Picture This: The New Crop of Cameras
Smaller and more versatile products combine photo, video, Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities.
By Earl Nottingham
Like spring wildflowers, a new crop of cameras tends to pop up around this time each year as manufacturers introduce new products — and like last year's flowers they tend to look pretty much the same.
However, plants and cameras do slowly evolve over time, and some of the current trends in the photography industry represent the increasingly rapid hybridization of traditional camera designs with seemingly strange bedfellows such as wireless connectivity, GPS, video recording and audio recording.
The traditional camera, smartphone, camcorder, GPS device and computer are quickly morphing into the equivalent of a photographic Swiss army knife with a variety of creative tools that open up new ways of not only capturing still and moving images but also sharing them quickly. Technological cousins are rapidly marrying.
One of the most noticeable evolutions in recent camera design is the smaller size and lighter weight of camera bodies thanks to advances in the miniaturization of electronic circuitry and batteries. From the full-sized digital SLR to the smallest point-and-shoot, cameras have gradually decreased in size and weight, yet have retained or increased the quality of the still and video images they produce while adding other features.
Currently, there are many notable offerings in small, high-quality cameras from well-known names like Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung and Sony. Although they may have different sensors and other whistles and bells, each is capable of producing professional-quality still photos and video.
For the photographer, the primary benefits of a lighter and smaller camera are comfort and spontaneity of use, which in many instances can make the difference between getting the shot or not. Here are a few examples that represent where the industry is headed.
At 4.6 inches wide and 13 ounces, the Canon Rebel EOS SL1 is purported to be the world's smallest and lightest digital SLR camera body and features an 18-megapixel sensor. It's quite possible that the lens you put on it will be bigger than the body.
For a camera that fits easily in your pocket, Sony offers the 18.2-megapixel Cyber-shot WX300, which the company calls the smallest and lightest 20x (25-500mm) optical zoom available at under 6 ounces. The WX300 also comes with Wi-Fi, so you can transfer photos and videos to your smartphone or TV.
It is best known for being a tiny high-definition video camera, but the über-popular GoPro Hero3 camera also shoots stills and time-lapse photography. It can also be controlled and monitored wirelessly via a smartphone with the GoPro app.
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