There are two types of technology products: innovative products and me-too products. Unfortunately, most technology products seem to fall into the latter category. However, every now and then, someone comes up with a truly innovative product. In the world of gaming consoles, no one did this better than Nintendo with its sold-out-everywhere Wii console. Congradulations, Nintendo! Now, who will do this for digital cameras?
Digital cameras are certainly improving. Each generation is faster, has more capabilities and more resolution than the previous. However, these gradual improvements have not brought much innovation. Most digital cameras work and operate in very similar ways to their film ancestors. Not to say that there is something wrong with the way film cameras operate, but surely the nature of digital technology allows for something more…
It seems that he market leaders, Canon and Nikon, are keeping with their working formula, perfecting their designs without leaving the paths that work well for them. On the other hand, the smaller players try to innovate more often, after all they have more room to grow and less to loose.
Lets recap some of the best innovations among digital cameras:
- Olympus adds dust-reduction system to DSLR. By shaking the sensor at high speeds, dust is loosened. Years later, Sony, Canon and Pentax adopt similar designs in their 10 megapixels DSLR cameras.
- Minolta uses a proximity sensor to determine when the photographer is using the viewfinder on their prosumer range of digital cameras. This feature is eventually brought over to their DSLR cameras and handed over to Sony who uses it in the Alpha A100. Shortly after, Canon introduces the Digital Rebel XTi with the same great feature. This sounds simple but once you use this feature it is hard to live without it.
- Minolta invents CCD-shift stabilization, called Anti-Shake, as a method for image stabilization. This strike of genius separates the stabilization mechanism from the lens, giving birth to the first DSLR with built-in stabilization, the Konica-Minolta Maxxum 7D. Anti-shake stabilizes all lenses at no additional cost and uniquely brings stablization to prime lenses, fisheye lenses and ultra-wide lenses. This technology was adopted by Sony. Not far behind, Pentax introduced a similar system in its Pentax K100D and Pentax K10D.
- Fifteen years after introducing hyper-program mode on their Z1 film camera, Pentax adds sensitivity-priority and combined shutter-aperture priority modes to their K10D. They also introduce digital white-balance preview which greatly facilitates selecting white-balance on a digital SLR.
- Fujifilm invents the SuperCCD SR which captures more dynamic range by using two photosites per pixel. This technology makes its way to their Finepix S3 Pro SLR.
- Fujifilm introduces their 4th generation SuperCCD HR in the Finepix F10. This sensor design dramatically produces less noise at high-ISO sensitivities than previously possible. Further development of this sensor leads to the Finepix F30, the first non-DSLR to produce usable full-resolution images at ISO 3200.
- Casio creates a lens made of transparent ceramic to produces the thinnest camera of its time with an optical zoom, the Casio Exilim S100.
- Minolta produces the first digital camera with folded-optics. This allows a non-protruding lens with optical zoom. This design is later copied by Sony, Nikon and Olympus. Later, Panasonic introduces the first camera with folded and extending optics, the Lumix DMC-TZ1.