Gear


The Latest Tech Shaping the Photo Industry

June 20, 2017

By Greg Scoblete

Microsoft Surface Studio

With the Surface Studio, Microsoft put Apple on notice that it, too, could craft a compellingly designed all-in-one PC. The Studio is a true multi-purpose creative tool. You can lay it flat on the table and use it as a touch screen canvas, complete with a stylus for drawing. You can prop it upright and use it as a traditional PC. It packs an Intel Core i5/i7 processor, dedicated NVIDIA GeForce graphics and boasts a 4500 x 3000 resolution display. You can configure the Studio with up to 32GB of RAM and a hybrid drive with 128GB of SSD memory and 2TB worth of hard drive space.

PRICE: starting at $2,999
INFO: www.microsoft.com

Insta360 Pro

When it comes to realistic VR, more is more. That is, the more lenses and image sensors you can throw at a scene, the greater depth and realism you’ll be able to capture. The Insta360 Pro sports six cameras and f/2.4 lenses capable of recording 8K 360-degree video or a 60-megapixel 360-degree still image. If you record in 6K, the camera is able to capture 3D video with stitching performed in post. If you record in 3D 4K, the camera can stitch the individual video streams together internally in real time. Insta360 Pro can also livestream a 4K, 360-degree video via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. It has a removable battery, HDMI output and stores footage locally to an SD card.

PRICE: $3,000
INFO: www.insta360.com

Panasonic GH5

The wait for the GH4’s successor is finally over. The GH5 predictably ups the ante with high-quality 4K recording—you can save a 10-bit 422 file at 30p to an SD card or shoot 4K at up to 60p. Full HD frame rates top off at a blistering 180 fps. Autofocusing is driven by Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology, which has had its speed doubled from previous iterations. The 20-megapixel GH5 builds on Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode with a new 6K Photo mode that isolates an 18-megapixel still image from a short 6K clip.

PRICE: $2,000
INFO: www.panasonic.com

DJI Mavic Pro

When our co-tester David Patiño finished with the Mavic Pro, he called it a “game changer.” DJI wasn’t the first to try its hand at a foldable drone, but the Mavic is the best implementation of the concept yet. Incredibly compact, the Mavic Pro can easily fit into any gear bag—even a purse and possibly a huge fanny pack. Despite its diminutive dimensions, it packs plenty of flying smarts with automated routines and many of the object-avoidance technologies found on larger DJI drones. It has a 4K camera and snaps 12-megapixel still images.

PRICE: $999
INFO: www.dji.com

Hasselblad True Zoom

Motorola may not be your first choice in a smartphone, but clip the Hasselblad True Zoom to any Moto Z phone and you’ve got a serious mobile imaging device in your hands. Part of Motorola’s Moto Mods add-ons for the Z, the Hasselblad True Zoom is essentially a mini camera that snaps RAW images and sports a 10x optical zoom. The True Zoom has a 12-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and a 25-250mm equivalent lens (f/3.5-5.6). You’ll have a Xenon flash to illuminate your scene. Images are stored to the camera’s microSD card and can be automatically backed up to Google Drive.

PRICE: $300
INFO: www.motorola.com

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

While cameras have long employed digital menus to alert you to settings, it’s taken lenses much longer to catch up. Canon’s new 70-300mm II sports a tiny LED display that not only gives you the traditional information like focal length and focusing distance, but novel information, such as the amount of camera shake you’re experiencing. Fortunately, the lens has image stabilization that is good for up to four stops in case of shake.

PRICE: $550
INFO: www.usa.canon.com

Lumu Power

The original Lumu light meter was a simple, small iPhone accessory that could serve as a modest light meter in a pinch. The new Lumu Power keeps the tiny plug-and-play dimensions, but is now much more feature rich, offering features typically found on larger devices. It’s now more accurate and able to read color temperature, flash exposure, illuminance and perform spot metering.

PRICE: $299
INFO: www.lu.mu

Relonch

The Relonch is unlike any camera you’ve seen. That’s because it’s not a camera, really. Relonch sells photography as a service. You don’t buy a camera; you buy images. The innovation here is in Relonch’s business model. The Relonch camera is shrouded in a stitched covering that reveals only the lens, the shutter button and a viewfinder. Inside, the camera has a SIM card that sends any images you snap to a server where they’re processed using Relonch technology. Your images will automatically be sent to an app where you can judge the results. If you’re happy, you can download the full resolution file for $1. The camera itself is essentially free. You can stroll into the company’s Palo Alto, CA office and trade in your existing camera. You’ll be given that camera’s dollar value in downloadable photos. For now, the Relonch hardware is only accessible to those who can get to that office, but the company plans a broader launch, and a refined processing algorithm, in 2018 if all goes according to its rather unorthodox plan. Will consumers, let alone serious photographers, jump at the chance to rejuvenate what was essentially Kodak’s marketing mantra, “You push the button, we do the rest”? Stay tuned.

