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Digital cameras | What’s new in digital cameras

Digital cameras have been packing on features that make taking pictures easier than ever. A file photo of the Nikon CoolPix P500 camera. Photo: S.S. Kumar

If you’re still using an older digital camera – say, older than two years – then the market has plenty of surprises in store for you. Quietly, digital cameras have been packing on features that make taking pictures easier than ever, while introducing innovative technologies that allow you to do more with your digital camera than you probably ever imagined. Here’s a rundown of features you should look for in your next digital camera.

Great lenses

Serious photographers know that the lens makes the camera. That’s why most photographers with single lens reflex cameras (SLR) often spend many times more on their lens collection than their camera collection. In the past, in fact, you had to buy a digital SLR in order to get access to great lenses.

Not any more. A growing number of compact, affordable digital cameras are banking on consumers’ growing sophistication regarding camera equipment and are bringing out models that, while easy to carry, feature lenses that work well in low light and produce images that rival those taken by high-end digital SLRs. Panasonic’s Lumix series, Canon’s S95 IS, Nikon’s Coolpix S9100, and Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-WX5, for example, feature fast, high-quality lenses, yet retain the tiny form factor that allow the units to fit nicely into a pocket.

3D images

Normal still images not vibrant enough for you? Some of the latest digital cameras feature a “3D shooting” mode, which seemingly makes images pop off of the page as though you were looking at them with 3D glasses. Cameras with 3D typically achieve the effect by digitally merging two or more captures of the same scene. Fuji’s FinePix Real 3D and Vivitar’s 3D compact are examples of models that feature 3D images. Sony’s TX9 offers a “3D sweep panorama” mode that records separate left- and right-eye images as you sweep across a landscape.

The images are stitched together in-camera and are designed to be viewed on a 3D television set. Expect other camera makers to trot out models with 3D features in the coming months.


Buying a digital SLR in the past meant having to suffer through cleaning your camera’s image sensor – the main light-gathering chip in the camera – or sending the unit in to the manufacturer to have it professionally cleaned. Neither of those options was fun.

Many in the latest crop of digital SLRs, though, feature some type of self-cleaning mechanisms which eliminates the need to have the camera serviced regularly. Most of these cameras automatically clean the sensor each time you turn the camera off or on. The feature is so useful that you should probably avoid buying any new SLR without it.

Touch screens

Digital cameras have almost always offered LCDs either framing images or for navigating menus. But the screens were never very easy to use. Some of today’s latest digital cameras change all that, with touch screen interfaces that make the cameras as easy and fun to use as swiping your hand across an iPhone. Sony, Samsung, Nikon, Panasonic, and Canon all offer touch-screen models.

Soft skin mode

Today’s hi-res digital cameras are great for bringing out details.

But guess what? Most people, when photographed, don’t want your camera to pick up every wrinkle and mole. That’s where “soft focus” comes in. It’s a processing trick that photographers have been employing post-capture for decades. But now some cameras are offering a soft focus mode right in the camera itself. Sony has several models offering a soft skin mode, as does Panasonic.

Magic focusing

Perhaps the most amazing new feature introduced of late isn’t actually available on a production-model camera yet. But it’s coming.

Manufacturer Lytro has introduced a technology that lets you focus your images after the picture has been taken. Sounding too good to be true, the technology actually works, if the online demos are to be believed (http://www.lytro.com/picture_gallery). In essence, you can make any part of a blurry image become clearly focused just by clicking on it in software once it’s downloaded to your computer.

Lytro claims that its new technology amounts to a “picture revolution.” If the after-the-fact focus feature works as well as advertised, the company just may have a point. There’s no release date yet on the camera, and you probably shouldn’t expect it to be affordable. The manufacturer promises that the price will be below 10,000 dollars.


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