Next time you launch the front camera, throw up a peace sign and snap a selfie; take a second to thank Tatsuhiko Ikeda, one of our leading camera engineers.
Based in Tokyo, Tatsuhiko honed his craft in our Digital Imaging department before bringing his know-how to the Xperia team. Recently it came to our attention that – as part of the testing process – Ikeda–san has to take selfies, thousands of them, in order to continually refine the quality of the cameras that end up in the hands of Xperia users around the world.
Intrigued that a person could – quite literally – be paid to take selfies, we dropped Ikeda-san a line.
Lovely to meet you Tatsuhiko. Let’s get right into it, what’s important when it comes to making a front-facing camera?
It’s firstly vital to know how the people will use the camera, we need to know who, when, where, and how the camera will be used. Using a front-facing camera is very different to a traditional rear camera, so we start by speaking to our community and collecting opinions to ensure the camera we produce will fit all required needs.
Got it, so testing and re-testing is a huge part of the process. How do you go about this testing phase then? Do you walk around taking selfies all day?
Of course, selfies are a huge part of front-facing camera units so we regularly walk around testing them out. I must say it is quite fun but more importantly it’s vital to see them in action. Our team needs to see how the camera performs in real life situations and apply that insight to improving the overall experience. In addition to this the front-facing unit goes through the same rigorous testing process as its rear-facing counterpart.
How many selfies do you think you have taken testing the front-facing camera? Thousands?
Wow I lost count a while ago, but more than a thousand for sure.
We know the camera needs to work but it also needs to fit in with the overall design of the handset. How closely do you work with other designers on overall camera placement, look and feel?
We have a very close relationship with the UI/UX designers. We normally start with a series of draft designs and then all meet around one table to discuss each of the new features. We discuss how we want the handset to look and to perform for users. Our notes are then used to create more detailed design and specification sheets, before prototype application tests show us how they will function.
How do you feel about the filters on camera apps and social media platforms that sometimes alter and distort picture quality?
It’s always preferable to capture a clear good quality image, but in my opinion the culture of taking, editing and sharing photos is a good thing. Further to this, overall image quality is not the only factor that decides if a picture is good or bad. Focus, shutter timing, and composition of images, all of which are not distorted by filter apps, have a part to play. Our Hand Shutter feature for instance, gives the user more freedom in composition and shutter timing, resulting in more options and more time to capture that perfect shot.
The quality and resolution of cameras seems to always increase, will there ever be a point where smartphones will reach ‘peak camera’?
We’re always pushing to improve and we like to challenge ourselves to come up with new ideas that offer the user a better camera experience. Prototyping is vital, we constantly create test units, many of which don’t see final production, but each one allows us to explore new possibilities and push the boundaries of what’s possible.
What is the biggest mistake you see people make when using the front facing camera?
When shooting scenery, too many people only concentrate on how they look in the picture. This is obviously understandable but the lack of attention to the background results in an image lacking the landscape. By using the Xperia’s wide front-facing camera, both scenery and people can be captured correctly together for a better shot and lasting memory.
What settings would you recommend if shooting selfies in Manual mode (Xperia XZ)?
Great question and one that I get a lot – I’d suggest turning the “Soft skin” feature on and then, an EV of +0.7. But have a play, the features we’ve built in allow users to really tailor every shot to their exact needs. Truly endless possibilities.
Thank you so much for your time, we’ll be sure to take selfies all the way home. One last thing, anything you could reveal or juicy details on what you’re working on next?
I’m using my background in digital and smartphone cameras to work on the next generation of front-facing camera. But at the moment putting together a really fun new front camera feature, one that will be able to capture even bigger smiles. But that’s all I can tell, I’ve already said too much!
Discover more about the tech that goes into Xperia cameras here.