What is in store for the future of photography?
Every time there is a change in camera systems there has always been a drop in picture quality:
Range finder cameras have better image quality than SLR’s, there’s no mirror so lenses can be designed without having to keep the back of the lens away from the flapping mirror. But it was the SLR that became more popular because of its functionality.
In the early days digital was lower quality than film, and in many cases still is, but digital won the battle because it has other advantages.
Compact cameras provide better image quality than mobile phones, but go to a gig and see everyone in the crowd shooting pictures – on their mobile phones. The ease of sharing the pictures combined with an ability to improve the cameras functionality with apps has won out.
For all but the most specialist applications, functionality seems to trump image quality every time. A bit like MP3 vs CD, Betamax vs VHS.
So what next? Well, see the TV in the corner of the room? The answers may come from there. I don’t mean by watching it, I mean by the technology that’s going into it…
The next big thing for TV manufacturers will be UHD. (They have to have a next big thing - to keep us upgrading) UHD is Ultra High Definition and it comes in a number of flavours, the most interesting being what’s known as 8k.
8k video resolution represents 7680 x 4320 pixels (4320p) and is effectively 16 times more detailed than current 1080p resolution TVs. That’s also many more pixels than my canon 1D MkIV. Furthermore, with the continued push for 3D (like it or not) the refresh rates on tv’s have doubled, because they have to display each frame seperately for each eye.
What does this mean for cameras? Well, with a doubled frame rate you’d be shooting at 100fps when previously you’d have been at 50. Thus the shutter speed on your video that used to be 50th of a second is now 100th of a second, or faster. This will reduce the blurring often seen in freeze frames taken from video.
Combine this lack of image movement with the resolution of 8k and you’ll understand where this is heading – photo quality still’s taken from video footage.
Canon and Nikon have responded by including a video feature in their DSLR’s, and the resolution of this will improve over time. This will be incremental, perhaps as a way of coercing photographers to upgrade as many times as possible. If your business is selling lightbulbs, there’s no point in inventing an everlasting lightbulb…
When 8k video is transmitted live by tv broadcasters this will give photographers another headache. Stills from TV already make full page pictures on the front of newspapers, but when the quality is indistinguishable from a photograph this may become the norm rather than the exception. Speed is often more important than art in the news game, and you can’t beat ‘live news’ for speed. Even worse if they can use it for free, or a low nominal fee.
All is not lost. When this technology is out photographers, like it or not, will be entering the video market in the same way we went digital. The idea of the decisive moment will be lost a little as you play out the video to find the frame. You’ll send the video for one purpose and the stills for another. Go through a few gb of pictures now, shot at 12fps, and it is already a rudimentary form of video. Make it 24fps and it’s the same as you watch in the cinema, we are not that far away.
Perhaps there will be a new form of photoshop for editing stills from video, which will allow you to do things like get a long exposure by choosing how many seconds of video you want the resulting image to comprise of. You’d also have the advantage of having the sound recorded so you could use this in multimedia creations.
It seems to me that as technology marches on some of the romance in photography dies. That’s the price of progress I guess, but i’ve always got my Leica M3 and a few rolls of film to play with if it all becomes too much.