Food for thought - The future of digital photography

Food for thought
- The future of digital photography

The emergence of smartphone with instant access to facebook/Flickr/Instagram has made digital photographer for the masses very different from the past. Every mass consumer likes something compact, convenient, "smart" and good enough for selfie or record shots of family and friends. They do not require good pixel quality as they do not see the need to make large prints.

Over a span of a year or two, the digital compact camera market is nearly wiped out and made irrelevant. Imagine a smartphone has sensor the same size as that of a digital compact camera which means both can provide equally good quality. Why do we need a digital compact camera then.

Now, eventually a line is drawn very clearly between the big boys and small boys. The line drawn between smartphone and DSLRs/cameras which can change lenses and bigger sensors.

For daily life, we can make do with the smartphone for our daily record shots and selfies. However, if we are to embark on a $3800 worth of photo tour to Japan or Inner Mongolia, many amateur photographers would logically use the DSLR/Mirrorless and rent some lenses to go with them. Yes, we are saying serious amateur photographers like you and me, not the ah mah or uncles or aunties who do not practice some form of serious photography.

It is a matter of time when we shall see smartphone with interchangeable lenses as now we are seeing "lens adaptor" being used in the market. Nowadays, you can convert your smartphone lens into a fisheye lens by attaching the fisheye convertor onto the smartphone lens. It is also a matter of time when all smartphones can have features like a pro digital compact camera like the exposure modes, range of ISO, range of WB, range of EV exposure compensation, etc. However, out of the billions of users, how many users actually need these except for the millions of serious amateur photographers who used to or currently own a DSLR or Mirrorless? How will the size of the smartphones be affected? Back to the 1980s days of huge handphones?

For the camera brands who are seen struggling against dipping sales in their camera products and blaming the emergence of smartphone, all is not lost. It is not the end of DSLR or Mirrorless etc. The DSLR technology has to keep improving with bigger sensors, faster focusing, WIFI capability and better lenses etc, which will differentiate it from the highly popular smartphones.

Going fullframe for all DSLRs and Mirrorless is another step to differentiate them from smartphones. How about sensors that has much wider dynamic range and also having an option for "variable noise"... which I predict will happen one day, where the user can use ISO100 through ISO12800 and yet maintain the same level of noise and you can select the noise level. Cool yah? Imagine shooting at ISO12800 with noise similar to ISO100, or you can choose otherwise.

Sales of DSLR is not dipping everywhere. In some countries, the sales of DSLR has risen and complained of lack of stock. Such irony.

And yes, more medium format digital cameras are made more affordable. Pentax has its 645Z and rumours have it that Nikon and Canon will have their medium format version out by this year after Nikon patented a medium format lens last year. Serious amateurs are eyeing these and yearning for high quality pixels for cropping and large prints.

Large prints are no longer expensive with an A0 size print with laminate cost a mere SGD$40. Yes, many will feel proud of have their photographs enlarged and displayed on the walls at home.

Eventually, we will reach a stage where a camera is a camera and a smartphone is a smartphone, just like an smart microwave can never replace a frying wok for the same type of food. There will be diehards who stick to their smartphones and there will still be that millions of serious amateurs who continue to use DSLRs.

Most importantly, enjoy photography. I am enjoying my Samsung S5 and also my Nikon and Pentax DSLR, and very soon, the 645...

Steven Yee Pui Chung
Founder, Knowledge Bowl

Whatever happens in the future doesn't make the current crop of cameras useless. When the technology evolves we evolve with it.

Well, we seriously hope so.

But it is important that NOW, yes it is now, at such a critical turning point, that it must be made aware that photography is not all about using Smartphone to snap and doing away with the basics of photography and the cameras.

We cannot stop market forces, majority of the billion of users worldwide to say goodbye to cameras and move towards smartphones. But we can continue to propagate the hobby of photography using cameras with all those great functions and manual over rides.

What are the differences between smartphones and digital cameras? Lots!

We hope the market forces will not send the wrong signal to the camera makers who are now very skeptical of their future, as recent moves by them showed that they are very worried

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