The future of photography: what's next for your camera?

As our look back at the vintage cameras that made your camera phone possible shows, camera technology has come a long way. But now that smartphones and digital cameras come with instant photos, access to the internet and bells and whistles galore, what can the cameras of the future possibly hold? Join the O2 Gurus as we take a look into the crystal viewfinder to find out what’s next.


Camera parts are going to get smaller and lighter as time goes by. In fact, Angela Nicholson, head of testing of photography at Future, tells us that single lens reflex cameras (SLRs – the chunky big-lensed cameras usually seen in the hands of the paparazzi and professional photographers) could go the way of the dodo.

She says, “At the moment the real challenge for compact system cameras is to get the low light autofocusing up to the same standard as top-end SLRs so that they can be used more effectively to shoot news events, sport and music gigs. Once that happens, I think that SLRs will start to decline until they become a niche product for a group of devotees. No one wants to carry a big heavy bag of camera bodies and lenses around if they don’t have to.”

Future cameras will be faster, cheaper and use less power

Graphene could be the key to better image quality from smaller cameras. Graphene is something of a wonder-material; it’s 100 times stronger than steel, extremely flexible and conducts electricity super efficiently while being just one atom thick.

When it comes to cameras, researchers have already used it to create an image sensor that catches light 1,000 times more efficiently than the sensors we have in our cameras now. That means your future camera will be able to take really clear pictures even when there isn’t much light to speak of – like at a gig or evening event. It’ll do that while using ten times less power and it’ll cost five times less than existing sensors.

You’ll build your future camera yourself


Just because the traditional SLR’s days are numbered, that doesn’t mean that the camera of the future will look like the compact you have in your pocket now. Ergonomics is a big thing in camera design and manufacturers are always working on new ways to make their devices feel more natural to hold and use. Modular cameras that you put together yourself could hold the key to ultimate personal comfort – not only could you choose the tech you actually want in a camera, but you could pick components that favour your strongest hand and eye.

You’ll control it with your voice

From the iPhone’s Siri to Xbox Kinect, tech makers are clamouring to build voice control into their products and cameras are no exception. Several compact cameras and smartphones now give you the option to trigger a photo just by saying, “Cheese!” but the future could hold a lot more control than that. Imagine telling your camera to switch to settings that suit the scene, zoom, turn the flash on, then shoot – all while you’re on the other side of the room in the shot.

Want to check how the photo’s come out? No problem, just look at your wrist: the camera has beamed a preview to your smartwatch. If the shot looks fine, then just tell the camera to upload it to Facebook and turn itself off. You need never move again.

Your camera will become part of you


You may not hold a future camera at all; we may soon be embedding them in our bodies instead. It’s not as outlandish as it sounds – bionic eye implants are already being developed to help restore sight to patients suffering from degenerative eye conditions. While you’d have to be a pretty dedicated photographer to sacrifice an eye for a camera-enhanced replacement, Google may provide a less intrusive option. It has been experimenting with a Google Glass-style contact lens with a tiny camera built-into it.

You’ll be able to take pictures through walls…

File this one under maybe – but thanks to metamaterials it’s not out of the realms of possibility that your future camera could see through walls. Metamaterials are man-made matter that behaves in different ways to natural materials. Using these, scientists have developed a lens that can ‘see’ through things like cloth and wood in real-time. Of course, there are some pretty serious privacy concerns to consider, so it’s more likely that this tech will be used in airport security scanners than in your point-and-shoot. But you never know…

…and shoot smells and holograms


Capturing smells is notoriously difficult and can only currently be done through a bulky, analogue process. But projects like Amy Radcliffe’s Madeline (above) got the internet buzzing about a future camera being capable of ‘photographing’ odours. Give it a couple of decades and scientists could well have developed cameras that capture image and smell together. The tech required to create holograms already exists, however. It requires a lot more pixels than your average megapixel sensor can handle, but once gigapixel cameras become affordable we could all be sending messages to Obi Wan hidden in R2 units.

Would you like to be able to take photos of smells, or does that sound like a pointless gimmick? Let us know on our Twitter @O2 or comment below. 

For more on how technology is changing the world of photography, tune in to listen to O2 Guru Davina talking about cameras and tech on LBC Radio this Saturday at 8.30pm. Find out more here.

You can also find us on O2 Guru TV or visit an O2 Guru in store.