A technical rant/call-to-arms

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M43Hero New Member • Posts: 22
A technical rant/call-to-arms
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A technical rant/call-to-arms: sort of related to my EM5.3 review.

If Olympus and other manufacturers spent more R&D developing software features/connectivity I think we could see a reversal of the current trend of downward camera sales. Smartphones will never have the same image quality as a proper camera, due to physics, and regardless of computational features. However, traditional cameras can become smarter to make up for the gap in usability. Camera manufacturers could add low-powered cpu cores to enable always-on connectivity with smartphones, or to connect to 4G/5G/Wifi directly, and develop software to automatic cloud-sync images and settings and facilitate sharing. This is all very doable with current technology. Camera manufacturers have spent the last 20 years building software/hardware on proprietary architectures that are not amenable to the kind of apps/connectivity we see on smartphones. As a computer engineer I understand some of the challenges (I might be wrong about this). I believe that most if not all camera systems are using ‘embedded’ system architecture, where the hardware is designed to run a very specific set of software, as opposed to a computer/smartphone, which are designed to run general purpose software applications. Cameras run on architectures that are not optimized for general purpose computing. The operating system and software on cameras is designed to be extremely efficient at processing images and be very fast in starting up/shutting down. Notice how compared with a PC or smartphone, a camera starts up almost instantly, even after removing the battery. A smartphone or PC OTOH runs a general purpose kernel that enables multithreading, provides memory management, abstracts hardware, etc and takes much longer to bootstrap. Cameras use a much more integrated approach, something approaching an embedded system. This limits software upgrades to a full firmware update, instead of treating software modules separate from the underlying OS. The options right now are integrating general purpose ARM core/s (as used on smartphones) with the existing architecture, which would require redesigning the chipset with a custom bus to allow interrupts/communication so that the two systems can co-exist without conflict (for instance while doing IO/writing to the filesystem). Another option is to re-architect the entire system from the ground up to use general purpose ARM processors. This approach would be way more costly since a lot of the existing OS/software stack would have to be re-written from scratch or at least re-compiled (could take 10,000s of man hours). It may not even be possible to re-use the existing image processing algorithms, since those may be optimized to run on specific ASICs or use specific instructions not available on standard ARM cores. It is doable however as evidenced by current smartphones being capable of processing images when burst shooting even with high megapixel counts. In the short term there are other possible (less costly) improvements that can be made. Improvements to the network/application-layer(OSI layer-7) stack are possible that could yield much faster connectivity from existing HW. For instance, when I studied the Olympus AIR SDK I noticed that the protocols used to interact between camera/computer are extremely inefficient. A combination of HTTP and UDP proprietary protocols are used to set up a control plane and a data plane, but which results in a lot of lag and overhead serializing/deserializing data and opening up TCP connections. Instead they could develop a custom multiplexed protocol over TCP or UDP (or even SCTP if that's even available on smartphones) that would allow for lower latency and better bandwidth utilization. I don’t know, maybe it's a hardware limitation that causes the slow transfer on the old Olympus AIR, but as evidenced by the much faster transfers on the EM5.3 I think Olympus has made improvements in this area. Anyway, just some random thoughts that might interest some of you techies out there.

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