Monday, 28 July 2014

Sigma Quattro: just like a View Camera

Long ago there was a time when no pro would do without one, a View Camera, with its black cloth. Then a format de-escalation began in the 1940s, 6x6 became the dominant format, and finally the 35mm.
With digital we are going  even smaller, with APS becoming the dominant format..
 I would never have seen an old style view camera if my cousin, a good woodcarver, had not built one in wood. It took a big prime lens with a Compur shutter, it focussed on its large plates by moving an optical bench, and you could even make collodium plates for it, by painting the emulsion on a glass plate. The camera had its own tripod, it needed poses, it took time to change plates, but it  had v. good resolution and was good for all sorts of experiments.

A Lotus view camera  from Linhof
In the Digital era, the Sigma Foveon cameras take more or less the same niche although they have an APS-C sized sensor and weigh only half a kilo instead of the 10 kg of view cameras! They also have a double resolution to their nominal photosites, compared to another digital camera.
The difference is in the structure of the sensor. Instead of a flat matrix of blue, green and red photosites, they have three layers that convey the full colour information.
See here:

In the Quattro Sigma improved on its older sensor so that only the top one, the blue one carries the luminance information. Therefore the structure is called 4-1-1, instead of 4-4-4, and hence the Quattro.

With the new arrangement there are less photosites in the  colour layers below,  but bigger ones, hence they produce less noise. The advantage of the Foveon  indeed is not in the number  of photosites, but in their pixel sharpness.

The new arrangement is better than the old in that it now offers a 36 Mpx image equivalent, instead of the Sigma Merrill's 30 Mpx. on the same APS-C sized sensor.

This is yet another proof that resolution nowadays doesn't depend on the size of the sensor and even less from the size of the camera.

For the technical savy, see the discussion about the new sensor between the Sigma engineers and the Imaging Resource team is here.

There have been other improvements in respect to the old Merrill. Although the camera still takes some 4 secs to be initialised, it  records faster (2.8 seconds/shot), it focuses better (less than 1 sec), battery life however is still short, at 140 shots. Sigma provides a second battery.
 It has no video, so you must know what you buy it for :)

But the real progress is in the sensor, which now offers 25% more resolution than the earlier dp2 Merill, and one stop more useable sensitivity, up to 800 ISO.
I would say this is the consensus, although the level of appreciation varies wildly across reviewers.

These are early times, but I decided to try a review (of reviews!)  after seeing a double blind test at Les Numeriques comparing the Quattro, a Sony A7r, and a Leica S. There is no doubt, according to the users' vote,  that at base ISO the quattro beats the Sony and leaves the Leica far behind! See here

From the Sigma gallery
As soon as the ISO is increased though, the Sony is far better.
Yes but it also costs twice the price of the Sigma, the latter being € 850 or $ 1000 (note that Sigma uses a more sensible exchange rate for the EU than other brands). Note also that an APS-C sensor, can beat a FF one: a first.

Among the Cons, apart from the slow reactiveness of the camera, there is some colour smearing (between blue and yellow), which will probably require a firmware tuning, and a loss of detail in the red - see the Imaging Resource's samples. RAW however gives better results, proving that these are teething problems of the Jpeg processor.

One of the most contentious issues is the camera shape itself.
It is oblong, absolutely in a shape of itself, with its general thinness but fleshy grip. Sigma was daring and I don't know how much it will be liked by reactionary audiences of the kind dSLR-or-Death :) One needs to be eccentric from time to time.

The fact is that it is a 36Mpx equivalent camera, and if you don't hold it properly, they are going to be entirely wasted by handshake.
So here is a uTube video which might convince you of the good sense of the revolutionary shape.

My take is that this is a Landscape perfectionist's camera,  and one will use a tripod most of the times. Note that the button layout and the menus are very rational. You have a focus button on the grip. As you see there is no EVF, and some have complained that the LCD is too reflective. Sigma however provides a 45mm optical VF. On a View Camera you had to watch the image on a layer of glass in the back of the camera, so again there is something in common.

The Quattro has been called a niche camera, and is very simlar to a View Camera in that it offers beautiful, ultra detailed panoramas. In my setup it could probably supplement theOlympus E-M5 for the most taxing landscape views. Note however that the Quattro is a daylight camera, contrary to the E-M5.

