Is the future of the camera industry in the hands of the tablet makers? The recent rash of low-cost, powerful tablets like the Google Nexus 7 brings unheard-of power that will transform the way we relate to our cameras
No, I’m not suggesting that we start using tablets instead of camcorders. Never mind the fact that it’s impossible to use a tablet camera without looking ridiculous - the form factor is all wrong (although you get a huge viewfinder) and you need a proper (ie big) lens to take decent video, and you’ll never get that with a tablet.
But t’s easy to forget just what an amazing piece of technology a tablet is. With seemingly every consumer electronics company scrabbling to get some tablet action, we’ve come to expect new, better devices all the time, losing, perhaps, our perspective on just how advanced the state of the art has become.
And because we’ve lost this view, manufacturers in our industry are missing out on opportunities, not just for sales but for massive economies as well.
Quite simply, a tablet does almost anything that the non signal-processing parts of a camera needs to do - or any other professional device for that matter.
For any kind of control or display function, you can just use a tablet. The new iPads (generation 3 and 4; not the iPad Mini) can even display full HD video with enough room around it for additional controls. Even the $200 Google Nexus tablet has a 720p display.
Not to mention that it has wireless networking, all kinds of sensors, a decent amount of storage, and it is completely programmable. At the very least it’s ideal for entering metadata - an increasingly important stage in the modern, file-based workflow.
The Panasonic 4K concept camera gives a clue to how this might all work, with all the main control functions shifted to what looks like an external smartphone. In another article, I’ve talked about the Mackie DL1608 audio mixer, that’s controlled by multiple iPads, wirelessly connected.
The point is that if you can make a significant part of your manufacturing and design cost go away by virtualising it as an app running on a tablet, it makes your product more competitive, and gives you more time to focus on the things that you’ll never virtualise: the stuff in your product that produces a great picture.
And now, with the arrival of the Google 7” Nexus tablet, there’s a new price point, where you can simply assume that anyone who’s serious about their art will be able to afford a device that can run on your app.
This changes things.
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