NY Times On The End of Film and The End of the Megapixel Race

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Jeremy, Feb 2, 2006.

  1. Jeremy

    Jeremy Guest

    From the NY Times


    February 2, 2006
    David Pogue
    Pixel Counting Joins Film in Obsolete Bin
    IF you work in the camera industry, February is an exciting month. That's
    when you head down to Florida for the annual Photo Marketing Association
    convention, where your company will unveil its latest camera models, thus
    making the ones everybody got for Christmas obsolete.

    But this February is more exciting than most. Big changes are in the
    photographic air.

    First, there's the astonishing collapse of the film camera market. By some
    tallies, 92 percent of all cameras sold are now digital. Big-name camera
    companies are either exiting the film business ( Kodak, Nikon) or exiting
    the camera business altogether (Konica Minolta). Film photography is rapidly
    becoming a special-interest niche.

    Next, there's the end of the megapixel race. "In compact cameras, I think
    that the megapixel race is pretty much over," says Chuck Westfall, director
    of media for Canon's camera marketing group. "Seven- and eight-megapixel
    cameras seem to be more than adequate. We can easily go up to a 13-by-19
    print and see very, very clear detail."

    That's a shocker. After 10 years of hearing how they need more, more, more
    megapixels, are consumers really expected to believe that eight megapixels
    will be the end of the line?

    Well, we'll see. But if the age of megapixel insecurity is really over, what
    will motivate us to buy a new camera every couple of years?

    NOW, trying to predict the future of technology is a fool's game. But if you
    study enough trends and interview enough camera company executives, you get
    some tantalizing ideas of what's in the labs right now. Here's a tour of
    what you may be seeing in digital cameras, presented in a sequence of more
    and more distant horizons.

    ABANDONING THE FILM LOOK Now that consumers are comfortable with going all
    digital, camera companies no longer feel compelled to mimic the size, shape
    and features of film cameras. Today's cameras embrace their electronic
    nature, taking on more radical looks and talents.

    You can see it in Kodak's startling-looking V570 camera, which has two
    built-in lenses, each with its own sensor (a nonzooming wide-angle lens and
    a 3X zoom lens). You also see it in Sony's sleek hinged M2 slab, which has
    so little resemblance to a camera, you have to explain it to people. Canon
    has displayed prototypes with clear acrylic bodies, giving you a transparent
    look into the guts.

    IMAGE STABILIZERS The hot trend for 2006 is image stabilization. This
    feature, available in a flood of new camera models, improves your photos'
    clarity by ironing out your little hand jiggles.

    This feature is an enormous help in three situations: When you're zoomed in
    all the way (which magnifies jitters), in low light (meaning that the
    shutter stays open a long time, increasing the likelihood of blurring), and
    when your camera doesn't have an eyepiece viewfinder (forcing you to hold
    the camera at arm's length, decreasing stability).

    CAMCORDER TENDENCIES Only two years ago, still cameras and video cameras
    were each terrible at doing the other's job. Today, camcorders still take
    crummy photos, but digital still cameras take increasingly high-quality
    movies. Almost all current models can record video that fills a standard TV
    screen (640 by 480 pixels) with TV-quality smoothness (30 frames per

    Canon, in particular, is pushing the envelope here. Its PowerShot S80 can
    capture movies larger than TV size (1,024 by 768 pixels), for better viewing
    on high-definition screens and computer monitors; meanwhile, several cameras
    in its SD and A series can film at 60 frames per second. That's twice the
    smoothness of TV, and a great help when analyzing your golf swing or tennis
    serve. Canon's S2 IS can even film and snap stills simultaneously, thanks to
    separate shutter and start-stop buttons.

    Kodak, Samsung, Canon and Olympus offer cameras that can zoom and refocus
    while you're filming. Unfortunately, on most models, the grinding noise of
    the zoom lens motor drowns out your audio track, but progress is being made
    here, too. Samsung says that the zoom on its Digimax i6 camera, arriving in
    stores later this month, works silently in movie mode.

    WIRELESS The N1 from Nikon and Elph SD430 from Canon both offer Wi-Fi
    wireless networking. Unfortunately, the only thing those cameras can do is
    transfer your pictures wirelessly to a computer or printer; they don't
    connect to the Internet.

    The EasyShare-One from Kodak, however, can send your photos by e-mail or
    post them on a free Kodak Web page - or even go the opposite direction,
    summoning photos from your online stash to the camera's screen on demand.

    SMARTER SOFTWARE A typical digicam takes at least two years to go from the
    drawing board to the store shelves. Many of the cameras you'll buy in 2007
    and 2008, in other words, have already been designed.

    They may include global positioning system receivers, so that, as you browse
    your photos in iPhoto or Picasa, you'll know not only when you took them,
    but where.

    Some of Nikon's CoolPix models already contain face-recognition software, a
    feature that supposedly assists focus by scanning the scene for human facial
    features. And Canon is working on even more sophisticated recognition
    software. One, called Blink Shot, would prevent the camera from taking the
    picture when your subject's eyes are closed. A companion feature, called
    Smile Shot, waits to fire until your subject manages a grin.

