Digital Imaging Reporter’s 17th Annual Rudy Awards

Digital Imaging Reporter’s 17th Annual Rudy Awards


As Digital Imaging Reporter enters its 31st year providing timely, relevant news to the photo-imaging industry, we are on the cusp of an evolutionary change. However, what remains constant is the coveted Rudy Award. This year, we are proud to present the 17th Annual Rudy Awards.

Our magazine was originally founded as Photo Industry Reporter in 1993 by Rudy Maschke and Ed Wagner. The two partners pioneered photo business publishing during the industry’s infancy in the U.S. back in the early 1960s.

Rudy was an amazing individual who had a keen eye for emerging trends and products that might push the boundaries of imaging. And he was passionate about photography. It is in the spirit of our cofounder that the Rudy Awards were established. Over the years, the awards have recognized cameras from tiny wearables to pro DSLRs and high-tech mirrorless ILCs, as well as a variety of imaging accessories.

This year, we again honor products we believe enhance the joy and creativity of imaging, as well as reflect the technological prowess of our industry. They are amazing products that the Great Maschke, as Rudy liked to call himself, could never have imagined. However, with his sharp insights, he would have noticed a prevailing trend—the increasing inclusion of artificial intelligence into the imaging ecosystem.

                 17th Annual Rudy Awards Winners

Nikon Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S Telephoto Lens

This super-telephoto prime for full-frame/FX-format Nikon Z-mount mirrorless cameras boasts the latest optical tech. Weighing 2.6 pounds and with a total length of 9.2 inches, its relatively compact, lightweight form reduces fatigue over extended shooting sessions of wildlife, birds and sports photography.

Additionally, the lens offers balance by shifting the center of gravity closer to the camera for more stability during handheld shooting.

Compatible with the Z teleconverters TC-1.4× and Z TC-2.0×, which extend its reach to 560mm and 800mm, respectively, the lens is part of Nikon’s high-end S line. Featuring Nikkor’s highest optical performance, it’s constructed with one ED; two super ED; and one SR (specialized dispersion) glass element. This formula contributes to its compact size and light weight while suppressing chromatic aberration.

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Nikon Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S

Further, Nano Crystal Coat reduces ghost and flare, for clearer images and the accurate depiction of fine details in distant subjects. Plus, with a max f/4.5 aperture, the lens realizes 3D rendering that makes subjects pop. And an optical vibration reduction mechanism provides a 5.5-stop compensation effect—the highest among Nikkor Z lenses.

Moreover, to capture erratically moving subjects, a stepping motor supports fast, precise AF control. Notably, focus-breathing compensation reduces the shifting of the angle of view when focusing. The dust/drip-resistant lens also has an anti-fouling fluorine coat and a handy memory recall function. $3,249.95.

Think Tank SpeedTop Cross-Body Bags

For photographers on the go, SpeedTop cross-body camera bags have a magnetic lid to enable quick, quiet access to gear. Opening the lid conveniently requires only one hand, and it closes securely without zippers. Two Think Tank models—the SpeedTop 10 and SpeedTop 15—are sized to fit today’s camera systems.

The easy-carry bags’ top lid has a tuck-away security latch for peace of mind when moving through crowded places. A padded, quick-adjusting cross-body strap and belt pass-through stabilize the bag against the body for active situations and added security.

Think Tank Photo SpeedTop 10 and SpeedTop 15

The slim-profile bags also feature flat bottoms that stand up on surfaces; a hidden inner pocket to secure small items; expandable side pockets; a mesh organizer pocket(s) under the lid; and adjustable dividers. Other features include a top grab handle, a padded back panel and a seam-sealed rain cover. The bags are built with abrasion-resistant Cordura fabric coated for inclement weather.

The larger SpeedTop 15 accommodates a standard mirrorless or DSLR camera. It also fits an attached vertical 24–70mm f/4 or 85mm f/1.4 lens; an unattached vertical 24–70mm f/2.8 or 70–200mm f/4 lens; an unattached 70–200mm f/2.8 lens with foot and adapter; a flash; and a DJI Mavic 3 drone plus controller. Measuring 12.6×9.3×5.5 inches, it weighs in at 1.8 pounds. $149.75.

Fujifilm X-T5 X-Mount ILC

This upgraded X-mount ILC has a 40.2MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 5 HR sensor and a fifth-generation, high-speed X-Processor 5. Fujifilm‘s advanced camera records 4K 60p and 6.2K 30p 4:2:2 10-bit internal video. Its sensitivity settings of ISO 125–12,800 extend to ISO 51,200 for stills and 25,600 for video. It also achieves impressive max burst rates of 20 fps and 15 fps with the electronic and mechanical shutter, respectively.

