This image was captured with Fujifilm’s X-Pro3 mirrorless camera, a camera that emphasizes the process of shooting photographs.
2020 has been a challenging year for the camera industry and the photography world, to say the least, particularly as the effects from the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt in so many parts of the world economy. It’s in part what has led Olympus to announce this past June that it was selling off its camera system business.
Yet, camera companies that remain in the camera business are introducing some very impressive products for pro shooters, with imaginative and robust features sets. So, here’s a glimpse of some of those impressive cameras, lenses and accessories of 2020 that we’ve had a chance to try out. (Also, be sure to check out longer versions of these stories online, at digitalphotopro.com. )
If you Google the phrase “DSLRs are dead,” you’ll come up with scores of articles claiming why they are, in fact, defunct. You’ll also find a few writers who claim the opposite: DSLRs aren’t quite dead yet. However, most will agree the era of DSLRs is definitely on the wane. In fact, Canon and Nikon both introduced full-frame mirrorless systems in 2018, which seemed very symbolic in terms of their strategies towards interchangeable-lens cameras.
That being said, it’s also true both Canon and Nikon are still introducing new DSLRs, at least for now. For instance, this year Canon updated its flagship, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR. Not to be left out, Nikon has also announced updates to its flagship, the F6, with a development announcement.
But Nikon also came out with a successor to one of its most popular DSLRs of all time, the Nikon D750. The new DSLR is the Nikon D780.
What’s nice to see is that this DSLR has changed with the times and includes technologies that are included on Nikon’s Z Series full-frame mirrorless cameras, like the Z 6, including the 24-megapixel sensor with its 273 phase-detect pixels. And for videographers, the D780 is a big jump from the D750, with the new model’s ability to capture 4K ultra-high-def video, which it also borrows from the Z 6.
As far as the design goes, though, they kept a lot of it the same elements as the D750, since that predecessor was such a hit with photographers. There are minor changes, though, like the removal of the popup flash, which no pro will miss, and the addition of the touchscreen LCD.
In using the camera with the 24-120mm lens, I found the speed and accuracy to be spot-on. I also was quite impressed with both the video quality and the audio on my video clips.
Estimated Street Price: $2,299 (body only); $2,799 (with 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens)
There’s quite a lot to like about SIGMA’s fp, its first full-frame mirrorless camera. It also happens to be the first interchangeable-lens model from the company without using SIGMA’s Foveon sensor technology.
It’s a very small and compact mirrorless camera, particularly for a full-frame camera—and claims to be the most compact available. However, this allows you to build out the camera in various ways—and that’s something I really admired in this camera, the modular design concept, which allows you to add just the elements you need. And while it’s something that is important for still-photographer pros, it’s essential for photographers who are considering using this camera body for cinema and video projects.
I shot still photos and video with it using several different SIGMA lenses, including the 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art lens as well as the 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary lens and Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art Lens. In general, I liked the quality and performance of the camera with the lenses I used. However, I wasn’t always crazy about the feel of the camera—I think longer lenses may feel a tad unbalanced, since the body is so compact. For example, using the 60-600mm may be an issue.
However, since this mirrorless camera is one of the most customizable on the market, I really wasn’t that concerned since you could get an additional grip that should easily overcome that problem.
One minor downside on the camera body was ease of use—by separating the still photo and video segments, it sometimes felt a little difficult to find options that seemed a bit buried in the menu settings. But overall, once photographers and videographers get accustomed to the settings, they’ll each enjoy the fact that these sections are separate.
In terms of quality, of both the still photos and video, I felt the SIGMA fp provide content creates with an excellent choice-particularly for pros looking to cross over into film, or back in to still photography.
Pricing: $1,799 (body only); $2,149 (the 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary lens)
When I attended Fujifilm’s briefing for the X-Pro3 mirrorless digital camera, the product managers made of point of emphasizing that this camera is one of the reasons why the company has kept the name “film” in its name all these years. That’s because the new X-Pro series APS-C mirrorless digital camera was designed to remind you to think like a film photographer, which seemed a bit odd in this era of digital wonders. How so?
