Curious history of consumer digital cameras

Digital cameras in the period 2000-2020 have a curious rise-and-fall history. The period 2000-2001 was a period of gadgets, Palmtops were doing brisk business, Camcorders and digital cameras were also selling well. Consumer and prosumer digital cameras were being released, having around 5MP. Previous to this timeframe there existed some Sony Mavica cameras but the quality of these 5MP ones was quite improved. Several cameras with large sensors (1/1.8″) were available then. Large sensor mostly means improved photo quality. Since DSLRs are out of scope for this post, we will consider 1/1.8″ sensor as large. Large sensor is a big advantage in consumer cameras.

As we move to the period 2008-2009 and beyond, the megapixels were on the rise. Now, 12-15MPs were easily available. Still companies were using large sensors to provide quality pictures. Higher zooms were available now, image stabilization had become the norm.

In the 2010-2012 period though, the sensor sizes became smaller and zooms became higher. This reduced photo quality. Why would companies want to do this? I can only guess that higher zooms would give the cameras a USP and allow them to be sold for a higher margin. At the same time, smaller sensor sizes would allow even more margins. Hoping the customer would not notice.

In the 2016-2017 period, smartphones started taking the lead in consumer photography and camera sales started declining. One important factor that added to this was the lack of innovation in digicams. Sales of consumer DSLRs such as the Nikon D5100 also started declining. As early as 2010 Nokia was talked about as the world’s largest seller of digital cameras, but the quality of photos from mobile phone cameras was poor. In 2010 – Nokia sold over 435 million camera phones worldwide, giving them over a 30% market share of all digital cameras sold globally that year. However the picture had changed by 2015. Nokia’s phone business had been sold off to Microsoft, and its worldwide phone sales for the full year were less than 30 million units. From leading the digital camera market in 2010 with over 30% share, Nokia had vanished from the top vendor rankings within just half a decade. iPhone 6 had been launched with a not-too-bad camera (though with a small sensor again). Most cellphones still had a small sensor to save cost (and because of space constraints in a phone), so the quality was still questionable in spite of technological improvements. No one was thinking about quality, only margins.

The above graph shows 2010 as year 1 and so on.

Around 2009-2013 several markets, esp in Delhi NCR were dedicated to cameras, lenses, repairs etc. By 2023 most of these had either closed or started catering only to professional gear.

In 2018, most mobile phones started shipping with two cameras on the back, which soon increased to 3 or 4 cameras. This, along with AI improvements allowed ‘background blur’ without using expensive lenses, in a never-before way. It dealt a serious blow to the digicam market. Overall, 2018 saw a significant improvement in mobile phone camera quality, both because of use of AI and multiple cameras. A battle was on among mobile companies to improve photo quality without increasing sensor size. Some of the more expensive phones did start getting larger sensors though of late.

As of 2023, only 1 – 2 models for new consumer digital cameras or consumer DSLRs were available in India, that too with difficulty. The consumers are at a loss: those who cannot afford a professional DSLR have to make do with low quality smartphone photos (even iPhone photo quality at best can be rated ‘poor’ compared to what a decent camera of today could do, if manufactured**). We are buying mobile phones that are being sold at prices several times the manufacturing cost. Yet, giving us low quality because the customer is not smart.

My suggestion to the smart buyer: rather than buying an expensive iPhone, buy a normal phone (costing around USD 300) and use the rest of the money to buy a mirrorless DSLR. You have nothing to loose but your mobility!

** some of the latest iPhone models do have larger sensors to improve quality.

Crux of the story: market for digital cameras got killed because of the greed of camera companies.

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Digital Camera Capability Index

DCCI – a technical score based on simple parameters that indicate the quality of photos that can be expected. Here is my formula:

DCCI = (Sensor Diagonal Length in mm)^1.2 * (Max Zoom factor available) * ln(2^((Year Manufactured-1975)/1.5))/ln(10) / Const
Const is fixed at 559.7566738, calculated using a specific camera as “standard”.

formula

For example, for the Canon Powershot A650 IS that I used to have:

DCCI = (9.3^1.2 x 6) x ln(2^((2007-1975)/1.5) / (ln(10)*const) = 1

Similarly for Panasonic Lumix LZ20 that I also have:

DCCI = 3.1762

For a modern cellphone camera, like the iPhone 14 Max Pro:

DCCI = (9.5^1.2 x 3) x ln(2^((2022-1975)/1.5) / (ln(10)*const) = 0.76534 (since it features 3X optical Zoom)

For Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 24-105mm kit lens:

DCCI = (43.27^1.2 x 4.375) x ln(2^((2008-1975)/1.5) / (ln(10)*const) = 4.7581

Though I do believe that DSLR technology has not seen the same level of improvement over the last decade as the mobile camera tech. This is version 2 of the index. Version 1 was:
DCCI = ((Mega Pixels ^ 0.8) * (Optical Zoom) * (Sensor Size ^ 1.2)) ^ 2.3

For detachable lens camera use the total zoom of all lenses you own.

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Drupal vs WordPress

Having hosted multiple WordPress blogs over the years, I have come to the following conclusion: static sites are best. My expectation is that you should be required to create the website and then forget it, while it works fine over the years. Doesn’t work with CMSs, they need to be updated, and PHP changes over time leaving a broken blog. In face there are ways to integrate user comments with static sites.
Wordpress itself has several issues – it should, in my expectation take care of making sites search engine friendly. Setting up the ‘viewport’, ‘gzipping’ content, social sharing should come out of the box. Strangely, doesn’t.
I then looked over at Drupal, and it does seem quite better: I did a pingdom test of:

WordPress.org
Drupal.org

to see the out of the box SEO optimisations of both products. Drupal got A where as WordPress got D. Pretty much matched my expectation after seeing google usability issues for my website for years.
Drupal may be tough to setup initially, but does an overall better job than WordPress in my opinion.

