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Camera technology trends

Reading camera reviews is like picking a winner from the race form guide!

Cameras shoot either photographs or video… or do they? Sure you have your still cameras, you have your camcorders, but these days most cameras are becoming hybrids… they shoot both stills and video.

Still cameras are leading the hybrid charge, but camcorders are coming round.

Apart from ergonomics and technical capabilities that they all provide, there are four more primary functions that attract buyers:

1. Overall Image quality

2. Low-light performance

3. Autofocus performance

4. Stability

The biggest influence on overall image quality used to be the lenses used and the resolution of the camera. Now with more advanced computer technology cleaning up images generated by the sensor, the firmware is starting to play a part here. That is why newer technology provides marked improvement over earlier technology.

This is also the reason for better low-light performance. However the sensor size also plays a part here. A larger sensor provides more space to use larger photosensitive cells in the sensor construction. It is a balance between low-light performance and resolution.

A lot of development has been put into autofocus systems by several manufacturers. With DSLR technology Canon and Nikon reigned supreme here. However video requires live view electronic screen monitoring… something that had to be added to DSLR cameras that was inherent in camcorders and mirrorless hybrid cameras. The fantastic autofocus technology used in DSLR cameras did not transfer over to live view screen operation.

Sony got in early on mirrorless camera development and developed an excellent AF system that would challenge the DSLR systems. Canon developed a new AF technology for their newer DSLR cameras that worked just as well in optical viewfinder mode as it did in live view monitoring mode. They called it Dual Pixel AF. Now they could meet Sony’s challenge.

Nikon have been very slow to recognise the value of video in their cameras, so have been late to advance live view and mirrorless technology. They still need to get their fabulous DSLR AF performance to work in live view mode, required when shooting video.

Stability is probably more crucial to video shooting than stills. When it comes to stability in hybrids, Panasonic proved to be a leader. They developed a hybrid “In body image stabilisation” (IBIS) and optical “in lens” stabilisation system that was smart enough to work alone, or as a hybrid with each other to provide one of the best inbuilt IS systems available. It is used in their GH5 camera model.

Video technology is rapidly advancing. Canon caught up with Sony in video mode AF but Sony had already adapted to the new 4K resolution standard. This once again put Canon behind. For those professionals happy to shoot FHD video, needing AF, the Canon 80D has the new “Dual Pixel” AF technology and would be an excellent choice given their market value.

For those professionals needing to shoot video at 4K the choice is a little more difficult. Panasonic’s GH5 is good, but lacks the AF and lower light performance of the Sony a7 III series cameras. On the other hand the Sony’s stabilisation is not as good as Panasonic’s GH5 model, neither is its’ battery life. If short video shoots are all that is required the GoPro Hero 7 black camera might be worth considering.

For non-professionals the newer smartphones have good video recording capability.

What is also worth looking at is camcorders that produce still images. Professionals usually work in one media or the other. If budget allows they would produce better results not having hybrid technology, but cameras dedicated to each medium. DSLR cameras have the advantage of much lower battery consumption for still photography, while camcorders focus 100% on video shooting for faster slicker operation, also having much better longer running battery options.

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