The Wave of the Future (6 photos)

Here are some long exposure photos from beaches around San Diego. What do you notice? Yes, they are more or less “Instagram flavored”, with filter effects applied. But most of all, they are cellphone photos – made with an iOS app called “Slow Shutter Cam” (Website, iTunes).

Now this only proves (once more) that the camera doesn’t really matter all that much (in reality it’s not that easy of course, but that would be a bit off-topic for this off-topic post;-) but my main point is a different one. If you’re interested read on below the gallery (it’s getting a bit technical).

The app costs 99 cents. What is needed of course is some sort of camera stabilization like a tripod, gorillapod, etc. (for these photos, I simply “leaned” the phone on my tripod’s ballhead at an angled position).

What’s more interesting though is what is not needed, and what doesn’t need to be dealt with: fiddling with exposure compensation, calculating correct exposure times when using ND filters, a cable release and/or programmable remote for exposures > 30 seconds, ND filters and their color casts, waiting for long exposure noise reduction… what did I forget?

The app records the images and blends them in real-time (I think it does that by using the phone’s continuous/burst shooting mode, it’s not a “true” long exposure). You can see the long exposure commencing on the display. You can set an amount of motion blur, and exposure times up to 60 seconds (that’s one stop more than the normal DSLR allows). Yes, you can make a sixty second long exposure in broad daylight without a pitch-black 15-stop ND filter, and you don’t need to worry about whether it will by correctly or under- or overexposed. Or, you can use a bulb mode where you simply press the “shutter” once to start, and again to stop “recording”.

Think about mirrorless cameras for a second. Or the (pathetic) attempts we’ve seen at “Android powered” cameras from Samsung and Nikon. How can it be that mirrorless cameras are unable to do this stuff? And why does a 99 cent app for the iPhone ridicule all the mirrorless retro styled toys?

It seems that “traditional” camera makers are completely trapped in their old-school camera-think. Give software developers a platform that is flexible, and enables them to simply do stuff with it, and things will happen that blow your mind, and make you question the status quo a lot

Thanks for reading! You can stay up to date with my blogposts and subscribe via email (the subscription form opens in a new browser window/tab). It's easy as pie! :-)

All images and content © by Alexander S. Kunz, unless otherwise noted. No re-use without express written permission. Most images are available as prints and for commercial licensing. Please contact me with any questions. Prints and licensed images are NOT watermarked, of course.

I'm friendly towards strictly non-commercial usage (ie. no monetization through ads, referral systems etc.) on private blogs and websites, but I'd like to know where my images will be used, and for what purpose. Please contact me about your intended usage so that I can evaluate it. Thanks!

11 Responses

  1. There are two ways to look at this app. First, that it allows the photographer to focus (no pun intended) on the creative compositional components of photography; second, that it removes the foundations of knowledge about photography that artists generally need to know how master the creative aspects of photography.

    Soon, of course, we will have AI-based cell phone cameras that can be attached to drones or to flexible, fluid, walk-about tripods. Then we can just send our intelligent, autonomous cameras out into the world (using the same machine minds as self-driving cars) to take what they (the machines) think are interesting scenes, continuously sending back their 70MB images through high compression WiFi or satellite-based cloud transport connections. Then we will wind up arguing with our machines about the virtue of this or that photograph. Street photography will become more and more difficult as the urban landscape, day and night, will be cluttered with these scuttling autonomous tripods and swarms of low-flying drones. Eventually (but quickly) autonomous robotic cameras will come together to form their own social networks (wetware (human) lifeforms need not apply), holding holographic and higher-wave length photo contests with 40+ billion other intelligent cameras over the earth. Cameras, out numbering humans buy five to one, will become the dominant “life” form on earth. By the middle of the twenty-first century most humans will have no idea how a camera works any more than we have any idea of principles underlying the Carnot cycle and the second law of thermodynamics and, alas, we have all forgotten how an internal combustion engine works.

      1. Read one of my books, Beyond Humanity – Cyberevolution and Future Minds (which I co-authored with Greg Paul, the dinosaur advisor on the original Jurassic Park movie).

          1. Yep, I’ve written five books, wrote and filmed a screenplay with the late Great Steve Allen, was a columnist for a couple of AI magazines, a lyricist for an experimental deep-underground techno-band in Baltimore, and lately Chief Scientist not-in-residence for a Big Data company in the Bay Area (another way of saying semi-retired!)

    1. Thanks! I guess there are similar apps for Android Gary, just this particular one is only available for iOS.

      I imagine that one of the difficulties for Android programmers of such apps is that there are so many different Android devices with different hardware AND so many different software versions.

  2. Indeed, Alex, the huge number of modified Android operating systems presents a terrific challenge to developers. Apple’s control over their environment, however, while Draconian in some cases, make cross device (iPhone, iPad, laptop) development possible. It also means that Apple users have easy access to all their apps and files across any of these physical devices. This integrated ecology is one of the principal reasons that Apple users demonstrate such loyalty (and, of course, some would say they have no choice). Android users who have never experienced this kind of integration fail to appreciate the power and effectiveness of the Apple environment. I’m not an Apple fanboy, but I do value their ecology above a few technical advantages in the Android environment.

  3. The same thing is happening to camera makers that happened to cell phone makers before the iPhone. They just don’t understand the power of software and of an extensible platform. If there is one thing about the cameras from Nikon, Canon, etc. it is that their interfaces are all terrible. It is amazing that it is 10 x harder for the pro with their 5k$ bodies to get their images online than it is for someone with an iPhone. Have you tried Nikon’s wifi stuff? It is a complete joke. Completely useless. Convenience trumps a whole lot of quality for a whole lot of people. Camera makers (including the m4/3 ones) are being left behind.

  4. This will probably be another “Scene” option on digital cameras after Canon or the like buy up the IP from the smaller guys. Nice find Alex…

Leave a Reply