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Standards Help Capture the Moment with New Technology for Smartphone Cameras


For years, smartphone cameras have provided a convenient and easy way to snap pictures without having to buy, carry, or learn how to use extra equipment. This convenience, however, has traditionally come at the expense of a picture's quality. With a high value placed on the small size and light weight of cell phones, cell phone cameras must use smaller or fewer lenses that may not capture the same details or perspective as a high quality camera. While this still may be the case when compared with the work of professional photographers, technology in cell phone cameras is advancing quickly, with new software that can compensate for less or smaller hardware and bring an enhanced level of detail, focus, and perspective to smartphone camera images.

One form of this technology -computational photography - has been a mainstay in tech news stories in recent weeks after Google's reveal of the new camera features slated for its Pixel 4 smartphone, made possible with computational photography. Earlier this fall, Apple also announced three new iPhones with camera features that will use this technology as well. Computational photography uses digital computation instead of optical processes to improve the capabilities of a camera without increasing its size. One example of computational photography is high dynamic range (HDR), where multiple photos at different exposures are taken in a burst, and the best parts of the individual photos are automatically blended to create one optimal image.

Standards have long supported the technology used in smartphone cameras and traditional cameras, promoting their advancement and assuring their quality and ease of use. The U.S. holds the secretariat of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)'s technical committee (TC) on photography - ISO TC 42, Photography, and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has delegated these duties to the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T). IS&T, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, has also developed numerous American National Standards for image and camera standards, such as ANSI/IST IT10.2000-2015, Photography - Digital Still Cameras - JPEG 2000 DSC Profile. This document specifies decoder conformance requirements for software and hardware devices, including cameras, that read images captured on some digital still cameras.

Some ANSI members have contributed standards that can be applied to computational photography in particular. One such standard is CTA 861.3-A-2016, HDR Static Metadata Extensions, which guides HDR metadata. This standard was developed by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer.

Beyond the development of standards, ANSI member and accredited standards developer IEEE has explored computational photography through several avenues, including the formation of a Computational Imaging Technical Committee through its IEEE Signal Processing Society, and a recent blog post on the IEEE Future Directions blog: "The Magic of Computational Photography."

Camera technology has come a long way in the past few decades with the help of standards. From the invention of the digital camera in the 1970s, to the first commercially available smartphone camera in the late 1990s, to today's cameras with optical image stabilization, portrait and night modes, and HDR, snapping a picture-perfect image is easier than ever.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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