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Imaging Executives Brace For A New Ultra HD World

NEW YORK – The first Ultra High-Definition TVs are slowly rolling out across the country this year, but as with any new video format, a lack of available content has loomed as a possible deterrent to early demand. Leading digital imaging executives said their industry is already stepping up to offer part of the solution.

Typically, when a new TV format launches with a dearth of available native content to support it, manufacturers turn to products that create home-grown native- resolution content as a snack to whet early adopters’ appetites.

Sony is already addressing this with a recently introduced prosumer-level camcorder, and the rest of the industry is falling back on the ocean of the Ultra HD-level still photos (8 megapixels and more) their cameras have been producing for several years to fill the 3,830 by 2,160 pixels of today’s Ultra HD screens.

But how long will it take for Ultra HD-level video to become part of the general feature sets of consumer-level DSLRs, bridge cameras and point-and-shoots?

TWICE recently asked some of the photo industry’s leading movers and shakers what the arrival of Ultra HD TVs will mean for the future direction of camera development.

Chris Chute, IDC worldwide digital imaging research director, said, “4K is the true heir to high definition. The requirement of having to wear glasses really doomed 3D from the start. 4K provides real value the consumer can easily see, and price points for televisions are quickly aligning with mass-market demand. I would expect camera vendors to use 4K as a selling point in 2014 and beyond.”

Ben Arnold, The NPD Group consumer technology analysis director, said, “As an improvement in image quality (as opposed to a feature you would only use in specific viewing occasions), I think 4K can only be viewed as a benefit to imaging. The detractors of 4K cite content availability as being the big drawback. The notion that the feature is a visual upgrade is commonly held, and I can only think that it would benefit the imaging market.”

According to Mark Weir, Sony digital imaging senior technology and marketing manager: “The ability to display the resolution captured by modern cameras and camcorders can only be considered a major benefit for the imaging business. The richness of viewing 4K still images, or better yet, 4K video captured by our new FDR-AX1 camcorder, is an experience so engaging that we believe it will drive further interest in the already rapidly growing imaging culture.”

Stefan Guelpen, Panasonic Lumix sales and marketing VP, said, “First and foremost, it is exciting to know that there are advancements in recording and display technologies allowing for higher resolution. The 4K TV market will grow rather slow due to a lack of content and thus end user demand.

“We believe that higher-end cameras will have to be 4K ready by early next year to provide pros with an opportunity to participate in the growth.”

Ron Gazzola, Samsung digital imaging marketing VP, said, “The prospect of integrating these features into cameras energizes the industry. Customers will see an opportunity to have their images really come to life through improved camera performance and then via playback on newer displays, which offer higher frame rates and resolution for spectacular playback. This is a natural evolution of the industry, and we are confident it will result in a better overall user experience.”

Jim Malcom, Ricoh Imaging executive VP, noted, “Although the introduction of 4K Ultra HD can offer tremendous advances in displaying amazing image quality from high-performing cameras, the concern is whether consumers will understand the benefit of moving from HD to Ultra HD. Unlike moving from SD to HD, where image quality was important, the form factor of the TV and how it transformed the living room was really what resonated with the consumer. In this instance, the introduction of 4K Ultra HD simply addresses picture quality, not form or function, so the jury is still out.”

Eliott Peck, Canon USA imaging technologies general manger and senior VP, said: Canon’s “Cinema EOS enables more and more filmmakers to tell their story with 4K or HD. We have made a commitment to expand this market with our Cinema EOS product line. In just over a year-and-a-half we have seen a remarkable acceptance of Cinema EOS with filmmakers, documentary makers and film students where for under $20,000 they can be a filmmaker.”