April 18, 2021

Alphatracks

Sony and Minolta SLR Weblog

Got an Alpha A100? These guys want your help

Help discover DRO secrets

Interesting thread on the DPreview Sony SLR talk forum. Seems some of the forum members are casting around for a method to create a new software plugin that would allow users to edit DRO photographic images in Photoshop.

DRO is the Dynamic Range Optimizer used by the Sony Alpha A100 camera. We are expecting an enhanced version in the new Alpha 700 dSLR. Similar to an in-camera HDR tool, DRO attempts to allow the camera to display a much greater dynamic range. Thus in contrasty lighting conditions, your image can show more details in the shadows without blowing out the highlights.

DRO differs from HDR in that it is done in-camera, while HDR images are created in computer. With HDR you take a series of bracketed exposures then use software to combine the best exposed areas of each bracketed shot into a single image. Sometimes the images are hokey looking, but done correctly they can be stunning.

Looking for a few good Sony Alpha A100 owners

The original poster of the thread is asking for A100 owners o help him derive the algorithm used by the A100’s DRO system. Whether anything will come of this — or whether a DRO manipulation plugin is really necessary – I’m all for it.

One of the ways to determine the health of camera community is to watch for users making hacks, mods and tweaks to their photo gear. If there is a low amount of this sort of thing, the community isn’t thriving. If users are banding together to share information and help one another create modifications to their cameras and lenses, you can bet that is a growing community.

Sometimes camera makers frown at this sort of thing, but they really should appreciate how an active community can boost sales and brand awareness. Canon seems to be blessed with a number of active camera hackers, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt their bottom line. There was even a well publicized case where someone figured out how to hack the firmware on the original Digital Rebel to give it capabilities that were only available in higher priced models.

Camera hacking is healthy

That might sound like it could hurt the sales of higher priced cameras, but I expect that Canon got a tom of PR out of that exploit. At the same time, many users didn’t dare to apply the homebrew frimware hack, for fear they could end up with a unusable camera. So even people who didn’t own a digital Rebel (like me, for instance) heard about the hack, creating lots of brand awareness. But few people were willing to forgo buying the higher priced camera by taking a chance on messing up a perfectly good Rebel. It was all good for Canon.

So I welcome any homebrew experimenters willing to tinker with the Sony Alpha or Minolta Maxxum dSLRs. That’s how cameras get to be classics. The hackers start experimenting and share their findings on the web. Other users apply what they learned from the hackers and start improving their gear and their photography. Still others are intrigued and start their own experimenting and tweaking. The word gets out and it seems like everyone is modding their cameras. Or their lenses. Or their software. More equipment get sold, used gear retains value and the brand achieves cult status.

Like I said, nothing may come of this particular experiment. But it is a healthy indication. Sony would do well to encourage more of this sort of thing.