I invite you now to see what a landscape artist can do with the older Sigma Merrill and the foveon sensor, here at THE.ME

I am quoting Karel Van Wolferen and its Japanese Mountain views, which offer an unheard level of detail in foliage. Note the Fuji mountain in the background.

copyright Karel van Wolferen (fair use)
The article was written to illustrate the Sony A7r, and the Foveon was used only for comparison, but IMHO it beats the Sony A7r, for its 3D effect.
Of course if you need the higher sensitivities there is no match with the Sony, which can also change lenses. But as a niche camera the Quattro is probably unbeatable! Its Sigma 30mm, an outstanding lens for resolution which I use with the E-M5,  is clearly optimised for the Foveon sensor.

As you see Van Wolferen has also a taste for composition in Landscape that can rival the Japanese masters. I am not surprised that the uses a Sigma. I am tempted too! That foliage is extraordinary. The more you magnify, the more detail surfaces up from the background. It's like having many pictures in one.

copyright Karel van Wolferen (fair use)
In some cases it makes more sense to have separate cameras for different uses, instead of having a jack-of-all-trades.
So will you, or did you buy a Quattro? The camera is just out. Let me know what you think about it, in daily use. 


As always if you want the original resolution, control-click and open the picture in a new page.

For some reason just clicking on the image opens a smaller image.

Check also the video at the CameraStore.
They don't like the grip, but at the end of the video they do some prints showing a comparison with the Merrill to advantage.

Also Sigma has just announced a FW upgrade.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

PostModernism: is Beauty in the eye of the beholder?

Shop window in blue, Rome, by me.

(Warning! Intellectual stuff. Stop immediatly reading if you don't trust Art, or demean intellectual endeavours.:)

In a debate on experiments in Photography, when I remarked that basically people are re-doing things that were already made, and that pictures need to be deconstructed, instead of using some bland Positivism, someone objected to me, that we are in post-positivism, that reality can be 'triangulated' from different Positive worldviews. So yes, but what about using some more serious tools, and not triangulate ignorance?

If one keeps in mind David Bate cronology of photography in Globalization

1870-1910  Pictorialism
1920-1930s Avant-Garde/Modernism (Formalism)
1945-1960 s: New Realism/Humanist Photography
1960-1979: Minimalism, Conceptualism/late Modernism
1980-1990s: Postmodernism/Neoconceptualism

One will indeed see that Photography was born in that era were the belief in Progress was indeed absolute, what we call Positivism, and that is indeed still the main implicit belief of DPR American readers, perhaps because they never experimented wars on their own soil. 

In Europe because of the two WW very little of that optimism remained after the Second WW. But even before that any trace of Positivism had been destroyed by the Irrationalism that fed  fascist movements, but also by Psychanalis, Marxism, and Surrealism in the Arts. Critique of Society and its myths had therefore become paramount.

After the 2WW an ethnologist with a long field experience, French Claude Levi-Strauss, proposed that despite all the differences there were some invariants in all human societies, including the primitive ones. and that was called Structuralism. It replaced Positivism very well in Academia, until a new generation of French thinkers began to show that the latter couldn't account for the hidden repressive instances of modern society, so that  European i.e. French poststructuralism began to destroy the idea of a shared reality from the 1970s.

I am naming Guy Debord and his 'The Society of Spectacle', Deleuze and Guattari, 'The Anti-Oedipus',  Jacques Foucault, 'Surveiller et Punir,' Julie Kristeva's semeiotics and Lacan's Psychanalisis. Without forgetting 'Mythologies' of Barthes, who would later carry his deconstruction to Photography.

The Society of Spectacle book, courtesy JulieAnnAshcraft, flickr

 In a decade they dissolved all idea of a positive reality, Photography and the arts could lean on. Nothing was known of all this across the Pond, however, if one excepts Susan Sontag's 'On Photography', a first attempt to deconstruct the myths behind mass photography.

