provided. Later the viewfinder and rangefinder were combined. Many rangefinder cameras hadinterchangeable lenses, each lens requiring its own range- and viewfinder linkages. Rangefinder cameras were produced in half- and full-frame 35 mm and rollfim (medium format).

Single-lens reflex

Olympus E-420 Four Thirds entry-levelDSLR with a 25mm pancake lens.

In the single-lens reflex camera the photographer sees the scene through the camera lens. This avoids the problem of parallax which occurs when the viewfinder or viewing lens is separated from the taking lens. Single-lens reflex cameras have

been made in several formats including sheet film 5x7" and 4x5", roll film 220/120 taking 8,10, 12 or 16 photographs on a 120 roll and twice that number of a 220 film. These correspond to 6x9, 6x7, 6x6 and 6x4.5 respectively (all dimensions in cm). Notable manufacturers of large format and roll film SLR cameras include Bronica, Graflex, Hasselblad, Mamiya, and Pentax. However the most common format of SLR cameras has been 35 mm and subsequently the migration to digital SLR cameras, using almost identical sized bodies and sometimes using the same lens systems. Almost all SLR cameras used a front surfaced mirror in the optical path to direct the light from the lens via a viewing screen and pentaprism to the eyepiece. At the time of exposure the mirror flipped up out of the light path before the shutter opened. Some early cameras experimented other methods of providing through the lens viewing including the use of a semi transparent pellicle as in the Canon Pellix and others with a small periscope such as in the Corfield Periflex series.

Twin-lens reflex
Twin-lens reflex cameras used a pair of nearly identical lenses, one to form the image and one as a viewfinder. The lenses were arranged with the viewing lens immediately above the taking lens. The viewing lens projects an image onto a viewing screen which can be seen from above. Some manufacturers such as Mamiya also provided a reflex head to attach to the viewing screen to allow the camera to be held to the eye when in use. The advantage of a TLR was that it could be easily focussed using the viewing screen and that under most circumstances the view seen in the viewing screen was identical to that recorded on film. At close distances however, parallax errors were encountered and some cameras also included an indicator to show what part of the composition would be excluded. Some TLR had interchangeable lenses but as these had to be paired lenses they were relatively heavy and did not provide the range of focal lengths that the SLR could support. Most TLRs used 120 or 220 film; some used the smaller 127 film.

Subminiature camera
Cameras taking film significantly smaller than 35 mm were made. Subminiature cameras were first produced in the nineteenth century. The expensive 811 mm Minox, the only type of camera produced by the company from 1937 to 1976, became very widely known and was often used for espionage (the Minox company later also produced larger cameras). Later inexpensive subminiatures were made for general use, some using rewound 16 mm cine film. Image quality with these small film sizes was limited.

Instant picture camera

Polaroid SX-70 Polasonic autofocus instant picture SLR camera

After exposure every photograph is taken through pinch rollers inside of the instant camera. Thereby the developer paste contained in the paper 'sandwich' distributes on the image. After a minute, the cover sheet just needs to be removed and one gets a single original positive image with a fixed format. With some systems it was also possible to create an instant image negative, from which then could be made copies in the photo lab. The ultimate development was the SX-70 system of Polaroid, in which a row of ten shots - engine driven - could be made without having to remove any cover sheets from the picture. There were instant cameras for a variety of formats, as well as cartridges with instant film for normal system cameras.

Cin camera
A cin camera or movie camera takes a rapid sequence of photographs on strips of film. In contrast to a still camera, which captures a single snapshot at a time, the cin camera takes a series of images, each called a "frame" through the use of an intermittent mechanism.

Cin-Kodak Special II - 16mm movie camera (ca. 1948)

The frames are later played back in a cin projector at a specific speed, called the "frame rate" (number of frames per second). While viewing, a person's eyes and brain merge the separate pictures to create the illusion of motion. The first cin camera was built around 1888 and by 1890 several types were being manufactured. The standard film size for cin cameras was quickly established as 35mm film and this remains in use to this day. Other professional standard formats include 70 mm film and 16mm film whilst amateurs film makers used 9.5 mm film, 8mm film or Standard 8 and Super 8 before the move into digital format. The size and complexity of cin cameras varies greatly depending on the uses required of the camera. Some professional equipment is very large and too heavy to be hand held whilst some amateur cameras were designed to be very small and light for single-handed operation. In the last quarter of the 20th century digital camcorderssupplanted film motion cameras for amateurs. Professional video cameras did the same for professional users around the start of the 20th century.

