My old Canon S330 camera on the left, and my new Canon SD300 on the right. (Taken with my Treo smartphone.)
The kicker? The smaller one has four times the resolution (4mp vs. 2mp), has a bigger LCD, is better in every other regard… and cost less than the big one did 3 years ago.
We’re used to the Moore’s Law cycle of increasing price-performance for personal computers. Double the speed, or half the price, every 18 months. We’re not used to the same curve for consumer electronics. VCRs, film cameras, and TVs get better year-to-year, but not like this. For the first time, the technical guts of my camera are functionally equivalent to the technical guts of my PC, benefitting from the same process improvements and economies of scale.
I don’t think anyone has quite fully processed the implications of Moore’s Law for consumer electronics. It means a different upgrade cycle for vendors, and different expectations for customers. And, it means that the digital camera I buy in 2008 (assuming I wait that long!) will not only be less than a quarter-in thick, it will run rings around my current one. Then again, by 2008 the camera embedded in my mobile phone will probably be as good as the digital camera I bought this year. I may never buy a standalone camera again.