Have digital cameras become boring?

Has digital camera technology reached maturity? Or is it just that no real innovations have appeared in so long. Certainly, the digital camera front has offered little to get excited about in recent years.

This observation, shared by most photography enthusiasts, is a fair, if harsh, judgment on the current state of the digital camera industry. At Sigma, we have taken this criticism to heart.

During the burst of digital camera market growth in the second half of the 1990s, innovations appeared at a rapid pace in the areas of pixel count and image processing technology, including white balance and noise reduction, not to mention auxiliary functions like face recognition. Real progress was being made and there was plenty to talk about.

More recently, digital cameras have gained still higher pixel counts, video capability, and other functions that provide practical benefits and convenience. These advances were offered with the best of intentions — people desired them. But if this same progress is also behind the feeling that cameras have gotten boring, perhaps it is time to rethink what a digital camera should be.

Technology in turmoil

The first electronic still camera appeared about 30 years ago, and mass-market digital cameras have been around for about 15 years. Looking back on the many stages of photographic innovation since the 19th century, you can see just how young the digital camera really is.

Considering the digital camera's rapid popularization and the accompanying innovations in performance and convenience, you would be excused for getting the impression that nothing remains to be accomplished.

Appearances to the contrary, digital cameras and imaging are in a period of turmoil. Measured against the long span of photographic history, digital photography is still in its formative years. In Sigma's view, there is still considerable room for development.

The idea that digital imaging technology is already mature is, in Sigma's opinion, open to debate.

Radical technology for real quality

With the huge popularity of digital cameras, people are using them in new ways. Digital images are playing ever more important roles in our daily lives.

As in the past, photography is an ideal medium for preserving memories and expressing creative visions. What is new is the use of photos as communication, particularly through photo sharing sites and social media. In this new domain, photos are part of a person's online presence, a way to share interests and a catalyst for relationships.

Technology and functionality continue to evolve to support these new applications. Today's digital cameras are designed to make it easy to perform many tasks, thereby encouraging more people to enjoy photography without hesitation. This is a good thing.

But when it comes to the critical core of digital photography — the image capture system that determines image quality — the overwhelming majority of digital cameras are still on the same well-worn road. Their fundamental technology has not changed since the digital camera's babyhood.

It is precisely here — in this key area of the capture system and image generation process — that Sigma is charting a new course.

With a single-minded focus on generating true, high quality images, Sigma is the only digital camera maker dedicated to developing direct image sensor technology and cameras that incorporate it.

Irreplaceable moments, immortalized

Moving scenes, candid shots, breathtaking scenery …. To preserve these moments truthfully with all their evocative power, the image capture system is of overarching importance. As the bedrock of photographic veracity, the capture system should be the primary target of research, development and innovation efforts. After all, photography exists to reflect truth, and cameras exist to take photographs.

We are not denying the success of developments aimed at making cameras easier to use. We simply believe in going to the heart of the matter by focusing on innovation that actually improves the quality of photographs.

Just as film followed an evolutionary path of incremental improvement, so the digital camera's image capture system must steadily and resolutely evolve to realize its full potential. There is much to be done and we are set on doing it.

SIGMA SD1 Special Contents