2011 was an important year for cameras, photographers and filmmakers. In the wake of the HDSLR revolution brought about by the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, manufacturers finally got the message (more or less) that what independent filmmakers want is a large sensor, interchangeable lens camera, with a professional feature set, at an affordable price and responded with the Panasonic AG-AF101, Sony PMW-F3, Sony NEX-FS100 and Red Scarlet. But, it wasn’t just about large sensor camcorders. Panasonic understood the need for a small(ish), full HD, broadcast quality camcorder and released their answer to the 8 bit 4:2:2 Canon XF305 – the 10 bit 4:2:2 AVC Intra AG-HPX 250. On the stills front, Fuji realised that real photographers want real cameras in small packages and released the retro styled Finepix X100. However, the much anticipated and widely rumoured Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D4 and Nikon D800 were nowhere to be seen and the Sony A77 and Sony NEX-7, though announced, were delayed by floods and earthquakes. So what can we expect in 2012? Well given that it is both a Photokina and an Olympics year, a fair bit Actually.
Canon EOS C300
With the Panasonic AF101, Sony F3 and Sony NEX-FS100 cashing in on the success of the EOS 5D Mark II, it was only a matter of time before Canon made a large sensor camcorder designed specifically for motion capture. The Canon C300 is that camera. It features a newly designed 14 bit super 35mm sensor, that over samples at (just under) 4K to deliver a full HD (or above) feed per colour channel, which is then downsampled by its Digic DV III processor to 8 bit 4:2:2 1080p at up to 30 FPS (and 720p at up to 60FPS). The EOS C300 has an EF mount, can electronically (but not automatically) control Canon EF lenses and boasts built in ND filters. According to Canon it exhibits reduced rolling shutter, minimal moire and aliasing and can resolve 1000 TV lines. Essentially this camera delivers pretty much everything that Canon 5D users have asked for, though at a price they have not. Nevertheless the Canon EOS C300 is set to become a massive success upon its release in January 2012.
Canon EOS C300 PL
This camera is identical to the Canon EOS C300 in every respect but one – it has a PL mount instead of an EF mount. It will be released shortly after the Canon EOS C300 and will appeal to filmmakers and hire companies with PL mount lenses.
Sony’s answer to RED and the Arri Alexa is built around a 20 Mega pixel Super 35mm CMOS sensor that over samples at 8K to deliver true RAW HD/2K/4K at up to 120 FPS. Claiming 14-stops of latitude, high sensitivity, ultra-low noise, an ‘unrivalled’ colour gamut and ‘filmic colour reproduction’, it offers a full compliment of aspect ratios (1.85:1, 1.78:1, 1.66:1, 1.33:1, 2.35 spherical, 1.3x anamorphic and 2x anamorphic cropped) and like the Canon C300, has built in ND filters. An optional mechanical rotary shutter is said to completely eliminate rolling shutter. The Sony F65 can be docked with the Sony SR-R4 SRMASTER Portable Recorder for RAW recording at up to 5Gbps. At approximately £65,000 for a full kit (camera, rotary shutter, viewfinder, recorder, card, card reader) it will be a hire rather than a purchase for most people. Nevertheless, the Sony F65′s price seems like remarkably good value given what it is said to offer and it is guaranteed to be a hot hire when it arrives in January/February 2012.
Arri Alexa Studio
At NAB 2011, Arri announced the Alexa Studio. Considered the pinnacle of their range, it takes all the Alexa has to offer and adds to it a mirror shutter, optical viewfinder and 4:3 sensor, which makes it the only digital camera (aside from the ARRIFLEX D-21) to offer true anamorphic capability. Although it was originally promised for late 2011, the Alexa Studio is now expected around March 2012.
