The Innovative Gear That Will Shape 2015

January 5, 2015

By Greg Scoblete


Image by Mark Toal taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera.

Now that the dust has settled after Photokina and PhotoPlus Expo, photographers have a towering pile of new and soon-to-be released products to consider. While the Consumer Electronics Show looms large and there are bound to be last-minute surprises, we thought we’d highlight some of the gear we’re excited about at the dawn of 2015. 

Panasonic Lumix LX100

The Lumix LX100 is the first point-and-shoot with a 12.8-megapixel, 1.33-inch Micro Four Thirds-sized image sensor. Using the larger sensor, Panasonic was able to implement its Multi Aspect Ratio technology, which lets you use various crops of the sensor as you adjust aspect ratio while preserving overall resolution. So while the LX100’s sensor is larger than the 1-inch sensors found on other advanced compact cameras, the effective area used in a given photo depends on the aspect ratio you choose and is, at its largest, only about 1.5X larger than a 1-inch sensor. Not that we’re complaining. Considering how compact the LX100 is, its sensor is relatively huge. 

Beyond sensor size, the LX100 borrows many features—including 4K video capture—from Panasonic’s high-end head-turner, the GH4. With the LX100, Panasonic is introducing a new 4K Photo Mode that lets you isolate an 8-megapixel still image during 4K recording. The camera sets picture quality and brightness settings optimized for still images, and you choose the aspect ratio you want to record in (4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1). The images are saved as JPEGs, with complete EXIF data for each file. The new mode can be used in conjunction with a 4K loop record function that saves your last five 2-minute video clips, so you can let the camera roll as you wait for the perfect photo op without devouring all of your memory card space. 

Beyond video, the LX100 clocks in at 11 fps in continuous shooting mode with the ability to lock AF in 0.14 seconds and track AF during 5-fps burst shooting. You’ll find a bright variable aperture f/1.7–2.8 lens with an equivalent focal range of 24–75mm. There’s a 3-inch tilting LCD and a 2,764K-dot electronic viewfinder, plus Wi-Fi and NFC for wirelessly pairing with mobile devices.

Price: $899

Info: www.panasonic.com

Sony FE PZ 28-135mm

Filmmakers and hybrid shooters using Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras will have a serious new cinema-worthy lens to contend with in the just-shipped FE PZ 28–135mm F G OSS. It’s designed to tackle three issues that bedevil still photo lenses during video shoots: changes in the angle of view during focusing, focus shifts and movement of the optical axis while zooming. The new lens addresses these optical maladies with a supersonic wave motor drive for smooth and quiet zooming and a double linear motor for quiet, sharp focusing. The FE PZ 28–135mm will also have separate control rings for pulling focus, zoom and aperture, and features a maximum aperture of f/4. Optical image stabilization is also on hand to keep things steady.

Price: $2,500

Info: www.sony.com

Broncolor Siros

The Siros caught our eye as one of the first monolights to offer built-in Wi-Fi. Using the new bronControl app, you can control all aspects of the light directly from your mobile device. The Siros line offers flash control up to nine f-stops and is capable of rapidly firing up to 50 flashes per second. Power output can be adjusted from a low of 2 Joules up to 400 or 800 Joules, depending on your model. The 400-Joule version features charging times between 0.1–0.9 sec and flash durations from 1/400–8000 sec while the 800-Joule Siros offers durations from 1/200–1/8000 sec. Both models sport a 300-Watt halogen modeling light and incorporate Broncolor’s ECTC technology for achieving consistent color temperature from flash to flash. In addition to Wi-Fi, the Siros can be triggered using Broncolor’s RFS2.1 radio system or its built-in PocketWizard receiver. You’ll also find a sync cable and photocell for additional sync options. Not interested in the app? Broncolor offers a version sans Wi-Fi. The Siros lights weigh in at about seven pounds and require an external battery converter or AC power to operate.

