Cameras that let you adjust your focus or point of view after you take the shot. DSLRs with 6-inch, ultra-high-resolution touchscreen control monitors. Stereo lenses that fit on ILC cameras for 3D images. Will you be shooting photos with devices like these in the next couple of years?
To gauge how picture-taking may evolve, we spoke with about two dozen executives, product specialists, and researchers in the imaging technology arena, both in the U.S. and Japan.
Unsurprisingly, no one would divulge specific products or innovations that are in the pipeline. After all, it’s a very competitive field and no company wanted to scoop its own impending announcement.
But our sources were eager to talk about the latest innovations in cameras, lenses, sensors, and imaging software—and about some longer-term developments. We also got the lowdown on some concepts that probably will never make it out of the pipe-dream stage.
And from current trends we can make some good bets about where this technology is headed:
Miniaturization: Tiny cameras will increasingly go places you never looked before. And toward the other end of the image-quality spectrum, interchangeable-lens compacts (ILCs) will continue to gain ground.
Device Convergence: We’ve already had 8MP camera phones, as well as DSLRs and ILCs that shoot high-definition video, for a few years. But here come affordable interchangeable-lens camcorder systems that use the same optics as their still-camera counterparts.
3D: A perennial fad, this gimmick is making a major comeback.
Incremental Improvements: Smaller things, such as sensor sensitivity, noise suppression, processing power, optical coatings and engineering, image stabilization, and battery life keep getting better. And those things will continue to add up.
What’s holding back some of the more wild ideas? The realities of materials, manufacturing, and the market. After all, you might invent and create, say, a bag of tiny cameras that you can toss in the air like confetti for a cloud of pictures—but how many people would actually buy one?