10-bit color and HEIC: A no-cost smartphone photo add-on

These really look like my flowersAndrea Zvadova compares the photo she just took with her smartphone, Find X5 Pro, and the flower arrangement set up in front of her and is completely satisfied with the result. The face of the famous Slovakian photographer Hasselblad, he has been trying for years to tell beauty through plays of reflections, built around By placing colored flowers on a thin layer of water.

Not an easy task, because the most characteristic of his works is not the form and the composition, which is important, as the color. The hue and saturation of the flowers she chooses for her photos, enhanced by strong artificial light, is an awkward customer for any camera.

Andrea Zvadova in front of her photography “lab”.

Obviously, the choice of the phone to use is not accidental: OPPO has a partnership with Hasselblad in terms of photography and Andrea Zvadova’s favorite theme has presented itself in a certain way to push a concept dear to the Chinese company for some time. For the need for a full 10-bit color management pipeline. From photography to screen, color accuracy should remain unchanged.

OPPO is right to stress this concept, also because on the other hand wide color and 10-bit have been scraping customs for years.

We tried to replicate the artist’s images, following his directions

For years we have been talking about cameras, quality and photos, but the truth is that the world of photography on Android smartphones is still, “by default”, 8-bit and therefore with a reduced color space. This is a rather absurd choice: for years, phone manufacturers, with each new generation, have been looking for solutions to be able to say that the camera is definitely better than the one they are going to replace, and Switching to 10-bit will be the easiest, fastest, and most efficient upgrade. Not only for the quality, but also for the space occupied by the images.

Andrea Zvadova’s flowers are a perfect benchmark for understanding the importance of 10 bits in photography: if we take the same pictures using any Android phone with a basic setup, so I shot a Jpeg, the colors we see on the screen are not actually those of the flowers we’re photographing. This is precisely because Venus, with its colors and pigments, has a wider color spectrum than that usually represented by sRGB and 8-bit photographs. The yellow petals are more dull, the red is less stable, the purple is not the same as the purple, and if some monitor with its settings tries to correct the display by adding a bit of saturation or expanding the color space from sRGB to Wide Color, it’s not that flower anyway. Resembles.

If an ordinary person can transcend it, a photographer who uses color to convey his message cannot accept an end result other than what her eyes saw during the shoot.

Open the original file

A couple of our snapshots

Open the original file

If sensors are already suitable for 10-bit imaging, if OLEDs are now 10-bit and if most applications support 10-bit, why aren’t manufacturers still moving everything to 10-bit?

The answer is in the file required to store 10-bit images: Jpeg is not good anymore, you have to switch to HEIC.

Android HEIC support has been around for several years, but the support Google has introduced has to do almost exclusively with the ability to read and preview files. What Google hasn’t done yet is inclusion of a system-wide file conversion, And many of the manufacturers that now allow you to take pictures in 10-bit HEIC (almost all top of the range support it) have had to tweak their Photo apps and Gallery app to automatically convert from HEIC to Jpeg when trying to share a photo on Whatsapp or on a site/service that doesn’t support the specified format. .

However, we find ourselves in the classic situation of a cat chasing its own tail: until smartphones start shooting in 10-bit HEIC by default, and not as a manually activated option, the rest of the series will never adapt.

It is also unfortunate that in addition to the question of quality, there is also the question of the space occupied by individual images. Today, if we consider the space occupied on devices, photographs represent the most “complex” element: to provide a file that is still beautiful, even if it is Jpeg-compressed, producers tend to reduce compression to a minimum and the result is photographs (at 8 bits) that can It weighs 7 or 8 MB. The same photos compressed in HEIC format will have better quality and take up less than half the space.

We hope that Google can help manufacturers in the next versions of Android who have already shown they are ready to take this leap forward by bringing the pipeline to 10-bit HEIC files. We need a system-wide conversion that for those who want a phone that shoots at 10-bit in HEIC (or other future formats) will ensure automatic conversion to ensure compatibility with different services and different applications being shared. The work that some manufacturers have already done in part, such as OPPO (or Samsung), in search of an application that works but is not as perfect as it can be at the system level.

It would be a huge quantum leap, which wouldn’t come at any price.

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