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CES 2024: AI is inescapable

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CES 2024: AI is inescapable


Images: Samsung

In the past few years, there has been no shortage of “AI” tech, shaking up the conventional wisdom in all corners of the photography world.

Adobe has taken its “Firefly” generative AI out of beta and wrapped it into Creative Cloud, Google’s Magic Eraser is making it practically trivial to remove people or objects from photos with the touch of a finger, AI-powered plugins are very close to undermining the whole idea of a watermark.

If you had any doubt that this trend would continue, CES 2024 should put it to rest. As the show closes on Friday, we’ve seen an absolute avalanche of AI products, features, promises, and prognostication, with companies like Samsung, Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm all placing the buzzword front and center in their press conferences.

Image: Intel

But at the center of the swirling AI hype storm is the ever-present question: What exactly are these companies talking about? If CES 2024 has provided any answer, it’s: “No one particular thing.”

Far from machines or computers or apps that can think for themselves or approximate human intelligence or creativity, ‘AI’ has lately and increasingly referred to the products of “machine learning,” where computers are ‘trained’ on a set of data produced by actual humans and ‘learn’ to produce an equivalent unthinkingly, uncritically and to varying degrees of success.

What do companies mean when they say ‘AI’? If CES 2024 has an answer, it’s: ‘No one particular thing.'”

In practice, ‘AI’ serves a few very specific purposes for the companies that use it as a technology and a buzzword. It’s a useful shorthand to refer to the automation of complex or labor-intensive tasks. It’s an excuse to add software features to products that might not have had them and to make those features relatively opaque, proprietary, and subscription- or cloud-dependent. Not least of all, it’s a way for marketing teams to slap some sheen on otherwise uninteresting or superfluous functionality. A little extra jazz for when the specs don’t tell a good enough story on their own.

You can see all of the above at play in some of the goofier AI reveals of this year’s CES. Look no further than the AI grill that ostensibly learns from your ratings of its performance, or BMW’s ChatGPT-powered companion, or the free TV with a chatbot for a remote (and also lots of ads), or Samsung’s AI home assistant robot “Ballie,” which has been coming soon since 2020.

The “Perfecta” AI grill

Image: Seergrills

Though AI is sometimes a gimmick, it is, of course, not only a gimmick, as CES has proven as well. Were it not serious, the actors’ trade union SAG-AFTRA would not be making deals about future AI voice actors. Getty would not be partnering with NVIDIA to bring AI-generated imagery into the iStock fold instead of keeping it out. If AI did not promise a solution to real and deeply felt problems, the AI companion that promises to use all your annoying apps for you wouldn’t have sold out the same day it was announced.

So what can CES 2024 tell us? What you probably already know and/or dread: The AI onslaught will not stop. This means more devices with janky features that change unpredictably with software updates. It means more services that demand the right to feed your work into the machine, typically articulated in fine print, far down in the terms and conditions that they’re depending on you not to read. And, hopefully, it means less time doing boring, rote, unrewarding tasks.

“When AI makes obvious sense, it doesn’t need to announce itself. It just takes over.”

It’s reasonable to see the tradeoffs here and want to opt out, but it’s clear that the bet from big tech is to find the killer application that’s too good to refuse. There is, of course, a theoretical tipping point, just like the pivot at which cameras tipped from film to digital, and mirrored to mirrorless when the objective advantages became too good to ignore.

Will AI tech get there? In some ways, it already has. The most obviously advantageous applications are already slipping into quiet dominance. Adobe’s built-in AI Denoise is well-poised to replace third-party tools for all but the most decerning users. AI-based translation and transcription already reign supreme at lower price points and for personal use.

When AI makes obvious sense, it doesn’t need to announce itself. It just takes over. But everywhere else? Well, get ready to keep hearing about it.



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On this day: Hasselblad launches first medium format mirrorless

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On this day: Hasselblad launches first medium format mirrorless


We’d never before seen so much silicon wrapped up in such a small package

Photo: Samuel Spencer

The Hasselblad X1D beat Fujifilm to the market by three months in 2016 to become the first mirrorless medium format camera. It wasn’t the first “affordable” (or, at least, sub-$10,000) medium format option: that credit goes to Pentax and its 645D and Z, but it was the first larger-than-full-frame digital camera to be designed as a self-contained ILC with no mirror.

