The first photograph was taken in 1814, by Joseph Niepce, using a camera obscura. Exactly a century later, in 1914, the very first 35mm still camera was developed. Fifty years later, in 1973, Polaroid introduces one-step instant photography. Just ten years after that, the first digital camera was demonstrated.
Now we’ve hit the 21st Century, the photographic landscape has changed drastically. Digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR) cameras are readily available for consumers at low prices. Point-and-click digital cameras can be picked up for the price of a restaurant meal. Photographs can be uploaded and shared instantly with friends and family spread across the globe, almost instantaneously.
The rate of innovation, invention, and development, has only increased. Eye-Fi is a product released by a Californian company with the same name. Eye-Fi produces SD and SDHC cards that have Wi-Fi capabilities. This turns any SD-compatible camera into a wireless device, and when paired up with a smart phone, can directly upload pictures straight from out in the field.
So we’re at a peak of innovation, but what’s next?
WiFi as standard in point-and-shoot and digital SLR cameras is likely to happen very soon. The success of the Eye-Fi above shows that the demand is there, and if launched by one of the giant camera brands with a large marketing budget, could prove extremely successful.
The next logical step after WiFi capability is a 3G mobile network connection. This will allow a camera to retain an internet connection even when outside of a wireless network. A control panel would be available online and accessible from any computer. This would mean that a digital camera could instantly upload photographs to blogs, social networking sites or picture sharing sites.
A few of the higher-end and highly expensive DSLRs allow GPS attachments to geo-tag photographs. Location tagging is a feature that would fit very well within the information age, and combined with connection to a mobile network would allow a live feed of photograph and location to be uploaded to a social networking site. This would also allow photographs of significant events to be viewed from a map, and would result in the next generation of services like Google Street View, but with time-based control as well. This has crime solving implications too. It would allow law forces to see if any photographs or video footage had been taken and uploaded in a certain area at a certain timeframe.
Polaroid and retro photography in general, is becoming increasingly popular again. While not a technological innovation per se, it is highly likely that either Polaroid or another company will start manufacturing instant film for their cameras again in the near future.
Aside from these exciting innovations we are obviously going to be seeing devices getting smaller, and more powerful, year-on-year, decade-on-decade.