FINALLY THE START OF SOMETHING NEW?
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.