Future Camera Technological Advances

The best is yet to come with the cameras of the future

Digital cameras are always changing, adding new features and improving old ones. The technologies appearing in today's cameras were initially discovered several years ago, perhaps even for a different purpose, before becoming part of the mainstream camera world. Here are some of the most interesting and promising changes coming to digital camera technology in the near future.

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Goodbye, Shutter Button

A vintage camera's shutter speed dial
Nuttarpon Johnpardunsat / EyeEm / Getty Images

Cameras of the future may no longer require a shutter button. Instead, photographers could wink or use a voice command to tell the camera to record an image. It could work similarly to a hands-free cell phone, where you can issue commands without the need to push a button. The camera might be built into a person's glasses ("smart" glasses like Google Glass are already starting to appear on the market) or another everyday item. With the camera built into a pair of glasses, aiming it would be easy, too.

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Redefining 'Ultra Compact'

5 year old girl taking a photograph
Sharon Vos-Arnold / Getty Images

An ultra-compact camera is usually defined as one that measures 1 inch or less in thickness. Such small cameras are convenient because they easily fit in a pants pocket or a purse.

The camera of the future could redefine "ultra-compact," though. Manufacturers could create cameras that are 0.5 inches in thickness. They could even have smaller dimensions than today's cameras.

This prediction makes some sense, as digital cameras from a decade ago are much larger than today's smaller models, and the high-tech components inside continue to shrink. As more cameras incorporate touch screens, their size could be determined by the size of their display screens, eliminating all other controls and buttons, much like a smartphone.

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A woman smelling pink flowers on the tree
Artur Debat / Getty Images

Photography is a visual medium, but the camera of the future may add the sense of smell to photographs.

Photographs that can stimulate senses other than vision are an interesting idea. For example, a photographer could command the camera to record the smell of the scene, embedding it with the visual image captured. The ability to add smells to images needs to be optional, though. Adding smells to an image of food or a field of flowers would be great, but adding smells to photographs of the monkey house at the zoo might not be desirable.

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Unlimited Battery Power

A photographer changes the battery in her SLR camera
Yaroslav Mikheev / Getty Images

Rechargeable batteries in today's digital cameras are powerful, allowing at least a few hundred photographs per charge, but, what if you could charge the camera automatically as you're using it, without the need to be plugged into an electrical outlet?

The camera of the future could incorporate some sort of solar energy cell, allowing the battery to either operate only from solar power or allowing it to charge the battery using the solar cell.

Some questions need to be answered first, such as how much the solar cell would add to the size of the camera. Still, it would be nice to have unlimited battery power and never worry about missing a shot again.

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Dot Sight Camera

Child with an Olympus camera
Westend61 / Getty Images

Olympus' ultra-zoom SP-100 camera sets itself apart from the competition with a futuristic dot sight mechanism that helps you track far-off subjects while the camera's powerful 50X optical zoom is fully engaged. Most photographers who use cameras with long zoom lenses have experienced a subject moving out of the frame while shooting over a long distance with the zoom in use. The dot sight is built into the pop-up flash unit and gives the SP-100 a unique feature. You certainly won't find it on any other consumer-level camera, but that could change in the near future.

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Light Field Recording

Lytro camera with strap on a white table
Marc Pfitzenreuter / Getty Images

Lytro cameras employ light field technology, but this idea may become a bigger part of general photography soon. Light field photography involves recording the photo, then determining which portion you want to have in focus later. 

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No Light Required

Paparazzi using flash photography behind rope on red carpet
Caiaimage/Chris Ryan / Getty Images

Cameras that excel in low light―or no light―photography are on the way. The ISO setting in a digital camera determines the sensitivity to light for the image sensor, and a setting of 51,200 is a common maximum ISO setting for today's DSLR cameras.

But Canon's ME20F-SH camera has a maximum ISO of four million, which effectively allows the camera to work in the dark. Meanwhile, Google's latest Pixel smartphones include a feature called Night Sight, which uses machine learning and algorithms to create great low-light images. More cameras will also likely implement better low-light photography features in the future.

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