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Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence deals with mimicking the way the human brain works or evolution of life and other such natural phenomena. Here are some of the artificial intelligence techniques:

  1. Artificial Neural Networks
  2. Fuzzy logic
  3. Genetic algorithms
  4. Cellular automata

Artificial Neural Networks are inspired by the way the brain works. A neural network consists of a network of nodes. Each node is capable of making a simplistic decision or a simple calculation on the inputs, and providing an output. By interconnecting a large number of such nodes, it is possible to do data analysis and complex decision making. Each node has a threshold assigned and each connection between nodes is assigned a weight. A random NN is constructed to begin with. This is then “trained” by providing inputs, and matching given outputs against pre-calculated known outputs. When a mismatch is detected between current output and favoured output, the weights and thresholds are suitably modified.

Genetic algorithms are based on the process of evolution and natural selection. To begin with a pool of random “algorithms” is built. Each such algorithm is tested with given input and required output. Those algorithms that give results closest to the desired outcome are selected. Thereafter the next generation is built by combining pairs of algorithms from the previous generation and adding more steps (random mutation). This generation is again tested for fitness. This process is repeated as many times as needed. The algorithms keep increasing in complexity with each generation.

Please refer to Cellular automaton for more information on cellular automata and Fuzzy logic for more information on Fuzzy Logic.

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Sukhmani Sahib

Guru Arjan Dev ji
Guru Arjan Dev ji, author of Sukhmani Sahib

Good quality English translations of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji are very rare, if any. In any case, the words of Brahmgyanis (People who are in tune with the Celestial Formless Creator) can be understood completely only by Brahmgyanis. It is like asking someone who has never seen an elephant, but only read about it, to describe how an elephant looks like. However, your spiritual journey needs a starting point. For me, this has always been kathas (spoken discourse) of Giani Maskeen ji, or the Punjabi translation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji by Prof. Sahib Singh ji.

Please find attached interpretations of the Sukhmani Sahib (one of the many prayers withing Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji) in English. This commentary pulls out key thoughts from the Sukhmani Sahib and tries to explain. This is work in progress, only a short part completed so far.

Link below:

Sukhmani Sahib

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Teacher

Sikhs treat Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the Living Treasure of Knowledge, as the Guiding Master on the spiritual journey and embodiment of Word form of the God. The word Guru literally means a teacher in Hindi. The advice that comes from Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is timeless and unchanging, rather than worldly knowledge which is ever changing.

Teacher

What does the Guru say about the kind of teaching that needs to be practiced with the students? Read below:

ਪਾਧਾ ਪੜਿਆ ਆਖੀਐ ਬਿਦਿਆ ਬਿਚਰੈ ਸਹਜਿ ਸੁਭਾਇ ॥
We call person learned, if through the internalisation of his knowledge, he finds peace and his mind stays at rest.

ਬਿਦਿਆ ਸੋਧੈ ਤਤੁ ਲਹੈ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਇ ॥
He ventures inwards through the map of his knowledge, and by focusing attention on the True Name he attunes to Divine One.

ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਬਿਦਿਆ ਬਿਕ੍ਰਦਾ ਬਿਖੁ ਖਟੇ ਬਿਖੁ ਖਾਇ ॥
The self willed teacher (who has not subdued his mind) is only a knowledge seller. Little does he know that this trade is a poison that finishes the spiritual purpose of his life.

ਮੂਰਖੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਚੀਨਈ ਸੂਝ ਬੂਝ ਨਹ ਕਾਇ ॥੫੩॥
Such people are fools, they have not understood the Eternal Word and have no intuitive knowledge.

ਪਾਧਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਖੀਐ ਚਾਟੜਿਆ ਮਤਿ ਦੇਇ ॥
A wise teacher follows precisely the teachings of God Guru and gives the same instruction to his disciples.

ਨਾਮੁ ਸਮਾਲਹੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੰਗਰਹੁ ਲਾਹਾ ਜਗ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਇ ॥
He tells his students to praise the Lord’s Name, the manifestation of God. To collect Naam which is the only profitable trade in this world.

ਸਚੀ ਪਟੀ ਸਚੁ ਮਨਿ ਪੜੀਐ ਸਬਦੁ ਸੁ ਸਾਰੁ ॥
His own heart becomes the slate on which he writes the word of the True Guru, and thus his own mind is cleansed of evil. This is the best learning.

ਨਾਨਕ ਸੋ ਪੜਿਆ ਸੋ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਬੀਨਾ ਜਿਸੁ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਗਲਿ ਹਾਰੁ ॥੫੪॥੧॥
Such a teacher is then called wise and learned who wears the garland of Lord’s Name

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Flimager released

Flimager
Flimager

Finally, I was able to release Flimager today. Its a tool to setup your own Flash slideshow, with your own images. If your images are hosted on your own server, rather than on Picassa or Flickr, this is the tool to go for.

More details on the Flimager page: http://blog.2cent.me/flimager/

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog. I dont even know what I am going to use it for. However, there is one reason for sure – it seems easier to maintain compared to my website.

The theme I am using is a slightly customised version of Amazing Grace. I also sometimes use customised version of the default wordpress theme.

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