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A Lightweight EXIF Data Viewer

May 18, 2020  |    0 comments  |  Apps

(Note: This post originally appeared on my new mostly-non-photography blog [robotsprocket])

If you’ve read the title of this post and are wondering “what is this EXIF thing?”, then here’s a bit of information. EXIF is an acronym for EXchangeable Image File Format. And, no, I don’t know why it’s not “EXIFF”. Basically, it’s metadata tagged onto a digital image that contains information about that image. This, along with another group of metadata, IPTC, is used by digital photographers to keep track of information about such things as camera/lens settings, geographic information and copyright of a given photo.

Some photographers post their images online with this information intact, while others will strip it out when posting, keeping their secret sauce to themselves. For myself, I keep it intact as I hope it might be helpful to other photographers to understand how a photo was capture as well as being an aid in enforcing copyright. Most, if not all, photos on my photography site have this data tagged onto them and the basic data can be viewed by clicking the “View Photo Data and Location” button under the photo:

Basic EXIF data on 75CentralPhotography.Com

However, there are a lot of times that I want to view this data locally for unpublished photos on my PC. To make this easy, I wrote a simple Windows application that will display this data for a selected photo:

Main Interface

It displays the most-commonly used EXIF data on the main interface; and, if there’s GPS information embedded in the metadata, it shows a button to view the photo’s location on Google Maps. If you want all the EXIF data, you can click “File→Show All EXIF Data…” and a dialog will appear showing everything:

Everything, Everything

This application is written in VB.NET and the source code is available on GitHub. If you want to install it, you’re welcome to download it here.

A couple of installation notes:

When downloading the installer, you may get this warning:

Because this app hasn’t been installed enough times for Windows to “trust” it, Windows Defender wants you to really think about it before installing. To continue, click the three dots and choose “Keep”.

You might then get another warning:

Go ahead and click the down arrow next to “Show more” and click “Keep Anyway”. Then, navigate to your download location and doubleclick EXIFViewer.msi to install. You might get another warning:

Click More info and you’ll get the option to run anyway. At this point, the installer will launch and you can install the application.

A lot of rigmarole to install an app, but it’s for most people’s own good, as Windows tries its best to prevent you from installing malicious software using Defender Smartscreen. In this case, you’re going to have to trust me that this isn’t malicious. You have the option, of course, to review the source code at the Github repository listed above. And you know where to find me. If enough people install, Windows will eventually allow it past Smartscreen without complaint.

If you download and use the EXIFViewer and have any feedback or find any bugs, please submit an issue here or send me an email at matt@75central.com.

Nightmare Fuel*

February 7, 2020  |    0 comments  |  Apps

*Or how a neural network changed everyday people into Eldritch Abominations.

I recently came across a story on The Verge about a guy who used software to upscale the Lumière Brothers’ 1896 short film L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. This was accomplished using Topaz Labs’ Gigapixel-AI software, which purports to use advanced neural networks to enhance resolution of low-resolution photos (i.e. “make small photos big”). You can see this video here:

While it’s not perfect, it’s intriguing to see what the late 1800s might have looked like if we took modern video cameras back in time and did some shooting. For reference, here’s the original version of the film:

My interest piqued, I wanted to give this software a try on some of my old, low-res photos, so I downloaded a trial copy and started playing around with it. One of my first tests was to try it on an old scan of a photo my father took in 1980 when Ronald Reagan visited our town while campaigning for president:

As I’d scanned this roughly 13 years ago with my first negative scanner, the quality isn’t great and the resolution is a measly 2171×1443.

However, after putting it through Gigapixel-AI, I got this pretty-good-looking result:

Good-looking, that is, until I zoomed in on the people. It soon became obvious something terrible had happened:

What happened to their faces!?!?!?!?

The software’s neural network attempted to use information it already “knows” about faces to “fill in the gaps” in the low-resolution original, but it seems that it doesn’t always to a great job of this.

Luckily, Topaz Labs seems to have anticipated this and added an option to turn off or reduce face refinement. Once I turned this off, the results were much-better:

Still not perfect, but considering how little detail was in the original, pretty-impressive. For reference, here are the same areas in the original, unprocessed scan:

And, if you’re curious, the enhanced version of the photo without face refinement enabled:

All-in-all, Gigapixel-AI seems like a nice bit of software for “rescuing” old photos that need to be enlarged for print or web display, just don’t look too-closely.

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