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Sunday, July 16, 2006

If You Think You Need This, Kill Yourself

Honestly, every now and then something comes along that just makes me wish I were involved in a different area of human endeavor altogether. Fuji is now making a camera with built-in "face recognition" software:

"Fujifilm’s Face Detection, the latest addition to its suite of Real Photo technology components, operates exactly as its name implies, identifying up to 10 faces in a framed scene. Once users select this function, the camera simultaneously displays a green rectangle around the top-priority face and a white one around other faces. Using this information, the 6.3 megapixel FinePix S6000fd adjusts its focus and exposure accordingly to ensure the sharpness of human subjects, regardless of background. Even if the subject is off to one side, the camera will automatically focus on the person rather than trees in the background or objects in the foreground." (PIR)

We've drawing ever closer to that Big Brotherish Universe I lampooned in the 1980s with the Auto-Crit, a camera that provided a crawl in red LEDs below the view in the finder spelling out the picture's shortcomings and suggesting improvements. Johnston's 13th Camera Law: The more decisions the camera makes for you, the lamer you are. This camera is aimed at a market that is lame indeed.


Featured Comment by Hiding Pup: "Once upon a time, your local chemist would stick stickers on your rubbish pictures that told you why they were rubbish. I would love to see a Fuji-specific sticker that read:

" 'Fault with image: underexposed. Possible reason: Face Detection algorithm assumes two eyes and a nose per face. All your subjects are turned sideways....' "


Blogger MJFerron said...

There was an ad running on the radio a short time ago. In it a man calls and orders an all meat, pepperoni deluxe pizza. The order taker, as she reviews his medical records informs him that because of his high cholesterol he will need to pay a $64 insurance surcharge to obtain that pizza. She politely suggests a veggie with low fat cheese instead. Yes it's coming. :0

8:38 AM  
Blogger Albano Garcia said...

As said in dpreview, Fuji is not the first to introduce this kind of dumb technology. I've read Nikon has, and maybe other brands. I readed somewhere of a camera using face detection for some functions like "no shoot until everybody is smiling" or "no shoot if somebody has eyes closed". Sad but true...

9:24 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

Remember the Minolta 3xi? It touted some form of autofocus that magically figured out what was the subject of wherever you pointed the camera and focused on that.

It wasn't around too terribly long. I suspect it was more frustrating than useful: "No! Don't focus there! You idiot! Have you no artistic ability at all, you fool of a camera?!"

9:59 AM  
Blogger Richard Sintchak said...

This comic just out today, right on time:

10:09 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Hhahhaa, the title is great. And the concept is really sad, you're right on. Probably in the end the camera will have a tripod that will walk by itself and while you're at an interesting location you'll just tell it to go around and shoot some pictures while you have your lunch. May be if the location ain't that interesting you'll might also activate a "creative mode" so the software makes an extra effort to shoot you works of art.
Just imagine the flashback scenes from Terminator in the wasted future, with cameras instead walking around and shooting pictures of desperate tourists trying to escape.

10:28 AM  
Blogger chantal stone said...

MJ....I couldn't agree with you more. I think I'm going to shoot with my Holga today :)

11:13 AM  
Blogger Impasse Lebouis said...

And what if there's an animal face (dog, horse, monkey) ?

And in the future, the camera may refuse to work until the dog smiles!

11:22 AM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

So what's wrong with giving a little help to people who don't care about cameras or how they work, but just want to snap a couple decent pictures of their friends when having fun? :)

11:48 AM  
Blogger Dwight Jones said...

This is almost as bad as the Martha Stewart line of photo supplies.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

Yes, I agree that this is a bit of an eye-roller and I don't think it will land on my Santa list this year.

However, more by way of justification of the product than promotion of it, consider the following.

1. This is truly remarkable technology to be packaged into a camera. Yes, I know that its genesis is certainly rooted in surveillance technology. But to have this level of computing horsepower in a consumer camera is eye-opening (n.p.i.).

2. Easily over 99% of the photo market is, and has been for generations, largely devoted to snap-shooters. The fact is that today, 167 years after the recognized birth of photography, most people seem to still be taking pictures of people in the same stiff, uncreative manner as of they were making daguerreotypes; execution-style. (I spent a good portion of yesterday at a location crawling with camera-toting tourists. I'm fascinated by watching other people take pictures, but at no time yesterday did I see anyone take photos of people in any other manner.) This camera seems to simply acknowledge this fact.

3. C'mon, admit it. You'd love to know how this little camera would deal with Michael Jackson.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Dave New said...

If it works as well as their desktop software bundled with their digicams (NOT!), I wouldn't worry too much. The desktop Fuji FinePix software bundled with the Z1 has a 'face detect' function, supposedly to help you concentrate on enhancing the important part of photos that contain people.

So far, it has failed to recognize any faces in any of the photos I've bother to try it on.