PRICE: $1/photo
INFO: www.relonch.com

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Olympus may have put the Four Thirds system out to pasture this year, but Micro Four Thirds innovation is alive and well, as the E-M1 Mark II attests. Olympus was able to push continuous shooting speeds to a level found on DSLRs costing three times as much. Using the new Pro Capture mode, you can tap the electronic shutter to start buffering JPEG and RAW images to the camera’s memory before you fully start shooting, ensuring you won’t miss a thing (and ensuring hard drive makers a long and profitable future). The 20-megapixel E-M1 Mark II records 4K video, boasts 5-axis image stabilization and a 50-megapixel high-res shot mode to coax even more detail from your images.

PRICE: $2,000
INFO: www.getolympus.com

Picturio

As anyone who has had the pleasure of pressing the shutter of a Nikon D5 or Canon 1D X Mark II understands, it’s incredibly easy to amass hundreds of images of nearly identical subjects in a matter of seconds. Picturio software leverages artificial intelligence to automatically cull those images for you, potentially saving you hours of time spent in front of the computer. It scans your images and discards those that are under- and over-exposed. Because it’s using machine learning, it improves with time and the capabilities will grow to include culling based on sharpness and composition. It works on RAW image files, supports side-by-side file comparisons and can export files to Lightroom. You can use Picturio’s Top Up plan to purchase automatic culls for 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 images, or subscribe.

PRICE: $10/month up to 20,000 images
INFO: www.picturio.com

Sony FDR-X3000R

Action cameras present a unique engineering challenge: How do you incorporate features that photographers and filmmakers expect into an extremely tight space? Sony gets the nod for being the first to squeeze optical image stabilization into an action camera’s slender dimensions. The X3000R records 4K video and is waterproof to a depth of 60m using the included housing. It has built-in GPS and can automatically compile short highlight videos using information pulled from your video (acceleration, faces detected, etc.).

PRICE: $370
INFO: www.sony.com

(sphere) Lens

There are ultra-wide angle lenses, but the (sphere) lens is different. It can capture a 360-degree image horizontally and a 180-degree vertical image in a single shot—turning any camera, even high-end cinema cameras, into a potential VR rig. It achieves this feat thanks to a toroidal mirror (think “doughnut shaped”) and a series of optical elements that project an image sphere onto your camera sensor. This image can be easily de-sphered in software or on a mobile device. The (sphere) has a fixed f/8 aperture and a Nikon F mount. The (sphere) is currently available to rent, with rates dropping the longer you need it for.

PRICE: $2500/day
PRICE: www.sphereoptics.io

Sigma Art 14mm f/1.8

According to Sigma, this is the world’s first (and only) f/1.8 14mm full frame DSLR lens. Like other models in the line, it features full-time manual focus override and is compatible with Sigma’s USB dock. It offers nine rounded aperture blades and stops down to f/16.

PRICE: TBD
INFO: www.sigmaphoto.com

Photolemur

While companies like Adobe bring AI into their well-established software platforms, Photolemur is built from the ground up to leverage AI smarts. It uses photo recognition and machine learning to scan your images and make automatic changes to color, exposure, image noise and more. Rather than making blanket auto-corrects, it uses image recognition to identify the components of an image and target corrections accordingly (for instance, amplifying the green in foliage or targeting faces for gentle retouching). It can handle RAW files and can batch process up to 40 images at a time. What makes Photolemur innovative is that it learns and improves the more you use it. Every time you save or share a photo, it takes note of the changes it made (and the kind of photo it was making it to) so that it can recall those changes for future images. If you don’t save or share the photo, Photolemur notes that as well.

PRICE: $35
INFO: www.photolemur.com

Tether Tools Case Power Relay

Unlimited power isn’t just the wild-eyed promise of a cornered Sith Lord, it’s the selling point of Tether Tools’ Case Power Relay system. It consists of two parts. The first is a Relay Camera Coupler that slides into your camera’s battery port in place of your standard camera battery. The Coupler connects to the Case Relay CPS, which features a USB plug that can draw power either from an optional AC wall adapter or from an optional portable USB charger, such as TetherTool’s 10,000 mAh Rock Solid External Battery Pack. Working together, the system delivers a steady flow of power to your camera—essentially, a never-ending battery if you’re connected to an AC outlet.

PRICE: $100 (Power System); $30-$40 (Camera Coupler)
PRICE: www.tethertools.com