You can tell a lot about the future by studying the not-too-distant past. The megapixel war is officially over, as 8 to 10 megapixels has become the default resolution for even the lowest-end pocket cameras. Instead of racing to add resolution, camera makers will be rushing to capitalize on some of the big developments of the past year.
Digital camera guru Tim Moynihan at our sister site PC World in the US predicts that major manufacturers will be driven to build the ultimate hybrid still/video device, more-versatile pocket camcorders, and pocketable interchangeable-lens cameras, as well as to harness emerging wireless technologies. Here's what he believes we will see coming out of the cameras category at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week and throughout 2010.
Even Smaller, Video-Savvy, Interchangeable-Lens Cameras
Last year saw the debut of the smallest, most fashionable digital SLR alternatives yet, with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 and the Olympus PEN E-P1 and E-P2 leading the charge. And last year's PMA show featured a mysterious preview of Samsung's NX series camera, an as-yet-unannounced interchangeable-lens model that's smaller than a full-fledged DSLR.
Over the next year we're expecting to see even smaller and more-feature-packed interchangeable-lens models that offer large sensors, great image quality for both stills and video, and the option of using different lenses in a relatively compact camera.
On the DSLR side of the spectrum, expect to see HD video capture become ubiquitous, as DSLR still cameras continue to become a viable option for professional videographers and independent filmmakers. Last year, HD video recording crept into the feature set of an increasing number of DSLRs from Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. Expect this trend to continue in 2010, and even to pave the way for redesigned DSLR bodies that ease the video-shooting process.
Pocket Megazoom Boom
Just a couple of years ago, you needed a fairly bulky camera to get a lens with an optical zoom range greater than 10X. Now, you can fit a high-zoom camera in your pocket. One of the big developments of 2009 was the introduction of compact cameras with wide-to-telephoto zoom ranges of 8X to 12X.
The ultimate pocket megazoom model might rear its head in 2010, sporting RAW-shooting capabilities, both automatic and manual settings, 12X to 15X optical zoom, HD movie shooting with the zoom lens enabled, fast autofocus, and library-quiet lens motors. It may also have other in-camera goodies that will depend on who makes it; major manufacturers have carved out their pocket-megazoom niches in the past year.
In 2009, the Fujifilm FinePix F70 EXR offered both a 10X-optical-zoom lens and the company's adaptable EXR sensor in a 0.9-inch-thick frame, making it one of the most versatile pocket cameras currently available. The 10X-optical Casio Exilim EX-H10 also came in at less than an inch deep, with fun in-camera features aimed at the young crowd; in its next models, the company may very well add its specialty high-speed shooting mode to the mix.
Thanks to practically silent zoom motors and quick autofocus, the 8X-optical Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 excelled at shooting both stills and video. The company's other 2009 megazoom offering, the 12X-optical-zoom Lumix DMC-ZS3, had fully automated settings that made it dead-simple to operate.
Though the 12X-optical-zoom Canon PowerShot SX200 IS was the bulkiest of 2009's pocket-megazoom lot, it also offered the best mix of manual settings for experienced photographers. And the AA-powered Kodak EasyShare Z915, a 10X-optical-zoom model that costs only $200, had the best mix of features for a budget-friendly camera that we've seen.
Which company will offer the ultimate blend of pocket-megazoom features for both rookie snapshooters and experienced photographers? We'll probably find out at CES (or shortly thereafter at PMA).