Connectivity, 4K Video to Lead Changes in Photo Industry: Panel

Connectivity and 4k video will be the main driving forces changing the future of photography, a panel of industry experts concluded Wednesday night on the eve of the PhotoPlus Expo (PPE) trade show in New York. Other key drivers will be the innovation taking place with smartphone photography, increasing consumer interest and enthusiasts' wishes to have a satisfying user experience beyond merely turning out images.

That's in a nutshell what Scott Kelby (Kelby Media Group), Chuck Westfall (Canon USA), Steve Heiner (Nikon USA), Mark Weir (Sony America) and Chris Chute (International Data Corp) concluded in a look toward 2020.

Wifi connectivity to networks and phones/tablets is still in its early days, several speakers said, but will become ubiquitous in the years ahead. The glitches will disappear and speed will increase. It will be 'easier and faster,' according to Westfall.

Couple this with cloud storage, and people will find a secure way to keep their captured memories safe for future generations.

4k video, which is about to become affordable at both the production and the viewing ends, combined with new compression standards, will herald a new era in video, the panel concluded.

For pros, this means that a new market for high-quality video opens up. For everybody else it means that photography and video will mesh even closer together. That's because one single frame of a 4k video stream is an 8mp still image. You could shoot a couple of seconds of film to pick the best frame afterward, Westfall said.

At the same time, existing technology will improve. The mirror box on the DSLR will disappear as EVF technology gathers speed. Image quality and resolution will continue to evolve. On-sensor AF will become more prominent. Dynamic range will expand. 'The image sensor is going to get closer to human vision,' Sony's Weir said.

Weir also said the electronic component of cameras will more and more provide solutions to existing shortcomings. This change is partly driven by the enormous R&D effort in the smartphone industry. As Westfall said, the amount of research the camera manufacturers undertake pales in comparison with the activity in the cellphone industry. This will lead to better handling of noise, improved face recognition and other improvements.

While the point-and-shoot market is suffering from the rise of the smartphone, the camera makers say that DSLR and other camera sales benefit from the millions of people exposed to photography via their phones. Lots of people want to move up after taking up phone photography.

Nobody predicted the demise of high-resolution still photography or still cameras. As a matter of fact, several speakers pointed out that part of the attraction remains the gear itself and the experience using that gear. 'There are a lot of people who really love the equipment,' Nikon's Heiner said.

Kelby took everything a step further and mentioned five changes for the coming 10 years: the end of the f-stop (it will be a range, a slider or something like that); the viewfinder will actually show what the final image will look like; end of screw-on attachments, like filters and tripods (in-camera tech will take over); noise will be gone; not all lenses will be made from glass (other more efficient and lighter materials will be used instead). Someone not at the panel's table will say: 'Let's start from scratch,' Kelby said.

By John van Rosendaal