Digital Camera HQ Grades the Trends of 2010

We take a look at the trends in digital cameras this year, from the worthy to the worthless.
By Digital Admin, Last updated on: 6/10/2014

Take a look at our "What's New" section and you'll see entries about loads of new products in the past few weeks. Heaps of them. We've seen literally dozens of announcements since the International Consumer Electronics Show in January and will surely see a few more trickle out before the Photo Marketing Association trade show at the end of February.

Eagle-eyed scouts that we are, we've picked up on a handful of emerging trends in the spec sheets--some so great we can't believe they didn’t start in prior years, some so stupid we don't know why the madness hasn't stopped. Here are five notable fads, broken down and graded for your easy-reading pleasure.

One World, One Memory Card

Let's start with the good news first. Sony and Olympus have finally given up the ghost on their proprietary MemoryStick and xD media card formats, respectively. All of the manufacturers' new digital cameras released in 2010 will be compatible with Secure Digital (SD) and Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) memory cards. Sony cameras will still take MemoryStick, so all their loyal supporters can still use the old tech.

 

DCHQ Editor’s Grade:

 

It's about time that photography finally gets a standard media format. Except for the poor souls that bought into xD cards, everyone wins.

HD Video For All

HD video in 720p has been a feature on a bunch of point-and-shoots for a few years now, but rarely for under $200. This year, 720p has become much more, shall we say, egalitarian. The cheapest 720p model we've seen so far is the Fuji AV100 at $100. Moving up the ladder, Sony announced a pair of 1080i-capable pocket-sized Cybershot models in the slimline TX7 and the geotagging HX5V. And last week, Nikon upped the ante further with the 1080p-capable (though non-pocketable) Coolpix P100.

 

DCHQ Editor’s Grade:

 

 

Now you can have your choppy digicam videos with crappy audio--in high-def! Snarkiness aside, this is a trend that we can definitely get behind. We doubt that the video quality will be mind-blowing--it never is with compact cameras, so don't sell your camcorder just yet--but it's another step in the right direction.

GPS - Geotagging Photo System

Geotagging will be a built-in feature on a handful of compact cameras this year. In simple terms, these cameras use GPS to attach latitude and longitude coordinates to pictures. Users have various reasons for wanting to do this, but a common one is so that they can plot their photos on a mapping service like Google Maps.

This feature has been available on smartphones for a while. Some dSLRs can do it, and a number of peripheral devices can add functionality as well. We only know of one compact camera with it thus far--the Samsung CL65, quietly released in late 2009--but manufacturers are set to release a few more this year, like the Samsung HZ35W, Panasonic ZS7, and Sony HX5V.

 

DCHQ Editor’s Grade:

 

This is cool, even if it is for a niche audience. The $300-plus price tags are sure to scare off the average consumer (GPS ain't cheap), but how many of us would really use it? What happened to a picture by itself being a perfectly suitable way to remember a place? But hey, it's not hurting anyone.

Why-reless?

Some manufacturers are experimenting with wireless connectivity in their products. Samsung is including WiFi b/g in their CL80 model for cord-free photo transfers to your computer or a range of social networks. Meanwhile, Sony has introduced the TransferJet wireless standard. It's said to allow for data transfers at speeds faster than USB 2.0 between any TransferJet-enabled devices, so photos can fly onto your hard drive.

DCHQ Editor’s Grade:

This is a mixed bag. The Samsung model with WiFi sounds like a great idea, but other manufacturers have tried this before and it never caught on. Remember the Panasonic TZ50 or Nikon S52c? Neither do we, but maybe the CL80 will take the industry by storm...maybe.

As for TransferJet, leave it to Sony to put an intriguing, potentially awesome new format on a MemoryStick to try to get us to buy into their proprietary media card format. I thought we were past that (see “One World, One Memory Card” above)? Currently, the only TransferJet-enabled devices are the Cybershot HX5V and TX7 cameras and a few Vaio F Series laptops. So after you shell out $1,500 for one of those setups, you'll still need the $99 8GB TransferJet MemoryStick card. The “wireless” range is also just a few centimeters, and it works better if the devices are touching.

On the plus side, TransferJet really is supposed to be absurdly fast, and most digital-imaging heavy-hitters are on board to adopt the standard, including Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, and Kodak. As frivolous as TransferJet is right now, it might actually become worthwhile in a few years when its more widespread.

But you know what would really be a hit? If somebody made a camera with wireless abilities, a phone, some applications, and a music player. Oh yeah--there are already dozens of those. That's probably why stand-alone digital cameras will never be serious wireless devices.

Even More Megapixels

Manufacturers continue to cram more megapixels into point-and-shoot models. Last year, most point-and-shoots usually had a resolution of 10 or 12 megapixels. This year, they have 12 or 14 megapixels.

DCHQ Editor’s Grade: 

The megapixel arms-race continues to nobody's benefit. A bigger number sounds all well and good, because bigger is better, right? That's what these manufacturers want you to think, but there's much more to image quality than megapixels. After a certain point, the lens, sensor size, and image processor are more important than resolution. In many cases, shoving extra megapixels onto a small sensor actually hurts the picture quality.

Think about it: The $130 Canon A1100 point-and-shoot has a 12 megapixel sensor. So does the $600 Nikon D5000 dSLR. Yet the D5000 obviously takes better pictures. Why? The lens is more advanced, the sensor is much larger, and the image processing is far superior, to name just a few factors.

We're not against greater resolution, as long as it can be pulled off without generating more noise. But the megapixel myth is well-documented--casual photographers will probably never need all those pixels. There should high-res models available for those rare occasions when somebody needs a poster-sized print or is forced to crop a photo down to minute details, but it should be the exception, not the rule.

 

Are we too optimistic or too cynical? Did we miss an obvious trend? Tell us what you think by leaving a comment below.

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