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Eye Versus Camera. And the Winner is . . .

October 20th, 2012 No Comments

In a direct face-off, which is superior: the Camera or the Human Eye?  That is actually the question Cambridge in Colour seeks to answer – even the title reveals that this is a adversarial contest: Cameras Vs. The Human Eye – note the ‘versus’!  

Given that a photographer has at least a tangential interest in sensitivity to, and perception of, light, and issues of optics, this article is quite a fascinating read.

The similarities abound but so do the differences.  For instance, while a camera and lens will capture a sharp image over the full frame, even with an intermediate aperture (for a given lens) for a scene where the depth of field is not too deep, our eye does not ‘see’ a sharp image over the full field of vision.  Notch up one for the camera and also put a tick in the ‘Differences’ column. 

But wait— the article states that we see a fairly sharp image in our central angle of view, and that is 40 to 60 degrees, which is “incidentally . . . close to a 50 mm ‘normal’ focal length lens on a full frame camera (43 mm to be precise).”  Thus, what had seemed to be a ‘Win’ for the camera turns out to be a ‘Tie’ and a ‘Difference’ is in truth a ‘Similarity’.

On other factors, such as Resolution and Detail, a comparison is scarcely possible because of how far apart the eye and the camera are.  Actually, as the article points out, it is more meaningful to compare the eye to a video camera than a still camera.  

After all, a still camera ‘sees’ a picture for an instant – only so long as the shutter curtain is open.  The eye and a video camera ‘see’ a picture continuously.  Indeed, they even have something in common: an iris/pupil or aperture that adjusts dynamically according to the amount of light in the scene being viewed or filmed.

Amidst all the comparisons there is one game-changer, as this article points out: “What we really see is our mind’s reconstruction . . .”  While one can compare the eye to the camera, the eye doesn’t work in a vacuum: you’ve surely read about another organ-technology comparison between the brain and the computer, right?  Well, the human mind and its neuronal circuitry does an immeasurable amount of ‘post-processing’ and ‘Photoshopping’ every nanosecond to convert the ‘raw’ images captured by the eye into what we end up ‘seeing’.  The game-changer is the human brain.

When a photographer reads and studies the educational ‘Eye Versus Camera’ face-off, there’s only going to be one ‘winner’ . . . the photographer!

 

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