Price: Starting at $999

Info: www.bron.ch/broncolor

Epson SureColor P600

Achieving a truly deep black on the printed page is one of the technological windmills that printer companies continually joust with. Epson appears to have tilted quite successfully with its newest flagship photo printer, the SureColor P600. Announced at PhotoPlus Expo, the P600 offers black densities with an L* value of 2—the lower the value, the deeper the black—thanks to newly formulated UltraChrome HD inks. There are nine individual 26ml ink cartridges in all, with auto-switching available between photo and matte black. A three-level black ink system uses screening algorithms to determine drop density and ensures a wide tonal range for your monochrome print. You can make full-bleed prints up to 13-inches wide, plus the printer has a roll-feed mechanism for panoramic prints as long as 129 inches. You use the adjustable 3.5-inch LCD display to toggle through menu settings or control the printer wirelessly via Wi-Fi.

Price: $799

Info: www.epson.com

Nikon D750

Nikon capped an already busy 2014 by adding yet another full-frame DSLR to its portfolio: the D750. This new camera staked out its own series of “firsts” for Nikon’s full-frame lineup. To wit, the D750 is the first to incorporate a new 24.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. It also has built-in Wi-Fi, a vari-angle LCD and a new build that makes it the thinnest DSLR Nikon makes. Situated between the D610 and D810, the D750 borrows heavily from the latter, especially in the video department. It’s fast, too. The camera’s Advanced Multi-Cam 3500-FX II AF system can track objects in continuous shooting mode at the camera’s maximum burst speed of 6.5 fps. A first for any Nikon DSLR, the D750 can lock focus on subjects in as little as -3 EV illumination. 

Price: $2,300 (body)

Info: www.nikonusa.com

Samsung NX1

While some big-name camera makers keep 4K video at arms-length from their DLSRs, Samsung is making a concerted push to court hybrid still and video shooters with the NX 1, its newest mirrorless flagship. It’s one of the first cameras capable of recording in 4K using the new HEVC codec, which offers more efficient compression than its H.264 predecessor. The NX1 will record compressed 4K (4096×2160 pixels) video direct to an SD card at 24 fps and compressed UltraHD (3840×2160) footage at 24- or 30 fps. You can also record uncompressed footage to an external recorder via the NX1’s HDMI 1.4 output. 

The NX1 is built around a 28-megapixel, APS-C-sized (23.5×15.7mm) CMOS image sensor of Samsung’s own design, and it is the first sensor of its size to feature backside illumination. While it offers roughly eight million more pixels than Samsung’s NX30, the photo diodes are the same size—a space-saving consequence of the BSI sensor. This endows the NX1 with better low-light performance, up to ISO 51,200. 

Another highlight is the new autofocus system that employs 205 phase-detection AF points—of which 153 are cross-type sensors—for 90-percent frame coverage. This phase-detection system combines with 209 contrast-detection AF sensors to enable the NX1 to track focus on moving objects even while bursting at the NX1’s extremely rapid 15 fps. The phase detection AF will aid videographers too, since the NX1 will be able to lock focus faster and more smoothly than a purely contrast-based AF system could.

Price: $1,499 (body); $2,799 (16–50mm f/2–2.8 S lens, grip, battery and charger)

Info: www.samsung.com

Leica M-P (Typ 240)

Leica delighted rangefinder aficionados with the introduction of the digital M in 2012 and is out to top it with the new M-P (Typ 240). Like the M, the M-P features a 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor but with an expanded buffer of 2GB for continuous shooting at 3 fps up to 24 full-resolution frames. The 0.68X optical viewfinder offers split and superimposed manual focusing with a new frame selection lever that projects six different focal lengths into the viewfinder. The M-P features a native sensitivity range of ISO 200–6400, with the option to decrease to ISO 100 when shooting under brighter conditions. The camera supports 1920x1080p video recording at 24- and 25 fps. Leica claims its 3-inch sapphire glass LCD display is “almost unbreakable.” Designed to be discreet, Leica swapped out their iconic red dot logo in favor a small “Leica” engraving to denote the brand. 