Several years ago, when RED announced they would be releasing a fixed lens 2/3” sensor, 3K raw camera, at a groundbreakingly low price, everyone waited with bated breath…and kept waiting, as ‘Scarlet’ morphed into something completely different. In the interim, JVC built and spent the last year showing off a prototype camera that, in many ways, seems closer to RED’s original vision than the camera Scarlet has become. Based on the form factor of the diminutive JVC GY-HM100, the JVC HMQ10 is said to contain a half inch 4K sensor, that records 4K video at 144MB/s onto 4 SD cards simultaneously, courtesy of its ‘Falconbird’ processor. Although production has not, at this point, been officially confirmed, having had conversations with the product development team, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it appear in the first half of 2012, at a competitive price. As and when it does, it may prove to be something of a dark horse that pushes forward the entire industry in the way that only JVC can.
HDSLRs / HDSLTs
Canon EOS 1Dx
Canon’s new flagship HDSLR promises to be their best yet. Dual DIGIC 5+ processors enable its newly designed 18.1MP sensor to take stills and record video at ISO 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-204,800), with no line skipping, substantially reduced rolling shutter, minimal aliasing and moire. Although the HDMI output will not be clean, there is a choice of three codecs, one of which is all iframes and maximum recording time is a whisker under 30 minutes. The EOS 1D X’s 400,000 cycle carbon fibre shutter will keep even the most extreme timelapse photographers in business, whilst an Olympian 12 frames per second RAW capture, coupled with a new auto focus system and face recognition, should mean that sports photographers never miss a shot. The Canon EOS 1D X will be available in March 2012.
Announced in 2011 but delayed by flooding in Thailand, the Sony A77 will finally hit the streets in 2012. Controversially, it does away with both the pentaprism and the optical viewfinder that are the mainstay of DSLRs, replacing them with a the semi-translucent mirror and a class leading Sony made 2.4M dot OLED viewfinder. This coupled with a newly designed 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor enables the A77 to record full HD movies at up to 60 FPS, with autofocus, something which no other HDSLR can currently achieve. Add into the mix a claimed 12 FPS continuous shooting, an ISO range of 100 – 16,000 (expandable to 50-25,600), a pull-out three-hinge tilt/swivel 920k dot LCD screen and built in GPS and the Sony A77 will be an interesting proposition for many when it arrives at the beginning of 2012.
Sony Alpha 9xx
Sometime ago I mentioned I had it on good authority that Sony would not bring out a new full frame DSLR until 2012. Naturally no one listened to me and rumours persisted of a Sony Alpha 9xx in 2011. Well guess what…there was no new full frame Sony Alpha in 2011…but there will be one in 2012! Exactly when in 2012 I can not tell you, but if Sony show some restraint on the photosite density front and a lack of restraint on the bit rate, codec and HDMI output front, this Sony A9xx might just end up being a serious challenger to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
Whilst the Nikon D700 remains a fantastic stills camera, capable of achieving excellent results, it offers no video recording and its 12MP sensor is starting to look a little underpopulated. Furthermore it is almost three and a half years old, which in human years, is somewhere between pensionable and cremateable. Although people seem to have been talking about its replacement since before it was even announced, there is a widespread expectation that a Nikon D800 is imminent. Recent rumours have suggested the D800 will feature a new 36MP sensor. Unless Nikon has some truly revolutionary technology up its sleeve (and even if it has) I sincerely hope that rumours of this 36MP chip are greatly exaggerated.
The Nikon D3s is 2 years old. Although it is renowned for offering the best high ISO performance of any DSLR, it can only capture 720p video at a fixed frame rate of 24FPS and whilst this video looks very good indeed, it is, nevertheless, still only 720p. With the Canon EOS 1D x hitting the streets in March with 50% more resolution, better high ISO figures, more stills per second, full HD video and, as a result, looking like the ideal camera with which to capture The London Olympics in July 2012, Nikon may announce and ship the D4 sooner than expected. However, as the number 4 is considered unlucky in Japan, there is a possibility that the Nikon D4 may be named Nikon D5.
Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i / Rebel T5i
In September 2011, Canon announced that their latest range of Powershot cameras would be powered by their new Digic V processor. This processor is more than sufficient to power the Canon 650D / Rebel T4i (or possibly T5i given the negative significance of the number ’4′ to the Japanese) that is likely to appear sooner, rather than later, in 2012.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II is over 3 years old. Much has happened since its release. The Canon EOS 7D, EOS 60D and EOS 600D have come along with higher frame rates and in some cases, better autofocus systems, despite being cheaper cameras; the Sony A77, with its ability to shoot full HD at up to 60FPS, whilst auto-focusing, has been announced and will shortly be available. The release of a full frame, full HD Nikon D800 and/or Nikon D4 may be just around the corner and at some point in 2012 Sony will release a full frame, full HD Alpha 9xx. Now that Canon’s EOS 1D x has revealed a whole new generation of processor, a brand new sensor and autofocus system, it seems that all the pieces are in place for the release of what surely must be the world’s most eagerly anticipated camera, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Precisely when in 2012 this will happen is unclear, but it is impossible not to notice that over the last couple of weeks, the price of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II has been in free fall on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sony NEX 7
This big brother of the Sony NEX 5n uses the same sensor and electronic viewfinder as the Sony Alpha 77, making it the highest resolution mirrorless/compact system camera on the block and the only one to shoot progressive full HD video at up to 60 FPS. However, its lack of a fixed mirror between its sensor and lens gives it the edge over the Sony A77. Like the A77, the NEX-7‘s release has been delayed by the flooding in Thailand, but working models have already found their way into the hands of a few and it has received rave reviews from heavyweight online photography publications Luminous Landscapes and dpreview. Although a handful of NEX-7s are said to be shipping during the dying days of December, the NEX-7 will commence volume shipment in early 2012.
Leica have confirmed they will reveal a mirrorless camera at Photokina 2012, which, they say, will contain a sensor that is a minimum of APS-C sized and priced somewhere between a Leica X1 and a Leica M9. Very little else is known about it at this stage.
Nine months ago, when I discussed the Fuji Finepix X100 with its product planner, he agreed with me that there was a need for a version of the camera with interchangeable lenses and full HD video. Several months ago, Fuji hinted at such a camera, which they said will be shown at CES 2012 in January. Unless Canon have a big surprise or the Leica mirrorless turns out to be much closer in price to the X1 than the M9, this Fuji mirrorless camera is likely to be the only camera announced in 2012 that could seriously challenge the Sony NEX-7. Recently some have speculated that it will use a new, patent pending, organic Fuji sensor, that does away with the need for an infra red filter and which could, in theory, offer previously unheard of high ISOs. Others have proposed it will be anything from APS-C to full frame M Mount. With just days to go to CES, all will be revealed soon….probably…
Of course cameras aren’t much use without lenses and amongst the glass bottomed raft of lenses released in 2012, will be a few particularly notable optics. In March 2012, Canon will release a range of 4K cinema primes and zooms. Though intended primarily for the EOS C300 / EOS C300 PL and priced accordingly, they will, of course, be usable on other EF and PL mount cameras respectively. Not to be outdone Zeiss will add longer and wider primes to their popular Compact Prime series, introduce complimentary full frame zooms and…a complete set of fast 2x anamorphic lenses that will be ideally suited to the Arri Alexa Studio and together with which, may very well usher in a new era in anamorphic production.
There will, of course, be plenty of other camera announcements during 2012. Perhaps we will see a Canon 7D Mark II, Leica M10 and Pentax full frame HDSLR…perhaps not. Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure, if you thought 2011 was an important year for cameras, photographers and filmmakers…you ain’t seen nothing yet!
- The Night of The Long Camera Announcements (paul-d.tv)
- Canon EOS 1D X Hands On Report (paul-d.tv)
- ‘The Toadlickers’ wins a Davey Award! (paul-d.tv)
© 2011, Paul D. All rights reserved. Moral Rights Asserted.