Dazzle is very in right now.

Apparently car manufacturers are using it to try and defeat auto-focus, but it doesn't work.

Cars in testing are often spotted in zebra-like looks that would make an active autofocus system struggle. Other cameras like SLRs have another form of autofocus which looks at contrast in the subject, to make its focus adjustment.

Again all the black and white swirls and lines on a prototype car make it nearly impossible for even some of the better autofocus systems to work. Add in the fact that cars in testing are usually on the move and you'll see it's not that easy getting those spy photos.

Opinions vary about the different designs of car camo. Brenda Priddy is a legendary automotive spy photographer, her photos appearing in almost every major auto magazine, paper and website. She tells us, "Frankly, I find the new breed of camo (swirly lines and sometimes colorful patterns) very photogenic!" Priddy questions the function of the camo too. "They haven't interfered with my camera's focusing abilities, and they help make the photo even more interesting," she said. Further mocking those she stalks for a living, Priddy adds, "It seems the camouflage changes every year. I can't wait to see what they come up with this year."

The curve of that SUV's fender is highly classified, you guys.

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14 Responses:

  1. Happy Fangs-mobiles

  2. Duaine Pryor says:

    This is an old technique and may even predate ubiquitous autofocus. It makes it hard to really get a handle on the "lines" of the car.

  3. Manuel Simoni says:

    Every single picture on the net of such cars is in perfect focus (and car magazines would display even unfocused pictures, given the news value), so I think this theory is bogus.

  4. Tim says:

    It seems unlikely that this stuff can actually fool autofocus, given that AF systems in digital cameras often consist of "find edges in the image, adjust focus to make them sharper". If anything they'd help.

  5. Don says:

    Doesn't defeat manual focus.

  6. Patrick says:

    Huh. I always figured they were dazzled to help hide the new body style before the official reveal. It's hard to see the subtle shapes under the dazzle and all.

  7. nooj says:

    Whatever happened to that "focus later, on whatever object you want" camera?

  8. I like in the Detroit area, and have worked at several car companies. I didn't have anything to do with the prototypes so what I'm about to say is complete conjecture.

    I don't think "Dazzle" isn't about making it hard to photograph as much as it is about making prototype vehicles stand out in traffic while they test them. You can't help but notice one of these cars driving through town or on the freeway. If the car companies want to keep something completely under wraps, they put on a what could be called a "car burka" which wraps the car in black plastic / leather with shape-changing pieces.

    The narrative may be that it somehow messes with cameras, but as you can see in those pictures it's not the case.

    • ardgedee says:

      Having lived in the Detroit area for years, I can confirm this.

      When you see a car doing 20 over the speed limit on the straightest patch of highway in western Wayne Cty, being followed by two stakebed trucks full of guys wearing white dress shirts and ties, pointing at things and taking photos, the car's black-spray squiggles on primer olive paintjob is probably not some misguided notion of traveling in secret.

      Each of the Big Three have massive test tracks on highly secure grounds. Their cars never have to see a public road if they don't want them to.

      And if they didn't want the press to find out, they could easily withhold review vehicles from anybody who ran photos of their secret drives... that'd put any automotive magazine or website out of business instantly.

      I'm going to miss walking through shopping mall parking lots and seeing review vehicles issued to local journos. You can spot them even if you're not a car buff because the badges and nameplates will be removed or covered with duct tape.

    • phuzz says:

      Where I used to live in the UK was on the route Rover (and Land Rover, and Range Rover) used to test their prototypes, so sometimes you'd see them driving past. Usually on their own, or at least, not obviously in convoy.
      The style of camouflage has definitely changed since then.
      If a car company wants to be sneaky then they'll use another model of car as a 'test mule' and put the prototype engineering under the old body shell.
      There's a list of some of the more interesting ones here. I particularly like the engine for the XJ220 being tested in a Transit van.

  9. David M.A. says:

    Sounds like a Gibsonian plot point. In fact: "a very ugly t-shirt".

  10. Steve Harris says:

    I would think it's just to obscure the shape of the panels. High contrast edges are exactly what every kind of AF system likes to lock onto, but having dazzle curves that bear no relation to the curve of the panel makes it hard to see details of the shape.