Digital camera A camera that stores images digitally rather than recording them on fil, Once a picture has been taken, it can be downloaded to a computer system, and then manipulated with a graphics program and printed. Unlike film photographs, which have an almost infinite resolution, digital photos are limited by the amount of memory in the camera, the optical resolution of the digitizing mechanism, and, finally, by the resolution of the final output device. Even the best digital cameras connected to the best printers cannot produce film-quality photos. However, if the final output device is a laser printer, it doesn't really matter whether you take a real photo and then scan it, or take a digital photo. In both cases, the image must eventually be reduced to the resolution of the printer. The big advantage of digital cameras is that making photos is both inexpensive and fast because there is no film processing. Interestingly, one of the biggest boosters of digital photography is Kodak, the largest producer of film. Kodak developed the Kodak PhotoCD format, which has become the de facto standard for storing digital photographs. Most digital cameras use CCDs to capture images, though some of the newer less expensive cameras use CMOS chips instead.



With the increased usage of digital cameras and camera-enabled mobile phones in recent years, large numbers of photos are being taken. Many of the photos that are taken are used little, if at all .Researchers and companies have developed systems where photos can be annotated or tagged to facilitate storage and retrieval. However, people are often unwilling to spend the time and effort to carry out annotation.To solve this problem, we focus on real-time annotation where photographs are annotated at the time when they are taken. We propose a novel digital camera, WillCam, which enables users to capture various information, such a s location, temperature,ambient noise, and photographer facial expression, in addition to the photo itself. WillCam also helps users express their interest -what object or information in the picture/scene is most important for them- visually.

Hardware (1) Camera and wide-angle lens (2) Track point (3) Pressure sensor (4) Acceleration sensor (5) Luminace sensor (6) Temperaturesensor (7) USB camera

VisualEXIF is a technique for visualizing various types of information concerning the situation and who photographed it: how/where/by whom photographs are taken. Digital cameras usually attach EXIF information (e.g. product name, company name, and date) to captured photographs as meta data. VisualEXIF generates metadata that is composited into photographs. The VisualEXIF functionality focuses on capturing further information with various sensors: temperature, ambient noise, brightness, location, facial expression and posture of the photographer, and so on.

RealFocus is a technique for emphasizing focused objects in photographs. RealFocus extends the exis focus point with special pointers, such as arrows or circles, overlaid on preview images. Users can mov RealFocus pointer icons with a trackpoint, and can the size of them with a shutter button that has an associated pressure sensor. When a user becomes particularly interested in an object, he can express interest by pressing the shutter button more strong

MetaFocus is a technique for emphasizing focused VisualEXIF icons. The most important target doesn' always exist inside photographs. For example, peop may take photos which seem meaningful to them a time because of extraneous factors. As a result, the original intentions may be difficult to decipher from can be seen in the photo. To signal this type of ass interest, the author can adjust the temperature ico associated with the RealFocus pointer. Thus, autho convey their sense of how important a particular ph quickly, using MetaFocus.

Watanabe, K., Tsukada, K. and Yasumrua, M., WillCam: a digital camera visualizing users' interest, CHI 2007 Conference Proceedings and Extended Abstracts, pp.2747-2752, (2007) [PDF] [Poster(PDF)] Japanese patent pending.(2007.4)

Inquiry with Imagery: Historical Archive Retrieval with Digital Cameras

Brian K Smith, Erik Blankinship, Alfred Ashford III, Michael Baker & Timothy Hirzel MIT Media Laboratory 20 Ames Street Cambridge, MA 02139 USA +1 617 253 6537 {bsmith, erikb, coltrane, mbaker, hirzel}


This paper describes an integration of geographic information systems (GIS) and multimedia technologies to transform the ways K-12 students learn about their local communities. We have augmented a digital camera with a global positioning system (GPS) and a digital compass to record its position and orientation when pictures are taken. The metadata are used to retrieve and present historical images of the photographed locations to students. Another set of tools allows them to annotate and compare these historical images to develop explanations of how and why their communities have changed over time. We describe the camera architecture and learning outcomes that we expect to see in classroom use.

