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Tracking the Hottest Trends in Image Capture

(March 2007) posted on Wed Mar 21, 2007

A look at the latest trends in image capture and where the technology is heading.

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By Jeff Dorgay

Today, there is more digital-capture equipment available than ever before. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that there is so much available in the marketplace that it is more difficult than ever to make a decision when it comes to which tools to add to your arsenal. Intensifying the confusion is the fact that you can now achieve great digital capture for just a fraction of what it cost a few years ago.

The capture side of the marketplace is clipping along at a breakneck pace and the only constant is, well, change. I do, however, see a number of trends shaking out, and what follows is my take on some of the hottest trends in digital capture.

The increase and the decrease
Just as drinks at the local convenience store keep getting bigger (a recent drive through Montana revealed a quick-mart selling 1-gallon containers of Mountain Dew with a straw), so do the sensors in digital cameras. Today, a number of 10-Mpxl compacts can be had for around $500. A few years ago, you couldn’t even get a 10-Mpxl digital SLR, and the best digital backs were in the 12- to 16-Mpxl range (with sticker prices equivalent to a fairly well-appointed 3 series BMW).

Granted, image quality on these compacts hasn’t approached the pro cameras, but the ones I’ve tested are surprisingly good, and having a 10-Mpxl point-and-shoot really opens up a lot of cropping possibilities. Just don’t depend on them in extreme low-light conditions-you will still have to have one of the big boys for this. I also have noticed that quite a few of these cameras now offer RAW-file capture, further enhancing their usability.

Pro cameras continue to get larger sensors as well, with 10 Mpxl seeming to be the norm, while the higher-end models from Canon and Nikon sport 12 to 17 Mpxl. And if you think we’ve hit the megapixel ceiling, keep in mind that recently introduced Hasselblad medium-format camera now offers a whopping 39-Mpxl capture.