Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 08:00 AM
Welcome to 2011! The last decade was a breath-taking one for digital photography, and the last few years have brought about a torrent of changes and improvements, along with the digital revolution settling down somewhat. Still, a new year brings new possibilities, and here is what I would like to see for 2011:
1. Open Platform Camera
One reason for the popularity of cameras in smartphones is the software you can add to it. Want different effects? Download an app to process them on the phone. Want to see said effects in real-time? Download an app to replace the default camera app. Want an intervalometer? Download an app for that too!
Having an open platform for developers to add functionality to the camera would be an amazing selling point. This would go beyond consumer-level gee-whiz; there is plenty for for enthusiasts too. Change button assignments, tone curves (this has existed but not always the easiest to do), even autofocus and auto exposure behaviour for the adventerous. There is also something to be said for spending less time in image editors...
Of course this would kill some manufacturers' unique selling points. Olympus and their Art Filters will probably be the first casualty. Coupled with most camera companies being conservative in nature, this is unlikely to happen from a traditional manufacturer. Anyone out there willing to take a chance on this?
2. Truly Connected Cameras
Tying in with the above point on open platforms, connectivity is the next big thing. Most of us share our photos digitally nowadays, and the Internet is the main way to do this. Standalone cameras still rely heavily on having a computer to do this. Smartphone cameras are showing the way this should be done, so where are the connected cameras? The Olympus E-PL2's bluetooth dongle (a leaked piece of news at this time of writing) is a step forward, and hopefully will set the tone for the rest of the year.
3. Histogram Priority Metering Mode
This is for the enthusiasts, and is an idea from a good friend of mine. For the uninitiated, the histogram is basically a graph that shows the sum of each pixel's luminance levels (which simply put, the brightness) is in the image. Generally it is a good idea to make sure most of the pixels are within the histogram. If there are too many pixels that touch the left or right edges of the histogram, it indicates that those pixels are under or overexposed and cannot be recovered from, since they're at minimum or maximum levels and are thus pure black and pure white respectively.
Now, on live view cameras, live histograms are already present, and are monitoring the scene in real-time. Why not use the data to enable the camera to pick an exposure that pushes the histogram to suit the user's preference? Instead of relying on metering modes that were based on photometers of limited resolution, the camera now can use the entire imaging sensor and a simpler alogrithm to set the exposure.
Note that this will not provide a perfect exposure. The primary goal is to allow an image that has all available detail for image processing work.
4. Three Dial Paradigm
For film cameras, the two exposure controls were the aperture and the shutter speed. Digital cameras carry this forward, but now have the ability to set ISO as well. After several years of mucking around with ISO button placement, why not have a third dial that can be customised? For most this will default to ISO, but it can also be used for white balance, metering modes, flash modes, etc. Placement will be key, of course, but it will make the camera easier to configure while shooting.
5. New Wide-angle Primes for APS-sized and Smaller Sensors
Sometimes, I just want to travel light (or with less bulk). Lenses can be both heavy and bulky, so the solution here is to use prime lenses. As an ultra-wide lover, there are just no compact primes in the ultra-wide segment for cameras using APS-sized and smaller sensors. Even the 35mm film-sized sensors have to rely on legacy lenses which may not give the best results.
6. HDR Fad Finally Dies
The fad has been going out of hand for a while now, so I would love to see it just go away. HDR is a useful tool, but the garish colours and terrible haloing around most HDR photos is just plain bad. Just because it looks different does not mean it is good, nor should it be used all the time.
7. "Miniature" Tilt Fad Dies Too
I first saw the effect some five or six years ago (and I am sure it has been around longer than that), and thought it was neat. Now, I have an allergic reaction to them. Like HDR photos, most "miniature" shots are poorly done, and done inappropriately. Again: Just because it looks different...
8. People Upgrading Knowledge Instead of New Equipment
I am guilty of this sometimes (my next piece is about lenses); it is easier to talk, research and discuss hard quantifiable things like equipment. Knowledge and appreciate of art? Not so much. Still, I am amazed by those who buy 5D Mark IIs and D3Xs and have no idea what depth of field is.
9. Nikon to Release Capture NX3 as a Photoshop Plug-in, and Outsource Development
Nikon is just not a software company. So why does it insist on doing its own thing? Adobe Camera RAW while fast, just does not render Nikon NEFs to the standard I want. Capture NX2 is still slow and clunky, and is only used when needed, which is sadly too often. Coupled with statements like "Windows 7 64-bit support may or may not happen" one year after Windows 7's release means Nikon really needs to hand this off to someone who can do this fast and well.
10. Megapixel Wars Stop
I guess not. Sigh.
So, what would you like to see in 2011, photography-wise? Give a shout out in the comments!
Lee Yuan Sheng now dreads the coming of another year, but no more than another bump in meaningless specifications. Having been doing this photography thing for quite sometime now (soon to be 18 he reckons), he now does mostly freelance work in a place he will not mention.
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