Monday, January 04, 2016

Technology Integration

As with many people, I've watched as electronics companies have moved into the product spaces traditionally held by film-era camera and lens manufacturers.  I'm excited by the possibilities this move presents.

Long gone are the days when artistic vision was distanced from sharing by film, processing, and printing.  I used to work in photo labs where we could turn high quality prints around from film hand-off at the front counter to final paper-based print dry in something just under an hour.  If quality wasn't as much a concern, we could get an RC print out in as little as 15 minutes starting from un-processed dry film.

Being freed up from formerly important details such as camera format, film speed, developer type, aperture setting, lighting, and paper type means, I believe, that an artist can pay much more attention to the desired outcome.  When I consider the product offerings of Canon, Nikon, and to some degree even Fuji, I see traditional cameras in traditional camera shapes and sizes, with traditional camera limitations.  These products are not well integrated into our networked world.

I feel that electronics companies have successfully replaced traditional camera and lens manufacturers with highly integrated imaging tools.  Yes, Nikon and Canon still sell millions of cameras a year.  But market conditions have changed.  Apple's, Google's (with the Android OS), Sony's and, Samsung's total market share in imaging have already begun to eclipse that of Canon and Nikon.

As with film camera systems, the desire for DSLR technologies may never fully die off.  Someone somewhere will be able to use the technologies to good effect.  The pace of change in these products has already slowed to the point that Canon didn't update it's 18mpixel APS-C sensor products for four or five years, and only recently added a 20mpixel sensor to the line-up.  There is, at best, weak WiFi integration and Canon offers no in-camera applications.  They remain stuck on using ASIC hosted very very difficult to extend and integrate VxWorks based firmware.

I use Sony A5000 and A6000 cameras (and started that move with an original NEX5 - of which I still have one).  Their integration with networked devices thru WiFi and NFC interfaces is impressive.  I can take a very high quality photo, transfer it to a mobile phone or tablet, process the image using something like Snapseed, and share the image to Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and any place else I might hold an account.  The entire process from shutter click to sharing across the 'net with millions upon millions of potential viewers can take place in as little as 10 seconds.

What the integration of technologies tells me is that the minor differences between traditional imaging systems are much less important than how well imaging is embedded into the overall creative process.  The following should adequately illustrate the point -