Thursday, October 27, 2016

Epic 1 by InFocus ~ Challenging the biggies!

“Hello Sir. Please step aside. You’re disturbing us. This is the last warning”- The elderly looking man advocated. Yes, it was pretty evident that he was annoyed at this late-evening “onslaught”.
“But dada, we are just clicking photos…..”- One of our young team-mates decided to take the onus of being the spokesperson...ermm, all in vain. He was abruptly stopped midway through the lines.
“We simply don’t care. Thousands of photographers come to Kumortuli at this time of the year with their huge lenses and camera bags…it hampers our work to the core. It’s the business end of the year right before Durga Pujo, people should respect that.”- The grumpy old man delineated. Well, let me confess, he had a point.
Historically, Kumortuli, the pottery hub of Calcutta, transforms into the favorite hunting ground of photographers right before Durga Pujo; yes as a photography enthusiast, this place serves as the perennial source of delightful frames - the lights, the colors, the textures and the charm of traditional artistic excellence reflects through the photographs. Having said that, the “crowd” of photo-hunters has increased exponentially over the years resulting in superfluous chaos; their sophisticated gear complicating the woes. I have even seen people struggling with their “towering” 70-200 mm, f/2.8L lenses in the narrow by-lanes of Kumortuli.
“Sir. Why would you need such high-end cameras for clicking pictures within such a narrow space?”- I remember somebody had posted this question as a photo-comment on a reputed photographer’s profile and that in turn, turned out to be a very engaging activity. The thread fetched around 150+ responses but the focal point of discussion was revolving around- “Can a mobile phone camera effectively match up to the standards set by a DSLR?”
To quote one of the best replies in thread- “I won’t mind investing in a high end phone that can click fabulous and sharp low light photographs. Who wants to carry heavy DSLR’s while shooting in tight spaces anyway?” – Oh well, very interesting take indeed. In-fact, he echoed many of our thoughts through these couple of subtle statements; here’s a couple of key deductions from the statement above:-

  1. It is pretty evident that NOT using a mobile phone in typical scenarios is, perhaps, not by choice but by compulsion,
  2. It has been well established in people’s minds that mobile phones could be a very convenient solution; that too for a value added functionality-primarily because of its light weight.
And here lies the catch- now that we have assessed the As-Is scenario, it’s not very difficult to re-engineer and gauge the To-Be solution when it comes to mobile phone photography. Talking from experience, I have had the opportunity to glance through Padmanshree Raghu Rai’s mesmerizing mobile photography series that was displayed at the Delhi Photo Festival last year; it strongly establishes the fact that mobiles phones could actually challenge the output of modern day high end DSLRs…of course that comes with the caveat that you need to be more creative and patient while clicking through a mobile device. And of course, coming to the aspect of “sharpness” of an image, the primary parameter in question is whether the lens has a large aperture. A large aperture opens up the possibility of more light falling on to the sensor and thereby enhances the possibility of better focusing and better results in low-light conditions. Also, point to be noted is, the use of a faster shutter speed is eased out because of the larger aperture which also results in crisper images and less of vignetting. The larger aperture, in general, allows the leverage of a shallow Depth of Field that becomes extremely critical while shooting products or portraits – the shallow DOF blurs the background substantially and allows crispness to step in while focusing on a subject; it could be a very interesting exercise to test whether a mobile phone camera can generate precise results while shooting a Diwali Diya with multi-colored bokeh in the backdrop. Alright…before it gets too technical, let us explore whether the existing mobile phone brands are investing in R&D and putting their thoughts together in terms of developing such a handy solution.
The answer is YES.
Presenting the all new Epic 1, the premium variant of the new series of phones (Epic) brought to you by InFocus.
Epic 1 offers to the customers, one of the best mobile phone front cameras available in the country; though personally speaking I’m more interested in exploring the 16 MP rear camera, with a large aperture of f/2.0 and most importantly the embedded hybrid AF that is ideally a combination of Phase and Contrast Detection. Any photography enthusiast would agree with the fact that having lens with a large aperture in itself is a big boon; the image quality is makes a “sharp” rise as a result. The fact that Epic 1 is offering you the leverage of f/2.0, I reckon you can now give your DSLR a much needed break. Also, ideally, if phase and contrast detection are assembled, you can in turn expect the best of auto-focusing functionality integrated with your device - that in turn, ensures speed of focusing and the crispness it generates on auto-focus lock. There’s another key aspect that I’d like to highlight here - I’ve been working on light trails since the last couple of months, in close concurrence with slow-shuttered images and I have been facing a hell lot of issues while focusing on the stagnant subjects in the same frame in the hand-held mode. The reason is pretty simple, if you have to operate at a shutter speed of 2 seconds, you need to hold your breath pretty tight to keep your hands steady; the issue is aggravated since the DSLR’s (with lenses on) would be pretty heavy. Now that Epic 1 promises to offer precise Object Tracking & Dynamic Auto Focus, this could turn out to be a revolutionary addition to the world of technology; I won’t be surprised if it generates decent output in while shooting moving objects in low light condition. I am presuming that we could control the ISO moderately to reduce grains in the image.
By the way, when I say that Epic 1 offers one of the best front cameras ever, I am convinced that the 8 MP, f/1.8 aperture lens is going to be a legendary inclusion. My word, clicking selfies in low light conditions would now be a cake-walk. There has been a growing controversy based on the traditional definitions and concepts, whether “clicking selfies” qualify under the umbrella of “photography”; Epic 1, equipped with a fabulous front camera with a large aperture, might just put an end to all that. Leveraging the AIS Support, the processor can instantaneously combine four consecutively captured images into one final output, eliminating the unwanted blur generated due to camera shake. Although I personally prefer still photographs, but shooting 1/32nd super slow-motion videos on your mobile phone could be fun - I am planning to implement the same while covering the Diwali Sky Lantern festival covering the entire trajectory of the lantern once it’s released. It could serve a dual purpose –

  1. To test the “mettle” of the rear camera in terms of capturing low light images/motion pictures 
  2. “Smoothness” of the recorded video and to check whether the quality degrades if two or more videos are combined to form a short movie. I have also been told that the camera supports 4K Video recording that indeed adds to the quality and the richness in color & tone. 
Having said that, I can’t wait to get a hands-on experience! Who knows, I might put my DSLR up for auction if I’m happy with the results! Perhaps the artists at Kumortuli can now breathe a sigh of relief. ;)

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