The Theory of the Fetish, the totalitarian Golden Veal of the merchandise, the central concept in Consumerist Societies, was posited  by Jean  Baudrillard at Montreal University in a number of essays on Cinema and the Visual Arts, and from there it spawned to the best East Coast universities. 
Such central concepts like Deconstruction and Narrative have entered day to day language from there. Semeiotics is still an empty word for most, but that's what we use as a method to disentangle Visual Meaning. Have a try here:

Yes but what about Photography? you will ask. As I showed Conceptual Art,  Art as Idea, removed any relation to a positive reality. Art self-referentiality however could not bear the weight of Globalization. Too many worldviews were clashing all of a sudden.
That was what David Bate meant by Post-Cinceptualism?
That was the difficulty I faced, how to illustrate this plurality, until I found this: Arthistoryunstuffed

 Jeanne Willette

This is a wonderful essay by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette of the Orange County Museum of Art, California, from which I will largely draw  the next paragraphs. This will help me facing my largest midbrow audience, the American one, with no need of further 'exotic' arguments.

This is what you find when you dial in Google 'Postmodern Photography' Quite a jumble! Just try: it changes all the time!

"Photography became the postmodern art form par excellence, taking the place of painting when the Modernist precepts of European art became exhausted by the 1960s.  Unlike painting, photography did not have to grapple with, and overcome a high art past, nor was it touched by high art theories. Because  photography was, as Pierre Bourdieu would say, The Middle Brow Art, it was ideally suited for Postmodernism to occupy the practice. Even in its virginal state, photography was also impacted by the fact of the “Image World.” As Guy Debord explained it in The Society of the Spectacle,the world had become a “spectacle.”

In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation… The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images. The spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual excess produced by mass-media technologies. It is a worldview that has actually been materialized, a view of a world that has become objective. "

Andy Warhol image: Campbell's can

"Therefore, contemporary visual culture was, by definition, a spectacle disseminated though photographic forms, reproductions of reproductions, simulacra of a reality that never existed. Through photography, visual culture had become part of the spectacle of popular culture that fascinated its audience and hypnotized them from critiquing society and created a certain kind of social relation. As Debord said, “In a world that is really upside down, the true is a moment of the false.” When Debord’s influential book was published in France in 1967, the vernacular photography of Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander had exhausted itself. The innocence that had allowed photographer or the audience to assume that direct photography was a reliable form of “truth” was crumbling on the disillusionment of the Viet Nam War."

Warhol image: 2nd Campbell's can

"In an Image World overflowing with images and stuffed with history, it is impossible to “take” pictures with a fresh and innocent eye: all pictures are seen only through other pictures–pictorial intertextuality. Photography is no longer about capturing realism, as it was in the days of Robert Frank and his followers, but was concerned with re-creating images of images.  Without the possibility of reality, postmodern photographers are not photographers in the historical sense and they cannot photograph objects in the traditional sense.  They can only fabricate simulacra or record the hyperreal of the Postmodern world.  It would be correct to question the term “photography” in the context of Postmodernism.  “Photography,” as a direct and immediate capturing of reality takes a certain amount of naïvité, no longer available in the Postmodern era.  All photography has already been done.  The term “re-photography” would be more precise to describe Postmodern photography."

As a visual example of what a PostModern photog. can do nowadays let me recall a picture by David LaChapelle, for didactic purposes.

Again dial his name in Google Images and see what comes up,. It's quite breath taking, One seems to be carried in the World of Oz. Fantasy with no relation to reality whatsoever. From Warhol's Pop Art, to hyperrealism, and then Dreamland, or Pseudorealism with LaChapelle.

But it's no surprise, such has always been the realm of Commercial Photography and Adverisment for years: simulacra with no reality, i.e. the Fetish. Notice that some even wink to sadomasochism. But it's of the babydoll kind.

It's nice seeing an American like Dr. Willette's getting into the European frame of mind of critical thinking. Sexuality and social awareness having for so long being banned from the American scene, the positivist worldview is just another version of bourgeois quiet living and idealism. LaChapelle mocks it, but without really debunking it

Long before this standstill,  in 1971, with her book 'On Photography',  Susan Sontag had attempted something similar to deconstruction of the Fetish. I quote from THEME, which recently dedicated a post to her.

"Sontag calls the photographic image a control mechanism we exert upon the world — upon our experience of it and upon others’ perception of our experience. What makes this insight particularly prescient is that Sontag arrived at it more than three decades before the age of the social media photostream — the ultimate attempt to control, frame and package our lives — our idealized lives — for presentation to others, and even to ourselves. The aggression Sontag sees in this purposeful manipulation of reality through the idealized photographic image applies even more poignantly to the aggressive self-framing we practice as we portray ourselves pictorially on Facebook, Instagram and the like:

"Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort and mug shots). There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera."

