Some CES 2012 After Thoughts and the Future of Digital Cameras

January 16, 2012

Night sky with stars

CES 2012 brings with it some interesting new products, which actually shows us how the digital camera’s market evolve in the past years, and what we can expect to see in the near future. No one can deny that Mirrorless cameras will dominate the market, as more models appear and more companies are entering this market and introducing their own products. The two most interesting products in my opinion are the Canon PowerShot G1 X and Fujifilm X-Pro 1. The first is a large-sensor compact camera, and the second represents a new line of Mirrorless cameras (with interchangeable lenses).

In terms of marketing strategies, it seems that Canon has decided not going the conventional way, releasing a MILC camera, but release a Mirrorless camera with a fixed lens. Time will tell whether it’s a smart move or not, or if Canon has other plans that we don’t know about Fujifilm, on the other hand, made a smart move (In my opinion), entering the Mirrorless market with a new X-mount cameras and a new line of interchangeable lenses. They are fashionably late, but it doesn’t mean that FujiFilm can put it mark in this market. FujiFilm has as very strong brand name and it already proven that it is an innovative company.

Most of the big changes are around the sensor design, so it seems. FujiFilm claims that its innovative sensor design pattern can outperform other cameras in the same category. The size of the sensor, the design architecture and the improvement of image processors, all contribute to a better image quality overall, especially in high-ISO.  It seems that the megapixel war is over, the market is well educated and informed of the factors that lead to a better image quality. More novice photographers want to explore the advanced camera’s options, and that leads to more advanced products then ever before.

The size of the camera is certainly a major factor for many people. A compact camera has it limitations (ie. ergonomics, battery life, etc.), but many people prefer the portability over flexibility. Mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses (ie. Micro Four Thirds, Sony NEX), has certainly shorten the gap between DSLR and Compact cameras. As for today, you can grab a camera like the Sony NEX-5N, that can give you amazing high-ISO results, all in a very compact and portable body design. As with cameras, new type of lenses has emerged, pancake lenses. A new kind of very thin and lightweight lenses that provide us with high-optics and fits the overall compact design of a mirrorless camera.

Most Advanced technologies, utilized in a camera – In the near future, we are going to see more type of mirrorless camera models, that will replace the current ones. Camera and third-party lens manufacturers will extend the lens selection available for such cameras, with improved optics, premium design branded lenses and more compatible accessories. You might ask yourself, what there is to improve? – In the near future, we’ll see some new technologies that already available in the market, but yet to deploy in digital cameras, like USB 3.0 (fast data transfer protocol), Video resolution higher than 1080p, slow motion videos with higher resolution (due to faster data processing units), etc.

Improved Mobile Phone cameras – New technologies are embedded quite slowly in digital cameras, at least when we compare it to mobile phone devices. Mobile phone cameras will certainly take quite a lot of the sells in the digital camera’s market. In the future to come, we’ll see mobile phones with optical zoom capabilities, no more just a fixed focal length lens with digital zoom. Sensor technologies will continue to improve, and we’ll get to see some new sensor designs that vastly improve over today’s BSI (back-illuminated Sensor) sensors. That will lead to a better image quality, and all this using your own mobile phone camera.

It’s not the end of the Megapixel war, not yet – For the enthusiast and professional market, a mobile phone camera is certainly not the best way to go. DSLR will still be a favorite option for enthusiast photographers, both in terms of ergonomics, accessories, optics and performance. However, miniaturization will continue to improve and price will drop considerably. Sensor size and still one of the most important factors that result in a higher image quality, nothing will change that for years to come.  We might also see a dramatic increase of resolution in new DSLR cameras, which will pass the 40MP mark for APS-C size sensors. As for now, 20MP seems like too much, and We’ve already seen Sony A77 results to comprehend that “too many” pixels isn’t a good thing to have in camera with a large sensor.

Affordable Full Frame DSLR Cameras – Other than that, Full Frame camera prices will continue to drop, and we’ll get to see new Full Frame DSLR models that will be much cheaper. More enthusiast photographers will be able to jump to the Full-Frame path and enjoy its advantages. We’ll probably get to see a 7D-like camera, but with a Full Frame sensor, one that will cost the same as a Canon 7D (just a bit more), but with FF sensor. this model won’t replace current model. I know many photographers who’ve chosen to buy an APS-C DSLR camera due to price restrictions. Having an affordable FF camera will certainly attract more loyal customers, and that’s what every company wants.

Step by step, the market shifts to match the demand. For us, photographers, it seems that things are going pretty slowly. Two, Three or Four years aren’t a lot in the digital photography market. We haven’t seen some huge improvements or technology innovation that will make us spend our hard-earned money so quickly. It seems that it’s all about refreshing the product, but nothing that is uniquely interesting, engaging and useful by its original design. At the end of the day, it’s all about shooting great images, and as you probably know, you can do it with an old film camera, no need for the most advanced technology to achieve this. It’s all about creativeness and it is in the creative mind of the photographer.  As a technology geek, I do hope the we’ll see some useful technologies that will shape the way we use our camera. A technology that will help us photographers to become more creative.

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