Are Still Cameras Becoming Obsolete?

This week, Nvidia and MotionDSP launched an interesting Cuda-based application called vReveal. This product finds all the video on your PC, and uses Nvidia’s pre-OpenCL Cuda platform to dramatically improve it. Cisco also bought the Flip video camera company this month for $590 million, making me wonder what the second shoe to drop would be (hint: think networked). Coincidently, I’ve had several folks argue compellingly this week that still cameras will be dead in a few years as a result of inexpensive HD cameras, and tools like vReveal that turn a movie camera into a better solution for still shots. Yes, this initially sounded nuts to me too, but I get it now.

Let’s explore each of these announcements, and the possibility that the still camera may be on its last legs.

Flip Mino HDWhat Will Cisco Flip Cameras Into?

Cisco is a networking company, but has recently broadened its focus with a line of home media products. I’m particularly fond of the Cisco Media Director. However, video cameras, MP3 players, DVD players and other CE technology seems to be far removed from the company’s core competence, which initially had me wondering if Cisco had made this camera company purchase decision after a few too many beers. In this economy, you’d hardly blame them for the beers, but they likely should have left the big cash at home.

However, in thinking about this, what Flip brings to the table is the ability to build very high-quality, low-cost cameras, and Cisco has been positioning to follow up its home music solution with a home video distribution solution. To make that work, you likely will need more than Hollywood movies, you’ll need personal content.

In addition Cisco has hinted that it will have an HD home video conferencing solution as well, going back to the skill set they just acquired, which should result in a product that’s both high quality and affordable.

The end game is likely a line of networked (wired and wireless) camera products, ranging from a Wi-Fi-connected HD Flip, to a networked home video conferencing camera. And both could exist in the same product. But how, you ask, does that replace the still camera?

Cleaning up HD Footage with vReveal

This is a fascinating product. Using the power of the GPU (graphics card), and technology similar to what Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) use to improve grainy video, vReveal takes video files and sharpens them significantly to near digital still quality. You can then enjoy an improved movie, or pull out a single frame and use it as a photo.

The tool is simple to use. It first scans your PC for all your video files, and then asks which ones you want to mess with. After you select one, it’s impressive in both its speed and the quality of what it puts out.

vReveal Software

vReveal Software

Be aware that this product only works with certain Nvidia-based GPUs at the moment, so check for compatibility. Later offerings will be OpenCL-compliant, and likely work on a variety of discrete graphics cards. But the real interesting part is that the still pictures are very good, and this has a lot of us wondering why we need a still camera.

Obsolescing the Still Camera

The problem with a still camera is, unless you are taking a posed shot, you have to catch the moment. Many current-generation still cameras can take a large number of pictures very quickly (burst mode), and you can then go back and find the one you want. But isn’t that what a movie camera does better? In effect, a movie camera has been optimized to only run in burst mode. A movie camera constantly rolls as you follow the action. If something happens quickly, you can pull out that shot after the fact, and create a nice still if the resolution is high enough. This requires an HD-level camera, at least, and even then the result can be kind of grainy. But, after using a product like vReveal, the pictures are actually surprisingly good – not yet good enough to blow up like you would a good SLR digital or film camera – but good enough for the Web, your wallet, or a 3 x 5 print.

Because the quality of inexpensive HD movie cameras will improve over time, and vReveal-like products will improve as well, you can see a point where, for most, the quality of video-captured stills would be good enough. That result would take a big chunk out of still camera sales, because most of us want to catch things that are in motion, and either put them on YouTube, or put stills onto something like Facebook. Wait a minute – the combination actually is good enough for that now. And that’s what I mean about looking ahead to the death of the still camera.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: inflatable backpacks and robotic submarines

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

If you've got questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray, we've got answers

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players are a killer way to beef up your home theater. Here's everything you need to know about one of the most significant advances in home entertainment to arrive in years.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Mobile

Swapping an iPhone for a BlackBerry made me appreciate the physical keyboard

BlackBerry is preparing to release the BlackBerry KeyTwo, a new phone with a physical keyboard. If you've never used one, and are a touchscreen typist, what would it be like to swap? We changed our iPhone to a BlackBerry KeyOne to find out.
Smart Home

4 reasons my love affair with Amazon is fizzling

I used to be an avid Amazon shopper. But some things have happened recently that’s made me question my loyalty to the retail giant. And to be honest, I’m not sure if I can trust them any longer.
Mobile

iOS 12 is more evidence you should buy an iPhone, not an Android phone

The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 12, will be compatible with devices all the way back to 2013’s iPhone 5S. Android phones from the same era didn’t even see 2016’s software update. It’s further evidence you…
Computing

Can we get an apology? Two big MacBook fails that Apple should fix at WWDC

WWDC is just around the corner, but if you're hoping for a new MacBook Pro, don't hold your breath. Even though it'll probably only be a CPU bump, there are two significant problems with the current MacBook Pro that have been ignored for…
Smart Home

Is Apple showing up late to the smart home party, or just not coming?

Apple’s WWDC 2018 featured a lot of little announcements, but what was largely missing was news on the smart home front. Is Amazon planning on being late to the smart home party, or are they planning on attending at all?
Mobile

5 obviously stupid iPhone problems that iOS 12 doesn’t even try to fix

At WWDC 2018, Apple took the wraps off the latest version of its iOS operating system. iOS 12 introduces quite a bit of changes -- visually and under the hood -- but there are still some basics that it doesn’t address. Here are a few of…
Health & Fitness

Ugh. I’m done with fitness trackers, and so is the world

In 2016, everyone was tracking their fitness. In 2017, people grew tired of it. In 2018, I’m done with it. I’m going tracker-free in my workouts from now on.
Computing

MacOS Mojave brings evening elegance to your Mac experience

The MacOS Mojave public beta is out now, with an official release coming later this fall. Chock-full of quality-of-life upgrades, we took it for a test drive to get a sneak peek at what you can expect from the next major update to MacOS…
Gaming

Google might be planning a game console. That doesn’t mean it will happen

A new report suggests that Google is working on a game console, code-named Yeti. The reports about Google's game console are likely true, but that doesn't mean we will ever see it.
Home Theater

Why I still won’t wear wireless headphones

Wireless headphones promise liberation from cords, tangles, and snags, but there’s just one issue holding them back: battery life. And until manufacturers figure it out, sales numbers prove consumers aren’t yet biting.