    BETTER BATTERIES Most compact cameras today use lithium-ion cells that, on
    average, provide 300 shots between charges.

    According to Mr. Westfall of Canon, however, the future is hydrogen fuel
    cells, which will provide far longer-lasting power. "This technology is
    already in development," he said. "They'll probably make their debut in
    laptop batteries first, and then make their way into cellphones and digital

    BETTER SCREENS Camera screens are getting better and bigger. Diagonal
    dimensions of 2 or 2.5 inches are common today; Kodak and Sony each offer
    3-inch screens (touch-sensitive ones at that, to reduce buttons on the
    camera's back), and the new Samsung Digimax Pro 815 packs an
    industry-leading, absolutely gigantic 3.5-incher. Showing off your photos on
    this baby is almost like handing around a stack of drugstore prints.

    Unfortunately, the bigger the screen, the greater the power drain. The buzz
    among camera designers these days, therefore, is OLED screens (organic
    light-emitting diode), which offer much better brightness but much lower
    power consumption. You can expect to see such screens within the next year.

    THE POCKET-SIZE S.L.R. For complex reasons involving lens design and
    light-sensor dimensions, the photos taken by today's sleek, shirt-pocketable
    minicams can't touch the quality of scenes captured by digital S.L.R.
    (single-lens reflex) cameras.

    Yet digital S.L.R.'s are big, bulky and heavy. And you can't use the screen
    to compose your shots, which, on other cameras, is a delicious convenience.
    You must frame your shots by peering through the eyepiece.

    Camera designers are hammering away at this problem, too. The Olympus Evolt
    330 S.L.R., announced last week, contains a second sensor that does nothing
    but feed the scene to the screen. Olympus says that you therefore get the
    best of both worlds: an interchangeable-lens S.L.R. with a live preview on
    the screen.

    That helps, but even the Evolt is not what you'd call credit card size.
    Shrinking the camera without losing photo quality may be the most difficult
    technological challenge of all.

    Still, there's hope - in the form of liquid lenses. When an electrical
    charge is applied to a liquid lens, the droplet changes shape. Apply the
    charge in just the right way, and you can make the droplet change focus, or
    even zoom. Although liquid-lens technology is only in its infancy, it could
    one day replace the huge, heavy discs of glass that weigh down the digital

    THE NEXT-GEN CAMERA Paradise is still not in the cards; for one thing,
    nobody has yet figured out how to store all those digital photos for future
    generations. It's not clear how long hard drives and home-burned CD's can
    last, and the software question is even more frightening. Will the
    under-the-skin nanocomputers of 2100 still recognize JPEG files?

    Even so, you have a lot to look forward to: hydrogen-powered shirt-pocket
    cameras with liquid lenses, four-inch OLED touch screens, G.P.S. features,
    software that snaps only the best facial expressions and wireless circuitry
    that beams the result to your friends and fans.

    You think February 2006 is exciting? Wait till February 2020.
    Jeremy, Feb 2, 2006
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  2. Jeremy

    Joseph Kewfi Guest

    Well, we'll see. But if the age of megapixel insecurity is really over,
    A sticker on the box of every electronic camera that says "good for 1,000
    clicks" then you buy a new one.
    Joseph Kewfi, Feb 2, 2006
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  3. Actually for a standard 8x10 print, viewed at the usual viewing distance,
    2mp was enough. I'm not talking about people who really care what they
    get, I'm talking about the average guy who was happy with 110 and disc

    The megapixel race is over because they ran out of gas. 8mp is about
    as high as the manufacturers can go and still sell their cameras at
    a profit and win the price wars.

    In a few years, someone will figure out how to make a 16mp sensor for the
    price of a cheap 8mp one and the race will be on again.........

    The real problem with digital over film is that the sensors used in 99%
    of the cameras only can see one color (they are sensative to all colors and
    have to have a filter mask over them), so 8mp is really closer to 2.5mp,
    but the camera interpolates (mathematicly fakes) the rest.

    This is usually ok, because the human eye sees in black in white with color
    information added by a relativley small number of sensors and interpolated
    by the brain.

