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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Where Are Digital SLRs Going?

A conversation with Canon’s Chuck Westfall offers a glimpse of the future


We're increasingly seeing improvement in the manufacturing of sensors. Right now, we're looking at a native ISO sensitivity of 100 to 200, but that could move up to 6400 and higher very quickly. When that happens, it will make a big difference in a photographer's ability to create images under low light.

Future Of D-SLRsPCPhoto: Canon has been one of the few companies to release a full-frame SLR. While this has allowed photographers to take advantage of their lenses' native focal length, it has also revealed that some lenses don't deliver even illumination throughout the frame or corner-to-corner sharpness.

Westfall: We're working to optimize quality with full-frame sensors. In the past with film SLRs, things weren't as critical, but as we're clearly seeing with cameras such as the EOS 5D and 1Ds Mark II, they're putting some high demands on the performance of any given lens. So we're certainly looking at ways of improving evenness of illumination and corner sharpness.

PCPhoto: There are some remarkable advances happening with optical designs. What are some of the things that you find especially interesting?

Westfall: There are several demonstrated technologies. These are things that are more than just theories as many of these things have developed into working prototypes. One of them is liquid lenses. Basically, there's a combination of water and oil. When electricity is applied to certain parts of the container that holds this liquid, the shape of the droplet of liquid is made to act as a lens. By changing the shape of the water, you can use it as a lens to help make an image. It has also been possible to make multiple droplets work in conjunction with each other and thus change the apparent focal length of the lens.

PCPhoto: What advantage would such a lens design provide?



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