What's Next With Cameras? :: Digital Photo Secrets

What's Next With Cameras?

by David Peterson 11 comments

Digital cameras have changed the face of photography as we know it. Because of digital cameras, the cost of doing photography has gone down dramatically. The absence of film has given millions of amateur photographers a chance to gain enough experience to become masters. When you combine this with the software tools now available to polish images to perfection, you realize how so much has changed in such a short period of time. But what's next? Today, I'll try to peer down the crystal ball!

With all this change, many of us are left wondering what’s next for the digital camera. Is there another equally powerful revolution right around the corner, or have we hit a plateau with the technology? Honestly, I don't know if there's a game-changer coming down the track that no one saw coming - Think of what the iPhone did for phones.

However, there are a few new concepts being demonstrated now that should make their way to consumer cameras in the next few years. Let's take a look.

Detachable Wireless Lenses

The digital SLRs of the last 10 years are bound by a few conventions very few of us have taken the time to think about it. One of them is so basic it’s hard to imagine a camera without it. Most of us assume you need to keep the lens attached to the camera or the whole system just won’t work. Not so in the future. The cameras of tomorrow violate these basic rules.

Concept Camera: The WVIL from Artefact on Vimeo.

Pretty soon, you’ll be able to detach the viewfinder from the lens to take your pictures. The lens will take the picture and then send it to the main camera body. It will wirelessly transmit what it sees in real time as you’re taking the picture, so you can compose it as you see fit.

The sensors and computers inside of cameras are becoming cheaper by the year. As they go down in price, it just makes sense for camera makers to go ahead and turn every lens into its own camera. The viewfinder then becomes mission control, a place to handle composition, photo viewing, and editing.

I can see a huge boon in self-portraits coming out of this. Once it’s released, you’ll be able to take a self portrait while holding the viewfinder in your hand. As soon as you like what you see, just tell the viewfinder to do a timed shot, and then you place it somewhere out of frame. No more guess work. This will be a big deal for family portraits around the holidays.

There’s another problem this idea successfully solves, and that’s sensor dust. Every time you switch lenses on a digital SLR, dust gets into the chamber, and it shows up on your photos. If the lens is always attached to the sensor, dust never gets inside of it. That’s one more annoying problem we’ll never have to deal with.

It’s my best guess that some company is going to come along and produce these lenses all on their own at a very low price. You won’t even need to buy a viewfinder. It’ll be your iPhone. There’s an idea that will significantly reduce the cost of owning a digital SLR for everyone.

Light Field Technology

If you’ve been reading up on apertures, you know that in order to see more of the scene in a photo, you need to use a smaller aperture. If you want see less of the background and foreground, you have to use a wider aperture. Tomorrow’s cameras won’t even allow you to control the aperture. That’s because you’ll be able to choose where you to focus the shot after it’s taken! The Lytro light field camera does this, and it’s amazing.

So let’s say you’re taking a picture of your friend in front of a mountainous backdrop. With a light field camera, you simply tell it the shutter speed and snap the photo. Once you get back home, you open up the file and choose whether you want to focus on your friend, the mountain in the background, or everything in the entire scene. Export to JPEG and you’re done.

But it gets better than that. If you want, you can share the original file with your friends, and they can choose where they want to focus it. A single picture suddenly has so many more possibilities.

Total Convergence With Video

It’s already happening, and it’s just going to continue happening. The divide between digital photography and video is getting smaller each year as camera makers integrate video into every camera they make. Many of today’s cameras allow you to take both pictures and video, and some of them allow you to do both at the same time. In fact, the camera application on Android phones can take stills while recording full motion video. Indeed, at some point in the future the term “camera” will come to mean both a still camera and a video camera.

So while you’re sitting on the couch, holding your viewfinder in your hands to take that self portrait, you won’t have to worry about technical things like apertures. It’ll all be done in post-production. The future of cameras is more promising and revolutionary than we can imagine. I can’t wait for it to get here.

What demos have you seen that make you excited about the future of photography? What would you like to see next? I'd love to hear - add your comment below.

Most people think this post is Interesting. What do you think?


  1. George says:

    That's presuming there will be a need for photos in the future. Video cams and electronic players are dirt cheap.

  2. Christmas ornaments says:

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  3. Love Stdenny says:

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  4. Peter says:

    EPISODE 2!! After all the yawns and mutters about 'dinosaurs', I would like to say to those who are still listening - technology, whilst encouraging the 'take it and delete' attitude, gives us the opportunity to free our minds and hands and promote creativity. We should grasp these wonderful tools with the same loving care as the 'dinos' handling their cumbersome and hugely expensive equipment. And then take full advantage of the wealth of expertise made available to us, again by technology, on the internet. David, we have you and a few others to thank for your dedication to sharing your knowledge and experience with us, the great unwashed.

  5. Peter says:

    One has to ask "is this photography?" It is technological progress, I suppose, and we must accept it as part of life. When we compare the effort that 19th century photographers put into their images we must accept, with some humility, that photography was only possible with huge dedication. Having "progressed" over some 40 years from twin lens reflex, home developed, to today's digi images, I know that my own photography has, in a sense, suffered.

  6. Belinda says:

    Hi David

    I loved this post about the camera technology of the future. Hope it doesn't make all our equipment obsolete!

    Best wishes

  7. Dan Thornton says:

    I uncerstand Canon is working on a camera that adjusts exposure at the pixel level. If I understand it correctly, every image would effectively by a High Dynamic Range photo.

  8. Marshall Midden says:

    I expect they will get much wider bit depth to get darks and lights in much greater detail. (i.e. do what you eye naturally does.)

    A headset with an ipod type bluetooth thing-a-ma-jig that takes pictures when you press a button on it -- of what you are looking and focusing at. (no view finder)

    Apple -- where are you?

  9. Jessie says:

    Another thought: If there were laser touch screens, the viewfinder might not even be in your hands; you could simply wave your hand or move a finger for the portrait-taking. (Dreaming out loud.)

  10. Jessie says:

    Hey, I greatly appreciated your article on the future of cameras.

    I'm wondering how the featured laser touch screens will impact the future of cameras, too. Have you learned about the recently disclosed "projected" interfaces being put into R&D for computers and phones?


    Take a look!

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.