Let’s talk about the accelerating trends and cool new high-tech imaging gear that are guaranteed to make 2018 a banner year.
All things analog are hot
Film will never outstrip digital photography, but over the past few years, analog photography has quietly emerged as a robust, expanding, multifaceted niche. Shooting, processing, and printing film are experiencing a resurgence among traditionalists, art photographers, and the Millennial generation. While many film aficionados are hybrid shooters who scan their negatives to create digital image files, analog images retain their distinctive character, and film photography is definitely on an upward curve.
Everyone from neophytes to seniors seem to be captivated by instant-picture cameras that combine the immediate gratification of digital photography with an old-fashioned physical print, and this category is expanding rapidly. B&H still offers dozens of brand-new film cameras, from humble Holga and Diana box cameras to luxurious Leicas and Linhofs, and also carries scores of different films, from iconic companies like Kodak, Ilford, and Fujifilm, to lesser-known ones like Arista and Kentmere. Cruise the vintage camera listings on eBay or B&H’s Used Department and you’ll see that classic film cameras like the Hasselblad 500C/M, which sold for $400-500 complete during “The Great Film Camera Bust of 2005,” now command respectable prices in the $1,000-$1,500 range. Why? Because countless film enthusiasts are now using them to take pictures! Here’s a cool new instant-picture camera to give you an idea of what’s currently on the market:
Fujifilm instax Wide 300 Instant Film Camera: Resembling a mid-20th-Century rangefinder camera, this innovative model yields prints with a 2.4 x 3.9-inch image area on a 3.4 x 4.3-inch overall print size using Fujifilm INSTAX Instant Color Film. It has a retractable 2-element, 2-group, 95mm f/14 lens with 2-range motor-driven focusing down to 15.5 inches, a 0.37x optical viewfinder with target spot, auto-exposure control via a programmed shutter, a film pack window, a +/-2/3 EV lighten-darken control, and a tripod socket. It comes with carrying strap, a close-up lens adapter, and runs on four AA batteries.
Bluetooth becomes a must-have feature
Bluetooth in digital cameras will soon be nearly universal, since it provides easy, very reliable connectivity that can be used to share files and operate electronics remotely. While Bluetooth has certain limitations, such as a shorter range and lower bandwidth then traditional Wi-Fi, it can make connectivity between devices in your home more reliable than other wireless alternatives. Setting up a Bluetooth connection between two devices is quick and easy—simply make one discoverable while the other one scans. Once the scanning device finds the discoverable one, you initiate pairing using a PIN. That’s it. And you don’t have to reconnect the devices once they've been paired. Current Bluetooth-enabled cameras include the following: Nikon D3400, Nikon D500, Canon EOS 6D Mark II, Panasonic G9, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Canon EOS Rebel T6i. There are scores of others, ranging from compact point-and-shoots to pro DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. You can check the specs of any camera you’re considering by looking it up on the B&H website.
All-in-one zooms lead the lens boom
With the ascendance of interchangeable-lens cameras like DSLRs and mirrorless models, lens sales continue to surge, and top lens makers like Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Sony, Sigma, and Tamron have been quick to respond with innovative high-performance optics. Topping the hottest sellers going into 2018 are the latest all-in-one zooms that cover focal lengths from wide angle to long telephoto and are ideal for shooting travel, vacation, and family events due to their extreme versatility. And fast (f/1.4-f/2.0) prime (non-zoom) lenses in the 85-200mm focal-length range continue to be a popular choice for fine art portraiture. Serious shooters of all stripes are also gravitating to long-range telephoto zooms to capture unique and compelling images. Two stellar examples are detailed below.
Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD: The latest iteration in Tamron’s signature series of extended-range all-in-one zooms for APS-C-format cameras, it delivers impressive 28.8-640mm-equivalent coverage and uses three LD and three aspheric elements to achieve consistent image quality. Its built-in VC image stabilization system minimizes the effects of handheld camera shake, and its new compact high-low torque modulated drive (HLD) AF system is said to deliver fast, responsive AF. Other features: precise electromagnetic diaphragm, rounded 7-bladed diaphragm for artistic bokeh, and all-weather construction. If you want to know more about this lens, check out our hands-on review here.
Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art: This outstanding new high-performance, wide-aperture telephoto prime is aimed at portrait shooters and art photographers who want to create dramatic pictorial effects with shallow depth of field. It employs 2 FLD elements and 2 SLD elements to achieve extremely low levels of chromatic aberration, can capture crisp images wide open with beautiful bokeh, and is compatible with full-frame and APS-C-format cameras. Other features: rounded 9-bladed electromagnetically controlled diaphragm, HSM Motor for quick, quiet AF, composite TSC barrel for uniform performance at all temperatures, and a durable brass bayonet mount.
