The introduction of digital photography brought a Chicken Little panic that pronounced film dead, and many imagined the mirrorless camera would flatline the DSLR. But if Photokina 2016 is any indication, camera technology has a tendency to be re-imagined, not reincarnated. From 60 frames-per-second speed to medium-format mirrorless to instant film, this year’s trade show in Cologne, Germany, put the latest photography trends in a pretty impressive display. Here’s the biggest photo tech emerging at the end of 2016.
Fujifilm confirmed multiple rumors of a medium-format camera with the official announcement of the GFX 50S. The lens uses a 51.1-megapixel medium-format sensor, jumping up from the current APS-C models and skipping full-frame entirely.
While the GFX isn’t the first mirrorless camera to feature a medium-format sensor (Hasselblad has that distinction, and also introduced a special edition at Photokina), the camera brings Fuji’s signature color in a larger format, according to the manufacturer. The camera uses a modular format, with both a viewfinder and battery grip completely removable from the camera body.
Along with the medium-format camera, Fujifilm will also develop medium-format lenses – six are expected to debut with the GFX 50S in 2017, including one zoom lens and primes ranging from 23 to 110mm.
The mirrorless format may be embraced for portability, but the lack of a mirror has given the design an edge in speed as well. While we’ve seen some pretty impressive burst speeds from the DSLR’s smaller cousin, the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark II boasts a top burst speed at a startling 60 fps – and that’s still at full resolution. Even the camera’s 18 fps burst using continuous autofocus beats out most competing models.
The camera uses an enhanced 20.4-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor (smaller than the APS-C variants) with the anti-aliasing filter removed, and when resolution is more important than that top speed, the camera includes a high-res mode for 50-megapixel files (have that tripod handy). Olympus also says the autofocus performance has been “dramatically” improved over earlier models.
While intriguing, the camera doesn’t yet have an official release date or list price.
Canon’s mirrorless lineup has been a bit more consumer oriented, with selfie features and a simple control scheme, but that’s quickly changing with the Canon EOS M5. As Canon’s new mirrorless flagship, the M5 is lightweight, yet packs in an electronic viewfinder and dual control wheels. Canon says the M5’s 24.4-megapixel APS-C sensor will produce images in line with the quality from their EOS 80D DSLR.
With the M5, it seems Canon is finally taking a serious look at mirrorless, As a new flagship and not a replacement to the M3, the M5 includes the most controls and features in Canon’s current mirrorless line yet.
If there’s one area Panasonic excels with its cameras, it’s in video. The company was the first to bring 4K quality to a mirrorless camera, and now, it’s slated to bring the first high frame rate 4K to mirrorless. The Panasonic GH5, while still under development, will shoot 4K video at an impressive 60 fps – double the frame rate that most dedicated cameras can achieve in the higher resolution. The camera also brings a 6K resolution at 30 fps, which allows users to extract 18-megapixel stills from the footage.
Along with the tease for the upcoming GH5, Panasonic unveiled the weather-sealed mirrorless G85 and two new compacts, the Lumix LX10 and FZ2500. All three offer in-camera focus stacking, thanks to the 4K video capability and upgraded autofocus system. The LX10 bundles a large 1-inch sensor with a very wide f/1.4 lens while the FZ2500 puts a 20x zoom in front of that same sensor.
While Nikon hasn’t released as many still cameras this year as it has pushed out in the past, the company has now ventured into an entirely new category: action cameras. The Nikon KeyMission 360 was a surprise when introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but with few details at the time. At Photokina Nikon released product details and the price of $500. It also unveiled two little siblings alongside.
While the KeyMission 360, now slated for an October release, is both an action camera and a 360-degree camera, the KeyMission 170 and 80 are for single-camera capture, with their names indicating the angle the lens is capable of capturing. The 170, which resembles a traditional action cam, is waterproof without housing and 4K capable, and it includes an LCD screen at the back. The KeyMission 80, on the other hand, is more lifelogging than action, and shoots in 1080p using either a rear-facing and front-facing cameras.
