Gizmag.com just posted a video of a very interesting demonstration of a ‘Wonder Camera’ concept from Canon at the Japanese pavilion of the Shanghai World Expo. It is Canon’s imagining of what a camera will be like around the year 2030, but what is really interesting is that most of the technology they show appears to actually work today. This camera of the future would have a single touch-controlled, image-stabilised megazoom lens going from extreme macro to 5000mm super telephoto and everything would be in focus. One assumes that to get shallow depth of field the camera would apply some kind of computer algorithm and not actually use optical techniques. It would feature a super high definition sensor and only capture video, using the video to generate stills if needed. If you observe carefully, the camera is tethered to a backpack worn by the presenter. One can assume that much of the camera’s electronics are really in a computer in this backpack which may be linked wirelessly or tethered to even more computing power behind the scenes. Even so, I’ld love to take a peek inside and see what makes it tick. At one point they show off multiple faces in the audience being tracked; later, these are turned into individual portraits simply by cropping the high resolution sensor. I assume that what is holding technology like this back is storage capacity and computing power – and given how quickly these are increasing you may not have to wait until 2030 for the chance to buy something like this.
What this all means for professional stills and video is quite interesting. When cameras like this become available will all our current DSLR and filmmaking gear become redundant? Can we throw all our lovely EF lenses away? Will we never need to pull focus again? Will making a TV programme or a film simply be a question of lighting a set, then placing enough of these cameras around that there is enough footage for someone to edit together later on?
These cameras would almost certainly be the death knell for breaking news coverage by professionals, who could never compete with a citizen on the spot with one of these cameras. It would also presumably mean that there would be plenty of work for picture and video editors who would have to sift through all this material attempting to make something watchable out of it.
Anyone who doubts that this is going to happen need only look back to 1995 when Canon launched the DCS3, their first DSLR with a whopping 1.3 million pixel sensor and brick-like appearance – then look how far we have come in the following 15 years. It is also interesting that Canon has chosen this moment to show this to the world. I wonder if they really expect us to ditch all our EF gear much sooner than we might have expected.