Consumer Electronics & Appliance News, Reviews & Information.

25
Apr 12

Focusing on the future of digital cameras


Old-timey flash camera

Photography has come a long way... how much further does it have to go? (Photo by Couch Commando used under Creative Commons)

Looking into the future can sometimes be a little tough, especially when it comes to looking at what the next top rated digital camera is going to be.

I had a whole bunch of puns about bringing things into focus, and finding the right angle to look into the future. But I’ll spare you the pain and just get right into the camera technology that really gives us a snapshot of the future.

Shoot now, focus later

For the most part, once you take a photo, it’s set in stone. If you’re taking pictures of multiple subjects and get a blurry foreground, or something launches into frame and ruins your focus, you’re stuck with that photo. Forever. Or at least until you hit the delete button.

Not so with the Lytro camera. We wrote a bit about it back in January when it won CES 2012′s Last Gadget Standing competition. As a basic refresher, this camera plays with light fields by capturing more information through multiple sensors, then running it through an internal processor so that you can go back and play with the focus of your images. From there, you can upload them to a Lytro gallery, and post what Lytro calls Living Images to your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or other website. Check out the photo below for an idea of how it works (you can click the progression to play with the actual photo).

Lytro image

It's a very different image depending on what's in focus (Image from lytro.com)

While it’s very cool for online picture sharing, it doesn’t translate very well if you’re the type who likes to print photos. While there are options for creating JPEGs from these images, they tend to be small when compared to photos taken with other top rated digital cameras (around 5″ x 5″) because most of the information captured in the photos is dedicated to refocusing the light patterns.

Still, there’s a lot of potential here, especially for the amateur photographer who messes up a shot. While the Living Images are pretty amazing, it will be interesting to see when this tech gets integrated into more standard cameras so you can beef up your actual photo album alongside your digital one.

3D images and panorama dreams

Strictly speaking, 3D photos aren’t a new phenomenon. Stereoscopy has been creating the illusion of depth for years. Even panoramic photos have been being created by stitching together multiple frames since almost the first pictures were being taken.

Kogeto Dot

The most roundabout way of taking photos?

What has changed is how easy it’s become to do it. Many of today’s top rated digital cameras actually have modes that make creating these types of images as simple as hitting the shutter button and spinning the camera around the area you want the panorama. There are even lenses built specifically for taking this 3D and panoramic photos (heck, there’s even one for your iPhone — the Kogeto Dot).

Of course, there’s still a downside to this tech (and it’s going to be a pretty familiar one) — it’s still mostly digital only. While the individual images can be pulled and printed in fairly high quality, since each is its own still, panoramas are fairly hard to show off outside of a website. 3D images from most cameras require a 3D flat screen TV, along with all the limitations that come from it.

Remove unwanted people and things

It’s every photographer’s worst nightmare. You’ve got the perfect shot, and suddenly there’s something unexpected in the frame. Whether it’s a photobomb or just a random object or passerby, your photo is ruined.

Scalado’s Remove seeks to change that. By taking multiple pictures over a short time, this software automatically allows you to remove objects and people that you don’t want in your shot — as long as it can get a good image of the background.

Remove by Scalado

Getting rid of pesky background stuff (photo courtesy of Scalado)

This particular tech has only very, very recently been released, and it’s not clear where you’re going to find it. Given the (relative) simplicity of what it’s doing, and the success that Scalado has had with its mobile photo gallery app, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that it’ll be coming to a mobile phone near you soon.

Digital paper saves the day

Most of the stuff that’s been making the future of photography look fairly good has been mostly on the digital front. In the age of online galleries and Facebook, that makes sense, but there’s a certain amount of traditionalist in me that still wants to see this stuff framed, or preserved in a photo album.

That’s where digital paper comes in. While it’s still in its infancy, it could be a huge boon to these types of digital only technologies. Imagine looking through a photo album, being able to refocus images (hey, who’s that person in the background?), spin impressive panoramas, and even see real time 3D images without the glasses? It’s got a certain appeal to it.

Are there any other new pieces of photography tech that you think are cool? Or is there anything you’d like to see? Let us know in the comments.



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