With an intuitive dial-based layout, the X-T5 is a proficient crossover machine that provides built-in 7-stop, 5-axis, sensor-shift IS. Its pixel-shift multi-shot mode creates stunningly sharp 160MP files, and the electronic shutter freezes action at up to 1/180,000 sec!

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Fujifilm X-T5

Further, its moviemaking prowess includes the ability to record 12-bit ProRes RAW and Blackmagic RAW via the HDMI port to Atmos and Blackmagic devices. And videographers have access to Fujifilm F-Log and F-Log2 Gamma curve profiles.

Additionally, its cutting-edge feature set includes a phase-detection, 425-point, intelligent hybrid AF system (phase detection plus contrast detection). The system is sensitive down to -7 EV for extreme low-light work.

Also notable is a 100% view, 0.8x magnification, 0.5-inch, 3.7M-dot OLED EVF with diopters adjustable from -5 to +3. It’s joined by a 3-inch, 1.8M-dot, tilting touchscreen LCD. Other features are 19 film simulation modes; HEIF file support; and Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connectivity. $1,699.95.

Sigma 60–600mm f/4.5–6.3 DG DN OS | Sports Lens

Sigma’s new 60–600mm Sports lens is touted “the world’s first and only mirrorless 10x ultra-telephoto zoom.” With a standard to ultra-telephoto range, it has a 17.8-inch closest focusing distance (wide end) and a 1:2.4 max magnification (200mm).

A new HLA (high-response linear actuator) motor delivers fast, precise AF, enabling high focus-following performance for sports and other situations with moving subjects.

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Sigma 60–600mm f/4.5–6.3 DG DN OS | Sports

Moreover, innovative dual action zoom permits both the precision of the zoom ring and the intuitive response of the push-pull action on the front end of the barrel. Photographers can use rotary zooming by rotating the zoom ring and straight zooming by grasping the lens tip.

There are three handy AFL buttons that are easy to operate in any orientation, a focus limiter switch and a 9-blade rounded diaphragm. And Sigma’s OS2 algorithm improves image stabilization with 7 stops at the wide end and 6 stops at the tele. Sigma integrated two OS modes: mode 1 for general shooting; mode 2 for fast panning.

Further, the new 27-element, 19-group design for this DG DN (DG = full-frame, DN = mirrorless-exclusive) lens corrects chromatic aberrations in the ultra-telephoto range. It has three SLD (special-low dispersion) and two FLD (fluorite-equivalent) glass elements. And super multilayer coating minimizes flare/ghosting.

Its multi-material structure balances durability and portability. It consists of magnesium; carbon fiber reinforced plastic; and a thermally stable composite. The mount connection, manual focus ring, zoom ring, switches, switch panel and exterior connection are also dust/splash resistant. In L and E mounts, $1,999.

Blackmagic Cintel Film Scanner G3 HDR+

This new professional film scanner features a completely redesigned light source for real-time HDR film scanning into Ultra HD. It is an adept solution for unlocking archived film libraries for conversion into Ultra HD masters for uploading or streaming.

Its RGB light source has a square grid array of 576 high-power LEDs. The high-intensity array is six times more powerful than prior versions, enabling better quality images from scanned film at higher scanning speeds.

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Blackmagic Design Cintel G3 HDR+ film scanner

The LEDs are focused onto film using a new light cylinder, with twice the silicon area for generating light. There are tens of kilowatts of power contained in each illumination flash to scan a single frame of film.

HDR scanning speed is also three times faster at a real-time speed of 30 fps in Ultra HD. Plus, the scanner offers an additional 3.5 stops of HDR range. Further, a convenient film inspection mode lets users check the condition of the original film for scratches or dust.

The Blackmagic scanner also retains popular features of previous Cintel scanners: digital servos, gentle capstan drives, advanced color science and 35mm/16mm film support. $32,045.

Panasonic Lumix S5II Hybrid ILC

The hybrid, full-frame S5II is the first Lumix mirrorless model to use phase-detection autofocus—thanks to a new 24.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor and an imaging engine with 2x faster signal processing.

Panasonic evolved the AF system into phase hybrid autofocus by increasing the AF points to 779 and improving subject tracking. Continuous AF during zooming and AF micro adjustments are also available.

