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09 March 2009

The Future of Cameras

"The best camera is the camera you have with you." - Ansel Adams, The Camera I (great book by the way)

This is a concept I came up with a while ago and it's not really all that crazy original. Although I haven't heard anyone else mention it. Cameras will eventually be insanely tiny, or rather camera phones will dominate the market at be of better quality than any professional camera that currently exists.

There are two main components to a camera; the lens and the image sensor (film). Film is analog, essentially it has infinite depth and is only limitation in enlargement are the instruments used to do so. In order to duplicate film digitally and enlarge (print bigger) it without any perceptible loss in quality you need a 10-15 megapixel sensor. I find that 3-6 MP is adequate for the vast majority of people/occasions. My camera phone is a little over 3 MP and I know some exist that are 5+. Over time sensors will become more and more powerful all the while becoming cheaper. Lenses are a slightly different story. High quality lenses are expensive and in my opinion the most important part of the camera. As image sensors (CCD's) get smaller the lens required becomes smaller. That's why your pocket camera has a tiny lens and my medium format camera's lens is bigger than your entire camera. Phone cameras use a tiny image sensor, so the lenses can be very small. In fact there has been some research done on lenses that utilize a bead of water for the lens and focus (change the shape of the droplet) by passing small electric currents through the water droplet. Crazy stuff. Lenses will become of higher quality and cheaper as image sensors get smaller and as they are further mass produced. Even Zeiss, one of the finest lens makers in the world, has made some lenses for Sony phones. Zeiss makes lenses for the legendary camera manufacturer Hasselblad. They aren't cheap.

Basically my prediction is that camera phones will one day dominate the camera market and their quality will be extremely high. How soon? Camera phones will eclipse point and shoot pocket cameras in just a few years. In the mean time here are some moments when I wanted a real camera but was at least lucky enough to have my somewhat-impressive-for-a-camera-phone 3 MP G1 camera phone.

Evan inside a steam pit we just designed/built in Joliet, IL.

Susie holding a Remington 700 rifle... don't ever expect to see that again.

Thanksgiving '08

The burners of an atmospheric scotch marine boiler. Oh, the irony (I'm Scotch).

A store in Lakeview in Chicago... 3300 N Sheffield-ish.

36"-10" Ridgid pipe wrenches. I find them to be one of the most elegant designs ever conceived.

Evan preping a boiler door for insulation.

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