Thursday, February 02, 2006

New Digital Camera "Smarts" sound exciting

I was just reading David Pogue's interesting overview of new digital camera features.

"They may include global positioning system receivers, so that, as you browse your photos in iPhoto or Picasa, you'll know not only when you took them, but where."

What I would like to see is a camera with a built-in barcode scanner. Then, if museums and tradeshow vendors would include a barcode providing details of individual exhibits, I could just scan the bar code rather than my current technique of photographing the exhibit labels. Photographing the labels not only takes up as much space as a regular picture but can be quite tricky in low light conditions trying to get sharp focus to enable me to read it afterwards.

"Some of Nikon's CoolPix models already contain face-recognition software, a feature that supposedly assists focus by scanning the scene for human facial features. And Canon is working on even more sophisticated recognition software. One, called Blink Shot, would prevent the camera from taking the picture when your subject's eyes are closed. A companion feature, called Smile Shot, waits to fire until your subject manages a grin."

Of course batteries are getting better.

"According to Mr. Westfall of Canon, however, the future is hydrogen fuel cells, which will provide far longer-lasting power. "This technology is already in development," he said. "They'll probably make their debut in laptop batteries first, and then make their way into cellphones and digital cameras."

There's the predictable push for bigger and brighter viewing screens as well.

"Unfortunately, the bigger the screen, the greater the power drain. The buzz among camera designers these days, therefore, is OLED screens (organic light-emitting diode), which offer much better brightness but much lower power consumption. You can expect to see such screens within the next year."

New liquid lenses are predicted to replace the heavy glass lenses and lighten the load (and improve camera stability) as well.

"When an electrical charge is applied to a liquid lens, the droplet changes shape. Apply the charge in just the right way, and you can make the droplet change focus, or even zoom. Although liquid-lens technology is only in its infancy, it could one day replace the huge, heavy discs of glass that weigh down the digital S.L.R."

David says the megapixel race is finally coming to an end with the current 8 megapixel range. ( Personally, I stopped worrying about megapixels at 5).

The one thing he didn't mention that is important to me is an improvement in ISO range. My Panasonic FZ20's ISO range of 400 is really nice but would be even better at 800 or even 1200 without the introduction of unacceptable noise levels. I prefer never to use a flash if at all possible so I can retain as much original color depth as possible (I shoot a lot of museum exhibits for educational use). Camcorders seem to have conquered the low light issue. I would like this issue more seriously addressed in digital still cameras as well.
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