Sunday, January 22, 2006

Camera shakeout

Seems that the photography industry has started quietly shaking out: Konica/Minolta is throwing in the towel and Nikon is dumping most of its film cameras to concentrate on digital — quite a turnaround in attitude at the iconic manufacturer.

Film is going to be around for quite a while — unless you have massive thousands of bucks, digital is going to lag film’s quality for some years to come. On the casual/consumer end, a lot of people still have good film cameras and aren’t ready to drop $350–$400 for a decent digital just yet. But for those of us who have them already, the quality is fine for snapshots and 5x7 prints (if you don’t look too close). The best part is that we can blow through the equivalent of four rolls of film in a day, keep the good shots, and make the bad stuff disappear with no guilt, extra cost, or waits for processing. It’s also nice to not have to keep a scanner around when I want to put my pictures on my blog.

One of the neat things about digital cameras is that many of them have a video mode, so you can take at least short clips of video. My camera takes video at 320x240, roughly equivalent to VHS quality, and can manage up to 3 minutes at a time (which about fills a 128MB card anyway). iMovie, to my pleasant surprise, converts and upsizes its AVI files so I can edit them and even mix them with DV video from my camcorder. Some digital cameras can take full-screen 640x480 video, which would require the biggest flash cards you can afford since it would require about 4 times the space of 320x240 video.

But that’s where things will head, eventually. Flash memory will continue to get cheaper (I’m thinking about a 512MB card for my camera), processors will continue to improve, and I expect solid-state camcorders to start pushing into DV territory in the next few years.

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