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Digital Imaging at CES 2021

Digital Imaging CES 2021

This year’s CES event lacked the reach-out-and-touch-it-ness of years prior; having everything at your disposal from a web browser made it easier to navigate. Perhaps next year, if we return to an in-person visit to Vegas, a hybrid model of booths and this extensive online presence would be a nice touch.  

A Nikon NIKKOR lens for its Z cameras
A Nikon NIKKOR lens for its Z cameras 

Most of the major imaging exhibitors were absent. Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic/Lumix had plenty to offer, but Hasselblad, Leica, and third-party lens manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina were absent. Though there weren’t a lot of new product announcements in the imaging arena, the four majors – Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, and Canon – had robust overviews of their current offerings, along with some exciting video content. 

If anything, the main theme here was the convergence of video and still camera hardware, with a solid emphasis on the video capabilities of current cameras. 

Nikon builds on their Z series mirrorless cameras with the slightly dated Z50 and a pair of kit DX zoom lenses offering a stunning range of capture from 16-50mm to 50-250mm for just under $1,300, with the body only coming in at $860. The smaller, 20MP DX format sensor body is still compatible with the remainder of the Nikkor-Z range of lenses, as well as the legacy F series Nikkors. There was plenty of info on hand about the recently updated II versions of the Z6 and Z7, which offer higher maximum frame rates than the original models, thanks to dual EXPEED 6  processors.  

Nikon was making more of a push on new lenses, concentrating on their new 50mm f/1.2 and 14-24mm f/2.8 lenses for the Z cameras. Again, following a trend of more fast glass, suited to low light video production, though still photographers will definitely benefit from the cool factor of these new lenses optimized for wide open aperture performance.

Canon did not have any new hardware to show, but their virtual room was featuring an extremely cool video from Nasa astronauts Marsha Ivins and Terry Virts. They go into great depth on the wide range of Canon cameras used on Space Shuttle missions along with some incredible footage.  Both astronauts shared their early love for photography and offered some great tips and tricks to getting stable shots in a zero-gravity environment.

Sony was concentrating more on integrating creative platforms, and mention of their latest Xperia 5II phone, released in fall of 2020, featuring Zeiss optics with a maximum aperture of f1.7. As of this time, Verizon is hinting that you can get one on their network, but this Android-based phone is more popular in the rest of the world (which makes me want one all the more).

Perhaps the most exciting imaging product at the show was the new Panasonic Lumix BGH1 “cinema box camera,” aimed at video content creators. It features a 10 MP sensor and an architecture designed from the ground up to be a video camera first and a still camera as an afterthought. Thanks to the Lumix Tether App, multiple BGH1s can be connected and controlled via an Ethernet network, putting major production values at your fingertips for a fraction of what it used to cost. Using the micro 4/3rds lens system puts a plethora of new and legacy glass at your disposal for a wide range of cinematic effects. And, at an affordable price of $1,999.99.

With all this capturing going on, you’ll need a way to get it all to your workstation, and Kingston’s new Workflow Station offers four bays that can be customized to the memory cards of your choice. These removable adaptors all plug into the Workflow Station, and attach to your computer via a single USB-C cable. Thanks to using the current USB 3.2 spec, Kingston claims that you can download from four readers in the dock simultaneously, providing a tremendous boost to what is usually a workflow bottleneck. The Workflow Station by itself is $135.20 and the card reader modules are $36.40 each.