Monday, April 21, 2014

Giga-Pixel Camera's "Kickin' it Old School"...

The exaggerations being made here
are only to illustrate the point.

If you were top dog in the camera industry would you the reader, make the decision of integrating the status quo in storage technology into your most state of the art professional digital cameras? Units that were so new that retailers barely have any in stock as of 2014. If your not sure what that is let me try to illuminate that subject for you.

The current regime is essentially the technological analogue of an ENIAC computers storage system compared to modern UHS-2 based SD and Compact Flash Card derivative technology (Nikon calls it XDQ). These newer standards hit the market prior to this years bumper crop of "new" cameras announced as a largely paper launch at the NAB in Las Vegas.
The modern equivalent of Eniac storage media
for the purposes of this illustration.
The SD/CFC standards adopted into cameras of the last 2-3 years are barely able to cope with the demands of professional cameras with modest pixel densities (18-36MP), if the shooter were to just hold down the shutter button the buffer would fill up and they would not be able to shoot any more pictures until the storage media had written all the data that had created a massive log jam in the file que.

The only thing I can think of that prevents the community as a whole from gathering up in angry mobs around the headquarters of these companies with pitchforks and burning effigies of cameras is that the majority of photographers don't shoot scenes that require 10+ FPS ability. Most jobs rarely go beyond 2-4 FPS, this has allowed camera companies to be lazy, very lazy.

The photographer community alleges that the following is Nikon's design strategy:
Nikon essentially creates one single camera in the lab, after that they mix and match inferior parts with superior parts to simulate the impression that these were all intended to be individual product lines with unique parts from the very beginning.

I'm sure there are some other camera companies out there doing the same if this is at all accurate.

Cameras and other semi-conductor dependent technologies relied on super fast ram buffers to make up for interconnects and various other technologies inability to cope with the massive glut of information being jammed into them.

The reason for the buffer is because in years gone by all we had were these floppy disk like storage mediums. When the digital technology reached maturity in the camera market, digital imaging had easily eclipsed the abilities of the best that storage devices had to offer at the time, both in sustained R/W performance and size to density ratios.

Enter 2014 where the traditional storage mediums with moving parts, composed of magnetic & optical based technologies are all but entirely phased out.

The sustained read and write abilities of these newer but rapidly maturing solid state flash based memory derivatives is now able to match or even eclipse the demands of all but the most bleeding edge imaging technology available to consumers with deep pockets. The upside to this new storage is the comparatively modest price tag of this wonderful stuff.

Camera companies out there that push out 4,000-25,000 dollar cameras onto the market with no thought at all about the fact that each one is able to store multiple 100+ megabyte raw files in the span of < 2 seconds on storage standards that are 3 years old handling a modest peak load of 65 megabytes a second, think REAL hard about this. If the storage standards integrated into the camera were at least on par with the peak maximum file access demands of the camera at the time it was released then the on board cache could be utilized in a more efficient way.
(photographer could continue shooting until card was full rather than stopping when the camera was unable to write it fast enough).

Tech Notes:

Zip Drive & Floppy Drive 1.5 Megabytes a second optimal Peak

SD & CF Cards with x600 typically peak at 90 megabytes a second.

UHS-1 SD based cards peak around 166 megabytes a second (sometimes referred to as x1000)

UHS-2 SD/CF Currently Peaks at 266 megabytes a second.

XDQ   The nearest equivalent to cutting edge SSD drives in a desktop PC, can easily outpace most demands placed on it. (It's the latest generational replacement for compact flash cards.)

The R/W cycle endurance of most high end solid state products made today will outlast your camera.

Mostly unrelated, but FYI:
Any camera  in production today that says it can record (blah blah) resolution video, is not able to record video for longer than 00:29:59 or the manufacturer runs the risk of having their product slapped with a very big import tax in America (ask your congressman why if your curious). To bypass this shady deal most DSLR's and other cameras have the option of uncompressed high resolution video out ports to burn on external storage for unlimited duration, rather than store it on internal media.