Talk about changing the way HDR is done . . . .
A recently published Canon patent application (see USPTO Appl. No. 12/630,594) reveals a method for altering exposure values at the pixel level, which would allow Canon to produce a camera that captures a much wider dynamic range with a single image.
The lengthy patent application spells out a process whereby the camera captures a preliminary image with normal exposure values and then evaluates the exposure level across the entire image. After creating an exposure map of the scene, the camera alters the exposure amount at the pixel level for the primary HDR image capture.
The present invention is directed to an image capturing apparatus and an image capturing method which are capable of appropriately expanding the dynamic range of an image sensor.
. . . .
According to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, preliminary image capturing is performed using the image capturing unit, and the exposure time is assigned to each pixel based on the result of the preliminary image capturing. Image capturing can thus be performed with a wide dynamic range without a loss of highlight detail and a loss of shadow detail. – USPTO Appl. No. 12/630,594, ¶¶ 11 & 14
The patent application also provides for designating exposure biased toward a specific region of the image, or to expose based on the relative luminance of a scene. Exposure values can be manipulated up or down for each designation, which appears to mean that you would be able to dial in your own HDR style.
Additionally, some cameras have attempted to create an HDR “look” by processing a single exposure in-camera with reduced contrast. And, while this method can be successful to some extent in post-processing soft using RAW image files, the in-camera processed images tend to look overly “fake” or just plain bad.
Canon is reaching for some lofty goals by altering the exposure data on a pixel level. If successfully implemented, this is one of those things that could change the way we use cameras forever.
Dynamic range is something that we try to squeeze as hard as we can at times. However, “HDR” as a photographic art form has both lovers and haters.
Would you want to see this expanded dynamic range in your next camera? How should the final camera work should Canon actually bring such one with this feature to market?