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Total Balance

Full Solid Angle WB Meter
  [vote for,

Proposed is an item that should be built-in to every digital camera.

On all modern cameras, everything is done through the lens. This is great for metering exposure, but is a poor choice for white balance, especially on longer lenses with a narrow field of view. The only reliable way of setting white balance is to take a picture of a grey card, which reflects all the incident light evenly. In effect, this averages light from all directions.

So, fit an auxiliary sensor to the top of the camera. A little plastic dome which accepts light from all angles, like a tiny fisheye. This should not cost more than the price of a cheap webcam, but would function like having a grey card reading for every picture.

mitxela, Aug 24 2014

Fotometer Pro - iPhone App https://itunes.appl...ro/id439913393?mt=8
All that's required is a strip of that translucent sticky tape to paste over the front sensor (or if feeling extravagant, half a ping-pong-ball) and hey presto - a thingy. [zen_tom, Aug 26 2014]


       Pedantry: Actually, for full solid angle, you would need one fitted to the bottom as well. This is unlikely to be as useful. (Except maybe for portrait/upside down shots?)
mitxela, Aug 24 2014

       This sounds like a good idea. Is it? [+] on the off chance that it is.
doctorremulac3, Aug 24 2014

       This may be a silly question, but why is white balance (by which, I presume, is meant the overall colour balance of the image) an issue?   

       Surely the relative sensitivities of the R, G and B pixels is known - why don't they just record the actual colour?
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 24 2014

       I'm with the doctor on this one. Sounds plausible, and like it should be a good idea, +
blissmiss, Aug 24 2014

       If having an extra gizmo on the camera either makes better pics or at least gives you confidence to take shots you wouldn't before, then it's worth it.   

       The great mass of people who don't know or care what white balance is, are not going to buy that quality range of camera anyway.
popbottle, Aug 24 2014

       I'm with [max] - surely some differential calibration could be used to minimise any measurement error.   

       [some reading later] - Ah, I get it. Still, surely the image recording process is more accurate if the ccd is left to it's own devices and balancing is done in post-processing? There's a danger that I don't know what I'm talking about...
Custardguts, Aug 24 2014

       [Dr. R3] Yes, it is.   

       I am a little disappointed there are not more photographers on the bakery. Where's [Ian Tindale] when you need him?   

       I won't go into detail about why white balance is important, but most casual shooters don't notice it because developers have gone to great lengths developing Auto-WB algorithms. But they're still far from perfect.   

       I actually envision this being useful on even the cheapest cameras: it would largely remove the need for those silly 'select scene' dials.
mitxela, Aug 25 2014

       // There's a danger that I don't know what I'm talking about. //   


       // I am a little disappointed there are not more photographers on the bakery. //   

       On the contrary, there are many. In tribute to your idea (which, by the way, is far from being halfbaked), they are mostly thinking really hard about it before annotating.
8th of 7, Aug 25 2014

       Interestingly, though not necessarily pertinently, I've an app that does the single-axis (B&W) version of this - FotometerPro (linked) apes the usual reflected/incidental options of a traditional meter by gathering light from the front and rear cameras, and presumably applying differing averaging metrics respectively. It works reasonably well, and has the advantage of not being at the bottom of a box of heavy and annoyingly at-home collection of photography bits.   

       The colour sensitive aspect is (I think) unnecessary as the options are either to explain that you were looking for that authentic fluorescent/tungsten/campfire look anyway - OR - that you added it using one of those filter things that make photos look like they were taken with a different camera.   

       I wonder what filter/post-processing the kids of tomorrow will be applying to their photos to make them look "authentically" as though they were taken in the 2010's?
zen_tom, Aug 26 2014

       The problem with this idea is that the little plastic dome thing will average all available light and come up with an idea of what it thinks 'white' is. However, you don't necessarily want such a simple process. For example, if the whole scene is pink because of the gorgeous sunset in front of you, you might want some of this ambient pinkness to be reflected in your final photo, rather than being averaged out to white. On the other hand, if the whole scene is yellowish because you're taking a photo indoors with tungsten light then you might well want this yellow cast to be shifted to white.
[Max] is right that you can just record the camera's sensor data and adjust the white balance later in Aperture/ Lightroom/ Photoshop/ Your post-processing software of choice. This means setting your camera to record RAW files (which might be a good idea for other reasons too) rather than JPEG and being able to manage files of around 20MB rather than 5MB (for a 16MP image). The other scenario in which this idea will not work is where lighting conditions vary over the scene and the light to the left and right of the subject is different from that on the subject. In this case, taking an average white value might be OK for the scene as a whole but not for the bit in front of you that you're taking a photo of. Any studio photography with lights or strobes would fit into this category - the colour of the lights or strobes is usually quite different from the low-level ambient studio lighting.
hippo, Aug 26 2014

       Yes, sunsets, where you're directly photographing the incident light, are a difficult one. Auto usually does quite badly at this though, as it cannot tell the difference between that and artificial light, so ends up making both of the scenes look mediocre.   

       If accuracy matters, yes, the normal methods will prevail. This idea would only augment/replace the auto functions.   

       I'm not sure if correcting in post is what [Max] was implying, but remember that even if you shoot in Raw, the white balance data is still recorded. Lightroom/Photoshop then applies it as you open the file, where you can manipulate it losslessly, but there's nothing stopping you altering a jpeg's white balance in post if you don't mind a little loss of colour depth.   

       I don't see why this wouldn't work with flash - it could take the measurement while the flash is firing. But if you're in a studio with precise control over the light then there's no need for this anyway: just set the balance once and be done with it.   

       [zen] I had wondered about using both cameras on a phone to set its white balance. Given the number of washed-out photos I'm exposed to via social media, this probably hasn't been implemented because people don't notice it, or as you say, enjoy the 'retro' look of what is actually a bad picture.   

       On the subject of appealing to the retro crowd, this invention could be made to look like those big square light meters on some old rangefinders. It's a guaranteed success.
mitxela, Aug 26 2014


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