In most K-12 classrooms, students are exposed to historical issues through the writings and narrative accounts of others. In general, they lack primary data sources to complement these writings and allow them to form their own interpretations of the past. We see opportunities for students to generate their own explanations of historical trends with archival photographs. Rather than just relying on captions and narratives to explain content, we are providing tools for students to annotate and compare historical images and to detect and explain patterns and relations over time. In this way, we hope to help them become better observers and critics of the real world by using imagery as data. We are developing new ways for students to investigate the histories of their communities by combining geographic information systems (GIS) and multimedia technologies. Historical photographs provide a glimpse at the architectural, fashion, transport, and cultural trends of a period. When these images are arranged spatially on maps, students can begin looking for patterns and relations that may vary geographically. While innovations in multimedia and GIS learning environments have been documented the fusion of the two technologies has not been fully explored. In this paper, we describe tools for K-12 students to investigate and explain how and why their communities have evolved over time. To facilitate student inquiry, we have augmented a digital camera with a global positioning system (GPS) and a digital compass to record position and orientation metadata when pictures are taken. When the camera is downloaded, each augmented picture is used to retrieve historical pictures of the photographed location using image and GIS databases. By integrating GIS data with multimedia objects student photographs can be geo-referenced to provide data for theory construction. By linking students' images of the present with those of the past, we create a starting point for inquiry into community change.

Retrieving historical images

To give a sense for the types of activities that we hope to see, we begin with a hypothetical use scenario, a group of students exploring their local community. These students use our camera to take pictures of buildings and settings in their communities that they like and dislike. After doing so, they return to their classroom and download their images into our software The thumbnails on the right side of the display show students' photographs. When one of these thumbnails is clicked, its enlarged image appears at right center, and a set of historical thumbnails matching the location of the selected image is displayed at the top --- clicking one of these expands its image at the left center. Figure 1 shows how a photograph of Harvard Square in 1999 retrieves nine images of the same location between 1860 and 1980.

Figure 1: The current retrieval interface. Thumbnails on the right are images taken by students. Choosing one of these displays its larger image and an array of historical thumbnails across the top. The left image is the historical photo chosen from the retrieved collection. The students now need to explain why they liked or disliked the objects that they photographed. They do this by creating descriptive ontologies and labeling objects in the images with these features. For instance, shows a list of features that students might develop (e.g., transport types, commercial buildings, road types). The historical photos are tagged with these labels, and students can begin comparing images over time to see similarities and differences. As they mark up more photographs, they can begin to retrieve images using their ontological features and describe urban planning patterns that have varied or remained consistent throughout history.

Figure 2: Annotating images. Students develop ontologies to characterize interesting features of images. Objects in the photographs are labeled with these features and used to develop explanations of community change. When students are taught to explore their outdoor surroundings, they can become more aware of the intricacies of man-made environments . We assist this process by giving access to historical images that might otherwise go unseen by students. We claim that doing "field work" with our camera, obtaining a record of local history, and working to explain the various changes in the community can lead to new insights about historical, architectural, and social change.
What can you learn from image data?