Action cameras are on the upswing
Perfect for capturing today’s active lifestyle, action cameras are great for shooting on the trail, in the air, on and under the water, on ski slopes, along the open road, or wherever people want to experience and record their excellent adventures. These increasingly popular broad-spectrum imaging devices sport such advanced features as 4K video at 30 and 60 fps, sophisticated built-in or add-on Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities, advanced image stabilization systems, and the ability to capture hi-res still-image bursts on the fly. They’re mounted on bicycles, motorcycles, cars, planes, and skis, in underwater housings and, of course, on a wide variety of drones, and many can be operated remotely over long distances via radio or voice control. The current crop are rugged, reliable, ingenious, ergonomic video-and-image capture devices that comprise an exciting up-market aimed at savvy shooters into the latest tech. There dozens of top models on the B&H website. Here’s one of the coolest…
GoPro HERO6 Black: The new HERO6, one of the most audacious action cameras on the market. It can capture smooth 4K video at 60fps, 2.7K video at 120 fps, Full HD 1080p video at 240fps for dramatic slow-motion effects, as well as shooting 12MP stills at up to 30 fps. It features a wide-angle all-glass lens, improved video image stabilization, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity with auto upload to the cloud, remote monitoring, voice control, and a 2-inch rear touchscreen display. It’s waterproof to 33 feet, provides advanced wind-noise reduction using three microphones, has a Linear Video Mode that corrects for distortion, provides interval capture for time-lapse shooting, and comes with flat and curved adhesive mounts.
Next-gen drones take off with higher tech
Despite tougher FAA rules mandating line-of-sight control, and fewer new product launches in 2017, photo- and video-enabled drones are still flying high among photographers and videographers because they provide a unique aerial perspective. And everyone from budding enthusiasts to project-oriented pros is sure to benefit from their increasing sophistication. Many of the latest premium models like the pro/enthusiast DJI Phantom 4 Pro include high-tech features like 20MP hi-res 1-inch sensors, the ability to shoot 4K video at 60 fps, high burst rates (14 fps) for capturing still images, high shutter speeds (up to 1/8000 of a second with its electronic shutter) to freeze action, sophisticated guidance and crash avoidance systems, and the ability to transmit video over distances measured in miles. Lower-tier models, such as the Yuneec Breeze 4K and DJI Spark have more modest video capture and transmission range specs, but still can do a creditable job in many aerial applications.
Multimedia cameras take center stage
Many of today’s professional photographers and many serious enthusiasts are now multimedia or crossover shooters. Indeed, the ability to turn out pro-caliber video, as well as top-notch still images is essential in specialties ranging from wedding and advertising photography to documentary photojournalism. That’s why so many working pros gravitate to top-tier professional DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that can capture UHD 4K video (3840 x 2160 pixels) or DCI 4K video (4096 x 2160 pixels) at 60 fps or 30 fps, provide sophisticated pro video Gamma profiles such as S-Log2, S-Log3, and C-Log that flatten the curve (lower the contrast) to extend the dynamic range and facilitate post-production tonal adjustments. And many of the latest enthusiast-aimed mirrorless cameras now have video capabilities comparable to those offered on top pro video cameras, vastly enhancing the user’s ability to create pro-caliber video productions. Here’s one of the latest examples.
Panasonic Lumix GH5S: This innovative spin-off of the highly successful GH5 prioritizes video capability, delivering the highest ISO sensitivity and video image quality of any previous Lumix. Its lower-res, larger-pixel 10.2MP High Sensitivity Digital MOS sensor uses Dual Native ISO technology to allow higher ISO capture in low light and it provides the same angle of view across 4:3, 17:9, 16:9, and 3:2 aspect ratios using its “multi-aspect-ratio” function. It can capture 4K 60p, 4K 30p/25p/24p, and Full HD 200 Mbps video, and has V-Log L preinstalled. Depth from Defocus technology provides 0.07 sec AF plus a burst rate up to 12 fps with AFS in 12-bit RAW.
Mirrorless cameras advance and diversify
New mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs), especially those aimed at serious enthusiasts and pros, are now being introduced at a faster rate than any other camera category. That’s because they deliver an irresistible combination of cutting-edge features such as ultra-fast Hybrid AF (that combines the speed of on-sensor phase detection and the precision of contrast detection), and high performance parameters (such as 4K 30p and 60p video capture and Log-gamma modes) in compact high-value packages. Indeed, it’s been widely rumored that, in 2018, Canon and Nikon will announce higher-caliber mirrorless models to go head to head with such formidable cameras as the full-frame Sony Alpha a7R III, the APS-C-format Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and X-T2, and the Micro Four Thirds Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.
Meanwhile, medium format mirrorless continues to advance with such exciting entries as the Fujifilm GFX 50S, an elegantly compact 51.4MP camera with a 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS sensor and a mouth-watering range of new lenses, and the gorgeous minimalist Hasselblad X1D-50c, with a 50MP 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS sensor and a 2.36MP XGA EVF that provides HD video capture, Wi-Fi and GPS, all in a weatherproof metal body.
Is there anything else to look out for in 2018? Sure. Keep your eyes peeled for more smartphone camera accessories, especially image stabilization and optical devices, and check out the exciting new ways to print your photos online—and on almost anything.