The Future of the Camera 2020

By: jwilder

What is the future of the camera for the photography enthusiast?

What Is the Future of the Camera?

This is a fascinating topic for me because of the time we live in.

The future of the camera is software and services.

What are the features of future camera design?

  • Cameras will have an Android based operating system.
  • Camera apps can be downloaded to your camera.
  • Camera updates will be installed over the network.
  • Camera screens will use gestures.
  • Photos will be automatically be saved to the cloud.
  • Workflow can be defined.

This article is a draft version and a work-in-progress. Things are changing so rapidly that I wanted to get a quick draft out.

Last Update: 2-24-2020

What happened in 2019

  • iPhone now has three lenses (cameras).
  • Photoshop is now on iPad.
  • Sony mirrorless overtook Nikon and has it's sights on Canon.
  • Sigma created the world's smallest full frame camera.
  • Apple is now in the movie business. Will they be more even more interested in creating cameras?
  • Software is more involved in the image creation process (Apple Deep Fusion).

Why All Purely Camera Companies May Be Doomed

In a nutshell, camera companies that (want to lead), will have to invest heavily in the software side. That means more software engineers and programmers. Computational photography is the new growth area, as well as artificial intelligence. Camera companies will also have to create an ecosystem of services around their brand.

Apple made it clear years ago that services are the future and hardware is just a means to make it work.

I believe the services future applies to cameras as well. The switch to services is now starting to eat the camera industry.

Which camera companies have the vision, will, resources, and time to build an entire camera ecosystem (cameras and services)? None, so far as I can tell.

Apple is already there with its cloud-based ecosystem. They are masters of the OS, with MacOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and WatchOS. It would be almost nothing for them to create CameraOS (they probably already have).

However, for some reason they refuse to build a professional camera (camera first design).

I believe that Apple will wait until someone else builds a cloud-based professional camera system.

I believe that Apple already has professional camera prototypes.

I believe that if Canon makes a play for cloud-based professional camera services that advance the Android platform, then Apple will respond.

What about Sony?

Sony has smartphones and professional cameras. They are in the perfect position to leverage their research and apply it across all their products.

It appears that the Sony Xperia 1 Mark II will be the first to benefit, as it gets features from the Alpha cameras (see news item below).

The question is, will Sony bring the smartphone user interface, connectivity, and cloud workflow to the Alpha cameras?

Camera Design News

Hot developments in camera design point to the future of the camera.

Sony Xperia 1 Mark II (2020)

2-24-2020: Sony adds Alpha technology to Xperia 1 Mark II.

"there’s a standard camera app which delivers the basics in an easy-to-use way. Sony, however, has combined that with its new Photo Pro interface, effectively bringing a version of the Sony Alpha camera UI to the phone. That includes mode switches, more precise AF control, and other settings."

Canon Makes a Play (2020)

2-13-2020: Canon launches new photo cloud platform

It appears that Canon is serious about building a cloud platform that is workflow based (rather than just hosting images).

If Canon moves wholeheartedly in this direction (the future) then Sony and Nikon will surely follow.

Zeiss ZX1 Announced (2018)

Zeiss Has It Right. Start from scratch and envision a modern camera system.

It is clear that Zeiss has the vision and has an unreleased product (ZX1) to prove it.

The Zeiss vision is summed up perfectly with their phrase:

"Shoot. Edit. Share."

Xerox built the first personal computer with a graphical user interface and a networked work environment. It wasn't until Steve Jobs saw what Xerox had created that it eventually became a product, the Apple Macintosh. Zeiss may see the future, but it will take a company that truly believes and has the resources to make it happen.

Zeiss ZX1

Samsung Galaxy Camera (2012)

Samsung created the Galaxy Camera in 2012, but the market wasn't ready.

Samsung saw the future, but consumers didn't.

What Samsung missed was the services part of the equation.

The Galaxy Camera disappeared into the black hole of failed products.

Android Camera (2004)

The creators of Android originally designed the operating system to be a network based digital camera system that connected to PCs. However, in 2004 when the smartphone market began to take off it was re-envisioned as a "open-source handset solution."

Apple QuickTake (1994-1997)

I add this bit of history just for fun.

Apple tried the digital camera business in 1994. They created a camera called QuickTake, but this was way too early.

"The Apple QuickTake (codenamed Venus, Mars, Neptune) was one of the first consumer digital camera lines. It was launched in 1994 by Apple Computer and was marketed for three years before being discontinued in 1997. Three models of the product were built including the 100 and 150, both built by Kodak; and the 200, built by Fujifilm. The QuickTake cameras had a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels maximum (0.3 Mpx)." -Wikipedia


There is no conclusion, yet!

1. Zeiss ZX1 is in the lead, but hasn't released its technology.
2. Canon is building its photography cloud.
3. Sony is leveraging Alpha camera technology for its smartphones.
4. Apple is sticking to the iPhone.

I will continue to update this article as more information is revealed.

However, I think the following is inevitable:

  • Cameras plus services will happen.
  • Cameras will be based on the android platform.


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