Thirty-some years after Sontag’s observation, this aggression precipitates a kind of social media violence of self-assertion — a forcible framing of our identity for presentation, for idealization, for currency in an economy of envy. She goes even further in asserting photography’s inherent violence:

"Like a car, a camera is sold as a predatory weapon — one that’s as automated as possible, ready to spring. Popular taste expects an easy, an invisible technology. Manufacturers reassure their customers that taking pictures demands no skill or expert knowledge, that the machine is all-knowing and responds to the slightest pressure of the will. It’s as simple as turning the ignition key or pulling the trigger. Like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy machines whose use is addictive."

Susan Sontag

 If you look at DPR gear debates, and the weak tentatives to make a more general discourse on Photography, you'll see how Middle America is still  fully immersed  in the consumerist fetish of the omnipotent camera.

To recap, the pioneering work of the French in semeiotics allowed to deconstruct the myths of popular culture. Some 30 years later  the Theory of the Fetish and its uses spread to American Academia and Photographers.
Remember when I said 'no image is innocent?'

As  Dr. Willette writes:

"By the 1970s, photographers were beginning to explore three issues in the discipline. First, “straight photography” and its corollary documentary photography were played out. Second, the “truth” value of photography had been undermined and the role the medium was playing in constructing a particular kind of society—of spectacle and of complacent citizens—was becoming clear. Third, it “straight photography” could be manipulative of society then it would seem that it was once again permissible to manipulate photography. Postmodern photographers would confront these particular conditions during the eighties in a knowing and often highly theoretical fashion."

Cindy Sherman's a Film Still - Final Moma (for didactic use only)

"Postmodernism is characterized by self-conscious and deliberate intertextuality. One of the best-known photographers who played with simulacra is Cindy Sherman.  Sherman should be termed a performance artist who restages images from mass media.  Concentrating on how women were represented by movies, she had herself photographed in a series of small black and white photographs called “Film Stills” during the late 1970s.  None of these theatrical re-presentations can be traced back to any actual movie but all remind the viewer of movies they have seen or have heard of and evoke the construction of women in the 1940s and 1950s.  

"Sherman is what can be called a “post-feminist,” or an artist who takes up feminist concerns, not from a political and activist perspective but from a theoretical stance.  Because society manipulates the social being who is proved to be infinitely malleable, Postmodernism no longer believes in the Modernist possibility of evolution towards a goal. There is only arbitrary change, determined by the dominant class for its own purposes.

 C. Sherman, step

Willette: "All Postmodern theory can do is to point out that gender is constructed  by the culture and by mass media.  Unlike early feminism of the 1970s, post-feminism is not essentialist but is constructivist, maintaining that there is no such thing as a “women” only an image that is created by ideology and is named “woman” by the culture.  Sherman’s Film Stills are pure simulacra: there is no “woman,” there is only the image of woman.   A film is an image of an image of a woman.   A film still is an image of a woman of an image of a woman of an image of a woman.  Simulacra is a “third order” of “reality,” meaning that a simulacra is three moves away from a reality that never existed in the first place. Because Sherman performs a variety of female roles, playing the woman for a male audience, she should be considered a performance artist who photographs her work, rather than as a traditional photographer."

BTW the same deconstruction  has been applied by Dr. Eva Rus to Francesca Woodman's work. She was probably going to move  from Surrealism to Postmodern, and it's a pity that she put an end to her artist's life so early. Note how important was Photography  for the Female Liberation movement. Suddenly there were a lot of women photographers who were playing with their identity on stage.

There is another interesting author to explore as a 're-photographer': Jeff Wall. I am quoting again Dr. Willette, since I couldn't have done better.

"Sherman was not the only photographer to stress the importance of performance and artifice in Modernism, present in Western art since Édouard Manet.  Like Sherman, Jeff Wall uses intertextuality by reenacting significant “major monuments” of Modernist art through the Postmodern art of manipulated photography.  One of the early users of computer manipulation, Wall, like Sherman, is less a “photographer” in the classical sense, and actually works in the “directorial mode...” 
"Because he is referring to invented works of art, in addition to staging and directing, Wall must manipulate photography.  In A Sudden Gust of Wind, Wall uses the computer to throw white sheets of paper into the stiff breeze, combining postmodern technology with the past. Like most Postmodern artists, Postmodern photographers re-explore the past and revisit history."