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Feb 2, 2006
  4. Or perhaps, built in software that will "clean up" the images in some
    way....Remove scratches, dust, and etc.....Allow you to crop and edit and
    color correct/change right in the camera.
    William Graham, Feb 2, 2006
  5. Jeremy

    bmoag Guest

    I hope the NY TImes can more accurately report about the photo business than
    they could report about the lead up to the war in Iraq.
    They could hardly do worse.
    bmoag, Feb 2, 2006
  6. Jeremy

    Mike Guest

    Don't count on it.
    Mike, Feb 2, 2006
  7. Jeremy

    Matt Clara Guest

    Matt Clara, Feb 2, 2006
  8. there's no political sponsors to pay for articles about the photo business,
    and the "Democratic" party pays big bucks to make the government look bad.
    Jeroen Wenting, Feb 2, 2006
  9. That's because those are being ever more marginalised to the point where
    they'll soon find it impossible to buy anything that suits their needs.
    They'll either have to find other hobbies or professions or move down the
    ladder a few rungs and use Barbiecams.
    Jeroen Wenting, Feb 2, 2006
  10. Jeremy

    Gordon Moat Guest

    Blah, blah, blah. Pretty boring stuff. The future of imaging is more
    cameras that fit into your pocket . . . wow, that really gets me
    excited. I guess the least common denominator is the goal . . . we
    should all be grateful. :p
    Gordon Moat, Feb 2, 2006
  11. Jeremy

    Kinon O'cann Guest

    Pogue. Again. Sheesh....

    "640K is as much RAM as anyone will ever need."

    The prophets have spoken again, I guess.
    Kinon O'cann, Feb 3, 2006
  12. Jeremy

    Peter Chant Guest

    I've got some big pockets. ME Super and 50mm in one coat pocket no problem.
    Peter Chant, Feb 3, 2006
  13. Jeremy

    Beach Bum Guest

    Interesting article. I have a few bones to pick for fun.
    I already know where the picture was taken - I was there when it happened.
    I guess in consumer point and clicks this is true - personally I find 5mp
    pocket camera perfectly fine for situations where my SLR's aren't there, or
    don't belong in the environment (someplace you're not allowed to take photos
    for example).

    But I'd sure like to see more medium format sized sensors.
    Yup, time to toss 100 plus years of ergonomic research to the wind and start
    making crap again. Yay! I hope they don't mind if I stick with my camera
    shaped cameras for the time being.
    Nothing - who does this? I can barely afford to buy a new lens each year.
    Why do I want my camera to connect to the internet? I want it to take
    photos, not play video games, or send email.
    Great, a few focus gimmick features you'll have to turn off every time you
    "boot" the camera because the brilliant designers always forget to save

    I can see the photography news groups filled with "Why won't my camera focus
    on non-human subjects?" and "I can't take photos of my friends when they're
    sleeping. What's going on?"

    Here's a tip for the camera manufacturers - I'll PRESS THE SHUTTER RELEASE
    when I want to take a photo.
    My 20D can take over 1300 shots and my Rebel 2000 (35mm SLR) has been
    shooting on the same batteries for almost 2 years. Funny how technology
    often creates as many problems as it solves.
    Great, now I get to carry my camera around worrying that if I drop it it's
    Uh... Of course you frame through the eyepiece. I WANT to look through the
    eyepiece. Even my laptop LCD doesn't have enough resolution to see what I
    can see through the lens - there's no way the crappy little LCD's on cameras
    will ever have any use at all other than a gimmic for hacks.
    Because pocket cams are cheap and have crappy lenses and tiny sensors.
    What's complex about that?
    One more reason to make archive quality prints of the 1 or 2 /decent/ images
    the average person makes in a lifetime after thousands of exposures. The
    rest might as well be moved to the little trash bin on the desktop.
    It's the end of art as we know it.
    Beach Bum, Feb 3, 2006
  14. Well, this ~was~ the New York Times after all...
    Bob Harrington, Feb 3, 2006
  15. Jeremy

    Jeremy Guest

    Neither did I.

    The Times was reporting on consumer trends.
    Jeremy, Feb 3, 2006
  16. Jeremy

    no_name Guest

    Except that the Next Big Thing could be scanned film.

    One of the instructors talked to a graduate who's doing well in PJ right
    now (getting lots and lots of AP, Time, Newsweek exposure) about recent
    changes in the appearance of his work.

    He's shooting T-Max, scanning the negs, and the editors are apparently
    eating it up.
    no_name, Feb 3, 2006
  17. Jeremy

    Beach Bum Guest

    Consumer - someone who asks why the Canon 5D doesn't have a built-in flash.
    Beach Bum, Feb 3, 2006
  18. and the "Democratic" party pays big bucks to make the government look bad.

    Ironically the Lobbyist are paying the Republicans the big money to make the
    government look bad. The Democrats look their worst when they seek some of
    that easy corporate cash.
    Gene Palmiter, Feb 3, 2006
  19. No. You won't. Future cameras won't have shutter releases... or have any
    need for you at all...

    Lud·dite [lú dit]
    (plural Lud·dites)

    1. Opponent of new technology: somebody who opposes technological or
    industrial innovation.

    2. 19th century protester against technology: a worker involved in protests
    in Britain in the 1810s against new factory methods of production and in
    favor of traditional methods of work.

    [Early 19th century. Origin uncertain: according to tradition, named for Ned
    Ludd , an 18th-century farm worker in Leicestershire, England, who destroyed
    two stocking frames in a fit of rage.]

    Ken Nadvornick, Feb 3, 2006
  20. They will always need my pocketbook........
    William Graham, Feb 3, 2006
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