Lights, Camera, Action. Haven’t we all heard this phrase again and again, to the point of ad nauseam? There is not a shadow of doubt that camera usage and photos, whether taken, seen or circulated, dominate maybe one third of our present day existence and no wonder people are excited to know about future of camera industry . Take a look at the students around a college campus, the amount of regular photos, selfies and random shoots that take place, and you will not need any more convincing. Many people wonder what future camera technology and future camera sensor technology would be like. And this discussion on Camera technology 2021 would be incomplete without talking about the future of digital photography. 

Future of camera industry is all bright. Cameras are here to stay and an intrinsic part of the future of camera industry, and camera technology 2021 is no exception. And with advancement in future camera technology, they are getting smaller, lighter and cheaper by the day. With quality increasing in inverse proportion to the size of cameras and camera sensor. One of the key ingredients contributing to the rise of the small camera popularity is the excellent image quality that is considered a given nowadays.

Gone are the days of developing the negative, waiting optimistically for a possibly clean picture, and looking ruefully at a badly taken one! Today’s generation X needs brilliant images and they need it – now and thus the rapid advancement in future camera technology . One of the fundamental reasons for sharp, clear and crisp photos is the development of sensor and future camera sensor technology, and rest assured, we will be seeing many changes in the future of camera industry very soon.

Future camera sensor technology – Explanation of key terms:

If we are to understand this article on future camera technology and future of digital photography, it is imperative that we recognise the meaning of these key terms:

CCD: Charge Coupled Device

CMOS: Complementary Metal Semi Oxide Semiconductor

CIS: CMOS Image Sensor

ISO: International Standards Organisation

DSLR: Digital Single Lens Reflex

Sensor: An electronic device that converts an optical image into an electronic signal

Future camera sensor technology – The Sensor

If we are to extrapolate future camera sensor technology, future of digital photography as well as future camera technology, it is imperative that we understand in a little more detail, what exactly is a sensor and why is it so critical to the optical performance of the camera and exactly what role does it play in enhancing an image.

Future Camera Sensor Technology - Future Camera TechnologyThe CCD or charge coupled device as mentioned above is a little chip, a solid state device that collects photons (or packets of light) and converts these packets of light into electrical pulses that govern what pixels are illuminated to what extent and what will be the color of these pixels. The sensor chip holds pixels that are made up of light-sensitive elements, micro-electrical components, and microlenses. These are intricately linked together along with avenues for heat dissipation and protected by a super-strong cover glass, that protects the diminutive components inside while at the same time serving as a surface to collect light photons.

So the process actually follows a loop of the image that is formed in the camera viewfinder of being converted into an electronic image, which is then again optically displayed in your camera, be it a smartphone or a DSLR. 

Between the stages of being captured and then being finally displayed (after being saved of course, on a disk or on a SIM card), the camera processes this image, enhances it, so that you (or your friends) can look your best in 4 or 8K resolution! 

One of the main reasons why the sensor is so important when we talk about future of digital photography and future camera sensor technology is that this little device decides how sharp, how focussed, and how clear your image will be, and that is why so many industries are diverting huge funds and resources into developing the CCD or CMOS sensor since any youth will agree that the quality of the camera is often one of the deciding factors in purchasing a smartphone. And this is where future camera sensor technology and camera technology 2021 is headed.

DSLRs are more and more being used not just in photoshoots but also in shooting full-length movies (The Avengers, End of Watch, Whiplash, and Elysium, to name a few), so here again, if we consider the future of camera industry, the sensor plays a major role in deciding what DSLR to buy and to use. We could in a sense say that the future of camera industry depends on what sensor is placed inside the camera, what are its technical specs and so this little electro-optical device can play a pivotal role in determining digital camera trends.

Future Camera Sensor Technology – Future Camera Technology

Future of camera industry is in smartphones to a large extent. Smartphones, without any doubt, have been the key drivers of innovation, digital camera trends, camera technology 2021 and future camera sensor technology. Smartphones account for 82% of the CMOS market. There are essentially two combinations of core sensors in developing an autonomous system. The first is an amalgamation of LiDAR (Light detection and ranging) and RADAR (Radio detection and ranging) of the camera.

 Future camera sensor technology – Radar and cameras

The second option is to possibly use a combination of RADAR and cameras. We know that camera technology will continue to update but there are three key technological developments that will certainly affect future camera technology as well as determine the future camera sensor technology.

 Future Camera Sensor Technology – Time of Flight Camera

Future camera technology, future of digital photography and future camera sensor technology would include these factors. The first is the Time of Flight Camera. Mid to Long distance 3D sensing capability. The way it works is to use structured light technology for the front-facing camera, which is greatly used in facial recognition. In the rear-facing camera also, time of flight cameras allows one to measure precisely 3D imaging, essential for portraits and augmented reality.

Talking about digital camera trends, one major challenge of future of digital photography, future camera sensor technology and camera technology 2021, which smartphones face which is non-existent on DSLRs is, how to incorporate multiple lenses for different shooting requirements. In DSLRs, the solution is easy. Just remove one lens and replace it with a telephoto or a wide-angle lens. But this action is not possible in a smartphone. So far the method has been to pack a logic chip under the pixel chip. Signals generated in the pixel chip are then run through an image signal processor and while the signal is being processed.

Digital camera trends - Artificial IntelligenceArtificial Intelligence or AI which is certainly the future camera sensor technology, is used to extract information, and at the same time reducing the bulk of data handled to a minimum. SK Hynix’s stack sensor has witnessed major changes from the standard sensor, and new machine learning technologies like super-resolution, color restoration, face and object restoration are using more complex algorithms in the stack sensor. This will see major developments in future camera technology, but as of now, the parameters mentioned above are still a challenge.

