Future Tech; Shutterbug Contributors Get Out The Crystal Ball Page 2

D-SLR Features And Facts
As D-SLRs have become more affordable, faster, and easier to use, we're seeing an increasing number of families switching to a camera of this type. The growing popularity of interchangeable lens cameras is confirmed by statistics collected by various research organizations such as CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association). Their most recent report indicated that D-SLR sales were up by a full 61 percent in the first half of 2007 as compared to the same period in 2006.

That trend should continue for at least another three years, leading to even lower prices and an incentive for manufacturers to develop superior technology. The D-SLR won't totally replace compact digicams, but by 2011, most of those cameras will be multifunctional devices, including a cell phone, PDA, audio/video storage, and other functions. We'll be able to buy a family-oriented D-SLR with two zoom lenses for under $500, while the enthusiast-level 16-megapixel models will be selling for under $1000 with two zooms. Granted, the kit lenses will not be pro-caliber models but they will provide excellent image quality thanks to more sophisticated in camera software that will compensate for optical aberrations as well as linear distortion.

Many of the high-end D-SLRs will employ full-frame 24x36mm sensors, eliminating the "focal length magnification factor" (field of view crop) while also allowing for large photosites or pixels. Hence, we'll have superior image quality with less digital noise even at high ISOs plus a wider dynamic range for greater highlight and shadow detail. While the oversized sensor will allow for 24-megapixel models, most families and imaging hobbyists will consider the 12- to 16-megapixel range as ideal in terms of price, image file size, and speed of camera operation.

Naturally, the D-SLRs will employ entirely new sensor, processor, autofocus, and capture medium technology for superior speed and quality. I believe that in camera Image Stabilizers will become the norm in all brands because a system of that type is effective with any lens. High Definition (HD) audio/video capture (using Live View on a 3" or 4" LCD screen) will be standard, too, making the consumer-grade camcorders virtually obsolete. The combination of technology and features will provide excellent value as well as great image-capture versatility, ideal for anyone who prefers a "serious" camera over a more compact mobile entertainment device.
--Peter K. Burian

Stills & Video; Printer Predictions
Look for the line between video and still to blur as more video cameras include the option to capture high-resolution stills that are the equal of many compact digital cameras. The advantage to this is clear--you have 30 frames per second to select from, increasing the likelihood of capturing the "decisive moment," and for photojournalism you have the double advantage of still for print media and video for web or television.

I'm also looking forward to seeing more printers include wireless connections, making it easy to print from any computer in the house. In other printer enhancements, I see more traditional photo-style papers, such as fiber-based and baryta papers, becoming popular as digital photographers try to reproduce the classic darkroom photo look.
--Jon Canfield

An Apple Desktop At A Mid-Range Price
There's currently a great deal of disappointment among Mac users at the lack of a user-configurable desktop other than the Mac Pro, which ships with a starting price of $2499. Adding fuel to the fire, Apple recently discontinued its least expensive version of iMacs, the 17" models.

Apple users looking for an affordable desktop that they can configure with the same ease as a PC are getting frustrated. Apple users who want an affordable desktop with better performance than the entry-level Mac mini are adding to the frustration. That frustration is turning into lost sales for Apple, as the faithful turn to reseller sites to purchase old G4 and G5 Macs.

The G4 and G5 models, which have retained a good deal of their retail value, and can often be the perfect fit for someone who needs a configurable Mac but can't afford the price of the Mac Pro. Given the lack of an affordable, configurable Mac, the discontinuation of the 17" iMacs, and the recent iPhone price-reduction outrage, Apple is very aware of its need to appease customers; and I predict that finally releasing a new, configurable, affordable desktop will be one of the paths that Apple takes.
--Anthony L. Celeste

I Have Seen The Future And...
I'm not encouraged. Every year we're asked to write these tidbits about digital imaging's future, even urged to go "out on a limb" in our forecasting, and during the process some of us, as I did in some previous years, turn into little Ray Bradbury clones, imagining a future where cameras are implanted into our heads and we can telepathically transmit images by satellite anywhere in the world. Well I know Ray Bradbury. He is a friend of mine and ladies and gentlemen I am no Ray Bradbury. OK, so I don't know him but do have a signed copy of Farewell Summer.

In recent years I've grown more pessimistic about imaging's future and started thinking more like George Orwell when I see that more and more cameras are now being pointed at us instead of the other way around and more and more restrictions are being forced on us about how and where photographers can use the cameras they have. Less photography means less innovation and if photography as we know it today is to become more than an asterisk on a file cabinet in somebody's Second Life page that's got to change, but will it?

What I do see for the future is more evolution, as politically heated as that word has become these days. Canon's EOS-1D Mark III is a clever camera but it's an evolutionary not revolutionary design and Nikon finally got around to producing a full-frame D-SLR after claiming for so many years that photographers didn't need one.