Dual native ISO sensitivity minimizes noise generation and enables up to ISO 204,800 recordings. The PDAF system also increases burst rates to 9 (AFS)/7 (AFC) fps with a mechanical shutter and 30 fps (AFS/AFC) with an electronic shutter! Moreover, in-body 5-axis IS and the 2-axis OIS in Lumix S lenses create 5-axis Dual IS 2 (photos and video) for a very commendable 6.5-stop correction effect.

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Panasonic Lumix S5II

Advanced video specs include 4:2:0 10-bit 6K (3:2)/5.9K (16:9) and unlimited 4:2:2 10-bit C4K/4K recording with a new heat-dispersion mechanism. Also available are HFR in C4K/4K (48p), slow & quick motion recording and 14+ stop V-Log/V-Gamut support.

A real-time LUT function enables color grading in-camera by applying the LUT(.VLT/.cube) saved in the SD card. For pros, it also integrates waveform monitor, vector scope and zebra pattern.

Rounding out its specs are a 3.7M-dot LVF with a 0.76x-equivalent magnification ratio; a 3-inch, 1.8M-dot, free-angle, touch monitor that won’t interfere with HDMI/USB cables; USB 3.2 Gen 2; double UHS-II slots; Wi-Fi 5GHz; and Bluetooth 5.0. $1,999.99.

Picsart AI Avatar Generator

This is fun! From digital creation platform Picsart, this generative artificial intelligence (AI) feature addresses the trend of creating personalized avatars using AI. Picsart is offering the technology to its millions of creators.

Using advanced machine-learning algorithms, AI Avatar processes photos to turn them into amazing artistic portraits. Creators upload several selfies into the app and the technology generates avatars resembling them. The avatars are created in different artistic styles: superhero, anime and main character energy17th annual rudy awards-Picsart-Avatars-before-after-v2-banner

Creators can customize their avatars using Picsart’s editing tools, like BG remove, AI enhance and AI background. The avatars can be used in different contexts—social media profile pictures, marketing materials, even holiday greetings.

AI Avatar joins Picsart’s recently released AI Image Generator and AI Writer. AI Image Generator already has created 30+ million images. The company said users are generating more than one million images per day. Picsart also released AI Background and AI Replace, which generate new objects and scenes in images.

AI Avatar is available on for iOS/Android devices. Creators can purchase it in 50, 100 or 200 packs.

Sony Alpha 7R V Mirrorless ILC

Sony‘s technological marvel combines the highest resolution of an Alpha camera with an AI processing unit for image recognition. The result: 61MP stills with 8-stop image stabilization, 8K movies and 10-fps bursts with AF/AE tracking—pretty impressive!

Its speedy Bionz XR processor pairs with a 35mm full-frame, BSI Exmor R CMOS sensor, ensuring its 61MP resolution potential is utilized. They deliver sensitivity settings of ISO 100–32,000 (photo/video) and 15-stops of dynamic range (stills).

High-end movie features include 8K 24/25p video; 4K video oversampled from 6.2K without binning; a high-efficiency MPEG-H HEVC/H.265 codec; all intra recording; and 10-bit 4:2:2 recording—with breathing compensation. And a real-time recognition AF system offers better accuracy. Its AI processor uses deep learning to recognize more subject types, like animals, moving vehicles and insects.

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Sony Alpha 7R V

Other first-time 7R series features are real-time tracking; faster, more precise, wide-area, high-density AF; 7-fps silent, vibration-free shooting; and continuous shooting of 583 compressed RAW images. Plus, a unique 4-axis, multi-angle, touch-control LCD combines the utility of a tilting monitor with side-opening vari-angle flexibility.

Additionally, upgraded Pixel Shift Multi Shooting tech produces 16-image composites equivalent to 963.2MP! Other features include a 9.4M-dot EVF; selectable RAW image sizes/quality; HEIF file support; Wi-Fi; 2×2 MIMO or a SuperSpeed 10Gbps connection via a USB-C port; USB streaming (UVC/UAC); improved heat dissipation; two CFexpress/SDXC slots; and dust/moisture resistance. $3,900.

Elinchrom Five Battery Monolight

The Elinchrom Five is a 500Ws battery-powered monolight that provides 450 full-power flashes on a single charge, for in-studio or on-location lighting. The monolight shoots longer on location via a detachable Li-ion battery. Its USB-C/Active Charge also lets users connect the light to any USB-C power source and continue shooting while it charges. And it features quicker recycling times.

Users also have a choice of light shapers. With its Elinchrom modifier mount, the Five is natively compatible with Elinchrom accessories. Further, the monolight is designed around an unconcealed flash tube for optimal light spread. It has a bicolor 26W LED modeling lamp, adjustable color temperatures of 2700K–6500K and an output of 4000 lumens with a CRI 91–94.

