Photokina 2014: Where is camera technology headed?

Nothing quite establishes the idea of where the future of camera technology is headed then the industry's largest trade show, Photokina, held every two years in Germany. Photokina 2014 is underway with plenty of new announcements—and we just had to ask, where exactly is the future of camera technology headed? The latest product announcements give us a pretty good idea.

Photokina 2014: DSLRS

The bulkier, elder style of interchangeable lens cameras aren't going anywhere, at least not yet. Both Canon and Nikon made two big announcements, with cameras featuring significant upgrades.

The Nikon D750 caught many by surprise. The D700 is several years old, but Nikon has brought it back in a rather surprising move. The Nikon D750 is the first full frame camera to offer both a tilting LCD screen and wi-fi, putting two convenience features normally associated with consumer cameras within a professional level model. The sensor and new processor puts it at a significant advantage over the Nikon D610, at only a few hundred dollars more. Actually, in a few ways, it's better than the pricier D810, including a slightly faster burst mode.

Speaking of burst modes, the speed on the new Canon EOS 7D Mark II hits an excellent 10 fps, which is making sports photographers take notice. DSLRs have a lot of equipment to move every time an image is taken, so they tend to have lower burst speeds than mirrorless or compact cameras, which is why that speed is such a big deal. That's not all the new DSLR has to offer either, it uses a 65 point autofocus and a 20.2 megapixel APS-C sensor.

Photokina 2014: Mirrorless

Of course, Photokina has its share of mirrorless announcements as well. Arguably the most noteworthy is actually from Samsung, the NX1. While it's common for new cameras to defy expectations with one headlining feature, the NX1 has at least three. The APS-C sensor is backlit, technology normally reserved for camera sensors an inch or less. To put it simply, the backlit design allows cameras to perform better in low light, and the NX1 has the biggest backlit sensor out there so far. 4K video is becoming increasingly common in high-end cameras, and the NX1 offers this without the need for extra recording equipment—4K video can be recorded directly to the card. Oh, and there's also a super speedy 15 fps burst mode.

Panasonic announced a marginal update with the GM5 that basically adds a viewfinder and hot shoe flash to the older GM1. It looks to be a solid camera, but its highlighting feature is a very small size, which means it's pricer than similar, though albeit larger, models.

Photokina 2014: Compact cameras

While interchangeable lens cameras took up most of the hype, a few compact cameras are worth a look as well.

Canon has created a smaller version of their G1X Mark II advanced compact, and threw in a few features for selfie lovers. The Canon G7 X has a one-inch sensor and a bright f1.8 lens, putting it in competition with popular cameras like the Sony RX100 II. The 180 degree tilting touchscreen and wi-fi capability are meant to attract the selfie-lovers, while the sensor and lens combo aims for a more enthusiast crowd.

Panasonic also made a pretty exciting announcement during Photokina with the LX100, an advanced compact with a Micro Four Thirds sensor. That big sensor is paired with a f1.7-2.8 lens and wrapped up in a retro styled body. Considering the LX100 can also reach shutter speeds of 1/16,00 and burst speeds of 6.5, it appears to be a well-rounded camera so far.

Photokina 2014: What does it all mean?

2014 has been a good year for cameras so far, with slow but steady improvements in technology and image quality. More manufacturers are putting attention into large, high resolution sensors and brighter lenses, which translates into better image quality. Consumers should still expect to pay a premium for compacts with big sensors and bright lenses, though.

And while cameras are packing in more tech, their bodies are continuing to shrink in size. Even DSLRs like the Nikon D750 are quite compact compared to cameras of just a few years ago.

The selfie is also having an obvious impact—more cameras are offering tilting screens and wi-fi, even those aimed at an enthusiast audience, like the Canon G7 X. Screens that make it easy to see what you're shooting from the front of the camera are on the rise, so selfie-lovers certainly aren't limited to low resolution cell phone shots.

Perhaps the most interesting Photokina announcement isn't even a camera at all, it's the Panasonic CM-1, a smartphone targeted towards photographers. The CM-1 uses a 1-inch sensor and an f2.8 Leica lens, putting it quite far ahead of most smartphone cameras. It definitely looks more camera than phone and factors like the battery and a lack of zoom are likely to still put it behind cameras with similar sensors and lenses. Time will tell—it's being released only in France and Germany as a test market.