So rather than providing students with textbook explanations of history, we adopt a learner-centered approach to engage students in constructing and reflecting on their own explanations of image data. Previous work has discussed the use of video as data in learning and coordinating complex tasks. We build on these projects by allowing students to acquire their own data in the form of photographs, and the annotation tools allow them to construct theories around issues in urban planning and cultural change. In the above scenario, there are a number of ways that students can learn with historical images provided by the camera. We are currently working to understand how such learning opportunities can aid the following: 1. Observation and interpretation. Rather than viewing images as "visual aids" to accompany textual explanations, students are responsible for drawing conclusions from image data. Comparing images across time periods can also provide insights into community change. 2. Reasoning about urban planning. We want students to develop hypotheses about the function of architectural structures. For instance, pedestrian

crosswalks appeared rather recently in history. Students can pinpoint the time when they appeared and develop theories about why they may have been necessary. For instance, evidence of increased commercial buildings in the historical images may be correlated with the emergence of crosswalks (i.e., more commerce leads to more pedestrians). 3. Reasoning about culture. Images can provide important clues about community culture. For instance, a picture containing a "Buy War Bonds" advertisement is the beginning of a story about America during World War II. We hope to have students explore the meanings behind cultural artifacts found in images, possibly by collaborating with older adults to discover what is was like to live during the 1940's. 4. Inquiry is an iterative process. Although students could browse historical images without the camera, we feel that it is important for them to do "field work", to visit locations while constructing explanations of community change. During annotation, students may observe image features that require further investigation in the field (e.g., they may want to rethink traffic flows after seeing how roads changed over a period of time). By returning to the field to generate further observations and questions, we hope they will better understand the iterative nature of inquiry.
Accessing historical images

A Kodak DC260 digital camera has been augmented with a Trimble Lassen-SK8 GPS and a Precision Navigation TCM2-80 digital compass. The camera uses Flashpoint Technology's Digita operating environment, allowing it to be scripted to send commands to the sensors through its serial port and to embed received data into JPEG images .In this way, the camera's origin and orientation are recorded when pictures are taken.

Figure 3: An "out of the box" view of the camera hardware. A Kodak DC260 digital camera is attached to a Trimble Lassen-SK8 GPS and a Precision Navigation TCM280 digital compass. This hardware configuration allows recording of position and orientation information into a JPEG image. A portion of the camera script that sends and receives data from the sensors and embeds it into the image file is also shown. Our Java application parses the GPS and compass metadata from downloaded images and uses them to access a spatial map of Cambridge, Massachusetts stored in Esri Incorporated's ArcView GIS. We start at the camera's origin and trace the orientation vector until we intersect a building or other landmark .This raytracing routine approximates line of sight to return the name of the nearest landmark to the camera lens .

Figure 4: A segment of the ArcView GIS map for Cambridge, Massachusetts. The large dot shows the current camera position at a GPS coordinate. Orientation is used to trace a vector from the camera origin along its line of sight. The current algorithm simply returns the first building that intersects the line of sight vector. A separate Perl database associates each building name with a set of historical photographs. Each of these images has been hand-indexed with the position and orientation that it was taken from and the year when it was taken. The retrieval engine selects and displays images that closely match the view of the target image. If we cannot find images with similar shot distances and/or orientations, we relax the constraints and return any photographs of the location. We currently test our retrieval algorithms with 1000+ hand-indexed images between Harvard Square and MIT.
Future work

We are expanding our image database to provide students with richer data sources. The algorithm used to retrieve images is still rather simple, and we are developing a more sophisticated engine. For instance, the camera currently records tilt information, and we can use that data to disambiguate target buildings (e.g., photographs of tall buildings with smaller ones in the foreground). We will also automatically index student photographs into the image database to create records of the present that can be used in future classrooms. We are working towards a new class of visualization and modeling applications that use imagery as a primary data source for inquiry. Rather than simply looking at photographs or watching videos, we want to see students arguing and debating over

differences in image data. While most scientific visualization tools map quantitative data into visual representations, our students work directly with observational, image data, constructing qualitative models that can be used to predict future outcomes and events. The work described here is a first step towards fusing GIS and multimedia systems to produce new learning experiences through imagery. Although we have tested the camera ourselves, our first deployment with children (14-16 years old) begins in August 1999. This initial deployment will inform the iterative design of the camera and software tools for constructing explanations about community change. We will also attempt to understand the types of supports that teachers need to provide for this activity to successfully engage students in new ways of thinking

