Innovative Gear for Photographers and Filmmakers

July 26, 2016

By Greg Scoblete

Here’s a look at some of the innovative photography and filmmaking tools we’re excited about—from hardware you can get in your hands now to the gear we’re eagerly anticipating.

Sony’s a7S II is no longer the only low-light monster prowling the shadows. With the D5, Nikon delivers an incredible ISO range of 100-102,500 that can be extended to 3,280,000. The 20-megapixel CMOS sensor on the D5 is also capable of 4K video recording at 30p or HD video at 60p. The D5 represents a nice boost in continuous shooting, delivering up to 12fps with AF tracking engaged. It has 153 AF points, including 99 cross-type sensors and 15 points that are functional at f/8. It can focus on objects in very low light, down to -4 EV. Footage is saved to a pair of CF cards, though Nikon will also sell a version of the D5 with two XQD cards, which are faster and will save more frames during continuous shooting.

PRICE: $6,500

Sigma’s first ever mirrorless cameras will also include the highest resolution mirrorless camera ever made. The sd Quattro and sd Quattro H will share mostly identical features and will accept Sigma’s Global Vision lenses (Art, Sport, Contemporary). The sd Quattro will use the same Foveon X3 APS-C-sized sensor that’s found on the company’s line of Quattro advanced compact cameras to produce the equivalent of a 39-megapixel Bayer-pattern sensor. The sd Quattro H sensor applies a similar approach but is a larger, APS-H-sized sensor that produces the equivalent of a 51-megapixel image—a high watermark for the mirrorless category.

PRICE: $799

Instant film is hot and one company we have to thank for that fact is the Impossible Project. Founded to rescue Polaroid’s instant film, the company is now releasing its first instant film camera, the I-1. Among the camera’s features is an LED ring flash that delivers a diffused light with soft shadows. It also doubles as a film count indicator—alerting users how many photos are left on their Impossible Project film. It has a magnetic viewfinder that’s collapsible and detachable. You can connect the camera to a smartphone to enable features like double exposure, remote triggering and light painting.

PRICE: $299

While there are a growing number of 360-degree cameras on the market, adding dimensionality to a spherical image requires merging more than two cameras into a single device—and doing so can be prohibitively expensive, complicated or both. Billed as an out-of-the-box 3D VR system, the Vuze aims to be the opposite. It uses eight full HD cameras to generate a 4K VR image in 3D. Footage is saved to an SD card and you can control the camera using a free smartphone app. Included Vuze Studio software automatically stitches the eight videos together in real time, so one minute of VR footage from the eight cameras takes about a minute to stitch. It can also stabilize video, correct for lens distortions, correct white balance and more. The final video is an H.264 file that can be viewed in any VR viewer or browser.

PRICE: $1,000

This DSLR can shoot still photos so fast that it’s almost like recording video. Canon’s new flagship DSLR clocks in at 14 fps with autofocus engaged for an unlimited number of JPEG images (basically until your memory card fills up) or up to 173 RAW images, when using a CFast memory card. The camera features a new 20.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with a native ISO range of 100 to 51,200 with expansion options for 50 and 409,600 available. As for video, you’ll enjoy in-camera 4K recording (4096 x 2160) at 60 fps when recording to CFast. Full HD frame rates will top off at a motion-slowing 120 fps. There’s a built-in headphone jack for audio monitoring and a new 4K frame grab feature that lets you isolate 8.8-megapixel still images from your 4K video in the camera. You’ll also find the company’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system for continuous autofocusing during video recording. The 1D X Mark II has a 3.2-inch touch screen display with touch-focusing capability. Speaking of autofocus, the 1D X Mark II has a new 61-point AF system with 41 cross-type points. All the AF points are selectable and supported to f/8.

