Future Tech; A Look At What’s Ahead For Photography In 2007…And Beyond Page 2

Split Personality
Photo technology will almost certainly continue to polarize. On one side there will be ultrahigh-tech digital cameras; on the other, film cameras that owe almost as much to the 19th century as to the 20th, never mind the 21st. Those who swear by the electronics will point out that there is always a Manual mode if you want it, while those who swear by the mechanical engineering will counter with the observation that if manual is all you want, why bother with the rest?

The interesting thing is that while the barriers to entry for high-tech electronics are such that only a few manufacturers can afford to compete in this market, the barriers to making a new mechanical camera are relatively low. Large format cameras can be (and often are) made on an artisanal basis, while the success of Alpa shows how even a very expensive medium format camera can fill a very comfortable niche.

New mechanical cameras will become relatively more expensive, while new digital cameras will become relatively cheaper, but the two will never produce identical results. Neither need be judged better, but they are (and will remain) different.
--Roger W. Hicks

Traditions Cherished, And Perhaps Passing
Film-based photography has been around for over 150 years, so I don't foresee it disappearing completely in the near future. It will probably be used primarily by diehards like myself, who still resist digital-imaging methods. To me, there remains a soothing satisfaction derived from going in your darkroom and producing beautiful silver-image prints in both black and white and color. Sitting at a computer and inputting keystroked image alterations just doesn't compare to personal, hands-on work in the solitude of a darkroom.

I've read several editorials expressing serious concern about the archival quality of digital images. Will some enterprising firm start offering a service to copy your most important digital images onto film--a known medium that will last centuries?

There are untold millions of film cameras in the hands of individuals who really enjoy photography and I'm sure lots of them will get used now and then by some of these people. True, it is becoming difficult to obtain a broad variety of film and the chemicals and paper needed for darkroom use. Unfortunately, even rapid-processing outlets are shrinking. Last year my small Midwestern town had nine minilabs in groceries, drugstores, discount stores, and independent businesses--now there are just five. Even the outside processing of color negative films that used to be done overnight now takes two or three days.

Conventional film imaging is fading from the scene more rapidly than I would have imagined. Even so, I don't see film-based equipment and processing entirely disappearing. In the recent major battle between film imaging vs. digital imaging for worldwide dominance, I'm beginning to believe film is on the losing side--but I still like film and any type of image made the traditional way.

On another note, one segment I discussed last year in this space--cell phones and how they might impact digital cameras--continues to evolve. New cell phone models in the US rival entry-level digital cameras. They have 3-megapixel resolution, a 3x optical zoom lens, more powerful built-in flash, plus other features typically found on basic digital cameras today. Will this be the beginning of the end for low-end digicams?
--Robert E. Mayer

Multifunctional Miniatures
The future of technology combines trends toward both miniaturization and making devices multifunctional. First cell phones became cameras, then music downloaders and players; now they are also video viewers for both TV and film content. In Japan today you can buy 4-megapixel cameras in cell phones. Before long, these cell/camera/computer devices will have wide-ranging zoom lenses with extensive wireless capabilities.

I personally appreciate the trend in digital cameras to shrink in size and weight while growing larger viewing screens. Memory chips are able to store more and more images in the same physical size, and transfer speeds are breaking new barriers.

Right now, you can access the web from both your phone and your PDA. For example, I was on an extended shoot with a group of other photographers recently. One was constantly checking his BlackBerry for e-mail. During the two-week trip, he sold several stock photos via this mode of communication, and also secured an assignment. The future is now.
--Howard Millard

Digital Printers: The Next Wave
Printers are so sophisticated these days that they can interpret how the print should look and deliver an optimum print to us. Droplet sizes are dropping and ink colors are increasing so that prints more and more look like true photographs, not wannabes. But if you want to print on fine art paper, or conversely, would like a more traditional-looking print on glossy photo paper, you need, respectively, a pigment and a dye inkjet printer. I'd like to do both with equal conviction on one printer. So here's what I'm suggesting and looking forward to in the future:

One printer with dual inksets--dye and pigment. If you can dictate to the printer what profiles it should use, based on your paper selection, why couldn't you say, I want this as a dye print and that as a pigment print? Some printers already have eight or even 10 ink tanks. All the printer manufacturer would have to do is make the inks more concentrated, so the cartridges could remain small, and split the number of tanks used down the middle. Or better yet, the dye inkjet component might only consist of one photo cartridge with three colors and one black cartridge.

The pigment ink component can hold the wider array of colors in individual tanks or in one larger pigment photo cartridge. And while we're at it. I really liked HP's auto-paper-sensing technology, which they seemed to have abandoned in the newest printers. More printers should come with this feature to make life easier for those of us who use non-OEM papers. And for that matter, the selection of papers in the driver software should not be egocentric and based solely on what the manufacturer has to offer. There are lots of good, usable media out there--and the limited profiles always leave us guessing.

