5 camera technologies that will dominate 2008

Megapixels are so over. They've lost their marketing mojo. Now that sensors have stopped growing exponentially in terms of megapixels, new cameras don't even bother advertising their size.

But we're cool with that, since it lets other camera technologies take center stage. At the Photo Marketing Association's annual trade show this week, there were certainly plenty of new cameras and photo gear from the likes of Canon and Nikon, but the it's the technology within them — innovations like wireless and GPS — that's the real star. Click Continue to read how technology is changing how you'll take photos in 2008, from the seasoned pro to the most casual point-and-shooter.

pma_geotagging_2.jpg1. Geotagging
Geotagging is the process of adding latitude and longitude coordinates to photos. For most of us, this means a hassle-tastical adventure in clicking and dragging around in Google Earth or Yahoo Maps to manually mark the location where we took our photos. The new trend is towards adding a GPS unit to the camera either at the manufacturing stage or as an option later on. There were a number of solutions on the floor on PMA, and each with its own approach.

The most novel and innovative being ATP's GPS PhotoFinder ($100). As a standalone device, it tracks and logs up to 550 hours of GPS data and then uses its SD slot to automatically add the geotags to the JPEG images on the card. Unfortunately, it does not work with CompactFlash and it can't do anything with RAW images, but for the point-and-shoot set, this thing is crazy simple.

Geotate, a newly formed subsidiary of NXP, provides hardware and software solutions to OEMs. Their new chip, which costs about $3, can add built-in geotagging capability to cameras. They also had a hot-shoe mountable reference design that would enable users who already have DSLRs to add the ability to their cameras. Jobo released a similar version this year, but based on its own hardware.

Geotagging can also be done with an existing GPS device, so long as the time is properly synced between the camera and GPS device and you have the software to extrapolate the data. Merax's PhotoFinder GPS (not to be confused with ATP's GPS PhotoFinder) does basically that. Rather than hooking to the camera or syncing with a card directly, it just gathers data as one cruises around, and then adds the geotags to the images upon import to the computer. As an added bonus, the device can be used as a navigation device with its built-in Bluetooth connection.


pma_dynamic.jpg2. Increased Dynamic Range
One of the big fads in digital imaging right now is tonemapping of HDR images. In essence, this means taking, say, 32 bits of color data and adjusting it to fit within an 8-bit color space, which is what our monitors and papers are capable of reproducing.

It was only a matter of time before camera manufacturers started looking for a way to get the most out of their sensors, which are 12- and 14-bit these days. Raw imaging is one way to preserve all the data, allowing for post-processing on the computer, but doing it on the camera appeals to many people. Nikon introduced D-Lighting as their way of getting more detail into the shadow areas of their photos. Panasonic recently added similar functionality to their point-and-shoots under the moniker of Intelligent ISO. Samsung threw all caution to the wind and just called theirs HDR.

This technology has a long ways to go, but with camera resolutions where they are today, it seems logical that some of that resolution could be thrown at getting different ISO sensitivity readings from a single frame and actually create a full 32-bit file. If HDR turns out not to be a passing fad like Sepia toning, perhaps this will be something to look for in the next few years.


pma_face.jpg3. Face Recognition
This really seemed like a gimmick when it got big last year, but with cameras being able to track up to 15 faces, detect smiles and recognize the photographer when he steps into the frame for a self shot, it takes on a whole other level of creepy usefulness. FotoNation is the primary driving force behind the embedded software that does this.


pma_hdvideo.jpg4. HD Video and 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Consumer cameras wind up being used to create content for consumer use. With the HD revolution nearly upon us and the overall move to widescreen everything, it just makes sense to fit the camera format into the mold. The downside comes with printing, but that's probably something that will be dealt with too. Maybe 4 x 7.77-inch photo paper will be the new 4 x 6. The newest point-and-shoot cameras are all outputting 720p video.


pma_wifi.jpg5. Wi-Fi
Nikon's been doing it right for a while. Samsung is trying to do it right-er by adding the functionality to virtually all of their consumer electronics. Panasonic is in on the game too. For everybody else there's Eye-Fi, a 2GB SD card with a Wi-Fi controller that automatically beams the images from the camera to the computer. Is it a gimmick or is it a necessity? Time will tell.