/ Technology

Video cameras – the new photography?

Photography film

What does the future hold for digital cameras? Higher resolutions, wireless image transfer, 3D photos? My colleague recently argued that they don’t have one – the future of photography is video.

With the increasing resolution of HD camcorders, higher frame rates and overall better photographic quality, one of our lab technicians, reckons people will soon stop taking individual photos and shoot videos instead.

Should you want a large still image from these special Kodak Moments, you’ll just select your favourite frame from your choice of thousands, then save or print them just as you would with a digital photo.

Storing lots of high quality video footage might have been impossible in the past, but storage is now virtually unlimited and computers make light work of selecting and manipulating a single frame. Still, I’m personally not so sure about this so-called photos-from-videos idea.

Technical challenges to video photography

Who wants to sit there scouring through frame upon frame before finding the right image? You could spend hours debating whether your girlfriend’s hair looked slightly better in this shot, or the frame taken 0.05 seconds later.

And this can’t be a one-size-fits-all situation – I can understand doing this for action shots, like at the London 2012 Olympics. But do you really want to video your friends smiling for a group photo in a restaurant? It feels like this could be a bit socially awkward.

Besides, there are still some significant technical challenges to overcome before consumers will pounce on this idea. Although there’s software available to capture photos from videos, camcorders simply aren’t good enough.

Firstly there’s the issue of image quality. Full 1080 HD video is the equivalent of just 2 megapixels (MP) whereas my cheap digital camera takes shots at 8MP.

Plus, when home video cameras do up their quality, transfer rates will become a problem. With so much data being recorded, your camcorder will need to process and transfer it quickly to ensure everything you’ve filmed is saved – this might require new and more expensive technology, like solid-state drives.

Then there are the simple but practical issues. How do you deal with poor light? I certainly don’t want the same eye-scorching flash that’s on my camera to dazzle me for longer than an instant.

The art of photography?

And what about camera lovers? Does this new video form of photography still encapsulate the photographic art of capturing the perfect moment? For me photography is artistic, creative and technical – I’m not sure that photos-from-video will manage to retain that appeal.

And with a surge in entry-level DSLRs being taken up by curious-amateurs, I don’t think people are ready for such drastic changes to an art that’s almost 200 years old.

Would you like an Olympic event captured in super-high quality video, with thousands of individual moments stored and ready for use? Or do you want to stick with your old photographic ways and capture that one unique moment in time?

Sophie Gilbert says:
24 August 2011

As long as there are wallets, there will be photos, and if you read Sci-Fi the future of photography is holography. :0)

>> Firstly there’s the issue of image quality. Full 1080 HD video is the equivalent of just 2 megapixels (MP) whereas my cheap digital camera takes shots at 8MP. <<

These days, the vast majority of consumer photography is shared and never goes near a large format, high-resolution printer. HD video quality is more than adequate for publishing on social media, emailing, mobile phones, etc. And if you do take original images at 8MP, you are probably having to down-scale them for distribution over the Internet anyway.