I don't much care for any of the proprietary gimmicks (in-camera or otherwise) from the various camera makers. They include them to compete head-to-head on marketing checklists, but I doubt that anyone uses 1/10th of the stuff that gets piled into these cameras.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Robert Roaldi said...

Might be handy if you could train it to not take pics of people you didn't like.

What may be more useful, in the long run, is to have image editing software that could go through your entire data base and get rid of every image of the ex-spouse after a divorce.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Two thoughts.....

First, just like software, if you want to release a new version, you need a new feature. Never mind that its lame , its NEW.

Second, there's always someone out there who can't take a good picture and will buy the camera hoping that this will fix his problems. Magic bullets are easier to implement in software, no?

1:54 PM  
Blogger carpeicthus said...

Another irony is that this has been unveiled on a small-sensor consumer cam, where unless you've somehow got the macro focus on, *everything* is in focus.

One use of this that does seem useful for snapshooters is in PS Elements 4, which will automatically create thumbnails of just the face for easier viewing. Haven't tried it, so I can't verify it, but I don't think this is any more the end of the world than "Auto" mode.

2:35 PM  
Blogger bjorke said...

There are a number of efforts not just to recognize faces, but SPECIFIC faces -- the advantage to the average individual is that it's easy to select pics of grandma from their hard disk of 70,000 digisnaps. Video editors can sort through 100 hours of footage and JUST grab the bits with Congressman X. And sure, Big Brother can figure out which unindicted felons to select from a random snap of the Superbowl crowd. But guess what? They've been doing it for a while already. So chill out, this is the Good Part of technology -- when stuff that was previously reserved for high-dollar authorities and surreptitious spooks finds simple and useful application for the common person.

3:35 PM  
Blogger creezy said...

wonderful title … *lol*

Cannot wait until the day my camera will give me a note of what kind of protozoa I shot on the last picture … ;-)

5:13 PM  
Blogger matt~ said...

Regardless of the one lame feature, I'm kind of intrigued by the camera's ability to shoot at ISO 3200. Fuji seems to be onto something with their new sensor technology; I just wish it would make it into a camera more capable of taking advantage of all that low light potential.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Ian Clark said...

Point and shoot cameras are a saturated market so something like this is an obvious differentiator. I have no issue with it but think it points at a general problem: selecting AF points.

The realy problem is the way Depth of Field works. A lense is designed to have a flat DoF so that if you focus on the center of a brick wall while standing perpendicular to it, the whole thing is in focus even if you have a shallow DoF. When the focus of a photo needs to be on something that is not the center of the photo or the center has no contrasting edges then one tends to turn the camera to focus on something close to the same distance then reframe the shot.

This actually means that the focus is not accurate and becomes obvious in short DoF shots where this technique is used. So what is the solution?

Ive been waiting for one of the camera produces to introduce voice recognition technology into their camera. The ability to say 'focus right' and have the camera automatically focus using the right hand point is much more usable than pressing buttons and turning wheels. Sure, its not suited to all occations but would deal with the real situation of off-center focusing in both point and shoot or slr cameras.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Albano Garcia said...

As bjorke said, there're efforts in the field of specific faces. I know for sure Sony is working on it, for photo but also for video, so your dvd would jump to the scene where the face you want is played.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Ive been waiting for one of the camera produces to introduce voice recognition technology into their camera"

No no no. No! Noooooooo....


12:37 AM  
Blogger John Roberts said...

I'm fascinated by how many people are so concerned about what cameras other people choose to buy, how they choose to use them, and what they choose to photograph. Does it really bother you that some people like simple cameras to record family events, vacations, the new puppy, etc.? Is the pursuit of "art" the only legitimate use of a camera? Big Brother? It sounds as if some would like to deny cameras to mere snapshooters if they could, and only allow "serious" photographers to buy "serious" cameras.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Big Brother?"

Oh, come on. It's not a big conspiracy aimed at preventing poor virtuous snapshooters from their rightful pursuits. It's a stupid marketing gimmick that invents a problem in order to fix it (or perhaps you don't know which face is the "primary" face in your picture?) and will get in the way more than it helps out. That's all. If you want one, knock yerself out!


6:06 AM  
Blogger TTL said...

Yep, it's definitely an evil invention designed for losers and fools - just like autofocus, TTL metering, aperture priority mode, image stabilisation...

Grow up people. This is just a new feature that will help everyone take better photographs, more consistently. No, you don't *need* it, but then all you really need to take a photo is a light-tight box with a pinhole in it and a piece of film. Anything more than that just makes your photography easier and better.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Grow up people. This is just a new feature that will help everyone take better photographs, more consistently."

No, it ISN'T. The engineers who thought this would be just more helpful technology just don't have much experience as shooters, and/or have a very literal, unsubtle view of what photographs consist of. It might make for better Easter-morning-go-to-church type portraits, but that's all.


6:55 AM  

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