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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What's bad about Digital SLRs

I was fascinated by a project feature on the Gadget Show, by tech-journalist Jason Bradbury.  He has created a camera that takes a picture of what he sees and uploads it to the internet in real time, every 30 seconds, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.  Five years ago this would be the sort of thing done by a final-year MIT student for his dissertation and it would involve building some electronics and writing software.  Jason did his Life Cam by combining a camera phone with other consumer products, free software and commercial services.

Camera phones, bluntly, don't take great pictures.  Fitting a sensor and optics into a small device that also makes telephone calls involves something of a compromise and that compromise is picture quality.  However, cameraphones impress in two ways that Digital SLRs do not - they can be programmed and they are networked.

Evolving Digital SLR technology has brought us a sensor the same size as a 35mm frame, with similar sensitivity to film, albeit at considerable cost.  Other than making this more affordable, camera makers Canon and Nikon need to be considering where to go next.  I would plead to add more programming and networking features - not as optional extras - but physically built into the camera:-
  • I would love to do auto-exposure bracketing, by aperture change, in manual mode - but I cant. 
  • I would love to set my camera on a tripod and set it up to do time-lapse photography - but I cant.
  • I would love to reprogram my camera's buttons to make mirror lock-up more accessible - but I cant.
  • I would love to transfer my photos to my laptop using built-in wifi - but I cant.
  • I would love to pop in a SIM card and upload photos to the internet automatically - but I cant.
So build me an SLR that's more like a camera phone.


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