2. In-Camera HDRHaving the ability to hold detail throughout a high-contrast scene has been a dream of film photographers since the invention of film. High-dynamic-range (HDR) digital photography makes it possible. Until recently, HDR was done via software, meaning more time in front of the computer. Today, camera makers are putting this capability into cameras. Pentax's K-7 and K-x can take three different exposures of a scene and blend the best highlight, midtone and shadow detail into a single HDR image. Sony's new DSLR-A550 can do this with two shots, one exposed for the highlights and one for the shadows. In-camera HDR isn't as flexible as doing it via software, but can be very handy when you just want to expand detail from highlights through shadows, rather than do special effects.
Note that many DSLRs provide an automatic lighting-correction feature, which also improves detail in highlights and shadows. Examples are Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority, Nikon's Active D-Lighting, Olympus' Shadow Adjustment Technology, Pentax's Dynamic Range Expansion and Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer.
3. Sweep PanoramaA popular photo technique that has been labor- and computer-intensive until recently is panoramic imaging. With the right software, you can take a series of photos and stitch them together into one wide (or tall) image, showing a far greater angle of view than is possible in a single shot with the lens used. Now, this capability has come to the camera. With the Sweep Panorama feature in Sony's Cyber-shot HX1 compact camera, you just press the shutter button, then "sweep" the camera horizontally or vertically. The camera will combine the shots into a single image covering an angle of view up to 224 degrees.
4. Face DetectionOne challenge when photographing people is getting the focus and exposure right for the subject's face. With face-detection technology, the camera automatically recognizes human faces in a scene, adjusting focus, exposure (including flash) and even white balance accordingly. Face detection is available in many compact digital cameras, as well as a growing number of DSLRs, including Canon's EOS 50D, 5D Mark II and Rebel T1i; Nikon's D90 and D5000; Olympus' E-30, E-420, E-450, E-520 and E-620; Pentax's K-7 and K-x; and Sony's DSLR-A550 and A500.
Face-detection technology is ever evolving. Smile detection, available in compacts and DSLRs like the Sony A500, can automatically fire the camera when it detects a subject's smile. Blink detection, available in a number of compact cameras, including Pentax's new Optio W60 and Sony's Cyber-shot W290, among others, warns the photographer when a subject blinked during a shot, so the image can be reshot on the spot.
As if that's not enough, Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GH1 and DMC-GF1 offer Face Recognition, which can identify a preregistered specific person in a scene—handy when you want to make sure the focus is on your favorite people.