My father was always fond of telling me how when he was a kid he really believed that the future would be a place with flying cars and laser guns.
Man would live on the moon and regularly visit space. This is well before the personal computers lead us to digital photography. When I was in college I truly believed that cameras in the future would be of film quality and do other amazing things like wireless transfer, GPS tagging and extremely fast writing to storage that would make lag time obsolete.
So what has happened? Where is the wireless transfer that would save hundreds of photographers systems when the model trips over the tether cord?
Why when I am in the middle of shooting do I have to say ³hold on hold on we need to wait for the images to write to the card.² In the race to sell photographers a new and better camera every 12 to 18 months, manufactures have focused intensely on one marketing point only; mega pixels. I will agree that when we were in the days of 6-mega pixels pro systems it was a consideration. But for a while now the pro end of camera has been well with in the ³film comparable² range. Yet, manufactures and consumers alike still want more pixels packed in to smaller space so that the next system to hit the market can have a larger number displayed on the box. This makes those who have a system feeling jealous and inadequate. The latest jump has brought a
60.5 mp digital back on to the scene, and pushed the 5D up to equal the 1DS Mark III with 21 mp.
It is canon¹s move to put their flagship camera at the same level in terms of pixels as their top selling 5D that is so interesting. Why would a company not keep pushing the top selling point of cameras forward by increasing the Mark III to 30 mp? The answer is noise, noise, and noise.
Noise increases as pixels size decreases. This means that since the sensor size on 35mm cameras has only increased by a small amount, the pixels are running out of room. If any more pixels are packed in to the small 35mm sensor, the noise levels will go off the charts bringing down image quality.
Believe it or not, we have reached a much more exciting point in photo technology because of this pixel ceiling. What we are seeing now is a true separation of sensor size for those that want a larger image and a more professional system. The 35mm is truly separating from the medium format system. This separation means that more research will be poured in to other areas that will make each camera more attractive to professional and armature photographers.
The most important of these needs coming in the near future is going to be a fast wireless transfer system. This means that as we shoot the images will be sent through either a Bluetooth, WAN, or other wireless connection to a near by computer or hard drive. This will bring back a very important part of photography, the photographer¹s freedom to separate the set from the art director and client. Right now the furthest a tether can be is 30 feet unless you have a complicated boosting system. This puts the client and Art director huddled around the computer with your digital tech and in the way of that connection that is made when a photographer can be a little more on there own with the model and set. I remember in the days of film, on most sets, the client and Art Director would sit apart from the set but not a part of the action until the Polaroid was brought over. This separation also helps the photographer cover up small mistakes. The current tethered system is like having your boss look over your shoulder while you work all day.
Internal GPS Tagging, which is here in a basic way, is the second form of technology that is coming to a camera near you. Why would you want this? It is a great way to track down an image in your system since we are visual people and remember places over dates. This also has great potential for selling photos of a certain area. However, the biggest potential for this will be down the road a ways when people are searching for an image of yours on the web. They will be able to find your ³real local² images. This search technology already exists on flicker and will not be too far off on stock sites.
Finally the holly grail to some photographers is eliminating lag times for writing images to cards. We all have been in situations where we have wanted to fire off our camera like an Uzi only to reach the continuous shooting wall. Due to the Sensors and Pixels reaching their limit in size the engineers working on these systems can now focus on the write speed. The goal here is to get the speed as fast as your 35mm camera with continuous shooting until the card fills. The time is near when you will only have to stop shooting when your battery dies.
There are many other cool technologies out there that have taken a back seat to the race for mega pixels. Ok so Flying cars and lasers are not coming any time soon, but maybe now that the mega pixel battle looks to be ending we can get back to creating the “space camera” that we were promised when I first read about digital camera capture.