Price: $7,950

Info: www.leica.com

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm

The latest addition to Olympus’ line of high-end Pro lenses will come as a relief to the shoulders of nature photographers everywhere. Despite its focal length, the new 40–150mm f/2.8 Pro weighs a little more than two pounds and measures in at just over 6 inches long—and stays that way, since the zoom action is entirely internal. It maintains a constant f/2.8 aperture and uses dual linear voice coil motors to keep focusing fast and quiet. This 80–300mm full-frame equivalent lens is capable of focusing on objects from as close as 20 inches and offers a dedicated function button, manual-focus clutch and a built-in sliding protective lens hood that can support the full weight of the lens, should you turn it upside down. It’s the first Olympus Pro lens to feature Super EDA glass to reduce optical aberrations. And those nature photographers should appreciate the solid build: It’s dust-, splash- and freezeproof, with 11 separate seals to keep Mother Nature at bay. 

Price: $1,499

Info: www.olympus.com

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon faithful waited a long time for a refresh of the EOS 7D. It finally arrived in November, towing many firsts for the EOS line in its wake. For instance, the EOS 7D Mark II is the first EOS DSLR to run dual DIGIC 6 processors, a one-two computational punch that powers a 10-fps burst mode. Canon bumped up the buffer to accommodate up to 31 RAW images or 1,900 JPEGs, vastly surpassing the original 7D’s 130-JPEG buffer. The 7D Mark II also employs a new AF system with 65 cross-type AF points for better low-light focusing. An improved version of Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF uses dedicated pixels on the CMOS image sensor for phase detection autofocus to deliver “camcorder-like” focusing during video recording. The tech has been upgraded to offer adjustable movie servo AF speeds in five-stop adjustments as well as the ability to adjust AF tracking sensitivity on a sliding scale. 

The 20-megapixel 7D Mark II uses a newly developed APS-C-sized sensor with a native sensitivity range of ISO 100–16,000 for stills and video. Speaking of video, you’ll be able to record at a maximum of 1920x1080p at 60 fps. You’ll frame your compositions through a 3-inch display or a viewfinder with a 100-percent field of view that can overlay data such as an electronic level display or a grid. Built-in GPS is also on hand for geo-tagging images. Canon claims the 7D Mark II’s magnesium-alloy body is sealed with four times the moisture and dust resistance of the original 7D, so inclement weather shouldn’t be an obstacle to your shoot. 

Price: $1,799 (body); $2,149 (with EF-S 18–135mm f/3.5–5.6 IS STM lens)

Info: www.usa.canon.com

GoPro Hero4

Everyone’s favorite action camera got a major refresh in the fall of 2014. The flagship Hero4 Black enjoys faster frame rates across the board, recording 4K video at 30 fps, 2.7K footage at 50 fps and 1920x1080p at up to 120 fps. The 12-megapixel Hero4 Black also features full-resolution still photo bursts at 30 fps with faster Wi-Fi and improved audio processing that GoPro claims offers double the dynamic range of its Hero3 predecessor. Alongside faster frame rates is a new HiLight Tag feature which lets you earmark key moments in your video while you’re recording, either through the GoPro app or a dedicated button on the camera. These highlights can then be quickly located in GoPro’s Studio software for sharing on social media or using in your highlight reel.

If you don’t have the need for all that speed, the new Silver edition Hero4 records 4K as well, but at a slower 15- or 12.5 fps. It has slower HD frame rates as well, topping out at 60 fps. That’s not to say the Silver Hero is bereft of any new goodies: It’s the first GoPro to sport a new touchscreen display and will also include the HiLight Tag functionality. Like the Black edition, the Silver Hero4 is capable of 30-fps still photo bursts at 12-megapixel resolution. As far as durability is concerned, GoPro will continue to offer an accessory housing that will enable you to submerge your Hero4 in up to 131 feet of water.

