Orientation Sensor

The thing about my Nikon Coolpix P6000 camera that annoys me most often is its lack of a sensor that can tell when I am taking a photograph in “portrait mode”, i.e. with the camera rotated 90 degrees from the norm. Both my Canon SLRs have an orientation sensor. My trusty Canon EOS-300D is five years old.

My old Sony DSC-W35 didn’t have a sensor, but I put that down to the camera being a low-priced compact.

The P6000 is the current (mid-2009) top of the Nikon Coolpix compact camera range. I expected that the sensor would be standard. I was shocked, shocked(!) when it wasn’t.

Of course it is trivial to rotate the images in Lightroom or any other imaging application. Sometimes I want to show people images on the camera’s LCD screen and I feel silly having to rotate the camera for different images. Maybe I am a bit compulsive (OK, I admit it) but I like to have my images oriented correctly before I import them into Lightroom.

Yes, the Coolpix has a “Rotate Image” function in its built-in software. But it is very slow and annoying to use. I bet most photographers will not bother. I’ll talk more about the issues with Rotate Image when I post more about the Coolpix’s software and user interface.

I don’t know how hard it is to build an orientation sensor into a camera. My mental image is that of a little mercury switch but I am sure there are tiny solid-state sensors available.

This image is of a Thai actor in a production at the Ratchadalai Theatre in Bangkok. I snapped it at Thailand Cultural Centre subway station while waiting for a train. (I ignored the subway’s prohibition of photography).

If you ever see me on the subway I will probably be manipulating the P6000 like a PSP rotating my images like I’m playing a video game – all the while grumbling under my breath at the dumb user interface.

If you use the “Portrait” scene mode then if the software detects a face in the image it will (usually) rotate the image correctly. In this case the camera is not sensing its orientation, but using pattern recognition to detect facial features. Thus it doesn’t work in any other mode.

I don’t have much success with portrait mode – other camers setting work better for me then I take pictures of people. More on that later.

Please Rotate Me


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