Sudden Gust of Wind (Quoted for didactic purposes) 

The original Hokusai picture, Brooklyn Museum.
Wikipedia: "Based on Yejiri Station, Province of Suruga (ca. 1832) a woodprint by Katsushika Hokusai, A Sudden Gust of Wind recreates the depicted 19th-century Japanese scene in contemporary British Columbia, utilizing actors and took over a year to produce 100 photographs in order "to achieve a seamless montage that gives the illusion of capturing a real moment in time".

Pictures of women, by Jeff Wall
This is an optical illusion whereby the photographer trades her place with you. It is a re-photography of a camera setting.

Another interesting Postmodern photog to consider is Andreas Gurtsky. In fact we already analysed one of his extraordinary pictures.

Gurtsky's Engadine picture, with the line of skiers betraying the sanctity of the perennial snow.

Gursky is also the author the most expensive photo ever sold at an auction, $ 4.3 Million, which has a mesmerizing effect, suspended as it is between the flat plane and the depth. Call it romantic! 
"Justifying this manipulation of the image, Gursky said :"Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ, a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river."(Wikipedia)

Here it is:

Rhein II Pic (only for didactic purposes)  $ 4.3 Million!

However good and even perfectionist they are, these photogs. can't hide the fact that what they are really doing are pictures of pictures, in the second or even third degree. Possibly any passers by were cloned out of the piccie.

So where are we now? In 'Globalization' I already mentioned  that the Winterthur's Fotomuseum is currently holding a debate, where some argue that Photography is finished, because curators can't fix any criteria f for selecting Photo Artworks anymore, since anything goes. It is the End of Photography as a social endeavour in other words. 

Others have advised a return to realist, or neo-realist photography a' la Paul Strand, like Barcelona artist Jorge Ribalta:

Paul Strand's Ghana portraits. Chief and Elders

In Portraits of Modernity.

I would rather agree and that is what I try to do, by shooting simple and trying to socialize with all walks of life, with the aim of showing common circumstances. But as I mentioned in my post about Wearable Glass and 360°  I am afraid I am too late: a new technology is upon us which will sweep us into a kind of real/artificial augmented reality uneheard of before.
Perhaps we should accept the disappearance of the camera, and welcome a new degree of pictographic experience?

In fact, as Alan Kirby, Chair of Literature from Exeter Uni, UK writes we have probably entered a new phase one could call Pseudo Modernism. Beware, there is scathing in his words:

"whereas postmodernism favoured the ironic, the knowing and the playful, with their allusions to knowledge, history and ambivalence, pseudo-modernism’s typical intellectual states are ignorance, fanaticism and anxiety: Bush, Blair, Bin Laden, Le Pen and their like on one side, and the more numerous but less powerful masses on the other. Pseudo-modernism belongs to a world pervaded by the encounter between a religiously fanatical segment of the United States, a largely secular but definitionally hyper-religious Israel, and a fanatical sub-section of Muslims scattered across the planet: pseudo-modernism was not born on 11 September 2001, but postmodernism was interred in its rubble. In this context pseudo-modernism lashes fantastically sophisticated technology to the pursuit of medieval barbarism – as in the uploading of videos of beheadings onto the internet, or the use of mobile phones to film torture in prisons. Beyond this, the destiny of everyone else is to suffer the anxiety of getting hit in the cross-fire. But this fatalistic anxiety extends far beyond geopolitics, into every aspect of contemporary life; from a general fear of social breakdown and identity loss, to a deep unease about diet and health; from anguish about the destructiveness of climate change, to the effects of a new personal ineptitude and helplessness, which yield TV programmes about how to clean your house, bring up your children or remain solvent. This technologised cluelessness is utterly contemporary: the pseudo-modernist communicates constantly with the other side of the planet, yet needs to be told to eat vegetables to be healthy, a fact self-evident in the Bronze Age. He or she can direct the course of national television programmes, but does not know how to make him or herself something to eat – a characteristic fusion of the childish and the advanced, the powerful and the helpless. For varying reasons, these are people incapable of the “disbelief of Grand Narratives” which Lyotard argued typified postmodernists."

