What’s Next

Are you at all curious about what will come next in the professional digital camera?  The dslr is now at least close or better than the best 35mm professional film cameras before they went extinct.  And prices just keep dropping as they once did for computers according to Moore’s law.

How will the major companies differentiate their cameras going forward?  The point of how many pixels the average professional needs has been hit, as well as the noise to signal ratio, ISO ratings that far exceed film, and the ability to embed hi-definition movie cameras.

In other words, after the top specs have been reached, which is going to be dictated by the maximum size that a professional needs or wants to deal with in terms of storage, archiving, backup.

There will be classes of cameras based on megapixels, and they may all seem the same externally.  But when this limit of usefulness is hit (and some of us feel it has already been hit) then the only other thing I can think of to differentiate cameras will be price, ergonomics,  user interface and the brand name.

Will camera companies be able to make their product a symbol of conspicuous consumption?  Will they be able to do what car companies have done for years, and introduce new models every year which will capture the photographers’ eye and wallet?

I just can’t see that happening.  I can see it with consumer cameras where the camera will become part of the entire communications, and entertainment package.  There is lots of room for growth there – and for making the camera / phone / texter / player / video / everythinger – a badge of honor.

But the professional is still going to be looking at what is needed to do the task at hand.  And I don’t have the vision to see how that professional tool will evolve.  Put on your magic visionary glasses.  Can you imagine where the professional camera will be in five years?  What the big differences between companies will be?  Or will it all be branding at that point?

I honestly don’t know.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City.

21 thoughts on “What’s Next”

  1. Hasselblad is going to release the H3DII-60 in April. Sixty megapixels! What will photographers do with that! Frankly, I think the megapixel battle will taper off because of storage issues.


  2. Interesting thing about the ever increasing megapixel race. The lenses used with these cameras have to be able to resolve the details available from the large amount of pixels available. Without a superior lens you might as well go for a fewer pixel(cheaper) camera body.

    I predict a higher color bit resolution for the upcoming pro cameras. Photoshop has made 32 bit images usable, cameras and hardware will follow.

    I also predict the demise of medium format cameras and their matching digital camera backs. With the increasing improvement of the dslr, there will be a lessening need for the mid sized cumbersome bodies and backs. Phase one now spends a lot of their research perfecting capture one software, usable for all digital cameras as well as with their digital backs.

  3. Brent: Phase one has already released a 60.5 megapixel back. I don’t think the pixel race will slow down because of storage and memory issues. How much was a external 1 terabyte external drive a year ago compared to now? Blue Ray dvd’s have increased the storage size of dvd’s. Memory card prices are falling fast as storage sizes increase.

    As a professional, before purchasing a new camera, I have to ask myself what is overkill, what do I really need, how much do I need to spend? With my client base and future plans what will 60.5 megapixels give me as compared to what 20 megapixels give me now? In my mind,that thinking, tightening purse strings and the recession will probably slow the megapixel race, if not kill it.

  4. At some point you don’t need more megapixel’s. Sure my Nikon D 80 with 10 meg is great but my older D 50 and D 70 with 6.1 still produce great shots.

  5. Two thoughts . . .

    First, like Craig said, I still make great shots with my Canon 10D even though there are situations (sports) where I’ve found my wife’s 40D to be useful.

    Second, I wonder whether there will start to be specialty sensors (maybe black&white, panoramic, extreme dynamic range but low ISO, something like that) that are placed in existing bodies for special applications?

  6. Specialized sensors is an interesting idea.

    I could imagine that memory cards won’t be necessary anymore one day. It’s maybe not the very next step, but there is a trend in uploading images to web right after capturing. The professional of the future might have all his images instantly on his computer at home, no matter where he is shooting.

  7. Know y’all are mostly pros, but my D80 got swiped at one of my daughter’s sporting events and I am not in a position to replace right now. Anyone have thoughts on the G10 as a suitable pro-sumer level replacement. I shoot Leica M’s with film but would like to have the versatility of digital in the quiver as well. Understand this ain’t a forum per se, but respect the knowledge and opinions…

  8. I would save your pennies. In the next ten years there is going to be a huge breakthrough in technology: quantum digitization. In layman’s terms, cameras and computers will be able to create a virtual reality that corresponds one to one with actual reality.

