Digital cameras redesign the photographic process

Ways of seeing

When you buy a digital camera for the first time there is this wonderful feeling of freedom knowing that you can shoot as many pictures as you like until you get the right one. All of a sudden we can all fancy ourselves as top fashion photographers clicking away like mad just to get the perfect moment.

The first digital camera copied the quirks and constraints of the previous generation of film cameras. It took a while for manufacturers and consumers to adapt to the new paradigm and exploit the technology opportunities. This is starting to happen now with camera manufacturers introducing capabilities impossible with a film camera.

For example, the latest digital camera from Kodak, the Easyshare DX7590, has an interesting new feature calledBLILO. It is designed to capture the exact photographic moment during an action shot.

The way it works? The photographer focuses on the subject and presses the BLILO button. The camera's 5-megapixel image chip then captures pictures into a 32-megabyte RAM chip at two frames per second. When the camera has shot 30 pictures, it starts overwriting the first ones and goes on shooting new pictures indefinitely. Releasing the BLILO button saves the last four pictures onto the memory card, hopefully catching that crucial moment. If you want to catch those first steps of your child walking, you just hold your finger on the button until the little darling actually makes a step.

That's OK for still cameras, but what about video? One company, inevitably called Deja View, has produced a wearable video camera called Camwear 100 that captures the events that you could miss. It works on the same principle as the Kodak camera by separating the capture of the image from the selection of the shots you are interested in.

A wearable camera clips onto your clothing and records onto the camera body mounted on your belt. You keep the camera recording whenever something interesting is likely to happen. When it does, you just press a button to save the last 30 seconds. The camera is quite expensive for the resolution offered but then people are often more interested in the content of the picture than its quality - as proven by many paparazzi shots.

These are the first examples of how rethinking the photography process to separate the capture of images from their selection and preservation leads to innovation. I sure that this will become a standard feature of future cameras.

There is perhaps a more serious implication. The accidental privacy that we expect to enjoy because no one has a camera out is reduced, and of course we're going to be subjected to a lot more "You've Been Framed" programmes.


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