How about a dual-utility printer where a small section of our home printer can be removed and rendered portable, with the addition of a battery? Now wouldn't that be something! It's not unheard of in the home entertainment industry, where a portable player is a detachable part of a larger system. Dual-utility printers and dual-ink-technology devices could prove to be the next wave in home inkjet printing. Just a thought... (Is anybody out there listening?)
--Jack Neubart

Enhanced Dynamic Range
I can see flash guns, especially the small, built-in type, disappearing from the scene or at least being relegated to a seldom-used accessory. My reasoning works this way: New generations of digital camera sensors and related software will drive the dynamic range of digital cameras higher and higher. This is already referred to as HDR (High Dynamic Range). Right now, manufacturers are struggling to drive the HDR high enough to match that of film. But, in the next few years there is every reason to believe that digital technology will greatly exceed even the old limitations of film.

With four or five f/stops of range added to digital cameras, the need for flash guns will gradually disappear, with a resulting image that will be much more true to what the human eye actually sees. Unfortunately, this will also result in image files that will skyrocket up into the gigabyte size range, as first 16 bit, then 32 bit, and eventually 64-bit images become commonplace.

The higher bit-size of images will be needed to record the increased amount of data that the images will contain. With Duo-Core CPUs (soon to climb to Tri-Core and eventually maybe to Quad-Core) and terabyte hard drives just beginning to crack into the market, the computers of tomorrow will easily be able to handle the larger image file sizes.
--Darryl C. Nicholas

The Future Of Raw Processing
I foresee advancements in raw processing programs. Right now, we can do so much more with raw files than we can with JPEG files--recovering up to a stop of overexposed areas and working with a 16-bit vs. an 8-bit image (which is less destructive to the file). Just imagine what we'll be able to do with raw files in the future--which is a darn good reason not to shoot JPEGs right now.
--Rick Sammon

Practical...And Fanciful
One sure-fire way of predicting the immediate future is to extrapolate present trends. With the new entry-level baseline for digital point-and-shoots now hovering at 6 megapixels, scads of mid- and upper-tier models offering 10-megapixel capture, and recent digital SLR intros by Sony and Canon combining 10-megapixel sensors, self-cleaning sensors, and retail prices under $1000, it's safe to say that "megapixel creep" is indeed upon us and likely to continue apace. It's also evident that the pressure on manufacturers to offer cameras with higher resolution and more convenience features at lower prices has, if anything, intensified.

Other ongoing trends likely to ramp up the future: Printers with more built-in features that sidestep the need for computer interfaces and are, in effect, "home kiosks"; built-in Image Stabilization (Anti-Shake) becoming a standard feature on all classes of cameras; and more features such as automatic redeye fix, face recognition, plus a host of postproduction image enhancements built into the latest models.

Of course, prognostications of future tech are always more fun when they're farther out in left field, and so, at the risk of looking like an idiot in five years or so, here are mine: I think one or more flash memory makers will come out with future cards with built-in firmware to make it much easier to do such things as select, organize, modify, protect, and send images in far less time than it takes now.

I believe (fervently hope?) that as the price for larger-size CCD and CMOS chips comes down, some genius will come out with a basic $2000, high-res digital back for medium format cameras, thereby resurrecting a lot of fine, under-utilized hardware and optics.

Finally, I foresee one or more camera makers coming out with a jewel-like ultra-compact digital SLR system and lenses based on the Four Thirds or APS-C format and capable of using one of the present lens mount systems. Naturally this 12-megapixel model will feature exquisitely enhanced performance at ISOs in the 800-3200 range, built-in sensor cleaning and Anti-Shake, and a more powerful multimode built-in flash based on forthcoming improvements in lithium ion battery technology. Sign me up to purchase one of these beauties in 2008.
--Jason Schneider

Film Still Standing
With several manufacturers expressing their intention to be the "last man standing" in silver halide photography, film is not going to go away. Most technical improvements are likely to be small and incremental, but let's not forget that Kodak introduced two new films at photokina; Ilford introduced a new black and white paper specifically for digitally-written prints; and the availability of unusual large format sizes is better today than it has been in decades, not only from Ilford but also from Bergger, Efke, Maco, and more.
--Frances E. Schultz

The Future, Disconnected
I have seen the future and it is disconnected. Wireless technology will steer future development and influence the way we capture, share, print, and store our images. Our cameras will remind us to take pictures when they sense we're visiting a new place and warn us if we don't get a good shot. They'll tell us when they need to download or recharge and then guide us to the nearest wireless network to feed. We'll look back on early 21st century digital photography and it will appear as quaint as loading a roll of 120 into a large black box and later taking the film in for processing. But one thing will never change. People who love photography will continue to create the best images that available technology will allow.
--Jon Sienkiewicz

HDR & Image Changes
Today's digital SLRs already have plenty of megapixels. The improvement we hope for is in the area of dynamic range. While we will, of course, see many hardware improvements over the next years I personally think that imaging software shows even greater potential. More powerful algorithms (often based on HDR technology) and tools will allow us to better express our vision. We photographers can learn a lot from the video people. They already change scenes during postproduction: e.g., shoot at noon and make the movie look as if it were shot in the evening. As all tools, this can be used for more creativity--or making boring cliches.
--Uwe Steinmueller


merdeka04's picture

I believe in what Joe Farace said, photography is art and although I can't definitely give a precise difference of how photography and taking pictures differ, for me taking pictures is somehow just a fancy not having emotions on the pictures you're taking. - Mallory Fleming