Smart Cameras: Digital Photo Magazine Cover Story, Jan. 2013
Some might call it a split-personality cover––with two-thirds of the precious real estate extolling the virtues of Black and White photography and the rest dedicated to state-of-the-art digital Smart Cameras. But if you look closely (or better still–READ THE ISSUE!) you’ll notice that all the Black and White stories refer to digital camera and printing techniques for capturing and sharing great black and white photos! (Funny, the first digital SLR I ever saw could only shoot black and white images, and now even my smartphone sports a black and white photo mode. Yours probably does too!)
If you still believe that the best black and white images come from analog silver-halide film and paper, you’re not alone––but I don’t agree. After spending over 1500 hours developing silver-halide films and prints in the darkroom I switched completely to digital photography and printing more than a decade ago, except for the occasional black and white film scan that I print out on my 24-inch, Epson 7900 printer. The result? Longer lasting prints, better control of image quality for both color and black and white prints, and no more breathing in toxic chemical fumes. I’m sure that if the famous black and white artist, Ansel Adams, were alive today, he would be shooting and printing digitally.
However, my story isn’t about black and white photography, and it’s not about a clear cut, black and white issue either. It’s about compact cameras that are headed in a new direction–for better or worse. The fact is that traditional camera companies are being forced to do something to stem the outflow of consumer cash to smartphone’s featuring better and better cameras, plus all of the instant connectivity and social-media advantages of a 24/7 3G and 4G world. Sure, “real” cameras still feature image stabilization, better zoom lenses, longer last batteries, higher image quality, and better low light capabilities (not to mention powerful flash options)than any camera phone. But having to connect a camera via USB to a computer, or put the memory card in a reader in order to share photos is so 2009! That’s why Nikon, Samsung, and Sony (CES 2013 UPDATE: Add Panasonic to the Smart Camera list.) have introduced WiFi-enabled Smart Cameras capable of running Apps and sharing photos in ways now familiar to most smartphone owners. Buyer beware though! A smart camera might not always be the smartest choice for you. Check out my story!
By the way, in the unedited text I submitted to DP, I called this new breed of smart camera a “CAMBLET” (you know, half camera, half tablet). It didn’t stick, but I still think it was a smarter moniker than a “smartphone wannabee”!