On this model, the LCD only folds down to see the live-view image or to review your images and video. In other words, it doesn’t swivel like many mirrorless models in order to see and frame your images on the display (in live-preview mode). Instead, Fujifilm says you’re forced to slow down and simply use the viewfinder. That allows you to think like a film photographer, instead of continually chimping, which is the act of spending an excessive amount of time reviewing your images on your camera’s display right after you shot them.
Question is…do I think Fujifilm succeeded? Now, I’m not sure if I’d consider myself “old school” (although I’m sure my kids do), but for me, I really relished taking pictures on this camera for allowing me to focus on the joys of picture taking aspect. In fact, I felt I did avoid reviewing each and every shot or burst of images that I captured.
There were other things that caught my own on this camera. As I have in the past, with a number of Fujifilm models, I admired the X-Pro3’s tactile, textured quality of the camera body and placement of the controls. Additionally, the high-quality hybrid viewfinder is as good as it’s ever been—letting you view the scene either electronically (a live-view display) or via the optical viewfinder.
Letting you use the viewfinder as an electronic viewfinder or like an rangefinder-like optical viewfinder is just an very enjoyable experience. But of course, I should note that this feature was on the previous model, the X-Pro2. But there were new features too, including the ability to capture 4K video capture (30 fps). But for many this camera is really designed for still-photo content creators.
One additional feature I really liked was its film simulation modes, including a new Classic Negative Film Simulation mode, which, the company says, “is designed to simulate color negative film.”
So, for me, this camera is so ideal for street shooters who love to explore cities or suburbs or any sort of country setting and just allow yourself to be immersed in the art of photography.
Pricing: $1,799 (body only, black finish); $1,999 (in one of two dura finishes, silver or black)
Hasselblad XCD 4/45P
What impressed me about Hasselblad’s XCD 4/45P lens is that because it was designed to be portable and very lightweight, it made for very easy traveling and ease of use. But still, it’s not like they scaled back on quality. Since it can be used in Hasselblad’s medium-format system, it makes for some very impressive high-resolution images. At $1,099, it’s a bit pricey, but not when you consider it’s part of a medium-format system, which you’ll generally pay a premium for.
What I liked was the fact that you had a minimum focus distance of 13.8 inches—which even allowed for some makeshift selfies as well as for some nice still-life shots. What is intriguing for this lens is that it’s very bare bones in terms of “extras”—it has no optical image stabilization, no focus hold buttons or other controls or switches. It only includes a manual focus ring. Some might find this a downside, but I was comfortable using it for a variety of projects.
Overall, it was a comfortable lens to work with. However, the Hasselblad system itself still could use a few tweaks when it comes to speed, particularly when it comes to autofocusing this lens. But as I expected, this lens, which has a 35mm film camera equivalent of a 36mm lens, did an extraordinary job of resolving all the wonderful details in my subjects—whether shooting street scenes or still lifes.
Estimated Street Price: $1,099
Tamron’s 24mm F/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 (Model F051) & 35mm F/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 (Model F053)
These two lenses were announced in the late fall of 2019 and were marketed as a trio, which included the 20mm F/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 (Model F050). They’re very much priced for those on a budget, but they certainly don’t skimp on quality.
You won’t get some of the extras that you’ll get on, say, Sony’s branded ultra-wide-angle FE 20mm F1.8 G or its FE 35mm F1.4 G—for example, you’ll find focus hold buttons on those models, but not these Tamrons.
But overall, they performed quite well in the field, whether in urban settings or out in the wild…well, the northfork of Long Island! What’s more, is they’re very light and compact—I certainly didn’t feel weighed down while shooting with them around Times Square in New York City or out east on the Northfork.
What I admired most about both is that no matter what subject matter I was shooting, they often did an excellent job of autofocusing on the subjects I intended to focus on. I also felt that my images were sharp and crisp. So, there was no issues with it being a third-party lens in terms of compatibility.
Estimated Street Price: $299 (for each lens)
Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS Super-Telephoto Zoom Lens
Last year, Sony introduced two lenses for full frames that both offered photographers the ability to capture subjects at the same super-telephoto focal length of 600mm, but at much different price points. The pricier lens, a prime, was the Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS, which cost $13,000, a big investment for most photographers.
