What will 5G mean for photographers? Not a lot I’d say… but if you ask what will 5G mean for video production professionals? A LOT more.

There’s lots in the news at the moment about the looming rollout of 5G – the new mobile/cell phone data system upgrade. Most of the news is focused on which companies will implement it and what kind of role China will have in its facilitation. Needless to say we are not going to get into that side of it here. What we are interested in is – what effect will the arrival of 5G have on photographers?

What does it all mean?

I guess we should start with a run-down of where we are now. In most developed countries we live in a 4G world. I am not going to go into exactly what the difference is between 4G and 3G, because I have absolutely no idea. But a good summary of the progression of G’s is – 4G is faster than 3G, and 5G is supposed to be a huge leap forwards from 4G.

Photographer in studio - What will 5G mean for photographers? - BudgetProPhoto
What will 5G mean for photographers? – BudgetProPhoto

This is all about data transfer through the air. This is mobile phones, tablets, any mobile devices functioning away from a Wi-Fi hub. Wi-fi and broadband are a totally different thing.

Right now hooking up to a hub is usually the best Internet access you can hope for. But the hub, and Wi-Fi, are restricted in their potential speed by a few elements. Namely the size of the pipe that brings that Internet connectivity into your home. And the size of the pipe that brings Internet connectivity into your neighborhood. And the number of people in your neighborhood attempting to suck stuff through that pipe at any one time.

Mobile Data

Of course, mobile data is similarly limited, there’s just far less hard wiring required. If you’ve been at a football game in a stadium you will have experienced poor data rates, despite apparently having good mobile signal. This is the same thing as your neighbours clogging up your broadband. If everyone in the stadium is trying to pull through the 3G or 4G network at the same time, it’s gonna clog.

Man confused with cell phone - BudgetProPhoto
5G is being rolled out this year and next, but exactly what it will change for everyone is speculation right now! – BudgetProPhoto

So what does all this mean for photographers? Well, 5G basically means faster mobile Internet. Faster download speeds, faster streaming, just all-around faster.

For photographers, I don’t believe this will make all that much difference. Camera technology and camera capabilities are so far ahead of what the Internet can service that the leap from 4G to 5G is unlikely to bring it even close to in-line.

What I mean by this is that every photo that you see on the Internet is currently heavily compressed. Every JPEG has been squashed within an inch of its life in order to get the size small enough to make web-page downloads feasible on mobile devices.

Essentially… the Internet can’t handle big pictures at the moment.

The future

5G will certainly help this. It will allow faster download speeds and therefore the potential to utilise higher-resolution images on websites. But it’s not going to be anything like full-resolution just yet.

Take the current situation… if you have 5-10 photos on your web page, in order for it to load quickly (and we mean load quickly according to Google’s website speed test) those images need to be less than 1 MB, ideally closer to 500 kB.

Put that up against, say, the size of a raw file from a Sony A7R2 – 42.4 MP sensor, and you have a 500kb photograph whose original size was more than 80MB.

That is the chasm that currently exists between functional image display on the Internet, and the capabilities of modern cameras.

The arrival of 5G is clearly not going to close a gap that big.

So, from a stills point of view, I think the arrival of 5G is unlikely to mean a great deal. However…

Video

Film and video have been in ascendance for a couple of years now. The launch of 5G can only double or triple this acceleration.

Video has been shown repeatedly to be the most effective means of marketing or information dissemination. The Internet, broadband and mobile devices have all made huge leaps in the last 3 to 4 years. Especially when it comes to video and everyone’s ability to access video easily and quickly. The Netflix revolution has driven a new way of looking at video loading and streaming through websites. This has filtered down into the marketing and advertising community. Video use in digital marketing is growing and growing, and becoming more and more advanced.

Camera on a gimbal - what will 5G mean for photographers - BudgetProPhoto
We don’t think the impact of 5G will be all that great for photographers… but for video guys… it could change the world! – BudgetProPhoto

We are seeing an exponential rise in the use of video across the Internet, not just on YouTube. Although YouTube is an extraordinary example of this swing towards video. Did you know that YouTube now has 300 hours of content uploaded every MINUTE! And 500 million videos are viewed every day! Insane.

So, from a professional photographer’s point of view, the question is not “how will 5G change my photography business?”, but “how will 5G change my video business?”

Virtual Reality (VR) AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) and 360 walkarounds

I think we can safely extrapolate that if video becomes that much more efficient in its transfer and download ability, then we can expect to see an increase in VR and AR and 360 videos.

There is also the suggestion that new tech like Google Glass and other augmented reality devices might suddenly re-emerge. The technology required to really make these things sing will finally be available, whereas it wasn’t really when they were first trialled.

Consumers

From a consumer’s point of view, things are likely to change quite a bit. Your mobile will become significantly faster, more able to rapidly download web pages even if they are filled with photos and videos.

YouTube will run so much smoother, videos will load quickly and in higher resolution.

Girl with cell phone on gimbal - 5G for consumers - BudgetProPhoto
From a consumer point of view 5G is really exciting – faster download speeds when out and about, and faster upload speeds too! – BudgetProPhoto

And because of all this… you will be peppered with video ads.

Digital marketers have known for some time that video is the most effective way to drive engagement with a web audience. So we can be fairly sure that almost all companies that have a presence online will be jumping at the chance to make use of it all.

This is great news if you are a visual content creator who makes some money from video – the market here should be opening right up! So use the time between now and the 5G launch to brush up your video skills and get ready for the second (or maybe third? Fourth?) revolution!

And of course, if download speed is increased then we can expect upload speed to increase, so those all important photos will zoom up onto Instagram! But was anyone really finding 4G uploads to Instagram all that slow??

Conclusion

From a general, worldwide point of view, the implications of 5G could be huge! Whether we like it or not, mobile data actually plays a massive part of daily life in all developed nations.

Driverless cars rely on mobile data, so they may suddenly become much more reliable and a viable long term option for personal travel.

I have even read that VR vacations may become a thing – immersive seamless VR experiences that can actually take you right out of your current location and give you a plausible experience of being somewhere else!

I don’t see much changing for photographers… but video content creators could be perfectly placed to cash in on the changes! VR vacations will need content!

Clearly everything you have just read is pure speculation. But interesting stuff right?

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Love and hugs, the BudgetProPhoto team x

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