Early digital cameras struggled to deliver the quality and resolution of their film forefathers. As sensor technology advanced and quality comparisons fell away, camera makers began focusing on the processor to take advantage of these onboard computers for more sophisticated camera functions. Now there are digital cameras that even have dual processors—something found only in higher-end computers until recently—and that computing power enables a variety of features that no film camera could ever offer. Today’s DSLR has more in common with your first computer than your first camera.
Though not strictly "apps" in the traditional sense, many of the technologies and camera features we look at here let you do things with your photos in the camera that otherwise would require special gear or computer software. We expect the lines between computer and camera to blur even further in future models.
Sony introduced this great feature in its compact camera line, and now includes it on interchangeable-lens models. Wide-view stitched panoramic images have long been popular, but traditionally were painstakingly produced by shooting a series of images with a tripod-mounted camera (carefully aligned to rotate around the front nodal point of the lens) and then combining the images using special panorama software.
With Sweep Panorama, you merely activate the feature and sweep the camera across the scene. The camera records the images and stitches them together automatically. Newer Sony cameras also offer a 3D version of Sweep Panorama (though you’ll need a compatible TV to play back the images in 3D).
Most entry-level and midrange DSLRs offer a number of subject or scene modes that automatically preset the camera for photographing specific types of subjects and scenes. These generally include portrait, landscape, close-up/macro and sports action, plus such things as sunset, night portrait, child and more. Film SLRs were able to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, flash and drive mode, but DSLRs also can adjust such things as sharpening, contrast, color saturation, hue, ISO and more to suit the subjects.
A number of digital cameras have built-in intervalometers, which allow you to set them to shoot a series of images at desired intervals automatically. Thus, you can produce a series of still images that show a flower opening or the movement of shadows across a scene during the day.
Once you have your time-lapse series, you can create cool movies using software—check out what one photographer did with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II on a flight from San Francisco to Paris at vimeo.com/21822029.