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Welcome to the future? Canon's 'Wonder Camera' concept debuts in Shanghai.

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.

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Posted on July 6th, 2010 by Dan Chung | Category: DSLR video news, Other HD capable D-SLRs |

3 responses to "Welcome to the future? Canon's 'Wonder Camera' concept debuts in Shanghai."

  1. jamesdodd Says:
    July 7th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    “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”

    why?

    people have the ability to record video and stills today on their phones and in their pockets cameras. So under your logic, why does news photography even still exist now?

    in addition to this people can write and have writing equipment readily available to them and have done so for years…

    can you see where I’m heading with this.

    If there is a “death knell for breaking news coverage by professionals” then it will be dealt by either the lack of a demand for it or companies wishing to cut corners and get cheaper and free content at the expense of quality.

    In my opinion the latter is already happening.

    • Dan Chung Says:
      July 8th, 2010 at 11:47 am

      This camera would offer almost limitless resolution and continous recording and image stabilisation. Given a good editor it would be pretty hard not to get a usable set of stills for a breaking news event. Thats why I think the days of a news photographer scrambling to get to a breaking news event are numbered. Arriving after the moment, then trying to compete with a member of the public who actually witnessed and shot the event will be tough. Of course it won’t be impossible, but I wouldn’t want to try and make a living from it in 2030.

      I actually don’t disagree with your sentiment, pros are trained observers who think on their feet and can ‘see’ pictures around them. Problem is that the economics aren’t really working now, let alone in 2030, with tech like this will make it even easier for companies to refuse to pay a decent amount for a picture or video already.

      I hope that as news photographers we will always be doing news features, event coverage and documentary work. I just think that the breaking news game is slipping away partly due to tech and part economics.

  2. jamesdodd Says:
    July 16th, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Thing is, if the coverage does become free then why are people going to pay to view/read it at all?

    won’t we all get our news solely via social networking and crowd sourcing? I get much of mine via this route at the moment let alone in 20 years time.

    When the earthquake struck Chile earlier this year, I was able to gain access to the web cams of some locals, and got much better coverage than that of the news channels.

    For the locals it seemed easier for them to put their information on facebook and twitter, than to send it to the “media” (which did get the same footage, but way after the fact). To them it was about showing the world what was happening and not anything to do with making some quick money or filling up ad space. To me this meant it was somehow more real coverage, it didn’t have to answer to anyone or worry about what they would show in case it put off funders.

    My point is, the bottleneck for news photography isn’t technology, the readers or even the subjects. It’s the distributors and their hold on the industry.

    Just look at Kent TV and what that did to the local press… shook them up and got them winning awards and producing great content.

    and then kent tv died, the papers ran a “corrupt council run over budget mess” story about them [paraphrasing],

    I fear if we don’t start seeing more independent ventures then there will be no competition and we’ll be stuck with the same old crap as always.

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