Wednesday, June 25, 2008

So what should Nikon do next?

As I wrote in my last post, unless Nikon can somehow get the laws of physics changed, scope for future improvements in DSLRs are going to be facing increasingly severe compromises. Nikon returned to the FX format out of need. While FX format cameras will continue to become cheaper over time (if only to allow them to sell another round of lenses), expect future improvements in resolution to come at the cost of low light performance.

Or to put it another way, photography courses have for years taught that to understand photography you have to understand the way the human eye and brain process images. In the future we are going to increasingly face the peculiar consequences of the fact that light is a quantum phenomena.

So what can the camera manufacturers do now that the finish line of the megapixel race is in sight? Well they can make their cameras easier to use for a start.

Ergonomics plays a huge role in camera design of course. One of the reasons I reach for my D300 to take family snaps rather than my D50 at half the weight is that I find it so much easier to use despite the greater number of features. But every camera I have used gives me the impression that thought about ergonomics ends the moment the shutter release is pressed.

Every camera comes with a program to download photos from the camera but none does the job that most people I know actually want. They are all too busy asking me to correct red-eye.

What I want a download program to do is very simple and very limited:

  1. Copy the pictures off the card to the primary storage location on the computer
  2. Make a backup copy to a secondary location
  3. Verify that both copies have been completed successfully
  4. Erase the pictures on the card for reuse
  5. Nothing else

The last is the most important because I don't want the computer to ask me any questions when doing this. I don't want to be prompted for the location to store the photographs, I don't want to be pestered for new file names or the location they were taken.

In the ideal case the camera would automatically upload pictures via WiFi whenever it came into range of a trusted base station. Or perhaps considering the potential drain on battery life it might be necessary to start the process manually (but it should run to completion automatically and switch off the camera at the end).

I still want to sort and manage the files of course, but that is something that I want to do offline at my own pace. And again I want the computer to do as much work for me as possible.

For example: why should I have to enter the location the pictures were taken when my iPhone (or equivalent) can log the information for me and make it available to the picture manager? Or alternatively the camera can acquire GPS location data from the phone directly via bluetooth (and no, Nikon, I do not want to buy your $135 GPS cable that allows me to plug my D300 into the $100 cable sold by Garmin).

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