It was built around the same 50MP CMOS sensor as the 645Z, which also underpinned the Fujifilm GFX 50 models, producing some excellent image quality. Hasselblad’s modern minimalist design was eye-catching, and the operability improved significantly through a series of firmware updates (though it never offered the mass-market slickness of the GFX models).

One of the factors that allowed the Hasselblad to be so small was the decision to build leaf shutters into all the XCD lenses, rather than having a physical shutter in the camera body. This resulted in a camera that could sync with flashes all the way up to each lens’s maximum shutter speed. Though this came at the cost both of higher lens prices and of polygonal bokeh, as the shutter/aperture mechanisms had relatively few blades. This second issue was somewhat resolved by an update that allowed the aperture to be opened a fraction beyond the widest listed value, so that the blades don’t intrude on the image.

Click here to see the nearly 200 photos we’ve published from the X1D

Alongside the X1D came the first series of medium format lenses designed specifically for 44x33mm digital, giving some excellent results (to the point that moiré is a significant risk even when stopped-down to F5.6, given the lack of low-pass filter on the X1D’s sensor). It also led to the only instance we’ve seen of a manufacturer referring to equivalent f-numbers. It’s probably no surprise that it would be one of the only companies to solely produce larger than full-frame systems.

We were in the fortunate position to borrow a Hasselblad, Pentax 645Z and Fujifilm GFX 50S at the same time and use them alongside one another, and looked at their comparative strengths and weaknesses. We hope to do something similar with the more refined 100MP cameras from Hasselblad and Fujifilm in the coming months.



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On this day: Hasselblad launches first medium format mirrorless

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On this day: Hasselblad launches first medium format mirrorless


We’d never before seen so much silicon wrapped up in such a small package

Photo: Samuel Spencer

The Hasselblad X1D beat Fujifilm to the market by three months in 2016 to become the first mirrorless medium format camera. It wasn’t the first “affordable” (or, at least, sub-$10,000) medium format option: that credit goes to Pentax and its 645D and Z, but it was the first larger-than-full-frame digital camera to be designed as a self-contained ILC with no mirror.

It was built around the same 50MP CMOS sensor as the 645Z, which also underpinned the Fujifilm GFX 50 models, producing some excellent image quality. Hasselblad’s modern minimalist design was eye-catching, and the operability improved significantly through a series of firmware updates (though it never offered the mass-market slickness of the GFX models).

One of the factors that allowed the Hasselblad to be so small was the decision to build leaf shutters into all the XCD lenses, rather than having a physical shutter in the camera body. This resulted in a camera that could sync with flashes all the way up to each lens’s maximum shutter speed. Though this came at the cost both of higher lens prices and of polygonal bokeh, as the shutter/aperture mechanisms had relatively few blades. This second issue was somewhat resolved by an update that allowed the aperture to be opened a fraction beyond the widest listed value, so that the blades don’t intrude on the image.

Click here to see the nearly 200 photos we’ve published from the X1D

Alongside the X1D came the first series of medium format lenses designed specifically for 44x33mm digital, giving some excellent results (to the point that moiré is a significant risk even when stopped-down to F5.6, given the lack of low-pass filter on the X1D’s sensor). It also led to the only instance we’ve seen of a manufacturer referring to equivalent f-numbers. It’s probably no surprise that it would be one of the only companies to solely produce larger than full-frame systems.

We were in the fortunate position to borrow a Hasselblad, Pentax 645Z and Fujifilm GFX 50S at the same time and use them alongside one another, and looked at their comparative strengths and weaknesses. We hope to do something similar with the more refined 100MP cameras from Hasselblad and Fujifilm in the coming months.



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Our favorite ‘natural worlds’ pictures: DPReview Editors’ Challenge results

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Our favorite ‘natural worlds’ pictures: DPReview Editors’ Challenge results


June includes multiple days devoted to celebrating nature, including World Environment Day (June 5), World Oceans Day (June 8) and World Rainforest Day (June 22). In that spirit, we chose ‘Natural Worlds’ as the theme for our most recent Editors’ Choice photo challenge, with over 100 readers submitting entries.

We love seeing your work! Thanks to everyone who submitted. We couldn’t call out every image we liked, so we restrained ourselves to a baker’s dozen (in no particular order).

If you don’t see your work here today, don’t despair. We’ll soon announce a new Editors’ Choice challenge.

Also, a quick reminder to keep comments constructive and civil. These are images submitted by your fellow readers who took the time to share their work. Rule #1: Be nice. That’s it, there is no rule #2.



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