We would like to thank the Cambridge Historical Commission for their gracious donation of 100+ years of historical images. This work is supported by the MIT Media Laboratory's News in the Future consortium and kind donations from Eastman Kodak.
Android Camra

samsung has announced the release of their galaxy digital smart-camera. the device combines the function and performance of a compact digital photography with the interactive capabilities of google's android technology. the 16 megapixel gadget provides a 4.8" high-definition touchscreen LCD screen, that integrates voice recognition capable of controlling a number of functions such as zoom and shoot. the inclusion of a 21x super long zoom delivers crisp wide-angle photos through its 23mm aperture lens, where when paired using the 'photo wizard option' images can easily be edited and uploaded on-the-go. samsung has developed a 'smart content manager' organization system capable of creating folders and tagging faces for a clutter-free file database. by incorporating wireless, 3G and 4G connectivity into the device, where automatic photo-backup is synced into the cloud, saving each photo the second they are taken.

front view detail including the 23mm wide-angle zoom lens

rear view of the LCD touchscreen display and android interface

detail 3/4 rear view showing the android interface

3/4 top view detail

top view showcasing minimal design

There are a couple ways to look at the Samsung Galaxy GC110 digital camera. It's either an all-in-one device, or for some, it may be all-in-none. Its unique capabilities--blending a capable zoom-lens compact with the brains and display of a smartphone - could make it the only device you need to pack. Or, it could be just too bulky to serve as a compact camera, and its lack of cellular connectivity hamstring it as a tablet or phone replacement. Either way, it's worth a closer look. See

also: Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review.

As a camera, the GC110 houses a 21X optical zoom with a range from 23mm on the wide end to a 483mm telephoto, and its 16-megapixel CMOS sensor provides plenty of resolution. It includes settings you'd expect from a high-end compact, including PASM (program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual) exposure modes, a variety of metering patterns, ISO sensitivity from 100-3200, auto focus, optical image stabilization, HD video, scene modes, a pop-up flash, and even 8GB of internal storage. But the camera is only half the story. The entire back of the device is consumed by a beautiful 2.34 x 4.16-inch LCD--perfect for reviewing images, reading mail, browsing the Web, perusing Instagram, posting to Flickr, checking the weather, or running just about any Android app. The entire operation is powered by a 1.4GHz processor and Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean). The GC110 includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connectivity, but not cellular. Over weeks of testing, it had no problem connecting to networks in hotels, coffee shops, or at home. If you already own an Android device, you'll probably feel comfortable with this Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy GC110: Image quality

The GC110 is a good camera. It excelled in indoor lighting, providing excellent exposure and sharpness. In midday contrasty conditions, it was prone to slight overexposure, but well within acceptable quality. Generally, tones are a bit on the cool side when using auto white balance outside. And switching to one of the white balance presets didn't necessarily improve results. The Daylight preset was a bit too warm, and Cloudy had an orange cast. Casual shooters might be satisfied with the Auto WB setting outdoors. But enthusiasts most likely will be disappointed with the presets. And since the camera captures in JPEG only, any color correction in post production will require recompression. I was most impressed with the camera while shooting indoors with existing light. The Galaxy felt comfortable in that environment, and the resulting pictures were terrific. See also: Best phone camera: smartphone camera photos

and videos tested. Samsung Galaxy GC110: Autofocusing and Smart mode
Under most conditions, focusing was swift and accurate, especially indoors. However, compositions with lots of texture sometimes confused the camera. Shots of deer in a grassy field or objects floating on water required a bit of patience to capture the image I wanted. But when shooting objects that are isolated, focusing was fast. The Galaxy provides a choice of 19 scene presets in Smart mode that include night, panorama, action freeze, continuous shot, light trace, and macro. These are helpful for controlling the camera when you don't want to shoot in PASM or depend on auto-everything. The macro performance was particularly impressive.

Samsung Galaxy GC110: Composing on the LCD

That big, colorful LCD is both good news and bad news. When working indoors or with flat lighting, it's a joy to compose your images on the screen. But once you're in bright sunlight, framing the shot and judging the camera's response to the lighting is very difficult.

