Countdown To An Evolution
by Jim Cummins
There have never been textbooks or manuals on the future of imaging (still photography and video). And courses on imaging have always been unable to anticipate the emerging changes to and rapid pace of innovation in photography. Such as the tectonic changes that hit the profession when autofocus replaced manual focus and when digital imaging replaced film imaging. We've been living in a period where we're inventing it as we go along, and the pace of change is accelerating. The only way to learn the art of imaging and keep up with the constant change is to shoot, shoot, shoot ... and then shoot.
The field of imaging is about to undergo another tectonic change: during the coming twelve months, I expect that more photojournalists will be using smartphones as their primary capture medium than traditional cameras. And using tablets instead of laptops for managing their photos. With smartphone and tablet apps producing fantastic and very high quality images, this will be the biggest change for the profession since we switched from film to digital. It's inevitable.
Already, there are smartphones that can capture images equivalent to a number of high-end DSLR's, in terms of color, resolution and dynamic range, such as the Nokia Lumia 1020 Phone, which comes with a 41 megapixel camera and a Zeiss lens. I've been using this camera/phone for the past five months for everything. The results can be seen in the photos below. I use this smartphone in combination with a tablet running Windows RT. The Nokia 1020 has an optional high-capacity battery/grip which gives it not only extra battery life but a solid SLR-like grip that makes it easy to hold and very comfortable to shoot with.
I base my prediction that smartphones will displace SLR's with professional photojournalists upon the following capabilities that a vintage 2013 smartphone already brings to a working photojournalist: manual as well as automatic settings, white balance control, a variety of flash modes, effects (Blur, Color, Brightness, Panorama, Tilt & Shift, Crop, Rotate, Fix), exposure compensation settings (Flash & Speed & F Stops), facial detection and ISO settings ranging from 100 to 3200.
The camera is so accurate in exposure and color that very little post processing manipulation to create the perfect photo is needed. If additional manipulation is desired (“Photoshopping”), it can be done on a tablet, all of which can add Adobe Photoshop Express as an app to provide a large menu of effects and manipulations.
There's a different mind set that one must embrace in using a smartphone in place of a traditional SLR: photographers are going to have to be more creative than ever in order to stay in the game. We will have to be proficient in video as well as still photography, and be able to edit both stills and video on the spot. I've been employed by a few clients to shoot an assignment in stills with a little bit of video, edit the two with sound, titles and copy and put out a video of the assignment. When I've asked how soon they've needed the assignments completed, the replies were "we're double parked."
I can't stress enough the fact that photographers will have to be more creative. As print newspapers and magazines are folding, there are fewer assignments being given out to the traditional “professional photographer.” Newspapers and magazines are also accepting more stories from freelancers (which is anyone with a digital camera, today) and running it online. Gone are the days of the photographer with the press card in the hatband and the Speed Graphic. My business card is an 8 Gb flash drive with examples of my work that lasts one minute and twenty five seconds.
I love this system. It's unobtrusive, it's quiet. It's fast. The picture quality is magnificent in every situation I've put it through. Good color, contrast and a wide range of middle values. It is especially good, given the pixel count, in very low light situations. Good stabilization system, too.
When I take a picture it's immediately transferred to a Skydrive folder on my tablet (or I can transfer my pictures through a cable.) The Tablet by itself has a Micro USB connection. With the optional keyboard, there are 2 USB connections. With the Nokia 1020 being as outstanding as it is, one can only imagine what the next generation of smartphone cameras will be capable of (with each new generation coming at twelve month intervals at the longest, expect even far greater capabilities and features in the next handful of years.) Don't be surprised if they do laundry.
The other part of this system that's phenomenal is the video camera. In addition to high quality video, I can capture exceptionally high quality audio. Wireless mikes as well as wired mikes can also be attached to improve the sound. A working photojournalist's paradise, in a device I can carry in my shirt pocket.
So it comes down to this for me: No more lugging bulky DSLR's and heavy laptops to be a practicing photojournalist. I carry a Nokia Lumia 1020 phone/camera, a tablet, charger cables for each item, an On The Go (OTG) cable and a handful of Flash Drives. That's it.
The secret to staying on top of our rapidly evolving profession? Did I mention shoot?
P.S. People always ask me what kind of camera should they buy. Now I tell them buy a phone. You can't make a phone call with a camera.
Posted: June 4, 2014