FI­NALLY THE START OF SOME­THING NEW?

HWM (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

An­other year, an­other slew of cam­eras. This year though, the cam­era in­dus­try saw sev­eral firsts. We had the first full-frame cam­era tuned specif­i­cally for as­tropho­tog­ra­phy, two cam­eras with 35mm full-frame sen­sors that breached the pre­vi­ous lim­its of res­o­lu­tion, and the ap­pear­ance of non-tra­di­tional cam­eras like the DxO One and the Olym­pus Air, which chal­lenged the no­tion of what a cam­era should be with their non-tra­di­tional for­mat.

As men­tioned, this year is the year that 35mm for­mat In­ter­change­able Lens Cam­eras (ILCs) broke the 40-megapixel bar­rier in terms of res­o­lu­tion, with the Canon 5DS R in par­tic­u­lar hit­ting the 50-megapixel mark, some­thing that was once the sole pre­serve of medium for­mat cam­eras and their as­so­ci­ated dig­i­tal backs, which have sen­sors that are al­most twice the size.

That’s cer­tainly quite an achieve­ment, es­pe­cially when you take into ac­count the fact that the cam­era is still able to reach an ISO sen­si­tiv­ity of 6,400 de­spite the in­creased pixel pitch. Sony’s A7R II, on the other hand, reaches ‘only’ 42.4-megapixel res­o­lu­tion, but im­ple­ments a new back-il­lu­mi­nated sen­sor de­sign to al­low the cam­era to reach a much higher ISO sen­si­tiv­ity of 102,400, which is cer­tainly im­pres­sive.

For some rea­son though, that sen­sor de­sign wasn’t ap­plied to the A7S II. Tra­di­tion­ally the most light sen­si­tive of Sony’s full-frame cam­era lineup, the A7S se­ries has a lower megapixel count than its A7R sib­ling, and so is able to achieve much higher ISO lev­els due to the larger pixel pitch, which makes one won­der just how much Sony might have been able to push the limit.

In light of that, the 35mm ILC seg­ment leaves us slightly un­sat­is­fied this year. Sure, medium for­mat res­o­lu­tion in a smaller, lighter for­mat is un­doubt­edly im­pres­sive, but how many of us can af­ford the cost of th­ese cam­eras?

The A7R II costs RM11,999 and the 5DS R will put you back RM14,999; quite a bit above what your av­er­age en­thu­si­ast would look to pay. And be­sides that, how many megapix­els do you re­ally need? The res­o­lu­tion race has gone to the point where it hardly sets our pulses rac­ing any­more. How many times do you re­ally need to zoom in on to check out Aunty Jane’s wrinkles in that last fam­ily por­trait?

What we’re look­ing for, is true in­no­va­tion, and thank­fully this year we’re at least see­ing some of that in the form of cam­eras that are go­ing be­yond idea of a the tra­di­tional ‘cam­era’. Take the Olym­pus Air A01, for ex­am­ple. This ‘cam­era’ merely con­sists of a sen­sor unit with lens mount. Af­ter pair­ing, your smart­phone be­comes your con­trol panel and live dis­play, mean­ing you can place the lens unit any­where and trig­ger it re­motely.

The DJI Os­mos takes this con­cept and goes one step fur­ther with a fo­cus on video, plac­ing the en­tire lens and sen­sor unit on a gim­bal stick that adds 3-axis sta­bi­liza­tion for steady video on the go. This also uses the large screen of your smart­phone for com­po­si­tion, re­view and con­trol, but comes with a whole host of mount­ing op­tions that make per­fect for videog­ra­phy that might in­volve mo­tion.

What truly takes the cake though, is Light’s L16 Cam­era, the world’s first multi-aper­ture cam­era that uses folded op­tics and a revo­lu­tion­ary ap­proach to pho­tog­ra­phy to cre­ate a smart­phone-sized cam­era that has true op­ti­cal zoom. The L16 has 16 in­di­vid­ual cam­eras in three groups, and up to 10 of those cam­eras fire at the same time for ev­ery shot you take.

The fi­nal im­age is con­structed from a com­pos­ite of the im­ages taken from all th­ese cam­eras, and be­cause the cam­eras are all cap­tur­ing data at dif­fer­ent set­tings, things like depth of field, ISO and dy­namic range can all be ad­justed af­ter the fact us­ing com­pu­ta­tional op­tics. The fi­nal size of the im­age will fall be­tween 30 to 50MB, which in­ci­den­tally, is what the full-frame cam­eras above have just reached, in a much smaller form fac­tor.

That’s the type of change we’re look­ing to see, and prob­a­bly the first real change in think­ing for cam­era mak­ers in a long time.

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