Warning: If you are new to digital cameras, better skip over this post. It contains a satirical look at how cameras are frequently designed to be sold more than designed to increase the quality of their output. None of what is described below is of any photographic value except for marketing purposes.
Everyone likes to know where things are going, what to expect and what to wait for. So what’s next for digital cameras? Well, here is what the marketing gurus would like to advertise next: Digital megapixels.
The future is all about creating things digitally. There is already digital zoom and digital shake-reduction (aka no-moving-parts shake-reduction). With digital zoom you extend a camera’s zoom range using the camera’s processor without the extra cost and weight that comes with optical zoom. Then why not digitally extend resolution?
With digital megapixels, digital cameras can do just that. Without a new sensor design, not to mention the heat and power consumption related to a high-resolution sensor, an entry level 100+ digital megapixels can be created. Such an entry level camera would be cheap to produce because it only requires implementing digital filtering to produce digital megapixels from the camera’s traditional megapixels. With digital megapixels, since there is no fixed limit to how many can be produced, consumers will no longer feel limited by resolution.
Digital megapixels are very advantageous compared to sensor-based megapixels present in recent digital cameras:
- Digital megaixels are economical since new sensor designs are not required for each increase in resolution.
- Since the added resolution is created inside the camera’s processor, there is not need to produce new optics capable of resolving finer details.
- Contrarily to traditional megapixels, increasing digital megapixels does not increase image noise. As a matter of fact, adding digital megapixels increases the smoothness of images.
- Improved technology can deliver increased digital megapixels via firmware updates. This was not even thinkable with traditional megapixels. This allows consumers to leverage their digital camera investment over the years.
- Digital megapixels can store full-color information and do not have to be bayer-interpolated. The bit-depth of digital megapixels can be much larger than the physical sensor allows, thus producing images with finer color tones.
- The RAW file format is highly compressible and can develop the image at different resolutions.
Given all these advantages, it seems that digital megapixels are the next logical step in digital camera evolution. Something similar has been tried before with a few digital cameras which produced interpolated results. However, these cameras could only interpolate up to twice the sensor resolution. Plus, interpolation is not as trendy as digital megapixels.
For the majority of consumers which most often scale-down their images for sending by email, posting on the internet or making 4″x6″ prints, there is no visible disadvantage to having digital megapixels rather than traditional megapixels.
The only thing to hope for is that future cameras will have the option of turning their digital megapixels off just like digital zoom can be turned off on most digital cameras 😉