What to expect from digital cameras in the coming years? Part 2

During the holidays, I prepared for you the second batch of predictions on the development of digital cameras for the coming years. If you missed the first part, you can read it here. So let’s continue.

More “cubes”

I am a big fan of modular design. The cube camera allows you to quickly change the configuration depending on the tasks, whether it be a tripod, shoulder rig, gimbal or drone. Ergonomics are a personal thing, and the modular design gives room for customization. And on a more personal level, the modular design allows the operator to express themselves in some way by building their own “perfect” rig.

I think that more and more manufacturers will move to the cube form factor. But there are problems with modular design. First, it masks the true cost of the camera. Yes, RED Komodo costs $6,000, but to turn it into a working chamber you will need another 2-4 thousand dollars (depending on claims), and RED loves to tear three skins for any wiring and adapter.

The second problem is the presence of a food ecosystem around the camera. What is the point of modular design if there are no modules? To develop the ecosystem was commercially justified, there must be continuity between the generations of cameras, like ARRI (Mini => Mini LF). Separately, I would like to praise the Chinese Kinefinity – they have a chic selection of accessories and modules for Mavo cameras. But Sony and Canon are still lagging behind in this regard: each new camera is a new form factor. The Japanese are conservative, but sooner or later they still react to global trends, so we are waiting for more “cubes”.

This is what Canon's next compact cinema camera could look like, according to a recent Indonesian patent.  Maybe it's EOS C5, ie.  a reimagined C50 that never came out due to covid supply chain disruptions.
This is what Canon’s next compact cinema camera could look like, according to a recent Indonesian patent. Maybe it’s EOS C5, ie. a reimagined C50 that never came out due to covid supply chain disruptions.

Cameras will learn from smartphones

I can hardly be called an apologist for smartphone video. Today it looks lousy and does not pose any threat to professional cameras, simply because of the laws of physics. However, this does not mean at all that cameras are better than smartphones in everything. Gadget manufacturers have learned how to use computational methods to mask and overcome the shortcomings of tiny sensors. Smartphones glue multiple exposures in real time, analyze the image, highlighting faces and objects, map depth, apply AR effects, embed 3D objects in space – all this in addition to autofocus and stabilization, which sometimes work out better than in a professional camera.

I can’t say that in cameras we need AR masks and fake depth of field. But what about, for example, being able to fix a miss on focus in a post? Or recreate the information lost in the spot of light? More sensors will appear in cameras – at least lidars, gyroscopes and accelerometers are already being integrated by progressive manufacturers (DJI Ronin 4D). Data from these sensors will help power the next generation of autofocus and stabilization systems. I think that all these “smart” functions will first appear from below, in the most massive segment. But even elite manufacturers should start upgrading not only the hardware, but also the software of their cameras.

Remote control of the camera will be more convenient

UI and UX is another area where cameras should learn from smartphones. Camera interfaces are godlessly outdated. They are slow, they are illogically structured, they are ugly, the text is too small, the menus are too long, there are too many settings (I speak as a person who loves settings). This is true to varying degrees for all brands. Of the modern cameras, only BMPCC has an adequate interface. True, ergonomics had to be sacrificed for him, but the touchscreen is the right direction of thought.

The problem is that on modern cameras there is less and less living space available for the screen, because the cameras are becoming more compact. Already there are really no buttons on the body, and when the camera is gripped on some head of a crane, cable or on a copter in the sky, then there is no way to touch it.

RED sets the bar high for other camera control applications.
RED sets the bar high for other camera control applications.

Every time I use the Sidus Link app to control Aputure lights, I think “why is this not available for my camera”? Only RED and, oddly enough, Z Cam have full-fledged applications now. Sony and Canon urgently need to come to their senses and release modern applications that give full control over all camera functions. If the trend for “cubes” continues, then only the primary settings will remain on the camera body, and the main menu will be gradually forced out into the smartphone application.

Wireless monitoring and broadcasts will be integrated

A normal implementation of a smartphone application is impossible without a stable wireless signal transmission from the camera, otherwise the whole point is lost. Today, 5 GHz transmitters have become so small that they can even be integrated into “cubes”. Of course, this does not eliminate the need for external solutions if signal transmission over long distances or in difficult conditions is required. But at least the needs of the operator and the focus puller for remote monitoring without delay, the camera may well close itself.

Another thing that is elementary for a smartphone, but missing in the camera is broadcasting via RTMP protocol. Perhaps adding a SIM card and antenna to the camera to connect to LTE / 5G networks is prevented by some kind of regulatory certification. But at least streaming via a smartphone (again, via the camera app) should be a standard feature of a modern camera. All this is still possible today with the help of third-party solutions, but camera manufacturers could integrate this functionality natively and at the same time implement it more elegantly.

32-bit audio will be embedded in cameras

32-bit audio is divine. This is one of those features that greatly simplifies the life of a working professional without creating additional problems for him. For those who are not in the know, this is an audio recording format in an ultra-high floating dynamic range, which in practice means two things: 1) audio is almost impossible to “cut” in volume and 2) vice versa, even the quietest signal can be raised without raising noise threshold. In other words, this feature eliminates the need to control recording levels while shooting.

It could very well be integrated into the camera.
It could very well be integrated into the camera.

To be honest, I wonder why this is still not in video cameras. Judging by the tiny 32-bit recorders that have come out lately (for example, ZOOM F2), this technology does not require either increased computing power or a fundamentally larger amount of memory (compared to video, an increase in audio files by even a third does not play a special role) . Also, I am not aware of any patent and licensing restrictions that would prevent the implementation of this technology in cameras. Especially in cameras aimed at solo operators, Sony’s PXW and Canon’s Cinema EOS lines would be excellent candidates.

Thank you for reading the SHAGRAL Video Production Blog! My name is Grigory Shakhanov, and every Friday I post here my observations on industry trends and share the secrets of commercial video production. Subscribe to receive new posts!

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