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Monday, November 27, 2017

Two Photographic Technologies to Check in 2018

Note: I am going through a very busy period, with a lot of personal & other obligations. The frequency of articles might suffer a bit for the next couple of months or so, but I expect to be back on a quasi-weekly form by Christmas. Thanks! 


First we had digital cameras. Then we had digital SLR cameras. Then we had digital SLR cameras with video. Things improved, with more megapixels, more ISO settings, faster fps, cleaner images, all for less and less money. Somewhere along the way we also began to have other kinds of technologies, such as mirrorless cameras that allowed for tricks not possible with an SLR.

Maldives don't have hills, so only a drone can give you this perspective.
(photo from the public domain)

Still, despite all the benefits of all these, the last great leap in the way we make photos was the emergence of the digital SLR - someone could argue rather convincingly that the digital camera overall (that is, even before the first digital SLR) was the last great leap forwards.

All the rest are great, and I'll take the Nikon D500 any day over the ancient Nikon D1. And yet, we need to admit that when all is said and done the D1 and the D500 take photos the exact same way. It's a bit like driving a BMW from the 1960s vs one from last year: the new one is more comfortable and has electric windows and airbags, but basically it's the same technology, with a same kind of engine, driving a shaft and moving the wheels.

Is there anything new coming in photographic technology?
Is there something that can change the way we're taking (at least some) pictures?
You bet.



Today I'll talk about two photographic technologies that you ought to check in 2018, because I feel we're beginning to break the fluid barrier between them being mere curiosity, something for the few, and them being something in everyone's photographic closet.

Today we'll talk about Drones and 360-degree cameras.

In which way are these two "different" than the DSLR we're all used to and feel safe with? In which way are these two "new", in terms of redefining photography in some key concept? It all boils down to scope and intent. These two words are not synonymous, but they are closely related.



Scope in this context refers, in a way, to what you can do with this equipment. Intent, on the other hand, refers to why you're doing what you're doing with it. Let's start with the DSLR as a reference point (an example, so to speak), and then we can proceed taking a look at drones and 360-degree cameras.

DSLRs have been so incredibly successful precisely because of their very, very wide scope. You can use them for just about anything, and they can do it very well. With the appropriate lens (although, nothing wrong with simply using the kit lens that came with your camera), you can take almost any kind of photo you can imagine: macros, portraits, landscapes, etc. In terms of intent, again, there is great flexibility in connection to what the photographer intends to do (you might be doing it just for yourself, your artistic aspirations, or maybe as a favor to a friend who asked you to take some wedding photos - hey, by the way, read this)

Now, let's come to drones and 360-degree cameras.



Their scope is obvious: both a drone-mounted camera and a 360-degree camera offer you something that DSLRs don't: unique framing. In normal circumstances, a DSLR can't give you a 180-degree field of view (let alone 360). It would require a lot of trickery, such as panorama stitching - with all its limitations - and of course this is completely impossible for video. Similarly, a DSLR can't give you the amazing bird's eye view the drone can, or its unique positioning (to name an example: unless you have access to a boat, you normally can't take a photo of the beach from the perspective of the open sea).

Now, what about intent? Remember, I mentioned how intent refers to why you're taking pictures with this specific piece of equipment. In a way, both the drone and the 360-degree camera share something in common, something I personally feel inspired by:
The drone and the 360-degree camera perhaps mark a departure from the "me, I, myself" mentality of the selfie-generation, and focus once again on the surrounding world.
It's true, that sometimes drones are used for selfies as well ("dronies" & "dronie"?) but the vast majority of quality photos (and mostly videos) you'll see taken by drones don't focus on the photographer/videographer at all, and sometimes not even on other people. The true power of the drone-based photography and videography is in its ability to render landscapes and offer a greater picture. There's something poetic there that I personally like.

The same can be said about 360-degree cameras. I find it fascinating, philosophically speaking, that the 360-degree camera captures everything around it except the photographer her/himself! True enough, once again you can be selfish enough and include yourself in the frame, but in the vast best majority of cases, the pictures taken with such cameras that you see on the Internet are captures of monuments, halls, interesting locations that the photographer wanted to share with you, in a way helping you appreciate the space without being there.

Depending on my time next year - who knows what the future brings - I might wanna try one (or both!) of those myself. I'll keep you posted :)








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