The Future Of Tech (Part 3)

6/8/2013 3:41:57 PM


We expect several trends to emerge in connection with this year’s new cameras.

Big sensors in small cameras

Several excellent premium compact cameras have been released in the past few years, but 2012 was an especially innovative year for the category. That’s because the image sensors in these pocket-size cameras are getting much bigger and much better, and we’re reaching the point where a pocket able camera will offer the image quality of a dSLR.

The marquee models for this trend are Sony’s Cyber-shot RX100 ($720), a compact camera with a sensor nearly three times large than the ones found in cameras of similar size, and the ones Sony Cyber-shot RX1 ($3,750), which offers a full-frame sensor that’s bigger than those in most consumer dSLRs. Big sensors translate to outstanding images, especially in low-light settings. As other camera companies unveil their own big-sensor pocket cameras, we’re betting that this trend is just getting started.

Sony’s RX1 offers a full-frame sensor

Sony’s RX1 offers a full-frame sensor

And that just covers the point-and-shoots. In dSLR-land, full-frame sensors are showing up in more moderately priced camera bodies. Before the latter half of 2012, a full-frame dSLR fetched at least $3,000, but two more recent dSLRs – Nikon’s D600 and Canon’s EOS 6D – sell for less than $1,950 each (without a lens). That’s not cheap, but it’s cheap for full-frame. Expect that more-for-less theme to continue.

Strong sales for dSLRs and mirror less cameras

Fewer people have been buying basic point-and-shoot cameras over the past few years, thanks to the convenience and improved capabilities of camera-equipped smartphones. Cameraphones are sufficient for handling everyday photography, but they’re also introducing many casual shooters to the fun of photography from which they develop an interest in higher-quality cameras that capture noticeably better photos.

According to estimates by the Consumer Electronics Association, dSLRs sales are expected to increase by 13 percent over 2011, while point-and-shoot sales will continue to trend downward by nearly 8 percent. And first-time dSLRs owners will have a number of easy-to-use, well-priced options to choose from you can find several good dSLRs for $450 to $900 with a bundled lens.

Compact system or mirror less cameras have also matured nicely. Compared with just last year, the mirror less category offers many more lens options to choose from, smaller bodies, and cameras built for both beginners and seasoned shooters.

App cameras and connected features

Wi-Fi-enabled cameras aren’t new- they’re been around since the Kodak EasyShare One debuted in 2005. However, we’ve never seen as many connected cameras as we have in the past year, and certainly not as many high-end models with wireless-sharing features.

Wi-Fi sharing is now an option in dSLRs and compact interchangeable-lens cameras, not just in basic point-and-shoots. Canon’s full-frame EOS 6D dSLR, Sony’s  new NEX-6 and NEX-5R interchangeable-lens cameras, and Panasonic’s Lumix GH3 mirror less camera all offer Wi-Fi sharing features to complement their high-end imaging and video capabilities. Sony’s latest NEX cameras also run proprietary, add-as-you-go-apps that let you extend the camera’s functionality over time.

Panasonic’s Lumix GH3

Panasonic’s Lumix GH3

On the point-and-shoot side, the 21x-optical-zoom Samsung Galaxy Camera is the most ambitious of the new breed, as it offers 4G and 3G connectivity, runs Android 4.1 and all its compatible apps, and boasts a huge 4.8in touchscreen. Nikon’s Coolpix S800C compact camera also runs Android. Wireless sharing, apps and smartphone-like features are bound to find their way into many more cameras in the next year.

4K/Ultra HD camcorders and dSLRs

Much hype has surrounded 4K (or Ultra HD) TV recently and you’ll see a few sets released in 2013. But Ultra HD is still a few years from being mainstream-ready, in large part because not a lot of 4K content iOS available for viewing. And no wonder: at 3840x2160 lines, 4K footage has four times the resolution of 1080p video.

Right now, the cameras and camcorders capable of capturing 4K footage are professional-level models, most of which cost thousands of pounds. The exception is the rugged $375 GoPro Hero3 camera, which can capture 4K video, but only at a sluggish rate of 15 frames per second.

GoPro Hero3 camera

GoPro Hero3 camera

In the coming year, watch for more video-capable dSLRs and high-end consumer camcorders that can capture 4K video. These models will be strictly for the early-adopter crowd – very expensive and storage-hungry and, unless you’ve already bought a 4K TV or projector, will you notice the difference when viewing favorite videos? Highly unlikely.


Your current, top-of-the-line smartphone will be outdated by this time next year. That’s not entirely a bad thing: advances in mobile technologies come at an astonishing pace, and smartphones will continue to get smarter and better as time goes on, so while you may think your current phone has a lot of nifty features, your next smartphone will be capable of even more.

By looking at today’s smartphones, we can get a sense of the kinds of features smartphone makers will focus on in the coming months. Here are some of them.

Wireless charging

This isn’t anything new: for years now, you’ve been able to wirelessly charge your smartphone, thanks to battery cases and charging pads from companies such as Duracell and Energizer. Only recently, however, have we started to see smartphones with inductive charging coils built into the handset itself, obviating the need for special cases or battery packs to wirelessly charge the phone. You can recharge models such as the HTC One X+ and Nokia Lumia 920 with any wireless charger that supports the Qi standard, and more Qi-compatible handsets are expected in coming months.

Nokia’s Lumia 920 charges wirelessly

Nokia’s Lumia 920 charges wirelessly

Quad-core becomes the norm

Phones with quad-core processors may be newcomers, but we expect that they will quickly become standard in 2013. These processors let you run more-advanced apps on your smartphone, and they are especially good for playing games with HD graphics. If you still use a phone that has a single-core processor, it may be time to consider upgrading to something with a little more oomph.

Bigger screens

The era of smartphones equipped with small screen is quickly coming to an end. Most of the phones released in 2012 have screens measuring 4.3in-plus, and that trend seems likely to continue in 2013. While having a large screen makes a phone difficult to use in one hand, the extra screen space has some significant benefits: you can view more content without constantly having to zoom in and out, and typing on the onscreen keyboard is much more enjoyable, thanks to the button’s being larger and easier to accurately tap.

Most of the phones released in 2012 have screens measuring 4.3in-plus, and that trend seems likely to continue in 2013

Most of the phones released in 2012 have screens measuring 4.3in-plus, and that trend seems likely to continue in 2013

NFC becomes big (again)

Yes, it’s this old song and dance. Last year there were lots of predictions that near-field communication (NFC) would take off in 2012, and here we are a year later saying that it will surely happen in 2013. Plenty of phones today ship with an NFC chip, although many manufacturers, retailers and customers don’t seem to know what to do with the technology. Both Google and Microsoft let you use NFC to make purchases with your phone, but most people are reluctant to give up their physical wallet for a digital one. Samsung’s recent ad campaigns showing people sharing media via NFC may help in demonstrating ways that eth technology can be useful for things besides mobile payments, but broad acceptance of NFC won’t happen until the public is ready.

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