Over the years, since the first smartphones were released, scores of Android and iPhones have hit the streets, and the cameras they use have continued to improve. In the last couple of years, artificial intelligence has played a more significant role in smartphone cameras as physical limits are reached. So far, the help from AI has been welcomed as it allows smartphone photographers to produce results that would typically require a dedicated camera to pull off. Now, a new breakthrough from Sony shows they are about to go all-in with AI that is baked right into their new sensors. Will the race for AI supremacy be well received? What can we expect to see going forward? Let’s talk about this after the break.
We have seen AI play a more active role in dedicated cameras over the last year or so, and it has been Olympus and Sony who have been leading the charge. The Olympus E-M1X can tell what kind of object you are trying to track (birds, planes, trains, and cars), and of course, Sony pioneered eye AF and animal eye AF. These features are useful, but feelings about AI are torn between photographers. Some photographers feel AI will help, and others believe it will take away from the art.
According to an article recently posted on Engadget, Sony has developed two new 12.3 Megapixel sensors (the IMX500 and the IMX501) that will be able to handle light AI and machine learning tasks. The new sensors will be able to detect the difference between cats, dogs, and different types of animals, and a whole range of other objects too.
The sensors themselves have dedicated processors built into them, whereas the Olympus E-M1X has two separate 8-core processors outside of the sensor to churn through algorithms. These new Sony sensors are destined to spend their lives in security cameras, and Sony will use them to help security systems learn the difference between humans who may be trespassing and animals just being animals. It’s early days, but Sony does say this is just the start, and that they have huge plans for AI.
We are still in the early days of artificial intelligence being introduced into dedicated cameras, but we have seen what AI can do in smartphones, and there is no doubt in my mind that AI will soon be more prevalent in traditional cameras as well.
I definitely think there is ample room for companies to employ the technology. After all, anything that can help make our lives easier is always a good thing. I am sure that AI features will be able to be toggled on or off, so for those who think it will destroy the fabric of photography, take some comfort in that at least.
There is so much to gain in exploring the powers of AI. Imagine being a sports photographer and having a camera like the Sony A9 II that can accurately track and tell the difference between a football, a baseball, a softball, or even that you are following a skier flying down the slopes. You’ll never miss that perfect game-winning moment. Wildlife photographers would no doubt love to have a system that can detect specific types of wildlife, and that can adjust tracking speeds and tracking sensitivities on the fly without the photographer having to worry about what tracking setting they currently have active. A system like this would allow us to just worry about composition and getting the shot.
You can also imagine the possibilities if and when cameras get an always-on data connection. AI could be used in conjunction with cloud-based servers that could regularly feed and help the camera determine what it is looking at while settings could be updated on the fly. The possibilities are limitless, and our jobs would become much easier. I think whether we like it or not, AI in photography will be the future. With companies like Sony making sensors based around AI, this is becoming more obvious, but it doesn’t mean photography will die: it’s just another part of the evolution of the art that we love.
The transition to cameras packed with AI may be a little rough at first, but in the long term, I think the technology will be welcomed. What do you think? Do you like the idea of cameras having AI packed inside them? What do you think it will do for photography? Let us know in the comment section below.