Predictions About the Future of Digital Photography


While film was the medium of choice only a little more than ten years ago, the focus has quickly shifted to digital and technology is evolving at a rapid pace.

What is the future of digital photography? Wouldn’t we like to know that? Actually, wouldn’t we like to know the future of many other things as well, like love (will Aishwarya Rai finally meet and fall for me?), money (will I get richer than, e.g., Aishwarya Rai?), or work (will I get to work with Aishwarya Rai?), etcetera? But let’s focus on digital photography here.

One way of trying to predict the future is to look at history, which is no worse method than most other predictive techniques. Therefore I had a look at press releases from 2001 about digital photography. One can say that this year digital photography was really established, as the previous year was the first time more digital cameras than film cameras were used by the press at the Summer Olympics.

So, based on what happened in 2001, what may happen in the future? Well, let’s first see where we were in 2001.

In January 2001 “JVC triumphantly follows last year’s debut of JVC’s first 3.3 Megapixel CCD Digital Still Camera with two new powerhouses – the GC-QX5HD and GC-QX3HD”. Furthermore, “both of these 3.3 Megapixel digital still cameras offer 1080i HDTV output as well as many other advanced features”. Additionally, the cameras had “less than three second start-up” and they cost between 899 and 999 USD.

The same month, Polaroid announced the PDC 2300Z, allowing consumers to “have access to the high-quality digital imagery used by professionals”. And indeed, the PDC 2300Z was Polaroid’s “first two-megapixel digital camera produced for the consumer market”. Imagine that; two megapixels.

As the year 2001 moved along, it only got better. In February, Toshiba announced four new digital cameras. A few months later, in May, Konica announced two new digital cameras, the Digital Revio KD-200Z with a 2.1 megapixel CCD and a 3x optical zoom lens, as well as the KD-300Z with a 3.34MP CCD and 2x optical zoom lens. Both these cameras had a sensitivity up to 400 ISO.

In September, Agfa announced that they would fire 20% of its workforce so that the company could focus more intensely on digital imaging. The same month, Minolta announced the compact, DiMAGE E203. This 2 megapixel was “a step up from the E201 as it adds a F2.8 – F4.6, 3x optical zoom lens. What’s also significant about the E203 is its storage format. Unlike the E201 which has a Compact Flash slot, the E203 has an SD/MMC slot and is provided with an 8 MB SD card”. Note that it was an 8 MegaByte card and not a 8 GigaByte.

In November, Kyocera Optics, Inc. was “pleased to announce the launch of the Contax N Digital, the world’s first digital SLR camera to employ a full-frame 35mm, 24 x 36mm, 6+ megapixelCCD”. Remarkably, this was a full frame digital camera, and it offered “a high-resolution equivalent to film-based photography, meeting the needs of both professional and serious amateur photographers”. As noted, the sensor had slightly over 6MP.

Come December and Minolta announced it “would focus its resources on the fast-growing market for digital cameras”. This announcement made the stock go up a whopping 8.39% in the first hours after it was made.

Based on these announcements during 2001, I believe several predictions can be made about the future of digital photography.

Firstly, the amount of megapixel and high ISO will continue to increase. One should not be surprised if in a relatively near future even the cheapest compact cameras will have 50 megapixel and up to 1,00,000 ISO.

Secondly, many new developments aren’t that new after all. For example, full-frame sensor, HDTV output, and in-camera imaging software meant to partly replace the post-treatment done on the computer, are not new ideas. Rather, it simply seems that the present market is riper for such features.

Thirdly, have you noted that none of the companies mentioned above still exists within the digital imaging market? Consequently, rest assured that out of today’s companies, quite a few of them will not be around in the future. Which ones? My guess is that the companies only focusing on the low-end market run the biggest risk of disappearing.

So, what is the overall conclusion about the future of digital photography? Well, it would seem that even though we can predict quite a lot, we still do not know what will actually be. Predictions are that complicated. Just like digital photographers. Or trying hooking up with Aishwarya Rai.

Tags: July 2011, Gabriel Fuchs, Digital Photography, Future of Photography, History of digital photography