PRICE: $5,999


Think of the L16 as a computer with a lens on it—16 lenses, to be exact. The L16 has 16 built-in 13-megapixel camera modules and lenses that collectively snap 10 images at once for 130-megapixels of image data. This information is computationally rendered in the camera to produce up to a 52-megapixel-equivalent image, depending on your focal length. Because it’s capturing light from multiple different apertures and focal lengths, a photo’s depth of field and focus can be altered after the fact, similar to the approach used by Lytro. According to Light, this multi-capture approach combined with its software also virtually eliminates” noise in low-light scenes and improves dynamic range. The combined lenses offer a focal length range equivalent to 35-150mm. Each lens has an aperture of f/2.4 and each sensor measures 1/3.2 inches. You’ll be able to record 4K videos as well.

PRICE: $1,699

It’s been ten years in the making, but Tamron’s update to its 18-200mm lens for APS-C DSLRs hits a notable achievement. It’s the world’s lightest at 14.1 ounces. The 18-200mm Di II VC (B018) boasts an aperture range of f/3.5-6.3 and a new AF mechanism with a DC motor-driven operation. It sports Tamron’s Vibration Compensation image stabilization technology to keep subjects shake-free as you zoom out. It can focus on objects as close as 19.3-inches and is available in Sony, Canon and Nikon mounts.

PRICE: $499

Drones that fly themselves are a hot trend (just read PDN’s June issue) and the Lily drone is at the cutting edge. You simply throw the 2.8-pound drone into the air and it will fly off, following its owner who wears a wristband tracker. Either through an app or the waterproof wristband, you can command Lily to hover, follow, loop around or zoom in on a subject, all while recording videos and stills. The Lily can cruise along between 10 and 30 feet in the air at a top speed of 25MPH for about 20 minutes. It can loiter as close as 5 feet from its owner or fly as far away as 100 feet. It’s waterproof, too, so it can be thrown into the water for takeoff. Using computer vision, Lily executes its landing into the palm of your hand. A free app for iOS and Android devices lets you change camera settings, create flight plans, and edit and share your videos and stills. Lily’s built-in camera sports a 12-megapixel sensor capable of 1920 x 108o video recording at 60 fps (audio recording is handled by the wristband remote). You can enjoy frame rates of 120fps if you drop to 720p resolution. The lens delivers a 94-degree field of view for videos. Footage is saved to a MicroSD card or 4GB of internal memory. The internal battery takes about two hours to fully recharge.

PRICE: $899

SONY A6300
No other mirrorless camera—make that no other camera, period—has an AF system like the a6300. This update to the bestselling a6000 boasts a new 24-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor and 425 phase detect autofocus points to help deliver what the company says is the fastest AF system in the world. The 425 phase detect points are packed across the imaging area and work with a new technology that clusters AF points around a moving subject to ensure it stays sharply in focus. According to Sony, the camera can acquire focus in as little as 0.05 seconds. The a6300 can shoot at 11 fps with AF engaged or at 8 fps through live view. The camera has a native ISO range of 100-51,200 and a 2.4-million dot OLED viewfinder. On the video front, the camera records 4K internally with no pixel-binning. It offers S-Log and S-Gamut color profiles for greater dynamic range—up to 14 stops.

PRICE: $1,000

The Hālo is an intriguing wireless focus tracking system that blends artificial intelligence, sensors and human interaction. It is comprised of several devices that work in tandem to map out a scene and drive a follow-focus accessory attached to your camera, making it easier for solo operators to pull focus, even when using a gimbal. The Hālo taps some of the same technology used in self-driving cars to map out a scene at up to 180 degrees, identifying objects and people in real time—regardless of the lighting. Armed with this information, you can manually focus your camera by tapping on objects, let Hālo assist you in focusing or have the system focus the camera for you automatically. How much of the focusing work you want Hālo to do is up to you—it can track objects and keep them in focus as they move or smoothly shift focus between objects.

