Over the last decade, innovations in technology have changed how we live. Nothing can better represent that, literally and figuratively, than the innovations in imaging technology and photography.
Creating images as innovation is often overlooked. After all, humans have done it since time immemorial. From early humans painting their lives on cave walls to the camera obscura and pinhole cameras, to eventually the first modern camera in the 1800s, to the DSLRs and compact cameras, and now our phones, imaging has evolved to cater to our ever-changing needs.
In recent years, camera imaging technology has improved so dramatically but is so much a part of our daily lives we now barely notice how much it has evolved.
The shift to smartphone photography and cinematography
One of the most apparent changes in cameras, in general, is our shift in preferences. Now, the smartphone camera has become the primary shooter for the general public. This is no surprise because smartphone cameras have gotten so good that a separate digital compact camera is no longer needed.
The smartphone camera has dramatically improved in two main aspects — hardware and software. On the hardware side, the sensor on phone cameras has gotten bigger every year. Recently Xiaomi launched the Xiaomi 12s Ultra, a smartphone with a full 1-inch sensor. As for the non-flagship models, phone makers have pushed imaging technology to its limits by fitting more and more megapixels on the tiny sensor.
Smartphones have also taken over videos. New smartphones offer higher video resolutions, with many now sporting 4K 30fps. Then there are also improvements to the phone’s image stabilization. Most flagship smartphones have Optical Image Stabilization, ensuring stable video capture without needing external stabilization. Even lower-end models feature electronic stabilization that delivers comparable results and just at the expense of a bit of cropping.
Mirrorless taking over the professional market
For those who need a much more versatile shooter, a smartphone will not suffice. Dedicated cameras help professionals capture the most significant moments. These devices have interchangeable lenses to help photographers and filmmakers capture the moment perfectly.
For the longest time, Single Lens Reflex cameras (SLRs) have been the choice for professionals and entering the digital age, the Digital SLR was king in professional photography. It was quick, versatile with its multitude of lenses, and, best of all, you could easily frame the perfect shot. But since the 2010s rolled around, a new challenger, the Mirrorless Interchangeable lens system camera, has competed with the DSLR as the champion of versatility.
Mirrorless cameras are so-called because they don’t have the reflex mirror found in SLRs. While initially dismissed due to multiple issues, mirrorless camera systems have overtaken the DSLR in terms of sales volume and performance. In fact, the whole market has shifted, and major camera manufacturers are now focusing on their mirrorless lines over their DSLRs, with camera giants equipping their best sensors and processors on their mirrorless systems. Additionally, camera manufacturers have bolstered their lineup of mirrorless lenses to cater to the needs of professionals.
Resolutions on the rise
Aside from the shift in form factor, higher resolutions are another massive change in imaging technology. This isn’t just on cameras but also on monitors and TVs. Image resolution is how detailed an image is. It is represented by Pixel Per Inch (PPI), which means how many pixels are in an inch of the screen. If you’re still confused, the image resolution specifications are the 1920 x 1080, FHD, and 4K you find on your monitor, phone, or TV.
In the 2010s, HD (1280 x 720) and FHD (1920 x 1080) reigned supreme as the best resolution you can have. However, recent developments have paved the way for the adoption of the bigger QHD and 4K resolutions. This means that we see much more detailed images or videos on screen.
When it comes to cameras, it is megapixels that have risen in recent years. Just compare your current and previous phone models, and you’ll immediately see the increased megapixel count. More megapixels means more pixels fitted on the sensor for a more detailed image.
More megapixels don’t necessarily equate to a better image. For example, a Mirrorless camera with 24-megapixel sensors would still take more detailed pictures than a 48-megapixel smartphone. This is because mirrorless and professional cameras have a bigger sensor allowing them to capture more details despite the lower megapixel count.
How the Internet and Cloud changed the video and camera game
Undoubtedly the most significant change in the imaging and video world is the adaption of the internet and cloud technology.
Almost all cameras now have built-in WiFi for seamless transfer of images between devices. Some brands have developed their own apps that allow you to control the camera through your phone.
Where the internet has really dominated is in WiFi-enabled surveillance cameras. They’re cheaper and easier to set up compared to traditional security cameras, leading many to consider them as viable alternatives.
Another aspect that makes WiFi cameras much more appealing is their ability to store recordings on a microSD card or in the cloud. WiFi cameras also have benefited from the rising resolution, with many offering Full HD resolutions as standard and high-end ones going up to 4K.
For keeping your family safe, having higher resolutions could mean the difference during emergencies. It could mean the difference between having a blurred image and a clear, precise one.
WiFi cameras can also be controlled remotely, with many offering pan and tilt features to help you see at least 180 degrees of your designated area. They are also equipped with excellent IR capabilities to allow clear night vision and backup batteries to avoid any downtimes.
WiFi cameras are also the basis for smart doorbells. Smart Doorbells will typically have a camera attached to them and, with new facial recognition technology, notify you who’s at the door through your smart speaker or even your phone.
Developments in imaging and video have definitely changed how we see life and are expected to pave the way for more innovations in the future.
Words by Gabriel Pe
Also published in Gadgets Magazine September 2022 issue