Sorry for the long text and quotations, I can strike a deal with you and promise that from now on, there won't be anymore chronologies and Art movements  involved, but only single excellent photographers brought up.

In my search for a solution of the actual catch 22 in Photography, between fake reality and unbridled fantasy,  I am considering to go back to socially concerned photographers like Paul Strand and Tina Modotti, and watch what they brought to their honest and simple table :)

No it's simply not true that anything goes, otherwise we would end up with pretentious postprocessing like this  "Ph-art" poster at DPR.

By using painterly plugins they were proud to obtain impressionist women that were done by French painters one century ago. Is this progress, mere defacing and smearing of an image, like adding too much lipstick?
David LaChapelle, Amanda as Marylin

Or take the photoshopped, beautified images of Marriage hacks that seem to have become the standard for so many camera owners.All their suburb life will be beautified, including their visits to Disneyland. And if you criticize, you ll' be called an old fart, with pretentions to something they don't care a fig about.

OverPP plus lack of visual culture have perverted the course of Photography, and created true monsters, and general mediocrity. So beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder,  I would propose, instead it is the result of restraint, work and good intuition.

Art is very similar to Science. If you want to publish a new theory it must be Relevant to some aspect of the Physical World, and it must be Elegant, i.e. it must not waste means to get to its end. Nobody would publish sloppy Science, or a uselessly complicated theory. 

Nobody would publish some Art just because it has been made with the best camera in the World, or overprocessed with the latest software, as the majority of people believe in forums.

Instead Artists will always  do better with small but adequate means, if they have integrity, and some clear cut concepts about their work. Then it's a matter of testing these new concepts to the very end. It took Wall one year of work with actors and computers to arrive at the Gust of Wind picture! With Art you are at the forefont of the evolution of human thinking. Need any proof?

'Nihil fuit in intellectu quod non fuerit in sensu', said philosophers, from Aristotle to Berkeley.
In Art you start with the senses, but the end product is in the intellect. Photography is an intellectual endeavour, no matter how desultorily simple it appears. It is the most democratic of the arts, but this implies an even greater need for clarity, honesty and the elimination of dead ends.  Although one might be happy with the Likes and Favourites of one's Social sites, there is always a more direct, unexpected way to tap the underlying reality.

And suddenly, as a relief to these questions without answer,  it came to me out of nothing, from a sleepless summer night: just two words 'Bright Star', I was puzzled, then I remembered  it was Keats:

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
         Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
         Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
         Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
         Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
         Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
         Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Appreciate the economy of means,  the  equivalence between the Star and the Beloved. It is a perfect picture, conjured from imagination. Like a perfect shot, if you wish. Likewise, there must still  be room for intuition and poetry in Photo, beyond the artifices!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Wearable Glass and 360° vision.

Disruptive technologies have a way to get through from SciFi to market success in a few years, witness mirrorless cameras.

A few observers forsee the same for Google Glass, the wearable device getting mainstream this year : shall we kiss goodbye our smartphones? I would shed no tears. This is an preliminary article anyway: we'll see how things pan out. For the moment this is more an inventory of links, than an assessment, but I have no doubts that wearable technology is already taking long strides.

For the moment universal use seems hardly likely, except for the affluent, with Google Glass selling to a selected few at $ 1500  as part of the Google Explorer program. Google has just expanded to Britain the Explorer Program,selling the Glass for UKP 1000, offering in the meanwhile  new  glass frames that could be compatible with prescription lenses in the UK.

Here at Wikipedia the last specs:

What drew my attention however is the appearance of a Chinese clone , the SimEye.
 At $500 it seems far more reasonable. The difference is in the number of app offered, and the fact that it doesn't respond to voice controls like the original, and has no sound transmission through the skull bones like Google. But it can still take photographs and record movies with 4 times the definition of Google. And it can still download apps directly from Google Android Libraries.
Would that be able to interface with one of my cameras?

Photo Wang Yin Hao

Looks a bit unsteady. Note that Google mentioned recently that the final price to consumers of the Glass would be close to your average smartphone - so better wait!

Meanwhile Olympus published a patent for wearable glasses, and I later discovered it is associated with Kopin company for development of a new device.
Olympus is known for its world dominance in endoscopes and medical devices, so Medical could be the first application. But it could also go consumer:

Note that the device can be disassembled, which is not true of Google Glass.

