Most people want to take good pictures in a simple operation. New digital cameras hitting the Japanese market one after another now make that happen easily. Most popular are those models which come with a lot of unique mechanisms already built in. Some cameras automatically acquire and stay focused on the face of a target person while others warn you that the person you are shooting just closed his or her eyes.
From Film to Digital Cameras: Easy to Take Fine Shots
Compact and advanced cameras are being developed one after another in Japan.
Much of Japan’s sophisticated technology for digital cameras was already developed in the days of film cameras. There have long been many high-performance single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras for professional photographers. But those cameras were often quite difficult for ordinary people to use, requiring special knowledge and techniques, and many were too bulky and inconvenient to always carry around everyday. Still, Japanese camera makers have led the world for the last 50 years in the race to develop SLR and compact cameras that enable ordinary people to take great pictures simply, whether in their daily lives or while traveling. It was a Japanese camera manufacturer that commercialized autofocus – a common camera function today – in 1977 for the first time.
The storefront of an electronic mass merchandiser features row after row of new compact digital cameras, many with new functions.
Entering the 21st century, most photographers have switched from film to digital cameras, with autofocus continuing to evolve. One of the most outstanding features of autofocus now is “face recognition.” This function automatically matches faces in the picture frame with those registered in the camera’s memory and keeps focused on them to produce fine pictures. If you have faces of family members and friends prerecorded in your camera, the camera automatically finds their faces, keeping them better focused than on other people, and preferentially adjusting their brightness. This function is convenient when shooting a picture of many people at the same time or taking photos in crowded places such as tourist spots. One new model can memorize the faces of up to 16 people while another can recognize faces in profile as well as those of dogs and other pets. There is even a model that automatically snaps a photo only when it detects a smiling face, so you will never fail to have the best commemorative shot taken with friends. It features a mechanism in which the camera automatically releases the shutter only after identifying a smile from the movements of the eyes, mouth and teeth.
An artist’s sketch of an image stabilization system: the lens in the middle cancels camera shake by moving in the opposite direction of any motion. © NIKON
There are other features in addition to autofocus, including one to resolve the annoying problem of camera shake that results when hands move the camera body at the time of a shutter operation, resulting in blurred pictures. It was a Japanese camera maker again that achieved another world first in 1994 by adding a new function to a film camera – an image stabilizer to automatically make up for camera shake. The image stabilizer offsets camera shake by controlling lens movement. In 1995, a Japanese camera maker came up with an LCD monitor, another world first that allows the photographer to confirm how the just taken picture looks. The age of high-performance point-and-shoot cameras that allow anyone to take fine pictures with ease has come after those many years of technological development by Japanese camera manufacturers.