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Elinchrom Five

Plus, optimized cooling and electronics allow photographers to shoot at full power every 1.6 seconds. With Smart Pro-Active Cooling technology, the Elinchrom Five learns a user’s shooting style and adapts its cooling cycle around it. Pretty cool!

Additional features are sync up to 1/8000s with HSS; freeze motion, overpower ambient light and darken backgrounds; TTL with manual lock; the ability to switch quickly from TTL to manual without losing exposure settings; and built-in Bluetooth.

The Elinchrom Five Kit bundles the monolight, a battery, a 6.3-inch reflector, a 65W USB-C wall charger and a hard case. $1,849.

Pentax KF DSLR

Taking its place in history as perhaps the last DSLR to be released is the compact Pentax KF. The dustproof, weather-resistant, freezeproof (to 14ºF) camera is optimized for outdoor photography.

Its 24.2MP CMOS sensor achieves 14-bit image data readout. Combined with an AA-filter-free design, it delivers high-res images and 6-fps bursts. And it couples a high-performance accelerator with a high-speed Prime MII engine for minimized noise at all sensitivity levels—even at ISO 102,400. Its AA (anti-aliasing) filter simulator achieves the same level of moiré reduction as an optical AA filter. Plus, users can switch the effect on/off and adjust its level.

Pentax KF

The entry-level DSLR has a new sensor unit that tilts in all directions to provide special shooting functions, like astrotracer and auto horizon correction. And a Pentax shake-reduction system produces blur-free images with a 4.5-step compensation effect—even when using a telephoto lens.

There’s also a hybrid AF system that positions an accurate contrast-detection AF sensor with a phase-matching AF sensor. Plus, a SAFOX X AF module provides responsive autofocus and tracking.

The DSLR also features 4K interval movie mode; star stream movie to record star traces; a pentaprism-type glass optical viewfinder with a 100% field of view and 0.95x magnification; and a vari-angle, 1.04M-dot LCD monitor that enables astrophotography with the camera pointed upward. $849.95.

Canon EOS R50 Mirrorless ILC

The brand-new, entry-level Canon EOS R50 is a budget-friendly ILC that doesn’t sacrifice imaging performance. Compact and lightweight, it’s a great option for those who want to step up their video.

Its Digic X processor and 24.2MP, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor capture high-res images and uncropped 4K video at 30 fps oversampled from 6K. It also achieves impressive 12-fps continuous shooting in electronic first-curtain shutter mode and 15 fps in electronic shutter mode.

Plus, Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology enables area tracking, subject detection and movie-prerecording—making the R50 appealing to photographers who capture travel adventures, family portraits, sports or wildlife.

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Canon EOS R50

Using automatic subject detection and tracking, when a subject is found on screen, the R50 automatically tracks it. Plus, using Deep Learning tech, it detects subjects like people, animals (dogs, cats and birds) and fast-moving vehicles.

The R50 has an eye-level EVF to help achieve shot steadiness and ease viewing in sunlight, and a 3-inch, 1.62M-dot, vari-angle touch LCD. For vloggers and livestreamers, it’s UVC/UAC compatible. It also functions as a web camera to stream live video in Full HD 30p without additional software. It will stream to a range of popular online web-conferencing apps. Moreover, it provides wired and wireless connections to a smartphone via its USB Type-C port, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

For budding content creators, Canon will make the camera available later in 2023 as part of a Content Creator Kit with a mic, lens and grip. But for now, in black or white, it retails for $679.99 body only.

Zeos One Smartphone Case

A 2023 CES Innovation Awards honoree for Photography, this multipurpose smartphone case was created by Zeos Global for shutterbugs, vloggers, YouTubers, social media influencers, journalists and filmmakers.

The award-winning case has features that both protect and enhance the capabilities of a smartphone through magnetically attachable accessories. It is also MagSafe compatible with specifically placed magnet arrays to accommodate multiple, snap-on attachable/detachable functional modules. The optional modules include a Bluetooth-connected zoom and shutter unit for a digital camera experience.

Zeos One Smart Magnetic Case

There’s also a MagSafe-compatible LED light with adjustable brightness and color temperature; a convex mirror for selfies/solo videos; a noise-canceling mic; and Zeos Pro lenses with filters.

The smart case is made with high-quality polycarbonate for a tough outer shell and a soft, dampening TPU inner core, giving it military-grade drop protection. It works with a wide variety of Zeos photography lenses, including macro, anamorphic, wide angle and fisheye that each retail for $99. The case itself retails for a very reasonable $39.