Compared to film, digital photography is still in its infancy. The level of detail and amount of dynamic range found in film has, until recently, surpassed what digital has had to offer. But it’s starting to get to the turning point where digital will be far greater than anything film can offer.
The resolution of today’s digital cameras is an easy way to show how far things have progressed over the last three decades. The first digital cameras had a resolution of about 1.3 megpixels, which is about what the front-facing cameras on smartphones have. Now, cameras that can shoot 20 or more megapixels is common. In fact, it is hard to find those with lower megapixel counts. This increase in resolution means that finer detail is captured and larger prints can be made.
In addition to resolution, dynamic range and color reproduction has gotten infinitely better than it was just a few years ago. This means the camera can capture detail in seemingly pure black or white areas of a scene.
For a long time, digital cameras had sensors that were of the APS-C sensor size, which is about three-quarters of the size of a piece of 35mm film. Now, with larger sensors, you can get better low-light performance with pixels of the same size. Because full-frame sensors are the same physical size as 35mm film, using film lenses is a possibility without having to deal with the crop factor that is present with smaller sensors. While sensor size isn’t the only way to determine how good a camera is, the important factor is that technology isn’t limiting the size. Instead it is a conscious decision and the supporting technology can be tailor-made to fit its usage.
One of the features that has become extremely popular is the ability to shoot video and stills from the same camera. Video capabilities in a DSLR-style body wasn’t possible until 2008, with the release of the Nikon D90. It then became extremely popular with the Canon 5D Mk II, which could record in HD and Full HD.
If a camera can only record in HD today, it seems like the manufacturer isn’t trying. Unless a camera is able to record at 4K, many consumers won’t even consider it to be state-of-the-art.
The next leap forward in camera technology will be connectivity. The sensor quality, resolution and video capability will keep making incremental leaps forward because photographers keep asking for them; however, connectivity makes digital cameras more consumer friendly. Now that a few cameras with this feature have become popular, you can bet that it’s not going anywhere in the near future. By adding Bluetooth or Wi-Fi modules, it is no longer necessary to take your memory card out of the camera to put it into your computer. Instead, you can connect and share photos directly from your smartphone and post them to your favourite social media platform.