Taking our discussion on future of digital photography and future camera sensor technology further, the widespread proliferation and growth of smartphones are undoubtedly linked to the greatly enhanced performance of image sensors and image quality which hitherto were largely attributed to CIS. But future camera sensor technology will revolve around key factors such as resolution, pixel sensitivity, and signal-to-noise ratio which affect the performance of the sensor. Initially, the drive and focus were to optimize the quality of image for the human eye.

But nowadays, innovations in technology and future camera sensor technology is keeping image quality for machine algorithms as its prime goal. As pixel sizes increase, cross talk becomes an increasingly problematic issue, and different technologies such as metal grid structure in the color filter layer and deep trench isolation processes are incorporated which helps in reducing electrical cross talk which is inevitable because of all the components being packed tightly within the sensor structure. Innovations in sensor technology, running concurrently with digital camera trends, are constantly taking place and the emergence of stack sensor technology has been nothing short of revolutionary. 

In the earlier sensors the pixels and circuits resided on the same substrate, but in future camera sensor technology and camera technology 2021, stack sensors, have the ISP and the pixels on separate “stacks” or layers, with a simple AI hardware engine embedded within the lower substrate. This results in a chip with greater clarity, resolution, and a high amount of detail with minimal electronic cross talk. Future camera sensor technology is going to see a lot of R&D and big bucks going into improving CIS, especially as machine vision applications (eg. CCTV cameras) continue to grow and evolve. It is predicted that the global market for image sensors is going to grow by at least 6.2% by 2023 and according to a report from Research and Markets will easily touch $23.2 billion this year.

Future of digital photography and Camera technology 2021

What about the future of digital photography? Before the first mirrorless camera was invented in 2008, there were only three kinds of camera options back then. Point and shoot cameras with fixed lenses, digital SLR cameras with interchangeable lenses, and specialized cameras such as cameras designed exclusively for macro photography. Mirrorless cameras proved to be a hit with both amateur as well as professional photographers as the silent operation of the camera combined with less bulk and weight, made for a faster smoother, and lighter system. The first to capitalize on this new technology were SONY, and then eventually Canon and Nikon also found their mirrorless footprint.

Although DSLRs still hold sway with the professional ad and feature film cinematographers, more and more smartphones are beginning to win the race as the biggest asset of smartphones viz wifi access, is becoming increasingly important. Globally, patience in people to wait for results is reducing, and people want to see images and videos shot with whatever instrument, almost instantaneously (if not actually live) and this is an area where smartphones are unrivaled. While future camera sensor technology and camera technology 2021 smiles at the mirrorless camera and hopes to push it further, digital camera trends point not towards mirrorless cameras, but even lensless cameras especially in the field of computational photography. 

Future of camera industry – computational photography. 

This technology is completely different. Since there is no lens to focus all the light rays onto a single pixel, rays emanating from an object will land on many pixels, so the image has to be constructed in an entirely different way. The process of understanding this concept is complex, and technically beyond the scope of this article, but it involves using an amplitude mask and machine learning to compare patterns and thereby reconstruct the image. Something remotely similar to digitally reconstructing an image from only partially available data. Performance leaps in this new digital camera trends are quantum, since there is no lens, and therefore no focal angle, so moving from a wide or distant shot to a close one is simply a matter of applying a different software algorithm.

Future of digital photography and Camera technology 2021Moreover, this technology makes it possible to have very flat and thin cameras, a concept eagerly lapped up by Smartphone manufacturers. Apple is showing a lot of interest in this new development and has the resources and the infrastructure to carry this new technology forward to a fruitful completion.

Future Camera Sensor Technology – Megapixel Mania

With future camera sensor technology, the introduction of smarter and lighter and performance enhanced sensors has introduced catalytic changes in megapixel technology and usage. In the race for greater and smarter megapixels by both DSLR manufactures as well as smartphone ones, it appears that Samsung might well emerge as the leader. Recently they announced that they are coming up with a 200-megapixel sensor, the highest resolution so far.

The ISOCELL HP1 has 0.64μm pixels and can bin 16 of them at once equal to that of a 12.5-megapixel sensor with 2.56μm pixels.

The HP1 sensor can also capture 8K video through a 2×2 binning mode. Not only does it capture 8K video but it also does this without cropping the video which is nothing short of sensational and a clear winner of camera technology 2021. Perhaps its closest competitor is SONY which recently announced the launch of a camera sensor with an amazing 48-megapixel resolution, more than that of its $3000 DSLR with a 42.4-megapixel resolution.

But megapixels are not the only important feature for a camera’s performance or stability as well demonstrated by Apple still sticking to a 12-megapixel camera for the iPhone 8plus as well as in the iPhone X. We see clearly that in the future of digital photography, the big players seem to be focussing more on resolution and low light sensitivity rather than purely on image sensor as there is more to good image quality than just megapixels. But it’s evident in the burgeoning megapixel wars that those who manage to perfect sensor technology will ultimately emerge as a clear victor. 

Future of camera industry is going to be interesting to say the least. So rather than ask the question of which sensor or how much the resolution should be perhaps the more relevant question would be to ask – which to choose – DSLR or Smartphones for amateur as well as professional assignments? Talking about digital camera trends, while DSLRs are still on the bulkier side as compared to their mobile counterpart, the introduction of mirrorless and smaller and faster lenses is diminishing the gap between the two.

While many predict the humungous growth and advances in sensor technology is going to make the DSLR redundant, that line of reasoning is not entirely accurate as the functions performed by a fully professional camera like a DSLR is different from mobile functions which are designed for myriad other uses. As Alvin Toffler predicted long ago that the new technology revolution is going to have primarily three objectives in mind – to make gadgets lighter, smarter, and cheaper, it appears that this prediction is going to certainly come true, if it has not already happened!

 

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