    Let’s say you take a photo of an apple. The exact quantum state of that apple at the moment you snap the photo will be recordable and reproducible. In other words, every atom, every quark, every becquermon, will be captured. The pixel count will equal the sum of all the mass-energy information of the object.

    It is estimated that the prototype of this revolutionary camera will cost about 23 trillion dollars, but within five years it should go down to around a trillion or so. So save your pennies.

  9. Lester rules! Sometime around 2012 when 40 megapixels is standard, you’ll be dusting off your M-3 and buying bulk rolls of TRI-X…Sorry, but the truth hurts…

  10. I’m sorry, Matt, but I thought Trix was a breakfast cereal, the one with the rabbit and all the fruity flavors that cause early onset diabetes in kids. Does it also have something to do with advanced photo technology?

  11. The irony is that film cameras began as large clumsy cameras with glass plates and as film got better, the cameras and lenses got smaller.

    The digital cameras haven’t changed size all that much; but the number of pixels that could be jammed onto a circuit board is reaching it’s limits; although some new thing may come along which can give noiseless pixels on a smaller chip. But whether that happens or not, the number of clean pixels needed to give a fine art or commercial print – remains the same and you just aren’t going to need 60 megapixels for MOST projects.

    Actually – if those digital picture frames take over – there will be a definite limit on the necessary number of pixels.

    But if you look at the car industry – there have been cars that will take you from here to there for about the same cost of ownership for a very long time now; and yet every year a new model(s) come out; the car becomes a symbol of style and conspicuous consumption and the question I was asking — was whether a point would come when the combinatino dslr – iphone – digi-sound – whathaveyou box would be more of a fashion statement than they are now.

    Once you’ve reached the physical limit of what’s needed to produce quality images; it’s going to get very tough on the camera companies unless they can transform the camera into part of a suite of tools… a la Photoshop Suite. The Suite gives you the ability to keep adding new features.

    Oh, as far as TriX goes: I wanted to use TriX but I heard that it is just for kids.

  12. guess i failed to be specific enough – I respect your collective photographic knowledge and opinions. Sense of humor, not so much…

  13. The next thing is the EVIL cameras. The first of these Electronic Viewfinder Interchangable Lens cameras has now shown up in the Panasonic G1. These allow the marriage of what’s best in the P&S world with a small light an inobtrusive body and a large, high quality sensor.

  14. What’s next: the increasing commodification of the image, ingested, discarded and ignored like potato chips.


    What’s ironic is that evil/video/megapickles/whatever won’t make most images by most people better. Most images suck and will continue to, especially among gearhounds who irrationally think that some new piece of something will magically make up for bad technique or a lack of ideas (or trite ones). And it’s always been this way.

  15. I think Adam hit it.
    I can’t think or a better camera than something like a G10, scaling it up until you can fit a new generation EOS sensor that ultimately will shoot at 1600 sharp, with no noise and extended dynamic range. It might kill some of the dslr market but would sell scads (a word not unlike ‘hoot’).

  16. Now everyone has a camera, whether it’s in their phone, or in their pocket. I would say that about 5% of modern camera owners know what a higher ASA/ISO means; and that about 1% know the relationship between f-stop and shutter speed.

    Have you ever been to a ball game and seen the thousands of flashes going off, when there is absolutely no way those flashes can reach the subject on the field of play.

    In other words, the ability to take pictures has become very simple, and the ability to take good pictures remains about where it always was which means that there are more bad pictures than ever before; and this means that there must be a place to show the bad pictures as well as the good ones.

    I think that the real improvement will have to be in the relationship between the printer and the camera. If you could make it equally simple to print without knowing anything about highlights, histograms or any other knowledge – then that will be a popular product.

    In other words, sort of a closed-loop system where the camera and printer are wedded and can help each other produce acceptable prints.

    Then again, maybe the print is dead only to be replaced by the digital frame…

  17. Reply to Bob: I shot with a G9 for over a year. Very happy, except at high ISO’s. Then, this month, I acquired the bottom-rung camera of the Canon Rebel clan: the XS (1000D). Same price as I paid for the G9 in 2007. Light, very light. Live View, which I require (don’t ask–I just do), and I also poked a 50mm f/1.8 prime (nearly weightless) on the rig. I’m not inclined to go back to my G9. The Rebel is tops for entry-level DSLR’s at ISO 1600.

    Check this camera out. It certainly feels much better in the hand than the G9 or G10. I’m lovin’ it.

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