Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mirrorless and Wireless

Samsung Galaxy Phone
The Samsung Galaxy Camera runs the Andriod OS
Last week, over 150,000 people gathered in Las Vegas for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, the world's largest annual innovation event. For those interested in cameras and imaging, the most important trends involve the shift to mirrorless cameras and the introduction of dozens of Wi-Fi enabled enabled cameras.

Camera manufacturers are hoping that both of these can slow down the shift to capturing images on smartphones instead of dedicated cameras. The popularity of smartphone photography resulted in a 19% decrease in the volume of compact camera sales in the United States last year. This is not surprising considering that the iPhone 4 and 4S are the number one and number two devices used for uploading images to Flickr.

However, iPhone users tend to be photocentric and there is a strong correlation between iPhone ownership and SLR camera ownership. Although the resolution of the iPhone is sufficient for most uses, it's fun to have a camera that allows more creative control in certain situations. While a digital SLR camera has been the typical choice for these situations, mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are a nice upgrade.

Digital SLRs are generally an adaption from 35mm cameras. Originally, the size of the film dictated the size of camera body and the size of mirror which deflected the image to the viewfinder. The mirror was required because the film was a passive sensor which could only display an image after it was exposed in the camera and developed afterwards. Camera makers based their digital cameras on film cameras because they could reuse their camera designs. Photographers bought them because they looked and felt like high quality devices and could work with lenses they already owned.

Mirrorless cameras with interchangable lenses offer the advantages of of SLRs without the bulk or the weight. By using the digital sensor for both image capture and the viewfinder, there is no need for a mirror. By optimizing the optical path for the actual sensor size rather than 35mm film, more light can be captured with smaller lenses and the camera body is smaller. Photographers are figuring this out pushing the sales of mirrorless cameras up 141% in 2012.

Part of the fun in photography is sharing. Compared to smartphones, sharing with dedicated cameras has been cumbersome. After taking a picture, you had to move the image from your camera to your computer and post it to Facebook or Flickr through your browser. The new Wi-Fi enabled cameras imply that you can take your picture and immediately upload it to your favorite social media site.

In reality, there is a great deal of difference between the capabilities of the different Wi-Fi enabled cameras. The Samsung Galaxy Camera and the Nikon Coolpix S800C run the Android OS which means they can upload images using the same apps that are available on the Android smartphones. The Canon EOS 6D transfers images to preferred websites through the Canon Image Gateway. Others require transfer to your smartphone or tablet before you can share your images with your friends.

I enjoy sharing snapshots directly to Facebook from my iPhone. But when I use my "real" camera, part of the enjoyment is the selection and editing process on a big monitor after I get home. Then I share my best images on Facebook and on this blog.  So I'm not in a hurry to own a Wi-Fi enabled camera.

Will you be upgrading your camera soon?

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Camera sales data from GfK reported in the November/December issue of International Contact.

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.