Lifetouch's new camera

Started Aug 10, 2011 | Discussions
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John Adler Senior Member • Posts: 1,739
Lifetouch's new camera

Hi-

I took my son to his school registration today, and Lifetouch was set up to take the id card photo, and in the same shot, a 3/4 portrait. They has these strange-looking cameras that were long black tubes with a large-diameter lens on the front. They looked like follow-spotlights from a theater. Does anyone know what they are? Just curious.

Thanks,

John

PenguinPhotoCo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,284
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

They don't want soccer moms to know who has the better camera LOL
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dad_of_four Veteran Member • Posts: 7,921
Re: Lifetouch's new camera
2

I love how Lifetouch touts on their order forms, "Over $100 Million donated back to schools"

What they really should say is, "We over-charged parents by $100 million so we could bribe school districts with cheap classroom products in order to secure exclusive contracts with school boards"

Or how about this, since this is essentially a fundraiser, shouldn't I be able to claim the rebate to the school as a Charitable deduction on my income taxes?

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John Adler OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,739
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

At this event they had 4 stations, and all the teachers running it were wearing Lifetouch shirts. I don't know how they pulled that off. Good marketers, I guess.

d-rock New Member • Posts: 20
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

The other day my wife asked, since she knows how insanely into photography I am, they told her "X1". I looked that up on Google, this is the best info I have found. Hope this helps. http://www.lifetouchx1.info/

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PenguinPhotoCo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,284
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

lifetouch, as well as others, hire local folks to shoot - the camera is all locked down, the lighting and posing position set - all the camera operater needs to do is get the smile and push the button, perhaps mark in the paperwork what image is who (usually barcoded these days so that's automated and foolproof).

Perhaps they offered teh school more 'rebate' if they supplied the labor. To get parents/PTA to work for free is common too.

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John Adler OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,739
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

Thanks, d-rock. You're right, there isn't any technical information to be found about the camera. Apparently they designed the camera system from the ground up. It looks like one unique thing about it is the ability to to shoot various crops in one shot.

-John

John Adler OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,739
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

Interesting, thanks Penguin.

henryp
henryp Veteran Member • Posts: 5,891
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

I worked for Lifetouch 20 or so years ago when they were still using film 100%. For high school seniors (then called the Prestige Portraits div) they used Mamiya RB, Bronica ETRS and Camerz long roll 70mm cameras. The photographers were pretty well trained and required to be able to execute a reasonably wide variety of poses, varying the lighting for each.

The K-11 program though was entirely automated. They devised their own proprietary camera + lighting system. The camera was the 'Micro-Z,' and it integrated with the lights to assure exact exposure for each image. It looked like R2D2 on a bar stool. There was really one pose and the camera operators, not photographers, were seasonal part-timers and moms who could work while their own kids were in school. Grueling work.

There was always a bit of ongoing internal squabbling too. The Prestige Portraits guys considered themselves the elite because they were, after all, really better photographers. But the K-11 div (then called Nat'l School Studios or NSS) had two pluses - they got paid on picture day, not a month later when the portraits were ordered, and they drove the bulk of Lifetouch's cash flow with considerable lower overhead. It was like GM in the old days. Prestige was Caddy and NSS was Chevy.

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John Adler OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,739
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

Thanks Henry. It's always interesting to hear the inside goings-on of a large company.

This camera I saw must be the replacement for the Micro-Z K-11 camera. Apparently it incorporates face-recognition technology to get the id headshot crop out of the 3/4 portrait it shoots. But it isn't foolproof: My son's friend got two id cards of his knees before they finally got it right

-John

Nurd50 Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

However the the X1 replaces a 2nd generation system called LD3 which in turn replaced the LD1 which is what replaced the Micro-Z (20+ year current employee here).

What the system does is allow multiple selections of backgrounds depending on the package one purchases among other things. It's a step beyond green screen technology as it uses a patented process to achieve a more realistic effect than green screen (especially when it comes to hair against the background).

