January 15, 2016

Eben Marks

CES 2016: The Best Photography Gear from this Year’s Expo

Photo: Maurizio Pesce

At the start of each year, the tech world focuses its attention on Las Vegas, Nevada, home of the Consumer Electronics Show. This year, 3,600 exhibiting companies unveiled new products and dazzled with new technologies, from the giants such as Samsung and Sony, right down to freshly founded startups. Among the deluge of announcements, there was plenty of exciting new photography gear to see. In case you missed it, here is our roundup.

Nikon Steals the Show

Photography gear CES 2016 Nikon
Image source: Nikon

Nikon stole the show this year with the introduction of its hotly anticipated flagship DSLR, the D5. Equipped with a 20.8-megapixel sensor, this full-frame beast has an astonishing ISO range of 100-102,400, with the option to extend it downward to 50, and upward to 3,280,000. Nikon says that the most sensitive setting equates to something approaching night-vision. The camera also boasts 153 points for autofocusing, 4K video, and a 12-frames-per-second burst mode. In the USA, the D5 is available for pre-order now (body only) for $6,500.

Photography gear CES 2016 - Nikon
Image source: Nikon

The D5 also has a new little sister. The D500 offers a 20.9-megapixel APS-C sensor, with a reduced but still impressive ISO range of 100-51,200. It comes with the same autofocus system, and 4K video, which makes it very competitively priced at $2,000.  Nikon’s other notable introduction was the key mission 360, a GoPro-like action camcorder that takes 360º video in 4K. It has a shock-proof casing and is due to be released in the Spring.

A Blast from the Past

After a few years in the wilderness, Polaroid —  a name synonymous with instant film photography — has found recent success with a range of cameras more suited to the digital age. The company, which celebrates its centenary in 2017, chose to present two new major products at CES 2016.

Photography gear CES 2016 Polaroid
Image source: Polaroid

The Snap+ is a 13-megapixel compact that lets you output your images both as digital files and 2-by-3-inch prints. This new version has Bluetooth for connecting with your smartphone, meaning you can use the Polaroid app (iOS and Android) to edit photos before you print them. There is no word on price, but it should be released in Q4 of this year, in a range of four bold colors.

Photography gear CES 2016 Polaroid
Image source: Polaroid

At just two inches square, the Polaroid iZone Camera continues the theme of compactness. It packs an 18-megapixel sensor and an 8x zoom and utilizes your smartphone’s screen as a digital viewfinder. It connects via Wi-Fi or NFC and is designed to give regular smartphone shooters better image quality. The idea is not strictly new, as Sony has been here before with the QX100 — but at a retail price of $180, the Polaroid is a great deal more appealing for the casual snapper.

Mighty Compacts from Panasonic and Olympus

Image source: Panasonic

Panasonic might no longer make DSLRs, but the new ZS100 compact is as well equipped as some cameras twice its size. The one-inch 20-megapixel sensor is considerably larger than those of most other cameras of this size, and the f/2.8-5.9 50-250mm zoom lens offers great flexibility. The ZS100 has full manual controls, with dials for the major functions, and Wi-Fi for connecting with your smartphone. One mode even lets you refocus an image after you press the shutter. The camera is available for pre-order now for $700.

Image source: Olympus

Meanwhile, Olympus brought along the Tough TG-870, the latest in a long line of rugged compacts. It is waterproof down to 50 feet, able to withstand 220 pounds of downward pressure, and unaffected by temperatures as low as -14ºF — less camera, more military-grade electronics. Except, that description would be unfair, since the TG-870 has a 16-megapixel camera, with a 21-105mm equivalent lens, Wi-Fi, and speedy GPS. The Olympus will be available for purchase from April, priced at $279.99.

A Glimpse of Photography Gear Future

One exhibitor whose technology was not yet ready for the market was InVisage. The startup is working on a brand new kind of sensor, Quantum Film, which is made from nano-scale crystals rather than the current standard of silicon. The result is a considerably thinner sensor — ideal for the phones for which the technology will initially be used — with a better dynamic range (i.e. able to capture a greater range of tones), and no weird “rolling shutter” effect on moving subjects when you capture video. The first phones to use the first-generation 13-megapixel sensor will be released by the end of this quarter.

Best of the Rest

All of the above can only be seen as a condensed highlights package; there was plenty more photography equipment to see.

Image source: Zeiss

For starters, Olympus released a very nice fixed 300mm f/4 Zuiko telephoto lens, while videographers collectively drooled over the reincarnation of the Kodak Super 8. The ball-shaped Panono Camera has 36 fixed-focus cameras inside, meaning you can take panoramas without the stitching, while Zeiss and Olloclip turned up with impressive smartphone lens systems.

Image source: DJI

For drone photographers, the new DJI Phantom 3 Professional with 4K gimbal-mounted camera was definitely worth seeing, and along with its new cameras, Nikon displayed its SB-5000 flashgun — the first to have built-in radio triggers.

The Future is Bright

CES 2016 offers a glimpse of what the following year has in store. From the trailblazing low-light performance of Nikon’s new DSLRs, through to the prospect of even better smartphone photography, there is plenty of photography gear to save up for in 2016.

Eben Marks

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