PRICE: $3,599

While the Mini was announced back at NAB 2015, it wasn’t until the Spring of 2016 that it made its way into the world—and at NAB 2016, got an all-new operating system to boot. The new OS, which is available as a firmware upgrade for existing URSA Mini owners, mostly improves the user interface, streamlining the menu and adding features such as 17-point 3D LUTs, variable white balance control and a shutter angle selection tool. The Mini retains many of the valuable features of the original but at a little more than a third the weight (don’t worry Ursa fans, the original isn’t going anywhere). The Mini weighs just 5 pounds and features a single 5-inch touch screen HD monitor for framing and focus confirmation. The Mini records 4K footage to a pair of CFast 2.0 cards in Apple ProRes or Cinema DNG 12-bit RAW. It has dual XLR inputs with phantom power, a built-in stereo mic, and a 12G-SDI connection. The Ursa Mini is sold with either Blackmagic’s new 4.6K Super 35mm-sized image sensor with 15 stops of dynamic range or an updated 4K sensor with slightly less resolution and 12 stops of dynamic range.

PRICE: $4,995 (4.6K sensor, EF mount); $2,995 (4K, EF mount)

Virtual reality and spherical presentations don’t always require expensive hardware to execute. Ricoh’s Theta S can quickly deliver 360-degree stills and video using a pair of 14-megapixel image sensors and f/2.0 lenses. The resulting footage is stitched together in-camera and can be sent to mobile devices via Wi-Fi. You can record up to 25 minutes of spherical HD video to the camera’s 8GB of internal memory. The Theta S offers ISO sensitivities from 100-1600 and shutter speeds from 1/6400 sec.-60 sec. The camera is small enough to slip into a pants pocket.

PRICE: $347

One of the major problems you encounter when traveling with gear is that the bag you need to transport your gear to a location isn’t always the ideal bag for when you’re at the location. Tekniq solves this conundrum with a clever three-in-one bag. It starts out as a full-sized backpack that can be separated into a smaller messenger bag and shoulder bag. When fully assembled, the bag can hold a pro DSLR body, a 70-200mm lens plus smaller lenses, a flash, photo accessories and personal items like a sweater. The messenger can hold just about the same amount of camera gear but fewer lenses and no personal items, while the shoulder bag is roomy enough for a DSLR with small lens attached and a second lens. The backpack also has a rain cover and an external holster for a tripod.

PRICE: $250

The GX85 doesn’t look the part of a pathbreaker, but its dual image stabilization is part of a trend we expect to see filter into many more cameras from Panasonic and other manufacturers soon. This budget-friendly Micro Four Thirds camera is also Panasonic’s first without an optical low-pass filter, the better to squeeze out additional sharpness from the 16-megapixel sensor. A new electromagnetic shutter mechanism and carbon fiber-based shutter keep shutter-induced blur to a minimum. Beyond that, the GX85 has Panasonic’s 4K photo modes to isolate still images from a 4K movie, as well as an innovative Post Focus feature that captures a burst of images at 8-megapixels with different points of the AF area in focus. During playback, you can select which portion of the image you want in focus—similar in spirit to Lytro’s post focusing capabilities.

PRICE: $800 with 12-32mm lens

What’s notable about the ED 300mm, other than its impressive reach, is its image stabilization. Mount it to Olympus’s OM-D E-M5 Mark II or E-M1, which have their own in-camera stabilizers, and the lens offers a whopping six stops of correction (per CIPA) as the lens and camera stabilizers work in sync. Mount the lens to another Olympus or MFT camera body and you’ll enjoy a still-impressive four stops of image stabilization. This prime stops down to f/22, has nine aperture blades and accepts 77mm front filters. Olympus also used a new coating, dubbed Z Nano coating, to help reduce ghosting and flaring. At 3.3 pounds with the tripod collar attached, this weather-sealed lens is a piker next to comparable DLSR glass. And its close focusing capabilities—4.6 feet from the front of the lens—put it ahead of many telephoto DSLR lenses as well.

PRICE: $2,500

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