We have other plans for this system as well.

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Nurd50 Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

dad_of_four wrote:

What they really should say is, "We over-charged parents by $100 million so we could bribe school districts with cheap classroom products in order to secure exclusive contracts with school boards"

Umm... how about keeping a competitive advantage? That is how business works. Obviously you have never been in sales.

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John Adler OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,739
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

Hi Nurd50,

Thanks for the reply. Yes, I noticed that the background wasn't green but kind of a grey. The whole system looks very well designed and easy to operate.

If it's not proprietary information, I'd be interested to know some details about the camera, like how many mega-pixels etc. And I'm very curious about the function the tubular design serves.

Thanks again,

John

Nurd50 Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

John Adler wrote:

If it's not proprietary information, I'd be interested to know some details about the camera, like how many mega-pixels etc. And I'm very curious about the function the tubular design serves.

Well I don't know all of the internals, but I can tell you that the tube is for protecting the camera in case someone tips it over during the shoot.

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John Adler OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,739
Thanks [nt]

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dad_of_four Veteran Member • Posts: 7,921
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

Nurd50 wrote:

What they really should say is, "We over-charged parents by $100 million so we could bribe school districts with cheap classroom products in order to secure exclusive contracts with school boards"

Umm... how about keeping a competitive advantage? That is how business works.

A competitive advantage would be providing a better product and/or lower price than your competitiors. It is not the business and the school board colluding to over-charge the parents and pocket the difference. Of course I am a polly-anna when it comes to these matters.

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henryp
henryp Veteran Member • Posts: 5,891
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

John Adler wrote:

Thanks for the reply. Yes, I noticed that the background wasn't green but kind of a grey.

This may be a coincidence but many front-screen projection systems use a 3M Scotchlite reflective screen which looks grey to the naked eye. It's designed to receive a projected image that's optically aligned with the camera's lens via a beam-splitter and send back almost all the light to the image sensor. You cannot use a standard screen because its reflective pattern is too wide and the amount of light returned to the sensor is insufficient.

I do not know if this has anything to do with the Lifetouch setup you saw. http://www.virtualbackgrounds.net sells systems for this.

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John Adler OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,739
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

henryp wrote:

This may be a coincidence but many front-screen projection systems use a 3M Scotchlite reflective screen which looks grey to the naked eye. It's designed to receive a projected image that's optically aligned with the camera's lens via a beam-splitter and send back almost all the light to the image sensor. You cannot use a standard screen because its reflective pattern is too wide and the amount of light returned to the sensor is insufficient.

I do not know if this has anything to do with the Lifetouch setup you saw. http://www.virtualbackgrounds.net sells systems for this.

It very-well could explain the strange looking camera as well. Since the customers pick their backgrounds later, maybe it's projecting a solid green or maybe even infrared. This could be the improvement over green-screen that Nerd50 referred to.

Nurd50 Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

John Adler wrote:

It very-well could explain the strange looking camera as well. Since the customers pick their backgrounds later, maybe it's projecting a solid green or maybe even infrared. This could be the improvement over green-screen that Nerd50 referred to.

There is no projection involved at all. In house proprietary (and patented) system.

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Nurd50 Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Lifetouch's new camera

dad_of_four wrote:

A competitive advantage would be providing a better product and/or lower price than your competitiors. It is not the business and the school board colluding to over-charge the parents and pocket the difference. Of course I am a polly-anna when it comes to these matters.

Pocket the difference? Are you kidding me? You have no idea of the cut throat practices even in a declining industry such as ours is like. You HAVE to offer incentives to an account to sign them up. And frankly, that money is not "pocketed" as you have derisively claimed, but rather it is used by the schools to fund their EC activities among other things. The ID badge operation service we provide the schools is FREE to them. It is a loss leader for us so we can get our foot in the door. I could go on but you get the idea.

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