This is a light hearted look at what is happening with our hardware.
When video cameras became cheap enough and accessible to the public in the 1980s some people thought that regular ‘stills’ photography was on its way out. The same was true with black and white photography once colour film was affordable. There’s a rhythm in the popularity of photography that allows regeneration with new younger audiences. Each generation of photographers creates new ways of using photography. Gone are the shoe boxes of enprints that were dragged out at Christmas. These have been replaced with Facebook galleries. The Internet generation are far more effective at sharing their photographs than any previous generation ever were.
Camera manufacturers are just waking up to the fact that the DSLR may well be a dinosaur within a few years. Compact cameras are probably on their way out too. Compacts are being replaced by camera phones and SLRs are being challenged by mirrorless cameras.
My question to you is: What would Apple produce if its design team were to create a ‘pro grade’ camera?
For a start it would be able to be used by anyone, not just a few folks with elite knowledge. It would certainly incorporate a live view screen as used on the iPhone. It’s much easier to compose a picture by distilling the three dimensions of real life using a two dimensional screen.
Apple would probably use in lens shutters too as Fujifilm have created on the revolutionary X100. The X100 mechanical shutter delivers 1/4000th second ‘in lens’ with a flash sync of at least 1/1000th second too.
The sensor size is the next issue to consider. The latest APSC sized 16mp sensor of the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is supposed to out resolve the 21mp full frame sensor of the 5Dmk2 and the 22 mp sensor of the 5D mk3 because of it’s non Beyer pattern pixel arrangement if recent reports are to be believed. So perhaps that’s the size that would meet all but the most demanding users. APSC and modern lenses can easily surpass that resolution and image quality.
What about user interface? I’d suggest Apple would use an OLED touch screen retina display covering the whole of the back of the camera. Like the touch screen on the iPhone 4 but bigger. 6″ x 4″ would be great. Imagine a double tap to go 100% and being able to scoot around the shot with your finger? It’s technology Apple already have access to and it’s one reason pro photographers like their iPhone.
I’d suggest to Sony that they attach a PlayStation controller and 6″ screen to their camera. If that controller can take a virtual F1 car around Monaco it can certainly operate a camera with buttons to spare. It just works brilliantly as a user interface and a 5-year-old can use it as well as any adult.
So what about Nikon? They have entered the mirrorless race but is it in a half-hearted way? They are still developing their DSLRs and it seems no one told them that the pixel race is over. There is no way the Nikon zoom lenses can resolve detail at the pixel pitch of the latest D800. At least Canon have been sensible limiting its latest flagship camera to 16mp.
Both these companies risk being swamped by Fujifilm and or Apple if they should enter the market.
This is no time to be complacent as the demise of Kodak reminds us. Sony and Panasonic seem to think that putting a 20th C German brand name on an Asian made lens will somehow keep their brands alive. However the clunky and chunky lenses developed for the Sony alpha cameras are way too bloaty to compete with the sleek new optics from Fujifilm.
Leica has set out it’s stall with the M9. It’s all very well having amazing lenses costing many thousands of pounds each but if the majority of shots taken are miss focussed due to operartor error (experiences of more than one of my M9 owning workshop deligates) it’s time to rethink the focussing method and not the lens or camera design.
Fujifilm have reengineered the whole lens mount and back focus design of their latest camera, the X-pro1 and it is this kind of joined up thinking that will allow it to overtake the current crop of front runners clinging on to lens mounts and back focus distances from bygone eras. But can the X-pro1 focus fast enough and with accuracy? Will it be an ‘orb’ producer? Time will tell.
The industry is becoming exciting again and the popularity of photography has never been higher. I’m so glad to be part of these changing times and I welcome innovation and new methods of taking pictures with open arms.
If innovation didn’t happen the iPhone would have a small screen and buttons like a Blackberry and we all know where that brand is heading.
So what does the future hold for professional photographers? I expect the next generation of cameras will be far simpler to use and more readily accessible to the amateur or part time shooter. It will be a further closing of the pro amateur divide. Perhaps the ability to see and use light creatively plus the ability to engage a client and capture a moment will be the currency of professionalism.
Just because the tools are easier to use doesn’t have to mean its easier to be a great photographer.
This is a can of worms post. Who am I to make such assumptions? I’ve put a few devils advocate ideas out there and I’m inviting you to join the discussion. Please keep it positive :)