The future of camera technology and resolution

An interesting discussion about the future of camera technology over at The Knowledge

Thirty years ago, the debate about film and TV camera technology was a lot simpler, and they either they cost as much as a car or a house. Since then, technology has advanced faster than anyone predicted, and now it’s feasible to privately own a camera that would have made a 1970s designer bite his pencil in half with astonishment.

How far technology will progress in the next few decades is anyone’s guess, and it’s dangerous to make bold predictions in such a volatile area.

So, let’s live dangerously…

via The future of camera technology | The Knowledge Bulletin | The Knowledge.

When I first started in Television in 1990’s Betacam SP was the go to standard for shooting and if you bought an SP camera you could work that camera for nearly 10 years and see a good return on your money (albeit a very expensive chunk of money nonetheless!).  The horizontal resolution was 340 lines!

Then DigiBeta came along in 1993 with a resolution of 625 lines. Still a tape based format it was far superior to analog SP, but even so SP cameras were still used for quite some time as Digibeta gained a foothold – it’s price at Launch was around £70,00 pounds for just the camera and viewfinder.

The Knowledge article above discusses the fact that cameras are now very cheap and have reached a bit of a hiatus in  the resolution war, with Red Dragons and Sony F65s reaching 6K and numerous cameras recording 4k resolution. Whilst it can never hurt to ‘oversample’ with more resolution than needed for final delivery, it appears manufacturers are currently pushing higher dynamic range and wider colour gamuts.

I’m sure higher resolution cameras will appear in the future, but it’s worth bearing in mind that for most viewing at home the human eye limits how much of that resolution we will ever see, even with a 50 inch TV at normal viewing distances. More resolution does help in large cinema screens.

1080p Does Matter – Here’s When (Screen Size vs. Viewing Distance vs. Resolution)

This interesting article by Carlton Bale has some great charts that illustrate that for most people with full 20:20 vision (it can get better – you’d need to sit about 6 feet from a 50 inch TV to see the full benefit of 1080p pictures, and about 3 feet away to see the full benefits of 4k!

Viewing Distance where resolution becomes noticable
Screen Size vs. Viewing Distance

And most people with TVs that size sit at least 8~10 feet away.

Netflix are starting to deliver 4k streaming now, and 4K is a great marketing tool to sell more TVs, but as long as I’m watching an engrossing story and it’s well shot I’m no that bothered about the resolution! (Within reason!!)

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I am a Freelance Lighting cameraman living in London. I have worked in broadcast television, films and corporate videos for nearly 25 years, starting at the very bottom as a tea boy and working my way up to the heady heights of Lighting Cameraman in London, working all over the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. It's been an interesting journey: from corporate films to news, commercials, children's and reality TV to feature films, working along the way as a runner, clapper loader, spark(electrician), focus puller, camera operator and lighting cameraman. I have met and learnt from all sorts of fascinating people in my working career, many of whom are firm friends to this day.

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