A gift guide just for you
It should go without saying that wherever you are, 2021 came with a unique set of challenges, but there were also plenty of bright spots. Society started to bubble back to life, activities like travel and gathering with friends became a little more feasible, and camera and lens camera manufacturers had plenty of exciting products hitting the market.
The holiday season is the season of giving, but for most of us, if we want something really nice, that means saving up our own money. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of some of the most exciting products released this past year. The kind of gear that photographers really want. We’ve all been through the wringer this past year – it’s time to celebrate the little victories by treating yourself!
When it comes to high-end cameras, it doesn’t get more exciting than the Sony a1. This camera is a major bar–raiser in the high–end mirrorless sector. It’s built around a 50MP stacked CMOS sensor, can shoot bursts up to 30 frames per second, records 8K video and has impeccable AF – all while maintaining a relatively compact body size.
This game-changing camera will cost you – it’s $6,500 – but it’s also the kind of workhorse that’s suited for nearly every style of shooting, thanks to its high resolution and high-speed capabilities. If you aren’t already locked into a lens system, the Sony a1 is an excellent option for capturing weddings, sporting events, studio portraits, landscapes or reportage. If you are really looking to treat yourself this year, look no further.
Ricoh GR IIIx
If you’re searching for something smaller, a fixed lens compact might be a more appealing camera option. The Ricoh GR line has gained cult popularity among street shooters, in part because of its razor-sharp lenses, and the GR IIIx doesn’t disappoint.
The GR IIIx sets itself apart from the GR III with its 26.1mm lens (40mm full-frame equivalent), offering a tighter field of view than the GR III’s 28mm equivalent lens. It’s built around a 24MP APS–C sensor, features in-body image stabilization and a hybrid AF system. It lacks some of the video specs found in other fixed lens compacts (you only get Full HD at 60fps), but considering this is a camera designed with the street shooter in mind, it makes sense.
Although the GR IIIx might not be as versatile as other fixed–lens compacts, there is a reason why the GR series has maintained its popularity over the years. It’s a well-designed pocket-sized camera with an extremely sharp lens that can go anywhere.
Fujifilm GFX 100S
If it’s a high–end medium format camera that you crave, Fujifilm’s GFX 100S might be for you. It’s built around a massive 102MP BSI CMOS sensor and has a dynamic range that outdoes its competition by a long haul. The redesigned IBIS works well up to 5.5 EV, and it has intuitive controls and beautiful film simulation modes. It’s also noticeably smaller than the dual–grip GFX 100.
The combination of that massive sensor, good ergonomics and the redesigned IBIS make the GFX 100S something special. While its AF is slower than some of the high–end full–frame bodies currently on the market, you just can’t beat the image quality for the price. If you are primarily a studio or portrait shooter this is an excellent camera to treat yourself to in 2021.
GoPro Hero10 Black
Although the Hero10 Black looks very similar to its predecessor, a new GP2 chip seriously boosts its performance. This is the first major update to the processor since 2017, and it means substantial improvements to video and stills quality.
The camera’s front display runs at 30 frames per second, videos are uploaded to your phone 30 percent faster, and you can even plug the Hero10 directly into your smartphone. It can shoot 5.3K/60p, 4K/120p and 2.7K/240p. On the stills side, users can grab 19.6MP stills from 5.3K 4:3 video or shoot 23MP RAW photos. Image stabilization has also been refined.
It has the same well–designed control menus, and it’s water/freeze/dust-proof without additional accessories. It uses the same battery as its predecessor, although the new GP2 chip does mean that battery won’t last quite as long. If treating yourself involves getting outside and hitting the slopes or the skatepark, the Hero10 is the perfect companion for capturing the action.
iPhone 13 Pro
Like GoPros, iPhones are on a yearly update cycle, and we are as impressed by what the iPhone 13 Pro has to offer as we were with the 12 that came before it. The three cameras on the 13 Pro have a 6x optical focal length range and a faster F1.5 aperture, making it better in low–light situations than the iPhone 12 Pro models.
There’s also the introduction of Apple’s ‘Cinematic Mode’, which essentially brings Portrait Mode to video, but also allows you to do clever things like refocus video footage after you’ve shot it. HDR playback, HDR stills and video have increased contrast and are brighter on the phone’s HDR OLED screen.
The iPhone 13 Pro is a joy to shoot with, but it’s also a joy to view and edit media on too. If you’ve been considering an end-of-year phone upgrade, look no further than the new iPhone 13 Pro.
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN Art
Sigma’s original 35mm F1.4 Art lens was something of an instant modern classic, and so we were thrilled to see it get an update for full-frame E–mount and L–mount cameras. It’s a classic length for photojournalists and street shooters but can be used for event coverage, weddings, and even environmental portraiture.
It’s smaller and lighter than the original 35mm F1.4 Art lens that was designed to be used with mirrorless cameras, thanks in part to a redesign that takes advantage of those shorter flange distances. The optical quality remains outstanding, ghosting and flare are easily controlled, and this lens gives shooters beautiful bokeh – even when you aren’t shooting wide open.
The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN Art is splash- and dust-proof and is versatile for a wide variety of shoots. And at $899, it’s significantly cheaper than Sony’s 35mm F1.4 GM lens.
DJI Air 2S
DJI’s Air 2S checks all the necessary boxes for the drone enthusiast. Its most impressive feature is the 1″-type sensor, which for a long time was found only in drone models that cost over $1,500.
The Air 2S also has a larger 20MP sensor than the Mavic Air 2, which ultimately makes for much better image quality. On the video side, the Air 2S can capture 5.4K/30p, 4K/60p and 1080p/120p with pro-level features like 10–bit D–Log. It’s the same size as the Mavic Air 2 but includes obstacle avoidance sensors on the top of the drone to make it easier to fly for beginners. There’s also DJI’s MasterShots feature, which triggers pre-programmed flight movements, so you don’t have to be an experienced pilot to create engaging video content.
DJI’s Air S2 has excellent image quality and is an approachable and intuitive tool for creators looking to try their hand at aerial capture.
Tamron 28 – 75mm F2.8 Di III VXD G2
A highly–anticipated follow-up to 2018’s Tamron 28–75mm F2.8 lens, this new version addresses most of the shortcomings found in the original. It has increased corner sharpness, more attractive bokeh, updated faster AF, and a customizable button on the lens barrel. It does all of this while being slightly lighter than the original and only $100 more expensive.
The original version of this lens was one of the best–selling zooms of its kind, and the across-the-board improvements in this new version make it extremely appealing. If you’re a full-frame Sony shooter looking to treat yourself with a versatile zoom, consider the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III VXD G2.
Apple M1 Pro / M1 Max MacBook Pro
For years it seemed as if Apple had forgotten about the visual creatives that helped fuel the popularity of its products. But the new M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros are a step in the right direction for imaging professionals.
The new chip has boosted the performance of the MacBook Pro, turning it into a tool that can reliably be used for editing photos or video on the go. Pairing the chip with unified memory and beautiful HDR displays is a game-changer for the photographer on the go. They’ve also beefed up the design, adding features like a built-in SD card reader, which we haven’t seen since 2015–era MacBooks.
The new MacBook Pro comes with a price – the newest models are $2000 and up – but for the first time in a long time, Apple has a product designed with a pro-level user in mind. A new laptop might not be as exciting as a fresh camera, but it’s a tool that you will be happy you treated yourself to for a long time to come.
There you have it, our favorite lust-worthy gear of the year. Here’s hoping 2022 has even more treats in store. Until next time, Treat yourself!