Unfortunately, the GC110 lives and dies by its LCD--it has no optional viewfinders. So if you find yourself in midday lighting conditions on a regular basis, be prepared for a challenge. Of course, once you return indoors to view your images on that big, saturated LCD, all may be forgiven.

Samsung Galaxy GC110: General performance

At times, you'll realize you're shooting with a multifunctional device and not a dedicated camera. On the plus side, the Samsung Galaxy remembers the last mode you were in, so if you were shooting pictures, it thankfully returns directly to camera mode. That's good. At other times, however, the camera app just quits unexpectedly. It's not a huge hassle to relaunch into picture-taking mode, but it feels odd to have to do so on a camera. Also, after you take a shot, there's often a pause before the photo appears on the LCD to review. Personally, I think it could use a bit more horsepower--it's juggling many processes at once. This by no means is a deal breaker. But over time, you'll probably notice a few performance hiccups too.

Samsung Galaxy GC110: An Android device

If you've wanted to play with the Android OS, but weren't ready to dump your iPhone to do so, the Samsung Galaxy just might be the answer. As a multifunctional device with a crisp LCD, it's a blast. Want to browse Instagram? Have at it. Is Flickr your thing? You'll love it. Ready to listen to music? The GC110 even has a headphone jack. I certainly enjoyed this side of its personality.

Samsung Galaxy GC110: Moving pictures off the device

Your images are stored in internal memory or on an optional MicroSD card. Since you can view images on the device using the Gallery app, or edit them via the Photo Wizard software, it might be a while before you actually want to copy photos to your computer. Once you're ready, however, you might be surprised that the GC110 doesn't show up as a camera when connected to iPhoto, Aperture, or Lightroom. At least not by default. That's because it has two USB modes: MTP, which is as a Media Device, and PTP as a camera. MTP is the default USB communication mode that connects the device to Samsung's Kies software for Mac and Windows. Once the connection is made, Kies handles photos, music, videos, and general settings for the GC110 in much the same manner that iTunes manages an iPhone.


The continuous advance of digital camera technology can be quite confusing because new terms are constantly being introduced. This tutorial aims to clear up some of this digital pixel confusion particularly for those who are either considering or have just purchased their first digital camera. Concepts such as sensor size, megapixels, dithering and print size are discussed.


Every digital image consists of a fundamental small-scale descriptor: THE PIXEL, invented by combining the words "PICture ELement." Just as how pointillist artwork uses a series of paint blotches, millions of pixels can also combine to create a detailed and seemingly continuous image. Move mouse over each to select: Pointillism (Paint Blotches) Pixels

Each pixel contains a series of numbers which describe its color or intensity. The precision to which a pixel can specify color is called its bit or color depth. The more pixels your image contains, the more detail it has the ability to describe (although more pixels alone don't necessarily result in more detail; more on this later).


Since a pixel is just a unit of information, it is useless for describing real-world prints unless you also specify their size. The terms pixels per inch (PPI) and dots per inch (DPI) were both introduced to relate this theoretical pixel unit to real-world visual resolution. These terms are often inaccurately interchanged misleading the user about a device's maximum print resolution (particularly with inkjet printers).

"Pixels per inch" (PPI) is the more straightforward of the two terms. It describes just that: how many pixels an image contains per inch of distance (horizontally or vertically). PPI is also universal because it describes resolution in a way that doesn't vary from device to device. "Dots per inch" (DPI) may seem deceptively simple at first, but the complication arises because multiple dots are often needed to create a single pixel and this varies from device to device. In other words, a given DPI does not always lead to the same resolution. Using multiple dots to create each pixel is a process called "dithering."

Printers use dithering to create the appearance of more colors than they actually have. However, this trick comes at the expense of resolution, since dithering requires each pixel to be created from an even smaller pattern of dots. As a result, images will require more DPI than PPI in order to depict the same level of detail. In the above example, note how the dithered version is able to create the appearance of 128 pixel colors even though it has far fewer dot colors (only 24). However, this result is only possible because each dot in the dithered image is much smaller than the pixels. The standard for prints done in a photo lab is about 300 PPI, but inkjet printers require several times this number of DPI (depending on the number of ink colors) for photographic quality. The required resolution also depends on the application; magazine and newspaper prints can get away with much less than 300 PPI. However, the more you try to enlarge a given image, the lower its PPI will become...