Despite being Nikon’s first foray into the category, the KeyMission models – or at the very least, the flagship 360, especially with the emergence of virtual reality – look rather intriguing. All three use small 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors, so don’t think the resolution will be equal to something like Nikon’s full-frame D5.
In related note, Kodak’s single-lens 360 camera was also upgraded to a two-lens system like the KeyMission 360, and was also introduced this week. It bears somewhat of a resemblance to the KeyMission 360.
While GoPro exhibited at Photokina, it held its launch event – its biggest to date – in California, where it debut the next-generation Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session cameras, and the much-anticipated Karma drone. The Hero5 Black keeps the 4K at 30 fps resolution of the previous version, but it comes in a newly designed body that’s rugged and waterproof to 33 feet without housing. The camera appears to mix ease of use with high quality — the new two-inch touchscreen and voice-activated recording features should help make shooting easier, while professionals can take advantage of wide-dynamic-range and RAW. The Hero5 Black and the Hero5 Session are also the first GoPros to include stabilization, though that’s the electronic type.
After GoPro removed the Hero4 from the name of the Hero Session, no one expected the company to update the little camera this year, but instead of offering a Silver version of the Hero5, there’s now the Hero5 Session. The camera keeps the small form of the original Session (which will still be sold as an entry-level model alongside the new cameras) but can shoot 4K video and 10-megapixel stills. The tiny camera also has voice control, but lacks GPS.
GoPro’s much anticipated drone is a compact folding quadcopter, but it also doubles as a stabilizing grip when removing the gimbal. When mounted on the drone, the gimbal helps create steady footage with three-axis stabilization. Flying the drone is simple to do, thanks to a gaming-style controller, and it includes both auto and manual flying modes.
Sony has conquered the mirrorless market with its A7, A5000, and A6000-series cameras, but it hasn’t given up on their more traditional SLR. The A99 II, which like earlier Sony options is an SLT with a translucent mirror (technically not quite a DSLR, but not entirely different), has a full-frame sensor like the popular A7-series, but offers a faster 12 fps burst speed.
The SLT also incorporates an updated autofocus system with 79 points, and an impressive light sensitivity down to -4 EV. The camera also packs in 4.5 stops of shake reduction as well as 4K video.
With all the resolution available at increasingly faster burst rates, photographers will be quickly running out of space. Well, not with SanDisk’s 1 TB SD card (which is twice as big as the hard drive on the laptop I’m writing this on, by the way). Whether 4K at 60 fps will be big enough to warrant such a capacity, the SD card that can fit 12,500 uncompressed RAW photos is coming regardless.
Film hasn’t yet succumbed to the numerous the-sky-is-falling warnings — and in fact, instant film is increasing in popularity. It’s that growing market that has Leica introducing the Sofort, a classically styled instant camera that channels the old Polaroids we miss. The instant camera includes several different modes as well as a mirror on the front to use as a compositional aid for selfies.
The Polaroid Snap Touch may spit out physical images instantly, but it’s actually not a film camera. The Snap Touch is a digital camera with a built-in printer to mix the post of both instant film and digital files. The Zink printer uses ink that’s actually embedded in the paper and activated from heat, so there’s no ink cartridges to change and perhaps more importantly, it actually fits inside a compact camera. The images print from the 13-megapixel camera in about a minute, according to Polaroid. The Snap Touch is expected to list for $180 with the photo paper costing about $13 for a 20-pack.
Of course, a camera is only as good as its lens, and Photokina was full of them.
The growing trend for high-end, manual-focus lenses continues, with Zeiss and Samyang both introducing primes designed for use with high-resolution cameras, sacrificing the autofocus motor for enhanced image quality. Laowa also introduced what it is calling the world’s fastest 15mm rectilinear lens as well as a new 7.5mm.
Autofocus isn’t (and never) going away though. Sigma’s latest art lenses are designed for edge-to-edge sharpness but don’t forgo that autofocus. Canon also introduced a budget 70-300 zoom lens that includes a digital information display that even includes a “shake indicator,” according to the manufacturer.
Where camera manufacturers go next is anyone’s guess, but based on what came out of Photokina, big resolution and big speed are in for 2016-2017.
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