If you ever need an example of the exponential rise of technology, look no further than the digital camera. The ability to capture images on an electronic sensor has transformed photography and the way we record life's precious moments (and plenty of the un-precious ones as well) in less than 25 years. So how will we capture our holiday snaps when another two decades have passed? By 2030, will today's spanking new DSLR be as unrecognizable as a box brownie is today?
Powerful photo development software and the exceptional capabilities of modern digital cameras have given us the ability to tweak key parameters like exposure and white balance after the fact. If a photo is out of focus though, it can't be saved ... or can it? The ability to shift the focus point of an image after it has been taken is one of the features of light field cameras (also called plenoptic cameras). Though first proposed more than a century ago, this technology is only now finding its way into the consumer space with the release of the Lytro light field camera.
As well as its seemingly magical focus shifting capability, the Lytro offers exceptional low light performance, reduced shutter lag, simultaneous 2D and 3D shooting and the ability to subtly alter the viewing perspective after the shot is taken. Definitely a space to watch.
The ability to create panoramic images has evolved rapidly in recent times with many consumer models featuring impressive "sweep-panorama" capability – but none can match the pixel count obtainable from using the GigaPan EPIC. This robotic camera mount system lets you use your digital SLR to create ginormous gigapixel composite images including 360-degree and time-lapse panoramas.
The term gigapixel is definitely one we'll hear regularly in the near future ... and not just in relation to systems like Gigapan. Researchers at Duke University and the University of Arizona have already built a prototype one-gigapixel camera that essentially takes the same approach and wraps it into a single device. The prototype uses an array of 98 14-megapixel microcameras, but the researchers say that creating images at resolutions of up to 50-gigapixels is possible by simply adding more cameras. Storing and transferring these images is another story, but technology will no doubt rise to that challenge, too.