photokina 2016 in Cologne will once again become the centre of the imaging world from 20 to 25 September. Under the motto “Imaging Unlimited”, the most important players of the international imaging industry will meet with representatives of industry and commerce, photography enthusiasts and professional photographers for the ‘Six Day Races’. The closer the must-go of the industry gets, the more the excitement in the photography scene increases in the face of the anticipated innovations. That especially applies to this year’s photokina 2016, which is in the focus of pioneering changes to the entire industry.
Modern imaging technologies, as a consequence of the digital revolution, have changed the world of images at an astonishing speed, and thus how society deals with images. Cameras have become indispensable means of communication that not only automatically create photographs and films in excellent quality at the push of a button, but can also process, modify and transmit these worldwide. Around 74 percent of the German population uses a smartphone to create images and thus always has their camera with them. More and more, smartphones are also becoming the most important control centre for visual communication and the indispensable accessory for professional and private film and photo equipment. All cameras presented by the imaging innovators at photokina, use the interfaces of these jacks of all trades to expand their functionalities or to be able to use new applications optimally.
From the autonomous photo apparatus to the completely networked ‘Camera of Things’
The trend toward the networking of devices and machines, the Internet of Things (IoT), has also initiated dramatic convulsions in the camera industry, which will become manifest across all manufacturers at photokina 2016. Although cameras are becoming increasingly intelligent and their communications possibilities are expanding all the time, the interfaces with the smartphone remain decisive. That applies not only to the usage of functional expansions, but also to the remote control of increasingly higher performance recording systems. Even professional accessories, such as mobile studio flash devices, like those exhibited in the pro section of the trade fair, use smartphones and the corresponding apps to comfortably set and synchronise the activation of devices. The larger displays of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets simplify the selection of an excerpt, and thus also the remote control of the camera systems, becoming external second displays of the cameras. The cameras incorporated into the smartphones were the first completely networked representatives of the ‘Cameras of Things’ and the strongest impulse for the ‘Internet of Things’, which would hardly have been conceivable without cameras and image sensors.
While cameras per household were still registered years ago in the market analyses, around three quarters of the population already owns a smartphone with an integrated, completely networked camera. Numerous devices from daily life are equipped with cameras, which enable them to significantly expand their range of functions. The “Cameras of Things” are found in washing machines, professional printing systems, automobiles, door openers, refrigerators, washing machines, medical diagnostics and monitoring systems, security and locking systems, or in sports equipment. They recognise and analyse practically everything that enters their field of vision. They use facial and iris recognition for identification, and, in combination with other sensors and technologies, like, for example, location, height and depth metres, identify not only persons but also, networked with the Internet and utilising a similarity search function, structures, tourist attractions and other objects. Cameras long since no longer merely record what we see, but instead serve to make that which we don’t see visible. The wealth of ideas with which the innovators of the industry propel the industry forward at amazing speed with imaging and image processing technologies is documented by the FUTUREZONE of photokina, taking place for the first time this year, where startups show the ideas they have for expanding the imaging world.
The recording systems have reached a level that makes it practically impossible for users to receive a technically deficient photo as a result. This has prompted the camera manufacturers to focus on new expansions of photography that were previously hardly considered possible.
Virtual worlds expand the vision of the world
Two of the most conspicuous expansions of photography have enabled new image experiences as “virtual reality” (VR) or “augmented reality” (AR). For the first time it is possible to interactively navigate in recordings and add additional content to them in the case of “augmented reality”. Since the fulminant hype surrounding the smartphone app ‘Pokemon Go!’ at the latest, anyone can imagine the level of attractiveness “augmented reality” can reach. At photokina 2016, many manufacturers of products for “virtual reality” and “augmented reality” will be presenting applications. These extend from recording systems for creating content through solutions for the processing workflow to solutions for presenting and experiencing the world vision of expanding VR and AR content.
Innovations for photographing and filming on land, in and under water and from the air
If the continuing development of photography to date mostly revolved around the perfecting of image results and the simplification of the recording process, in the meantime the focus is on filming and photographing that which previously seemed impossible. The high art of discerning the “decisive moment”, as the great magician of the camera Henri Cartier-Bresson once propagated, is now possible for everyone with a modern photo/film camera. With the help of a combination of film and photo techniques, even a moment in the past can be recorded in the photo. Photo functions with which ultra high resolution videos also record the events before and after the actual pressing of the shutter release are just as self-explanatorily state of the art as retroactive focusing. Professional quality is accessible and affordable for private users. Photographing and filming is no longer merely camera-driven, but is instead impelled by the wish for attention-getting, unprecedented images. The tools and technologies required to do so are no longer in any sense primarily the cameras for recording, but instead the accessories for recording and subsequent processing required for the task. The workflow of the imaging chain is once again the central theme: the path of images from recording through processing to saving, archiving and distribution.
How photographers take off
Where small aircraft with the doors removed, hot air balloons or helicopters used to be needed to realise impressive aerial recordings, this can be done much better today with unmanned and comparatively very much more affordable flying devices. Impressive because the small photo drones allow entirely new perspectives, as they can navigate closer to the sheer rock wall, the mountain peak or the church tower than all other manned alternatives. They are in the meantime equipped with high resolution cameras that provide professional photo and film quality. However, most innovative are also the control systems, which allow safe navigation inside and outside, and include both automatic collision protection and take-off blocks for no- fly zones.
The endless possibilities of digitalisation through ever newer software applications, whether the updating of old products to the expansion of their successors, the hardware is receding more and more into the background. Whether correcting lens errors, effects for follow-up processing or the realisation of innovative recording functions, nothing happens in photo technology anymore without high-performance programmes. They ensure colour-proof recordings and prints. They determine not only the final appearance of the photo, but can also carry out editing of sound and images with film recordings.
Digitalisation is prompting a revival of analogue products
The endless reproducibility of digital images has awoken a longing in many people for uniqueness, for images beyond any virtuality. A new trend toward analogue photography, the instant image and toward tactile photography will be evident with many exhibitors at photokina. The instant image is experiencing a boom that has even led to manufacturer supply bottlenecks. New cameras with unusual, fashionable designs will further strengthen this trend at photokina. The ephemeral digital image is not only still in demand as special wall decoration. It can be applied to nearly any material and has recently also decorated not only apartments as a photo wall with the favourite images of the inhabitants, but also, among other things, smartphone shells, beer tables, tiles or garage doors. The haptics of the materials experience a new diversity in the process. This is anything but nostalgia. On the contrary, it represents an expansion of possibilities for choice. New surfaces for photo paper or acrylic carrier materials with a metallic impressions, as well as special carrier structures offer the individual image taste an endless variety of options.
Even lab devices for film and paper development are experiencing a rebirth at photokina 2016. The interest in analogue photo media and individualised photo products like photo books and similar find their counterparts among the cameras and lenses. On the lookout for a certain surprising image atmosphere, lens manufacturers are increasingly developing modern reconstructions of classic lens rarities in order to be able to also use their effects in digital photography.
The pixel race of the camera manufacturers will heat up again this year. However, new trend themes like networking, the Cameras of Things, VR and AR, the merging together of photo and video, photo drones and the bridgehead between digital and analogue photo products will also be dominant themes.