A "megapixel" is simply a million pixels. If you require a certain resolution of detail (PPI), then there is a maximum print size you can achieve for a given number of megapixels. The following chart gives the maximum print sizes for several common camera megapixels.

# of Megapixels 2 3 4 5 6 8 12 16 22

Maximum 3:2 Print Size at 300 PPI: at 200 PPI: 5.8" x 3.8" 8.7" x 5.8" 7.1" x 4.7" 10.6" x 7.1" 8.2" x 5.4" 12.2" x 8.2" 9.1" x 6.1" 13.7" x 9.1" 10.0" x 6.7" 15.0" x 10.0" 11.5" x 7.7" 17.3" x 11.5" 14.1" x 9.4" 21.2" x 14.1" 16.3" x 10.9" 24.5" x 16.3" 19.1" x 12.8" 28.7" x 19.1"

Note how a 2 megapixel camera cannot even make a standard 4x6 inch print at 300 PPI, whereas it requires a whopping 16 megapixels to make a 16x10 inch photo. This may be discouraging, but do not despair! Many will be happy with the sharpness provided by 200 PPI, although an even lower PPI may suffice if the viewing distance is large. For example, most wall posters are often printed at less than 200 PPI, since it's assumed that you won't be inspecting them from 6 inches away.


The print size calculations above assumed that the camera's aspect ratio, or ratio of longest to shortest dimension, is the standard 3:2 used for 35 mm cameras. In fact, most compact cameras, monitors and TV screens have a 4:3 aspect ratio, while most digital SLR cameras are 3:2. Many other types exist though: some high end film equipment even use a 1:1 square image, and DVD movies are an elongated 16:9 ratio. This means that if your camera uses a 4:3 aspect ratio, but you need a 4 x 6 inch (3:2) print, then some of your megapixels will be wasted (11%). This should be considered if your camera has a different ratio than the desired print dimensions.

Pixels themselves can also have their own aspect ratio, although this is less common. Certain video standards and earlier Nikon cameras have pixels with skewed dimensions.


Even if two cameras have the same number of pixels, it does not necessarily mean that the size of their pixels are also equal. The main distinguishing factor between a more expensive digital SLR and a compact camera is that the former has a much greater digital sensor area. This means that if both an SLR and a compact camera have the same number of pixels, the size of each pixel in the SLR camera will be much larger. Compact Camera Sensor

SLR Camera Sensor

Why does one care about how big the pixels are? A larger pixel has more light-gathering area, which means the light signal is stronger over a given interval of time. This usually results in an improved signal to noise ratio (SNR), which createsa smoother and more detailed image. Furthermore, the dynamic range of the images (range of light to dark which the camera can capture without becoming either black or clipping highlights) also increases with larger pixels. This is because each pixel well can contain more photons before it fills up and becomes completely white. The diagram below illustrates the relative size of several standard sensor sizes on the market today. Most digital SLR's have either a 1.5X or 1.6X crop factor (compared to 35 mm film), although some high-end models actually have a digital sensor which has the same area as 35 mm. Sensor size labels given in inches do not reflect the actual diagonal size, but instead reflect the approximate diameter of the "imaging circle" (not fully utilized). Nevertheless, this number is in the specifications of most compact cameras.

Why not just use the largest sensor possible? The main disadvantage of having a larger sensor is that they are much more expensive, so they are not always beneficial. Other factors are beyond the scope of this tutorial, however more can be read on the following points:larger sensors require smaller apertures in order to achieve the same depth of field, however they are also less susceptible to diffraction at a given aperture. Does all this mean it is bad to squeeze more pixels into the same sensor area? This will usually produce more noise, but only when viewed at 100% on your computer monitor. In an actual print, the higher megapixel model's noise will be much more finely spaced even though it appears noisier on screen. This advantage usually offsets any increase in noise when going to a larger megapixel model (with a few exceptions).