New Pentax K-7: The first HDR camera?

The answer to the question is: Yes and No.

Pentax just announced the new K-7, and the feature highlight is in-camera HDR shooting and tonemapping. It's truthful in both, meaning it really does shoot several exposures to cover whopping 17 EVs, and the onboard tonemapping renders very natural images. That is the "Yes" part of the answer.

The pity is, that both features are connected: The real 32-bit HDR image is inaccessible, the tonemapping result is all you get (in JPEG format). Love it or leave it!

Here's why I don't like this:

A) Tonemapping is the fun part in HDR photography. I appreciate in-camera merging of the exposures, but please leave the creative part to me!

B) It renders this mode useless for 32-bit applications of HDR, like 3D-lighting, advanced compositing, lighting analysis.

C) The term HDR is further watered down, reduced to tonemapped JPEGs. This is especially concerning to me, because it works against the overall goal of having a fully HDR-capable imaging pipeline (that ends up on a Dolby-HDR enabled display).

Please, Pentax make this camera a little less smart! Why disable RAW shooting when in HDR mode? No need to make up your own 32-bit file format, just save the merged HDR images as EXR files (before tonemapping)! And in an instant you made this camera 100% more professional.

With this in mind, jump over to Adorama to read fellow HDR buff Jack Howard's hands-on review. Jack seems a bit more ecstatic about the K-7 than me, maybe because he got such excellent results out of it. Looking at his slideshow, there is no doubt that this camera is a giant leap. Just not quite the right direction for me...

Further reference:
12-page Preview on DPReview
Official Pentax K-7 site

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Autopano Pro 2 is out

The long awaited update is out, and it's pretty awesome.

It addresses many of the usability issues that come up in real-world production, and there are several big new features. This update also marks the split into Autopano Pro and Autopano Giga.

Here is a little run-down of the new features:

GPU support

Provided you have a decent graphics card, you can get a pretty substantial speed increase. GPU is used not only for rendering, but also for pano detection and faster realtime feedback.

Improved manual editor

Manually fixing a stitch has always been the achilles heel of Autopano. Not anymore. The editor has been refined and is much more usable. New History, even with Snapshots / fully customizable UI / draggable images.
My favorite new feature is the Local Optimizer: You right-click on an image and let Autopano re-align just that surrounding area, without affecting the rest of the panorama. Very useful, very fast.

Automatic pano robot support

There are several new presets for importing images from a pano robot. The images come in pre-aligned, according to the rows and columns that the robot shoots. This makes detection on Gigapixel images much faster, and for some robots even unnecessary.
Note, that this feature is available in both versions. Only support for the high-end Radeon VR head from Dr.Clauss is limited to Autopano Giga. If you have a homegrown robot, or the low-cost Gigapan, you're fine with the "Pro" version.

Flash website generator

This feature is actually so big, that it became a separate application. Autopano Tour, only available as part of Autopano Giga.

Since Apple left Quicktime VR out to die, Flash has become the dominant way of showcasing panoramas on the web. And with Autopano Tour it's easy to create such a flash presentation. A very pretty interface for drawing hotspots and linking from one pano to the another. The generated website uses krpano as player (which coincidentally is also used on my own flash gallery). Very cool.


RAW import, Linux version, new Preference window that is both easier and more powerful.

Bottom line

I've had some great success with the beta versions, so I can confirm that this is indeed a worthy update. Most great features are identical in both versions, so unless you're after the Flash generator the "Pro" is all you need. Really, the name "Giga" is a bit misleading, because this is more of a "Deluxe" version that adds the cherry on top.

Best way to buy

If you're updating from a previous version, you're best off with the official Update Offer. But if you're planning on a new purchase, remember to unlock the coupon codes on my software list to get a 10% deal on the "Pro", and 15% on the "Giga" version.

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Thanks a Million!

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Website stats as of May 2009, still growing bigger every month.

Wow, I didn't even realize that this site is up for almost two years. One million visitors came. Incredible. Feels like an home party that gets overrun by the general public.

Many of you folks seem to be regulars, and I highly appreciate your loyalty. So, here you go - grab your monthly dose of sIBL. This time I actually tested it, as you can see in the rendering above ;) ... Location is the Etnies Skatepark, one of the biggest skateparks in the US. Got some more panoramas of that spot in the gallery:
Best Trick Contest
Street Course
In the Bowl

Anyway, thanks you for visiting this site.
Keep on coming, and bring your friends!

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Building an HDR Panobot with Lego

Educational April keeps getting better!
I'm happy to present the latest collaborative submission to HDRLabs:

Students studying the Graduate Diploma of Advanced 3D Production course at New Zealand's (Auckland) Media Design School have built a robot which allows a DSLR camera to take 360 degree panoramic HDRIs. In a 45-minute presentation they explain their motivation, design, usage experience, and showcase the excellent 3D rendering results they achieved by using their own captured HDRIs.


This project deserves a permanent page in the Tutorial section. After the jump you'll find everything you need for your new summer DIY project - including blueprints, CAD models, source code and software for the controller. Big thanks to Emil Polyak and Darren Leslie from the Media Design School for making all this publicly available!

Grab a cup of tea and some cookies, and then watch the presentation on how to

Build an HDR panobot!

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New Bachelor Thesis: Shooting HDRI for CGI

Pashá Kuliyev just made his Bachelor in Imaging Sciences and Media Technology at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne. Congratulations, Pashá!

Highlights of his Bachelor thesis are:
  • Comparing mirror balls of different grades and sizes.
  • Fisheye capturing with a custom made panoramic head.
  • Hands-on experience with the SpheronHDR camera.
  • Comparing all three acquisition techniques.
  • Great explanation of radiometric units.
  • Overview of the multi-layer rendering and compositing.

There's a good ratio of well written explanations and formula-proven hard facts in there. HDR Software developers should have a closer look at chapter 2.3, where the Lat-Long mapping equations are discussed. This is the foundation to make your tonemappers panorama-safe. Heck, you should read the whole thing - you'll find thousands of golden information nuggets in this thesis.

Because Pashá is awesome, he offers his full thesis for free download, right here in the Tutorials/Download section.

I'm sure there is a bright future waiting for Pashá. Currently, he's running a CGI workshop at his University. Wonder which big CG house will snatch him for their R&D department...

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Paul Debevec nominated for ELAN Award

Paul Debevec is one of the founding fathers of HDR Imaging. He also took HDRI further than anyone else, a true pioneer, still unmatched. If you're not familiar with his work yet, check out this documentary:

And now Paul Debevec is up for the Visionary Award of the Visual Effects Industry. Clearly, nobody deserves it more than him! You should pop into the ELAN website and vote for Paul. Do it now, voting closes this Friday...

Monthly site updates:

Quick sidenote: my monthly update chores. This month's sIBL is my friend Alex's Apartment. Also, we can celebrate 1.000.000 "HDR"-images on Flickr with a new race for front seats in the Hot-on-Flickr gallery.

And now: Go, Paul, go Paul, GO!

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