How fast does camera technology progress?

Hello everyone,

Not shotcut or video editing related. I currently use my phone to shoot video/photo, but lately I’ve been curious about dedicated cameras (not buying anything anytime soon. Just learning about cameras and looking at prices). I’ve heard about SLR cameras and thought they were fairly new technology, but Wikipedia suggests that this type of camera has been around since the 1950s. Not to mention that a camera from 2013 can still cost hundreds of dollars. 1 year alone is a quantum leap in technology for phone cameras but it seems like dedicated cameras have basically reached a peak? It seems like the difference between one generation and the next for dedicated camera would be a slight bump in mega pixals

Camera manufacturers are still producing innovations year by year, see here:

There’s a good article on the subject of Camera vs Smart Phone here:

There’s also a good article that gives 11 Reasons a SmartPhone is Better: Phone vs Camera and 11 Reasons Your Smartphone Camera May Disappoint You:

The conclusion is: Many of the choices you make about photography equipment will relate to your lifestyle and budget. Some people are quite convinced that their iPhone takes better pictures than a camera. Others are more concerned with the lack of image quality that smartphones produce.

It’s subjective and down to personal requirements. I don’t personally think a phone competes with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

A camera has dedicated hardware designed for photography a phone simply doesn’t have that dedicated hardware. Photography techniques are easier to achieve on a camera than a phone and even when it can be imitated on a phone, it still looks/works better on a camera, bokeh, long exposures, subject tracking, etc.

See also action, 360°, and drone cameras. Sure there are even more specialty categories like endoscopic, but I am naming the more obvious and popular ones. Many categories are catching up to the waves of 10- or 12-bit, HDR, and 8K. Next? Um, surround/ambisonic/360° audio. There will be more.

There are many ways to measure progress.

Megapixels is the most obvious, but usually not the most significant at this point in history. Yes, there are medium format cameras doing 100MP and full-frame cameras doing 60MP, but that’s mostly aimed at pro photographers. Hobbyists are generally fine with 24MP. Video people tend to shoot between 4K (8MP) or 8K (33MP). After that, many other considerations become important, which make a dedicated camera more appealing than a phone, and which have steadily improved over time:

  • Wider sensor dynamic range and color accuracy
  • Ability to remotely trigger flashes and strobes
  • Full manual control of all settings when needed
  • Ergonomics, custom function buttons, speed of operation
  • Much higher-quality video codecs that aren’t variable frame rate
  • Audio inputs for real microphones (XLR) and headphone output
  • Timecode or genlock synchronization with other devices
  • Remote controllable for multi-cam studio or single-user use
  • Interchangeable lenses from ultra-wide to super-telephoto
  • Lenses that can resolve sharper images with fewer distortions
  • Ability to mount filters: polarizers, G/V/ND, diffusion, etc.
  • Auto-focus detection for bikes, trains, cars, birds, dogs, etc.
  • Can rig with follow-focus if there’s a second person to pull focus
  • Dual native ISO on the sensor for lower-noise low-light footage
  • Pixel-shift high resolution modes for sensors with IBIS
  • True optical background blur, not the fake stuff an iPhone does
  • Weather sealing improvements

And naturally, with a dedicated camera, it’s possible to keep recording while answering a phone call lol.

Each of these categories has stepped up over the last few years. A lot of cameras could only record in 8-bit video. Now, most of them can do 10-bit or some form of RAW. IBIS keeps improving, and new lenses keep opening new opportunities.

The Panasonic GH6 and OM System’s new camera (dubbed the “WOW” camera) are supposed to be revealed at the CP+ show in Japan on February 22-27. These will be new flagship cameras that should give us an idea of what’s next to come. There are rumors that one of them may be using a Quad Bayer sensor with crazy-fast readout, meaning it could sample a scene twice but at different exposure values, and merge the two together to increase the dynamic range. If true, that would be a really big deal.

So yes, I generally agree that things got a little slow in the camera world for a few years. But it recently got interesting when Nikon and Canon moved into the mirrorless world, then Fuji released an awesome 100MP medium format, then Panasonic went full-frame, and now Micro Four Thirds could potentially break all-new ground in Quad Bayer or computational photography with their new high-speed sensors. It’s about to get exciting again.

As for DSLR… yeah, it’s dead except for a few niche fields. Mirrorless is the main product line for most manufacturers now.

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