A lot has changed in the world of digital imaging since its inception but the biggest change in the last five years has been the consumer shift from compact cameras and DSLRs to smartphones. With mirrorless designs becoming more popular and more powerful than their DSLR counterparts, not to mention their ability to shoot 8k video, the once formidable DSLR is in the final phase of its product cycle.
Nikon’s D850 is six years old now and the current pro D6 only sports a 20MP sensor. Canon’s R5 (and the video oriented R5C) have also topped out at a 45MP sensor, with the latest emphasis being more on functionality than increasing pixel count or dynamic range. Sony not only leads the megapixel count with their Alpha 7R IV (61.0MP) they left their DSLRs behind two years ago.
Pocket photography is much, much better
Having a high quality, smartphone camera in your pocket has been the norm for some time now, but in the current group of phone cameras from Apple, Samsung and the rest have really raised the bar. With most of them offering three lens (wide, normal, and telephoto) capture and 50MP sensors, you now can take pictures that rival DSLRs from a few years ago, within reason. The point and shoot, or compact camera as a result is pretty much a dead segment.
Though the tiny sensor in a phone camera still does not offer the low light and low image noise of a top mirrorless camera, they are more than adequate for daily photography use. Add the ability to shoot 4k (and even 8k) video, with multiple special effect options at your disposal, and you don’t just have a camera in your pocket, you have a movie studio. Increased storage capacity of 512GB and even 1024GB commonplace also expand your creative possibilities. Whether you’re tracking down UFOs or just showing off your latest sneakers, you should always have enough room on these phones to capture it.
Great apps to expand functionality
Exciting as new hardware is, the plethora of exciting apps available for both phone platforms offer an incredible level of possibilities, without needing your computer to execute. (just remember to be judicious with those filters…) The most comprehensive and most powerful is Adobe’s Photoshop Express, for iOS and Android, but when you just want to add a little punch to the color, transform a photo to black and white, or create a vintage feel, there are a number of others that can get the job done without the learning curve. Of course, those already using Photoshop on a regular will appreciate the capabilities that Photoshop Express offers.
Through the looking glass, brightly
A wider range of lenses abound, not only in optics designed from the ground up for the mirrorless cameras – which because of their design, and not needing to make room for the mirror assembly, now allowing more light into the sensor, and making ultra-wide maximum aperture lenses easier to implement.
The ultimate realization of the low-light concept still goes to Leica with their 50mm f0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH at $13,000. For those on a more modest budget, Nikon, Sony, and Canon all offer f1.2 prime lenses in the $2,000 range, and Nikon even produces a 58mm f0.95 Noct-Nikkor for $7,995.
One of the most interesting newcomers to the lens world is the 7Artisans group from China. They have created an amazing portfolio of lenses that are robustly built, and all manual focus, harkening back to a simpler day in photography. While not as resolving as their competitors from the big three, or Leica, they deliver more fun per dollar than anything going. The range of interesting focal lengths and wide maximum aperture options, put some very interesting perspectives at your fingertips. Most of the 7Artisans lenses are in the $200 range, and available for all major camera mounts. I have used these lenses to excellent result in my own work.
As with computing hardware, digital imaging tools keep getting more accessible, less expensive, and more intuitive to use. Sure, this may lead to more dreadful mash ups on Instagram, but the end result is the ability to express your creativity better than ever before.
Jeff Dorgay is the Founder of TONEAudio Magazine.