The image is getting clearer…no, wait. All those extra megapixels are fogging it up! Let me switch to a lower-resolution sensor. That’s better. Now let’s take a look in my crystal ball and make some predictions for the new year in photography…
1. 16MP will be the new 14MP
Alas, I predict the blind march towards higher pixel counts will continue for compact digital cameras. Last year, the uninformed masses were told by camera manufacturers that 14MP cameras were “better” (even though test after test proved that they produced overall inferior images) while compact cameras made for knowledgeable amateurs actually had their resolution reduced to 10MP, with better results. There’s a new 16MP sensor that’s making the rounds. Expect to find it on compact cameras selling for $150-300 later this year. Unless they’re accompanied by a technological breakthrough, avoid them.
2. Someone will unveil a full-frame sensor-based MILC
First came micro four-thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, all impressive examples of interchangeable-lens miniaturization. Then Sony and Samsung came out with cameras that were even smaller…but sported larger APS-sized sensors. I predict the next big leap in this process will be a small interchangeable-lens camera built around a 35mm-sized sensor. It will be marginally larger than the Micro-Four-Thirds MILCs, and smaller than the Leica M9 (which is currently the smallest full-frame camera on the market). And I have a feeling it will come from either Nikon or Canon. Or, maybe from both.
3. An iPad killer will launch…and fail
While the Droid smart phone is starting to challenge the iPhone, I don’t think we’ll see similar success with any tablet computer launched this year. I do think Apple will continue to refine its product so really, even if someone comes out with a challenger for the current iPad, Apple will have already moved on to an even better system. By the way, Apple recently announced a timeline that includes a more iPad-like interface (including apps) for its desktop and laptop computer operating system—something we may see by this summer.
4. Sony will unveil a sensor will practically can see in the dark
Sony this year established itself as king of the Sensor supply chain, providing sensors that let users get usable pictures at ISO 6400 and even higher—speeds that photographers have never been able to get before with decent results. I don’t expect this company to rest on its laurels. The Nikon D3s and Canon EOS 1D Mark IV have established a new standard with a sensor that goes way up to ISO 102,800. Look for Sony to better that performance. The next technical hurdle: Reliable autofocus in near-dark conditions to complement the next generation of high-ISO sensors.
5. The Fuji X100 will live up to high expectations, but will have a higher-than expected price tag.
Call me crazy, but I actually am beginning to believe Fujifilm’s marketing hype about their hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder-based X100. Their unstated goal is to create a Leica killer, an ambitious goal; all other Leica-killer wannabes in the past have fallen short, mainly due to a kludgy interface and a slow-reacting shutter release. Fuji is promising an 0.01 sec. shutter lag and if that really happens, we may have something to talk about. On the other hand, there’s price. Fuji has been silent on this subject, but because of its uniqueness, I don’t expect this camera to come in at under $1,000. In fact, it could end up costing significantly more. In any event, I can’t wait to take it to the streets and put it through its paces and see if reality comes close to the hype.
6. Eliminating shutter lag will (or should) be the next big thing
Memo to camera makers: Those of us who were weaned on film cameras clearly remember that even when using the cheapest compact camera, when you pressed the button, the shutter went off. It is frustrating when you press the shutter release and then have to wait as long as a second before the camera takes a picture if you’re photographing kids, pets, or sports. Don’t give us technical reasons why digital cameras have lag time. Panasonic has made good progress reducing lag time, and this should be a priority this year for everyone else. Stop pushing unnecessary pixels (see prediction #1, above), and focus on this turn-off issue.
7. The last film SLR will roll off the assembly line
A look at Adorama’s 35mm SLR section tells a sad, but not surprising, tale: Film SLRs are a dying breed. There are only three cameras still in circulation: The Canon EOS-1V, the Nikon FM-10, and the Vivitar 3800N. For any other variety, you must look at used gear. Demand continues to dwindle, and if the last film SLR hasn’t already quietly rolled off the assembly line, I predict it will this year. The good news? DSLRs will keep on getting better!