We benefit every time that smartphone in your pocket improves its camera system. Professional or not, we must admit that the quality of the software producing images on our smartphones is brilliant. All this clever tech will hugely impact photography in the future. Here’s why.
There’s no doubt that all cameras have improved in leaps and bounds over the last 10 years, but even more so for the cameras we carry every day in our pockets. Improvements in smartphone cameras may only seem like upgrades for the everyday person. Yet, I believe they will also shape the future of professional photography.
Flagship phone cameras are now so good that the average viewer wouldn’t think twice that well-shot photographs didn’t come from a professional camera. Smartphone cameras are on a different path from traditional photographic cameras, and I see them as the future for both casual and pro photographers.
Artificial Intelligence Era
It would be naive to think that intelligent camera software like the “Photonic Engine” featured in the latest iPhone 14 Pro won’t find its way into professional cameras. We are entering an era where AI will take a more prominent role in every industry, including art. If used correctly, this could unlock fantastic new possibilities for all artists, especially photographers. Whether you like that idea or not, it is undoubtedly the direction we are heading in.
Why Should Camera Manufacturers Care?
I feel as if the rate of implementation of new software technology has been much faster in smartphones than in dedicated cameras. This rate of innovation may be due to the limitations found with the smaller sensor sizes on most smartphones. This forces manufacturers to find innovative ways to improve their images. However, I believe that soon enough, camera manufacturers will have to ramp it up too. Despite this slower implementation, a decent amount of intelligent software has already found its way into professional cameras. Adding more software would make it easier to take better photos, especially for those just starting. It could act as a way for beginners to find their footing or take the leap to use a pro camera, resulting in increased sales for the camera manufacturers. And at the end of the day, that will be their primary goal.
AI and intelligent software are already playing a more significant role in our modern cameras than you may realize. For example, the latest generation of iPhones is taking multiple exposures, using depth sensors, and performing deep image processing when you press the shutter button. Thanks to the newest computer chips, this is happening in real-time, so fast you wouldn’t even think about it. This technology allows smaller camera sensors, such as those on smartphones, to produce images you may expect from dedicated cameras. Improved dynamic range, higher-quality images from existing sensors, and incredible low-light performance are some basic improvements that pop to mind. Imagine the possibilities that could be unlocked when you bring that software genius to professional cameras.
Artificial intelligence, in one form or another, is already present in most modern camera bodies. The improvements we have seen in autofocus and tracking are all thanks to top-of-the-range face recognition software and object tracking. Tech like this makes creating more enjoyable and allows me to focus on the more crucial aspects of a photograph, such as composition or lighting. This kind of software has made my experience using my Sony a7 IV an absolute joy.
Another example of intelligent algorithmic software in our current crop of cameras is stabilization algorithms. This software may be something we take for granted in modern cameras, as once enabled, it becomes part of how we shoot. It allows us to shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds and explore new photographic options, which is now crucial for most photographers. Once AI becomes involved in this aspect of photography, it will only develop it further, bringing more stability and improved performance. I’m sure you’d agree that better performance is what we all wish for.
What About That Manual Experience?
Now, I can see all the comments screaming at me, saying that software is taking away from the skill of photography or ruining the authentic manual approach. I agree that the new tech will never totally replace complete manual control should you want it. Raw images and manual focus won’t be going anywhere. However, I can see them no longer being the best way to approach shooting. I hardly touch manual focus with the quality of Sony’s current autofocus system, bar a handful of scenarios where I am better off taking complete manual control.
A large part of being a photographer is adapting to different challenges and the constant evolution of technology. Like everything, at first, it will be odd and we may not like it, but over time, the changes may play out to be beneficial and innovative. We may see the new features and technology pushing us to create in new ways and unlocking possibilities we would not have had before.
So, What Next?
The development of intelligent software features on smartphones will keep pushing the whole industry forward, making photography more accessible and more exciting, as well as unlocking new possibilities. It is difficult to predict where the software will go next. Still, I’d love to see more powerful in-camera processing for images taken on our big camera bodies. Of course, this will depend on more powerful computer processing chips and improved batteries. It certainly is not out of reach. After all, the camera we carry around in our pockets is already doing it.