Following his departure as a leading camera engineer at Google, Marc Levoy has given an interview about his career and what is next for mobile photography. As reported by The Verge, Levoy now works for Adobe and has worked on camera technologies such as HDR+, Portrait Mode, and Night Sight.
Vivo is currently doing much to lead the way when it comes to mobile camera technology. The Vivo X50 Pro is a great example of this. The company also launched a new Vision+ initiative to help support and inspire mobile photographers.
Levoy spoke about the state of the industry as well as what he expects to occur in the coming years.
He also talked about his time at Google and his career as a whole. When asked about why he left Google Levoy cited “intellectually restless” as reported by 9to5Google. It seems like an amicable end where Levoy simply desired a new challenge.
What Levoy expects from photography going forwards
When asked about the balance of software and hardware and what is the next step for mobile photography Levoy had an interesting response. He questioned whether going to 96 megapixels was a good idea as some manufactures had.
This is because he questioned whether the basic sensors were “too much of a draw” anymore. He pointed out that to get a bigger sensor in a camera you would probably need to make the phone thicker. This is something that is unlikely to be successful.
He then went onto say that it would be hard to innovate in this space. Levoy believes the main battleground may well be in accelerators. Overall, he sees the ‘megapixel wars’ to tone down as people see there is not much of an advantage to gain there.
When talking about the HDR look and the artistic decisions made by manufactures Levoy admitted that this is a big part of his design process. He also told the interviewer that he ” looked at how painters over the centuries have handled dynamic range” to shape his decisions.
Caravaggio’s influence on Levoy clearly had a big influence on the Pixel do as confirmed by Levoy. He said that these decisions are a constant debate and are informed heavily by the prevailing taste of the time.
Levoy talks overexposure and camera ‘cheats’
Often in blind camera tests the brightest photo wins the popular vote. Many think this is a bit of a cheat camera manufactures can use. Levoy admitted this was a debate often rumbling at Google. However, he now hopes that Adobe more power can be put in the hands of the individual.
During the interview, Marc Levoy also admitted that on smartphones the display is often more saturated and contrasted to make the photography brighter. He argued this was probably the right thing to do on the small screen. However, it would be a problem on the larger screen as it would make the images look “cartoony”.
Levoy somewhat skirted questions about standardization across phones. He attempted to dodge questions about universal apps which offer users the same software and therefore the same image.
He said that he did not know how that debate would “shake out” going forwards. His only real note was to confirm that Adobe was looking to give more creative power to the individual.
In terms of video capability, Levoy pointed out that is an “entirely different ballgame”. He said that at Google it was slightly less of a focus. However, this was because there was less those working on video could do. This was due to the fact that they had to work in real-time.
It looks like on the whole there are some exciting times up ahead for the photography industry. Levoy understandably kept some cards close to his chest. However, did reveal some of the incremental changes likely to occur over the coming years which we should keep an eye out for.