High-dynamic-range imaging

Apple just gave away all the iPhone camera’s secrets

Image: lili sams/mashable

Just because you know how to press your iPhone’s camera shutter and record button and snap the perf selfie doesn’t mean you’re getting the most out of the incredibly capable camera.

To help iPhone users take better (maybe even “Shot on iPhone” worthy) photos, Apple’s launched a new website with a bunch of informative photography tips and tricks.

Some of these “how to shoot” tutorials may be obvious if you’re already familiar with all of the various modes within the iPhone’s camera app, but chances are you aren’t.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who don’t know how to use settings like High Dynamic Range (HDR), or the exposure slider, or how to snap photos while shooting a video. Also, when to use flash and when not to.

A little knowledge goes a long way to improving your photos. Here are a few tips that caught my eye:

How to shoot a…

Sony XBR-65X900E 4K TV Review – Great Pictures Without Breaking The Bank

13 Winning American Architecture Prize Designs

Unlike one or two other brands I could mention, Sony’s TV division actually seems to be listening to consumers these days.

For instance, after getting widely criticized last year for including poor-contrast IPS panels in its TV range, this year Sony’s range is an IPS-free zone. Even better, someone at Sony seems to have noticed that many TV reviewers (myself included) have come to believe that LCD TVs that use direct LED lighting, where the lights are placed directly behind the screen, are better placed to deliver a good high dynamic range picture than TVs that use LEDs placed around the picture’s edges.

In fact, Sony’s new X900E range (known as the XE9005 range in the UK) goes further than just using a direct LED lighting system; it also offers local dimming, where 20 separate LED zones can output different light levels independently of each other, to suit the demands of the picture.

The Sony 65X900E.

The Sony 65X900E.

Admittedly 20 is far from a ground-breaking number of dimming zones by today’s standards. But it’s better than nothing and, as we’ll see, it’s enough to help the 65-inch 65X900E we’re looking at here deliver a mostly very impressive picture.

As you’d expect these days, the 65X900E partners its direct-lighting with high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities and a native 4K resolution, while picture processing comes courtesy of Sony’s previously impressive X1 chipset.

Processing power

This chipset is not as powerful as the X1 Extreme one found in Sony’s step-up X930E, Z9D and OLED A1E models; it doesn’t carry a dual database system for improved HD-to-4K upscaling, and can’t have Dolby Vision HDR support added via a future firmware update. It’s still, though, got more going on than most TV processing systems.

In particular, it drives the local dimming system; Sony’s Triluminos technology for delivering a wider and more subtle color range; and Sony’s Super Bit Mapping feature for tackling HDR color banding problems.

The Sony 65XE900.

The Sony 65X900E.

As with all Sony’s mid-range and high-end TVs these days, the 65X900E’s smart features are delivered by Google’s Android TV platform. I’m no fan of Android TV for reasons detailed in this separate review of the platform. But it does run more stably and more quickly than it did when it first appeared, and it certainly carries a lot of content. Even if much of that content is pretty much pointless.

Fortunately Sony has sought to work round some of Android’s failings. You get full support for 4K HDR Amazon Video streaming as well as Netflix, while UK users will be pleased to find that Sony has drafted in the YouView platform to deliver the catch-up TV services for the main BBC, ITV, Channel Four and Channel 5 broadcasters.

Picture Quality

Firing the 65X900E into action with the best picture source available, a selection of Ultra HD Blu-rays, I initially felt slightly disappointed by what I was seeing. Why? Because the 65X900E’s pictures look much less bright than those of Sony’s step-up 55X930E.

Test measurements reveal the 65X900E managing around 880 nits of light output on a 10% white HDR window, versus the 55X930E’s huge 1450 nits.

To be clear, 875 nits is not actually a bad effort for a 65-inch 4K HDR TV available for $2,300 (or £2,300). But anyone hoping that the X900E range might deliver essentially the same HDR-friendly brightness as the X930E range but from a direct lighting system needs to readjust their expectations.

Sony 65X900E Stand detail.

Sony 65X900E stand detail.

Provided you’re willing to do that, though, the 65X900E is actually a pretty great TV for its money.

Pushing it hard with HDR shots containing bright objects against very dark backdrops, for instance, reveals both impressively deep black levels for LCD technology and, for the most part, fairly tame backlight clouding.

To be clear, faint backlight haloing can appear for a good few centimeters around the most extreme bright highlights (there are only 20 dimming zones, after all). Occasionally, too, this light blooming distractingly encroaches into the black bars you get above and below very wide aspect ratio images, and it also becomes far more pronounced…

HDMI vs DisplayPort vs DVI: Which Port Do You Want On Your New Computer?

It doesn’t seem so long ago that we had only one reliable way to connect a computer to an external monitor. Now the good old VGA port, may it rest in peace, is only found on designated “business” machines and adapters. In its place, we have a variety of alternatives, all of which seem to be fighting each other for the limited space on your laptop or graphics card. Let’s break down the options for your next PC purchase.

HDMI

HDMI is the most widely-used of the three options here, if only because it’s the de facto standard for anything connecting to televisions. Because of its wide adoption, HDMI is also included on most recent monitors and many laptops, except for the smallest ultraportable models. The acronym stands for “High Definition Multimedia Interface.”

The standard has been around since the early 2000s, but determining its capabilities is a bit tricky, because it’s gone through so many revisions. The latest release is HDMI 2.1, which supports a staggering 10K resolution (more than 10,000 pixels wide) at 120 hertz. But version 2.1 is just starting to appear in consumer electronics; the latest laptops that feature HDMI ports will probably top out at version 2.0b, which supports 4K video at 60 frames per second with high dynamic range (HDR).

HDMI’s biggest advantage over the older DVI standard is that it also carries and audio signal, allowing users to plug into a TV (or a monitor with built-in speakers) with a single cable. This is great for TVs, but most monitors still lack integrated speakers, so you’ll also have to use a more conventional headphone jack or simply rely on your laptop’s built-in speakers much of the time.

HDMI comes in three primary connection sizes: standard, “Mini,” and “Micro,” getting progressively smaller. The Mini and Micro connections are popular with smaller portable electronics, but if your laptop has an HDMI port, it probably uses the full-sized version. This, combined with a wide variety of compatible monitors and televisions, makes HDMI the most convenient external display option for most users.

DisplayPort

DisplayPort is a bit newer than HDMI, though it’s also a proprietary system. The full-sized plugs look similar, but DisplayPort uses a asymmetrical notched design versus HDMI’s equal trapezoid.

As competing standards, they share a lot of features in their various incarnations. DisplayPort can also carry audio signals on a single cable, and the latest release supports up to 8K resolution at 60 hertz with high dynamic range. The next version…