However, Sony also introduced the more economical and versatile telephoto zoom, an FE 200-600mm zoom, although with a slower f/5.6-6.3 aperture range. And when I got a chance to shoot with the zoom lens, I really found a lot of impressive features. For instance, I like that it had internal zoom, which means the lens doesn’t telescope out when zooming toward its 600mm end of the zoom. That feature also helps make it more weather resistant.
Another important feature—which you can see in my portrait of my son, shot at the 600mm—was its built-in optical stabilization system. At such a long zoom setting, in lower light, that can easily result in quite blurry photos. But as you can see, the shot is quite sharp.
The 11-blade circular aperture mechanism helps produce a very nice bokeh effect in the background. But such a lens, of course, with a f/5.6-6.3 aperture, means you are forced to compromise and live with a maximum aperture of ƒ/5.6. However, if you can live with that compromise, it’s a very impressive lens.
Peak Design Travel Tripod
Peak Design’s Travel Tripod isn’t a new product, and it’s not a tripod that includes every last bell and whistle. But the reason I found it to be such a powerful accessory is that it was very helpful to me while capturing night shots of starry skies. In fact, I was able to capture some really impressive shots—at least upping my previous efforts at shooting the stars in the sky. And because I was shooting at night, in the dark, it was quite useful to have a tripod that had a very. intuitive design. In other words, I could just quickly feel around for certain physical knobs or buttons, and set up. That mean that I wasn’t spending 15 minutes searching around with my iPhone’s light to find an obscure button or switch. That’s smart, inventive product design.
For instance, it was easy to open it up, adjust the legs, or change the angle of the camera. Since I was shooting at stars, which means you don’t want your camera or tripod to move at all, I loved that it had a hook that allowed me to hang my heavy backpack to make the tripod sturdier.
Pricing: $599 (with carbon fiber), $349 (with aluminum legs)
First Impressions: BenQ SW321C 32-Inch Monitor
One of the coolest demos that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing was BenQ’s demo earlier this year, introducing me to one of its latest monitors targeted at photographers, the BenQ SW321C. It’s a brilliant and well-designed 32-inch, 4K UHD, 10-bit color depth, wide color gamut monitor. What made it so cool was that when arrived, I walked into a dimly lit room to see the monitor, which had a reproduction of one of Van Gogh’s painting displayed on the monitor. Now, as a fine-art old painter, and I really know what Van Gogh’s paintings look like first hand. But I’ll admit that the monitor made me look twice to see if it was a real painting or not.
Of course, BenQ is targeting photographers and even videographers with this monitor, not fine-art oil painters. And although it’s a pretty pricey display, at around $2,000, I found it overall to be quite satisfying to use.
For me, I found it provided a great way to examine all the fine details of my images and videos while also ensuring that the colors and tones looked accurate. That means for postproduction, the SW321C is a monitor that offers a stable environment to study and edit your work, knowing that you’ll get an accurate take of your work. In fact, as it states on its website, the SW321C is “Factory Calibrated for Out-of-the-Box Color Accuracy: The SW321C is out-of-the-box color accurate. Each display arrives with its unique factory calibration report.” After spending some time with this monitor, here are a couple of points on why I liked it:
Quality And Consistency Of The Display: First of all, I really fell in love with the texture of this display! You can see why when you see the comparison image with one of my laptops. It does a fantastic job of minimizing the monitor’s reflectivity and glare. When combining this with the fact that it has IPS technology, or “In-Plane Switching” technology, which provides excellent consistency for better viewing angles and ensures color accuracy and consistency, it becomes an even better experience. In other words, an IPS monitor like the SW321C won’t shift when being viewed at an angle as drastically as other types of computer monitors.
Ease Of Use: Another feature I really liked was its Hotkey Puck G2, which is designed to quickly and easily change settings on the monitor, so that you can get an accurate read on your photograph and how it looks in various color spaces—not just Adobe RGB, sRGB, or black-and-white but also its proprietary Paper Color Sync technology as well as other settings.
And, by the way, for photographers, BenQ’s Paper Color Sync simulates how it will eventually reproduce on a printed image.
In my initial tests, the results looked quite good. One thing I wasn’t crazy about was BenQ’s proprietary software design, which isn’t always the most intuitive. But, overall, I felt the BenQ SW321C provides a superb value for photographers.
Estimated Street Price: $2,000