Imagine surgery with augmented vision, a thing that military jet pilots already have with their headup displays in their helmets. But here the device is much lighter and less intrusive.
It could also bring augmented reality to the operating table: a surgeon could  see a heart in 3D:

Or could it go Consumer and Virtual? Virtual Reality quit consumer markets some ten years ago because it required some extremely fast and expensive computers to be credible. Therefore it was the preserve of training devices for the military, like jet plane simulation. 

It is now making a comeback to consumer games, because of the fast increased computing power of miniaturised devices, and their high resolution screens. Also, Wi-Fi and Cloud can act as Storage.

There are out of the box solutions, making use of devices you might already have. Check this, the Oculus device for making a Samsung phone into a virtual reality device:

By sliding a phone into with a wearable box with two magnifying lenses, you use the high definition Samsung screen to input software provided by Oculus, the Facebook funded company. 
The built-in lens of camera phone also allows to superpose the artificial and the real. Remarkable!

The main reason reason however for me to take an interest, is that Olympus mentioned wearable glass a a future interface for cameras. Imagine a WiFi link between camera and Glass, instead of using a smartphone. Wouldn't it be more natural in the long run than sticking an odd, and expensive EVF to its Pens? 

Google Glass was not born for Photography though. "It's a pretty crappy 5MP cell phone camera - there's not much else to say. It's ok when you have some sunlight and a muddled mess when you don't." says AndroidPolice

First you say "Show the viewfinder", then "Take a picture". Here are the main voice commands:

The most successful apps at the moment  include a Moving Map indicator, which can tell where you are, and direct you through the road system. You input the data with your voice. "Get directions to..." will fire up the app and start navigation to your destination. Just like your phone on Android, you can direct it to a specific business, search for a type of business, or speak a whole address.

You also have the regular Google Search, although presentation of the results by Cards, makes it somehow messy and laconic, says AndroidPolice.
Certainly you can also dictate an e-mail and send it with a vocal command to Gmail. By the same token it is easy to send the images you took with the 5 Mpx Glass to Google Galleries (Picasa?). You can also do short bursts of 720p.

Another  app being developed will help you speed up check ins at British airports, another will act as a guide to the Sixtine Chapel, the Egyptian Museum of Turin, and other Italian museums, by using facial recognition on the mummies, or the paintings! It is difficult to tell however what is already there, and what is just planned. Will it also be able to translate presentations and street signs? Or even pick up a conversation in Japanese and translate it?

Meanwhile Photography  got me interested in a crowdfunding device that will soon hit the market: the Bublcam:

This camera is the size of a baseball, and has 4 lenses that cover 360°. It was designed in order to allow  iimage swipng  across a smartphone. Proprietary software allows to stitch the 4 images in a circular image, which covers all of your surroundings. 

If that was linked up to am Oculus device, imagine the immersive effect! Perhaps we are at the verge of  blending natural vision and machine one, in high definition. Have a taste here:

To have a further idea yet look at these 360° pictures of the Mundial and its stadiums in Brazil, by photog. Henri Stuart. You can swipe to your heart's content. Here the post:

and here, choose one of his  pictures, and swipe it !:

There is already a minor alternative to bubl, the CENTR:

So are we finally overcoming the limitations of the frame? Frames were invented in Europe just before the Renaissance to allow merchants to have their portraits made,  bought and carried away. But long before that painters were paid by bishops and abbots to make  frescoes of the Saints  covering whole walls of Churches with visualizations of the Bible: far more immersive. With 360° cameras we are back to the beginning.

What will happen to Photography, as we knew it,  will it stand a chance? It's rather traditional cameras that are in danger, I am reminded about Marcel Duchamp's words about the camera some day becoming as outdated as Painting. 

Note that according to a specialised site, Optical Vision Site there are 39 companies  flexing their muscles in the new Wearable Viewer market and that sales have doubled every year:

Meanwhile imagine to hold a Bubl ball in your hands high above your head, documenting your surroundings for your wearable glass, and uploading them by WiFi to the Cloud.  In California a journalism course has been already lauched based on Google Glass.

It would certainly change holiday photography, and a lot more: it would be an experience akin to Life-Logging. You could blend your images of monuments and temples with those of other users.

