Imagine the year 2020: Augmented reality glasses like Google Glass are everywhere. Cars are connected and, in some cases, driverless. Your smartphone is less a phone than a command center uniting the various nodes of your technological self -- watch, glasses, wallet and car alike.
But what about your personal camera? What will it look like in 2020? Will you even own one? In recent years, we've seen smartphones stomp out nearly every reason to own a traditional point-and-shoot camera. You can expect that transition to run its course over the next few years. And the outlook for mobile technology is nothing if not ominous for dedicated consumer shooters.
Even some high-end DSLRs and mirrorless system cameras may be supplanted by mobile devices with ever-improving image quality.
You can't talk about the future of digital imaging without talking about resolution, specifically the surging influence of ultra high-definition video, which includes 4K (2160p) and 8K (4320p) resolution. As ultra high-def video becomes cheaper and more available, it will find its way into smartphones, augmented reality glasses, tablets and other camera-equipped devices.
Major advances in wireless and battery technology, as well as the proliferation of superfast fiber-optic broadband connections, will only facilitate this transition. That's one reason analysts expect 8K broadcasting to be commonplace by 2020 (the 2016 Rio Olympics will be shot in 8K).
But here's the kicker: A single still of 4K video is roughly the equivalent of an 8-megapixel image. That means photographers shooting in ultra high-definition (UHD) can pull high-quality images from video, and use them for anything from family portraits to photo finishes. All of this translates to more control and creative freedom for photographers, albeit with fewer barriers to entry.
"I suspect by 2020 we will see 8K video capture become a standard feature in whatever happens to be a camera at that time," says Chris Chute, a digital imaging research director at analytics firm IDC. "Wires may also be a thing of the past, as we already rely on Wi-Fi , and wireless charging is not far behind."
There are already high-end camcorders, such as the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, that shoot photo-quality raw stills, all of which can be extracted for photographic purposes. Seven years from now, with the ubiquity of UHD, it's not hard to imagine a situation where instead of counting down and saying cheese, you simply point your camera at your family and it autonomously grabs a dozen print-worthy stills. Eventually, it may stitch together each guest's best look to form one perfect moment that never actually happened. (continued...)
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