Our cameras are pretty amazing tools. Compared to just a short few years ago, their capabilities are immense. Although it might not seem like it, there are still plenty of areas where our cameras could be improved. We might look at our images and think there is little room for improvement technically. However, think back a few years, and you were probably saying the same thing. However, our image quality is demonstrably better today than five years ago. So what are the things that could be improved in the next generation of cameras?
Dynamic range is one of the biggest things that can be improved. This is particularly true with smaller sensors but also pertinent to full frame cameras. Modern cameras can reproduce between 11-14 stops of dynamic range. A pretty high figure but a long way to go before it matches our own vision.
Dynamic range is a technology that certainly improves with each generation of camera. Recent advances have introduced software improvements as well as hardware to help us get the maximum dynamic range. It could be that faster processors and advanced software will be the key to improving dynamic range in the future.
Low Light Performance
Another key area for improvement, low light performance is important to many of us. Again massive strides have been made. However, these have generally been limited to larger sensors cameras such as the Nikon, Canon and Sony full frame machines. APS-C and m43 sensors have improved but are not yet competing with full frame. The problem is pixel density. To keep up with demand for higher resolutions, pixels need to be closer and closer together. This is proving challenging for the sensor manufacturers. They have find a happy medium between noise reduction and resolution. Like dynamic range this is more likely to be improved using software rather than hardware.
Write speeds are tremendous compared to a short few years ago, but they could be better. The reason is that more and more of us prefer to shoot RAW. With increased resolution RAW file sizes are becoming huge and our cameras struggle to process these files. This is especially true when we are shooting in fast continuous modes.
Whilst our camera might rattle of continuous Jpegs at 12 frames per second for dozens of shots, switch to RAW and this soon slows down. Not only that, the buffer can take much longer to clear with RAWs.
Improved write speeds will depend not only on the camera manufacturers finding faster ways to write files but also memory card companies improving the capabilities of their flash memory.
This is the big challenge for mirrorless cameras at the moment. Whilst DSLRs have incredible battery life, the mirrorless equivalents struggle. This is due to their increased power consumption, electronic viewfinders being the main culprit, and smaller size, hence smaller batteries.
Given the rapid improvements in battery technology over recent years, I am sure we will soon start to see mirrorless cameras lasting the same number of shots as their DSLR equivalents.
Auto Focus Capabilities
The area in which auto focus could best be improved is perhaps artificial intelligence. Today’s focusing systems are incredibly rapid, but they sometimes fall flat on moving subjects. A.I. would improve the way focusing systems predict movement, especially erratic movement of subjects.
Another area where focus could be improved is in low light and low contrast situations. These are particularly weak areas for current focussing systems.
Resolution is an interesting one as it is possibly more driven by consumer demand than practical applications. Whilst professionals might require ultra high resolution for commercial work, the vast majority of prosumers do not need it. Yet, for some reason resolution has always been the marker of technological improvement in digital cameras. This improved resolution is often at the expense of image noise at higher ISOs.
The increasing addition of IBIS or in-body image stabilisation to cameras demonstrates that the manufacturers are taking this very seriously as a technological advance. Some companies now have cameras that have dual stabilisations systems, in body and on lens that work together.
The improvement in this technology is driven both by the increasing demand for video and the technological hurdles of increased resolution and image noise. The later being countered by the ability to hand hold the camera at much lower ISOs.
Technology in photography is increasing at a rapid rate, yet the above issues are likely to be the biggest areas for improvement for several years ahead. What are the technological advances you would most like to see in your future cameras?