Sometimes I am scared by such an intrusive future coming soon, and yet I welcome the Glasses as a more interesting viewing device than a smartphone. Imagine the prices were similar. If I had the choice, I would go for the Glass, since it can take and make calls too anyway. And you, what would YOU prefer?

Much of this bounty however will depend on available app in the Android ecosystem, and the development of more powerful  batteries. So far Google has kept strict control on third party applications, but these are early times. 
The Battery allegedly lasts 1-2 hours. Needs more juice, to become your permanent wearable computer. So far it just shuts down like an ordinary phone. But it wakes up if you nod 30° upwards!

Google Apps are updating at a monthly rate, so chances are that you won't recognize your Glass after a few months. it's a kind of Transformer thing.

Photokina is now looming: we'll see what comes up then. Or perhaps Photokina being more a more traditional camera show. the new consumer devices will emerge beginning of next year at CES in Las Vegas? 

Will traditional cameras stand the attack, or is it the beginning of the End? Smartphones are already nibbling at a 20%  yearly rate at camera sales each year worldwide, according to a preliminary Photokina's report. Glass might be the kiss of death, unless Olympus develops itself a wearable device specific for cameras.

Note however that mirrorless (ILC) is faring better:

There are however some no-nos about wearable glass. You don't wear it near restrooms, lest they take you for a voyeur. But if you want the full criticism, have a look at the 35 arguments against it:

Some arguments are quite wacky, and luddite.  Other concerns are quite real, basically about privacy and the use that Google might do about your personal data, that you must input in the device in order to make it work.  For instance there's a difference between using anonymously Gmail, and inputting your real name in Google+. Google would like to feed the Contacts side with real names, if only for the sake of brevity.

However petty criminals  could use the device to blackmail unaware celebrities, although paparazzi did that  already there with their plain cameras. But with Glass, how can people tell if you are shooting them or not? Also don't forget that you have Google Search at your fingertips in the Glass. You can actually be guided to a person or a shop!

So there are also etiquette concerns of all kinds - smart restaurants refusing use, and safety issues. Although freeing both hands you can't superimpose virtual reality to what you are driving through, without risking an accident, because of the different planes of visualization and attention. Is it why Googles is introducing automated driving? The application is there, but  it is not yet legal. Both the US and the UK have prohibited driving  while wearing the glass.

 Glass  will make the wearer feel like an omnipotent  'photographer' with the Third Eye,  always at the ready for a shot, by a vocal command, or even a discrete tap on the touchpad of the frame. But will he/she be a photographer or just a camera wearer?

I am particularly interested in user experience. How often do you use it?Please feel free to use the e-mail module here affixed. Other users of this site could also comment if they find the new devices desirable or not.
More importantly, do you think that this mode of visualization, this mingling of the artificial and the real, will be the end of cameras, if not of Photography?

The Daily Telegraph just announced the opening of an Amazon shop in Britain dedicated to wearable technology, and it published the latest market forecasts:

"Wearable technology has already emerged as one of the top tech trends of the year. Deloitte predicts than 10 million wearable devices will ship globally in 2014, from sophisticated gadgets to smart textiles and skin patches.
In a recent survey of 6,000 individuals by consulting company Accenture, 46 per cent expressed interest in buying smartwatches, while 42 per cent said they'd be interested in purchasing internet-connected eyeglasses, such as Google Glass.
The global market for wearable technology was reportedly worth $2.7 billion (£1.6bn) in revenue in 2012 and is expected to reach $8.3 billion (£4.9bn) in 2018."

Finally you could control Glass and shoot pictures, even by mind control, i.e. concentration, by associating Glass  to an EEG reader through an app, called MindRDR

Don't believe? See this fascinating article here at BBC:
"An EEG headset can be used to measure when certain parts of the brain show a greater level of activity.
In this case, the MindRDR software monitors when the wearer engages in high levels of concentration.

Within Google Glass's "screen" - a small window that appears in the corner of the wearer's right eye - a white horizontal line is shown.

As a user concentrates, the white line rises up the screen. Once it reaches the top, a picture is taken using Glass's inbuilt camera."

Please check the BBC video, to see how the thing works, it's amazingly simple. To send a piccie you just think the same thing twice, and the picture gets sent to a pre-programmed address.
The thing is meant for paraplegics and people 'walled inside' and it's really a hack, not recognized by Google.
But who knows, one day you could take a pic by thinking deeply about your mother in law. Never say never :)