David Shapton entertains the idea that technological progress will soon lead to a perfect lens – but is such a thing even desirable?

Perfect Lens

Digital processing has been around for a long time. Photoshop was first released in 1988, but even before then, the mathematics to blur and enhance video was known for decades. Now, we’re starting to use the abundance of digital processing that we have available to us today to correct images from sub-par lenses, and even to optimise – and almost perfect – lenses that are very good indeed.

In fact, some industry insiders are now saying that built-in lenses can compete with removable ones on the grounds that the correction built into the cameras is based on a complete knowledge of the lens, and this is something that you simply can’t do if you allow any lens to be used, because being able to treat the lens and sensor combination as a “closed” system is always going to give you the best chance of correcting lens defects digitally.

Incredibly, some of the digital processing techniques that are in use in today’s studios and edit suites were invented in the 1920s and 30s. They were only theoretical then, and it was only in the 60s and 70s, in forward-looking research establishments like IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) that computer music composition programs started to produce real results – even if it took a week of number-crunching on those early computers to generate a few seconds of synthesised sound.

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