Price: $500 (Black edition); $400 (Silver edition)

Info: www.gopro.com

Tamron SP 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USB

At Photokina, Tamron told the world it was hard at work developing a new wide-angle lens that it claims will be the first in its class to offer vibration compensation. The full-frame SP 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USB will feature Tamron’s three-coil anti-shake technology, which moves the lens via three ceramic ball bearings to compensate for movement. The Sony variant of this lens won’t contain vibration compensation, as Sony already provides it in their camera bodies. There’s also an ultrasonic silent motor on hand for quiet focusing, and you can fine-tune focus manually while still in AF mode. The new lens will feature 18 elements with an Expanded Glass Molded Apsherical element plus several LD elements for tackling distortion throughout the zoom range. Ghosting and flaring are kept at bay with Tamron’s Broad-Band Anti-Reflection coating and, for the first time, Tamron will apply a fluorine coating to the front lens element to repel water and dirt. We’ll likely see this lens in 2015.

Price: TBD

Info: www.tamron-usa.com

Fujifilm X100T

The X100T marks the debut of a new “hybrid” viewfinder with an electronic rangefinder mode that Fuji says mimics the functions of a mechanical rangefinder for focusing through the electronic viewfinder. The frame coverage of the EVF has been bumped up from the 90 percent found in the X100S to 92 percent, giving you a bit more accuracy when composing through the EVF. Image effects such as film simulations can now be previewed in real time in the viewfinder as well. The X100T uses a 16.3-megapixel, APS-C-sized X-Trans II CMOS sensor and Fuji’s EXR Processor II technology. It offers a 23mm f/2 lens (35mm full-frame equivalent) capable of focusing on subjects as close as 10cm. Fuji has also tweaked the body design, adding more controls over aperture in the aperture ring (now adjustable in 1/3 steps) as well as extending the exposure compensation dial by +/- 3 stops. Among the camera’s other highlights include 1920x1080p video recording at 60 fps and a maximum bit rate of 36Mbps with manual focusing during video recording; high-speed shooting at 6 fps to 25 full resolution JPEGs and a 3-inch, 1.04-million-dot LCD display.

Price: $1,299

Info: www.fujifilmusa.com

Phottix Indra500

Another light that caught our eye was Phottix’s new Indra500, a 500-Watt light capable of TTL metering for Canon and Nikon cameras thanks to its internal Odin TTL flash trigger. You’ll have the option of three firing modes—manual, TTL and stroboscopic—as well as a high-speed sync mode with shutter speeds up to 1/8000 sec. In strobe mode, the flash can be set to a frequency between 1–100Hz for a total of up to 100 flashes. There’s also a second curtain sync for achieving a streaking light effect, and you can adjust power output from 1/128 power to full power in 1/3 stop increments. Thanks to its built-in Odin wireless controller, you can shoot in manual or TTL mode, adjust flash exposure and use high speed or second curtain sync from the Phottix Odin or Mitros+ receivers. The Indra500 will also incorporate the company’s Strato II receiver for wireless triggering in manual mode. Phottix will sell an external battery pack to power the Indra500 for up to 340 full-power shots. The battery pack offers two power ports so it can run a pair of Indra500s as well as a USB port for charging up mobile devices. 

Price: $1,299 (includes battery)

Info: www.phottix.com

Sigma dp1 Quattro

The dp1 Quattro is the second camera in Sigma’s updated dp series to incorporate the 29-megapixel APS-C-sized Foveon X3 Quattro image sensor—the first, ironically, was named the dp2. The Quattro sensor features a proprietary three-layer design meant to replicate how film emulsions capture red, green and blue light. Working in tandem, these three layers create Sigma’s equivalent of a 39-megapixel image, and Sigma’s True III image processor crunches the data to output an image that the company claims delivers truer-to-life colors and more realistic images than competing sensor designs. Beyond the sensor, the dp1 offers a 19mm f/2.8 lens (28mm full-frame equivalent), 14-bit RAW image capture and a sensitivity range of ISO 100–6400. The body design marries a thin, panoramic frame with a prominent grip that extends from the back of the camera, giving the dp1 a particularly distinctive look. This coming year should also see the arrival of the third installment, the dp3. It will be identical to the dp1 and dp2 save for its 50mm, f/2.8 lens.

Price: TBD

Info: www.sigmaphoto.com