Computational Photography: Ad Nauseam

Yeah, I know I never stop writing about this topic. So, sue me! Wait, I didn’t mean that. This is where it is all going, but the emergence and rapid evolution of AI may be taking a different turn from what I once thought. It’s true, computing platforms have a tremendous advantage over legacy camera platforms, as I have written about here, here, and here. And the headline image of this post illustrates that advantage again. This is an image from about three inches behind a banana tree leaf in the early morning light shot using the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s macro mode. Get close enough, and the phone selects macro mode for you and shifts its focusing program. This may be different from the lens you were previously using, but that’s okay. The phone probably picked good focus point and exposure, but you can change those if you want. The fact that the leaf was fluttering in the breeze did not faze the phone one bit. I might have been able to get this shot with one of my “good” cameras and a macro lens. Maybe. But I probably would have needed a tripod and a rail, and even then, the wind might have made it impossible, even if I got set up quickly enough. Not a problem for the phone. Now, here is what the Midjourney AI bot produced in less than 3 minutes using the simple prompt I gave it: /imagine banana leaf macro mode illuminated from behind:
These are very different photographs, but they are also remarkably alike. Can you tell just by looking at them which is “real”? Hmmm, brave new world indeed. Within the field of computational photography, Apple is no longer the small mammal.
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