Why can't we get manufacturers to pay attention to the real world and stop producing ever more losable memory card formats such as xD-Picture Card and miniSD? Maybe it's because they see the future being populated with MySpacers toting cell phone cameras using ever tinier media, but they're missing the point. What made 35mm photography the 20th century's most powerful communication tool was the fact that all cameras used a common media that worked in everything from the most expensive to the least expensive models. Am I the only guy who noticed that?

Didn't endless, resource-wasteful experiments such as the disc camera and APS teach manufacturers anything? Think of the resources wasted on those stillborn technologies while at the same time they ignored digital imaging's looming potential and a shrinking market, all without doing anything to develop a younger customer base. Are the camera companies willing to turn over any hope of future generations of photographers to LG, Motorola, or Nokia? I strongly suspect that's what software companies would prefer.

Since the camera manufacturers aren't going to do anything, it's up to us--you and I--to find a way to fight the future. Encourage members of your camera club to start camera clubs at local middle and high schools. Offer to assist a local scout troop to help kids earn their photography merit badges. Get involved on a one-on-one basis as a mentor to a young photographer in your neighborhood. If you really care about photography, it's time for us do something.
--Joe Farace

Right To Keep And Bear Cameras
The big issue for 2008 won't be megapixels, image-processing software, printers, or even silver halide. It will be, to modify a well-known phrase, the right to keep and bear cameras. Keeping that right is the responsibility of all photographers: no one else is going to do it for you. As Benjamin Franklin said, "If we do not hang together, we shall all hang separately."

The right to keep and bear cameras is attacked on numerous grounds, all of them specious. We are told we may not photograph bridges or other "strategic subjects" for fear of terrorism. We are told we may not photograph children for fear of giving aid or comfort to pedophiles. We are peremptorily told to hand over thousands of dollars worth of cameras to front desks because "photography is not permitted here." We are told that silver is a "heavy metal" associated with "serious health hazards."

The easiest way to deal with all bans or attempted bans on photography is to remain civil and ask about camera phones. That man over there: has he just taken a picture with his telephone? Or: you will consider handing over your camera at the mall if they can show you the bin full of camera phones they have confiscated from other shoppers. Ask if they really believe that terrorists and thieves are going to set up a tripod or even carry a real camera when a camera phone is an easier and less obtrusive tool for miscreants.

If you are in public, demand to know by what right they try to stop you: insist on their reciting the statutes, chapter and verse. With public buildings, especially bridges, point out that the architects' plans are commonly a matter of public record--and that architects' plans are a lot more use to a terrorist than a photograph.

Of course, if they won't listen to reason, you have several options. You can make a scene: it sometimes works, and it usually makes you feel better, but it's usually the least effective. You can withdraw politely and write to their management. You can expose them in the press: that's often the most effective. Stick to the facts; refrain from name-calling; and you'll be surprised how many turn up on your side. Usually, enough to make a difference.

With silver bans, point them to the Center for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov, for a realistic assessment of just how dangerous silver is (hint: not very). You might even care to print out the relevant web page. And, at all times, with all aspects of photography, work on your politicians--local, state, and national: do not let them get away with bad science, bad sociology, bad politics. Quote the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press) and the Fourth (the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures). And remember: it's your freedom, not someone else's problem.
--Roger W. Hicks

Multi-Tasking Cameras
Digital imaging has steamrolled through every facet of the photo business as we know it. There does not appear to be much future for film-based photography or related products except as collectibles and museum pieces. All the automation and advanced technology built into today's cameras make it practically impossible to make a poorly exposed or technically bad image. But does this make average individuals good photographers--or just prolific in producing lots and lots of pictures?

Every product is being miniaturized. Very small, non-interchangeable lens digital cameras that are only about 3" thick when turned off now have a 10 or 12x optical zoom lenses. In the near future the total zoom range will undoubtedly expand out to a broad 15 or 20x, which will be practical even for handheld shooting at the longest telephoto zoom setting when it's combined with enhanced Image Stabilization capabilities.

Since most digital cameras can record decent quality still and video images, along with sound bites, about the only thing today's better cameras cannot do is imprint text along with the image. I foresee future high-end cameras being multi-tasking, with new voice-activated text-recording capabilities and possibly combined with telephonic capabilities for two-way voice communication. True, the new iPhone and some similar telephonic devices have this capability, plus the ability to record moderate-quality images, but they are marketed primarily as telephones, not cameras. Will new cameras begin to include voice-transmission ability soon to further confuse customers?

I visualize the higher quality (10 or more megapixel) digital cameras of the near future including telephonic features plus text messaging. A built-in GPS capability would help pinpoint exactly where the image was made, anywhere in the entire world. Of course, it would have to be relatively small and very portable, along with a long-lived rechargeable battery that would keep on recording or communicating for days. A digital recording product with just one primary capability--making images--just won't be competitive in the very near future.
--Robert E. Mayer
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