Where We Are and Where We're Going
The Canon EOS DCS 3 digital camera was introduced in July 1995 and captured images containing 1.3 million pixels. It cost about $17,000.
At times it seems like a digital Rube Goldberg era.
It was only a few short years ago, around 1995, when digital photography appeared on the scene for most of us. In that year, Apple's QuickTake 100 and Kodak's DC40 both broke the $1000 barrier for digital cameras. These filmless cameras captured very small images, but they were immediate hits. They were so popular that a steady stream of better and less expensive digital cameras poured forth from the major camera companies and others. The race was on and the stream of new cameras not only continues, it accelerates. Things have advanced so far that the same money that would have bought one of those early cameras will now buy one that captures images 20 times larger and has many more features such as the ability to capture video and sound, and professional style controls. Just a few short years after their introduction, by 2003 to be exact, digital cameras began outselling film cameras. Film is dead.
While cameras have been improving and gaining wider acceptance, much has been going on in related areas—displaying and sharing the images you capture. At the moment the choices can be bewildering because so much remains to be done. It's as if a 1500 piece puzzle had been opened and the pieces arranged so just parts of the border are assembled. It will take time to fit all of the remaining pieces into place. Despite the field being at such an early stage, some things are clear about where we are and where we are going.
- Interconnectivity. It's become clear that there are far too many devices in the home that don't talk to one another—especially the computer in the home office/bedroom and the TV set in the living or family room. Both increasingly have hard drives on which to store photos, music, and videos, and both have display screens and speakers. There is a big push on to make it easy to share content between these two islands of entertainment. Every device is having wireless capability such as Wi-Fi, card slots, or USB ports added. Eventually we will live in a wireless world but during this transition there are choices to be made.
- Compatibility. Hardware and software aren't always fully compatible. The
only image format that's universally supported is JPEG because it's by far the most common format in digital photography. However, some cameras can also capture images in TIFF, GIF, RAW, and a variety of video formats. In addition, photo-editing programs have their own file formats such as Photoshop's PSD format. If you use these non-JPEG formats, but your software or hardware doesn't support them, you have to stop using them or convert your files to a format that is supported.
- Convergence. Every product is trying to include as many features as possible in the hopes that it will appeal to more people and new features on one product are quickly adopted by other products. Products get larger, more complex, and more alike. Examples of this are everywhere. Software packages let you create slide shows, send photos as e-mail, manage and edit your images. Not too long ago, you needed a separate program to burn CDs and DVDs. Now that feature is integrated into many other programs. The same convergence is happening on the hardware side as cameras are embedded in cell phones; hard drives, DVD recorders, and printers are added to TV sets; and computers take on added responsibilities of managing the TV.
These trends will continue until the field matures. In the meantime, things are more complicated to figure out, but more exciting. As an old curse says, "May you live in interesting times".