Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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Photographers will enjoy unwrapping the latest photo and video gear.

By Earl Nottingham

It’s that time of the year when we bring you good tidings of gifts that will make the photographer on your list a happy camper. Many of the improvements in photographic equipment over the past year have been more incremental than game-changing. However, some notable standouts with cool new features make photography and video easier and a lot more fun. Whether you use a camera as a toy or as a tool, here are some top picks that represent examples of the latest technology — and where it’s headed.

DJI Mavic Pro

With its family of Phantom and Inspire drones, it’s safe to say that DJI has been the leader in drone technology for the past few years, with consistent improvements to performance and image quality in each new model. Most notable is the recent announcement of the DJI Mavic Pro, which, when folded, is only one-sixth the size of the existing Phantom 4. Despite its small size, it actually outperforms many of its predecessors and is capable of reaching a maximum flight time of 27 minutes and a maximum flight range of 8 miles due to its powerful, high-efficiency motors.

The Mavic Pro camera shoots 4K video (up to 4096 x 2160) at 30 frames per second and full HD 1080p at 96 frames per second as well as 12-megapixel stills in jpg or raw format. Its new three-axis gimbal stabilizes the camera and ensures rock-solid video and stills even during high-speed motion. It also has four vision sensors that allow the Mavic to hover precisely or to bypass obstacles in its path by stopping or going around them. The new controller works in concert with your own smartphone or tablet to give you a real-time view from the camera while also showing flight status and touch-screen options for a whole slew of new autonomous “intelligent flight modes.”

Price: $999

Sony a6500 Mirrorless Camera

While many camera makers seem to take forever in announcing new models, Sony seems to have embarked on a camera-of-the-month business model. As soon as one model is announced, its newer version comes out shortly afterward with improvements that range from minor to extremely welcomed. Such is the case with the newly announced flagship Sony a6500 mirrorless camera, which replaces the not-that-old a6300. The new 24-megapixel APS-C-sensored camera gains five-axis image stabilization as well as touchscreen operation.

Traditionally, mirrorless cameras have not been as fast as a full-fledged DSLR for action photography. However, Sony touts the a6500 as now having the world’s fastest autofocus acquisition time, aided by 425 phase detection autofocus points. It also shoots at up to 11 frames per second, making it a viable contender for action photography. When paired with Sony’s tack-sharp E-mount lenses, its professional video features (such as 4K resolution, 14-stop dynamic range, S-log gamma and internal stabilization) make it an affordable option for anyone needing production-quality results — or extremely good cat videos.

Price: $1,400

GoPro Hero5 Black

It has been some time since the iconic GoPro action camera underwent major design and feature changes, but the GoPro Hero5 Black looks and performs a lot different from its predecessors. The most obvious change is in its updated design. The back of the camera now has a 2-inch touchscreen display for composing and reviewing shots and manipulating the settings. GoPro has also ditched the need for the clear plastic case; the camera itself is now completely waterproof up to 33 feet on its own. Those who are familiar with the older GoPro menu system will be happy to know that all the operations can now be handled with a single button since the front button is no longer needed.

GoPro has also taken a major step by adding a useful voice control feature that allows you to control many of the camera’s functions with various spoken commands such as “GoPro take a photo” or “GoPro start recording.” The video and photo resolutions of this model are similar to previous models, with video topping out at 4K at 30 frames per second and raw stills at 12 megapixels. GoPro has also released two less-featured and lower-priced iterations named the Hero5 Session and the Hero Session.

Price: $400

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