Sloof Lirpa Photographic Industries has announced another breakthrough camera today. For a look at one of their previous products, click here.
The new Sloof Lirpa camera owes its existence to technology developed outside the photographic field. As in the case of many scientific and technical discoveries, such as the invention of vulcanized rubber, accident played a role. Back in the 1970s, semiconductor companies manufacturing Light Emitting Diodes (abbreviated LED, and pronounced either “el ee dee” or “lead”, like the metal) noticed that they were inadvertently making more than a few devices that operated differently from standard LEDs. Intel was the first company to prepare a data sheet for the new device, which they dubbed a Darkness Emitting Diode (abbreviated DED, and always pronounced “dead”). Intel chose April first for their DED product announcement, the same date that they used the next year to announce the 1023 bit RAM.
Years passed, and, inexplicably, the DED did not catch on. As semiconductor manufacturers’ processes evolved, they found that they were producing proportionally fewer DEDs, and they stopped marketing them altogether. It seemed that the DED would be relegated to the ashcan of technological history. Fortunately, that sad end for DED technology was not to be: the engineers who developed Sloof Lirpa’s new camera found a new use for DEDs: as a backlight for the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) on their new camera. This revolutionary design decision opens up a new frontier in digital photography.
Remember, in the days of film-based photography, how there used to be a thrill in wondering how the images would turn out? You’d come home eager to get the film in the developer to see what you had captured. That magic disappeared when digital photography arrived, and you could see the images you’d made on the display on the back of the camera, and your trip home from a photographic expedition was often marred by the knowledge that you didn’t have anything great. Now, thanks to DED technology, you are just as much in the, uh, dark, as you were when your photographic capture medium was film.
Cameras with DED backlights also provide a more tactile, intimate operating experience. Because you can’t see what mode your camera is in by looking at the display, you must keep track of what buttons you pressed, how many times you pressed them, and in what order. Once you’ve learned all the sequences, you have an organic experience. As a side benefit, you can use your camera in the dark, and you never need to take your eyes off your subject.
Without confirmation of exactly what is within the picture area, you are forced to train yourself to know instinctively what’s in the frame. This is an experience that you will share with many pinhole camera owners, and, to a lesser extent, with rangefinder Leica users, who speak with pride about how, through rigorous and long-term practice, have managed to figure out what will be in the picture and what won’t, and what’s really in the lower right corner of pictures made with short lenses. As a Sloof Lirpa user, you’ll have an even more difficult task to master, and your satisfaction will be that much greater.
While today’s announcement is enough of a breakthrough for anyone, the Sloof Lirpa engineers have even better things in store. Some cameras today use organic light-emitting diode displays (abbreviated OLED, pronounced “oh lead”), eliminating the need for a backlight and providing a greater color gamut than is practical with LCDs. The Sloof Lirpa folks are working on commercializing the counterpart device, the optical darkness-emitting diode (abbreviated ODED, pronounced “oh dead”). ODED displays dissipate much less power than either liquid crystal or OLED displays; in fact, ODED displays look the same whether connected to a power supply or not. In addition, relieved of the task of actually emitting light, organic darkness emitting diodes can be made extremely small, allowing ODED displays with one pixel for every photoreceptor on the camera sensor.
It’s a great day to be a photographer!