Hybrid Photography: The Future of Imaging Is Now

Hybrid Photography: The Future of Imaging Is Now


If you Google “hybrid cameras,” it’ll bring up a raft of articles on mirrorless compact system cameras, which are indeed hybrids since they provide DSLR functionality in smaller form factors. However, the true hybrids of the camera world, and those destined to most dramatically shape its future, are cameras that provide the best of two worlds—high-quality still imaging with impressive AF speed and accuracy, fast burst rates and outstanding high-ISO performance as well as studio-quality Full HD 1080p or 4K video recording at multiple framing rates and excellent sound quality.

Serious enthusiasts and professional video shooters are now using DSLRs or mirrorless system cameras to create video productions of superlative quality, and photographers specializing in sports, events, weddings and on-the-spot interviews are expected to shoot videos and stills in the course of an assignment. Whether to shoot stills or videos is no longer even a valid question—pros of all stripes have to execute both at the highest level to remain competitive. Many of today’s greatest sports shots are high-res stills taken from video clips.

Anyone who needs to be convinced of the breadth of this accelerating trend should take a look at the proliferation of “run and gun” video rigs for DSLRs and the range of mikes and other audio accessories that have come onto the market.

Another key trend spurred by the convergence of still and video is Wi-Fi connectivity, which enables everyone from casual shooters to pros to share their images and videos on social media, or to make them available in real time to editors, production people and clients.

The coming “4K revolution” in video capture, the amazing advances in image processors and sensors, and forthcoming innovations in on-sensor phase-detection AF will undoubtedly take still and video imaging to unprecedented new levels. But for now it is clear that hybrid photography in the dual-media sense is the new modality destined to shape the future of imaging.

The evolution of hybrid photography is just beginning. And, it’s significant that of the eight hybrids detailed here, three are classic DSLRs, four are DSLR-like mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras and one is a 4K video camcorder capable of capturing high-quality stills.

                     A Selection of Hybrid, Multimedia Cameras
Fujifilm X-T1
This striking mirrorless camera provides DSLR functionality with a 0.5-inch, 2,360k-dot, 0.77x OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a 3.0-inch, 1,040k-dot tilting LCD monitor built into its weather-resistant body. It’s bundled with an EF-X8 shoe-mount flash and a Fujinon 18–55mm f/2.8–4 R LM OIS lens. It uses Fujifilm’s proprietary (APS-C) X-Trans CMOS II sensor with 16.3 megapixels and a unique, randomized pixel array to obviate use of a resolution-reducing low-pass filter.

Still Image Features: an intelligent hybrid AF system that uses contrast- and phase-detection AF for fast focus; continuous shooting at 8 frames per sec; Digital Split Image Focusing technology and focus peak highlight to assure superior manual focusing accuracy; ISO 51,200; and a 0.05-sec shutter lag time.

Video Features:
Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps and 60 fps in AVC/H.264 file formats; full-time AF tracking with subject tracking when the subject is moving or when panning and zooming; +/-2 EV exposure compensation; film simulation settings; HDMI port for high-def playback on HDTVs; and an optional external mike jack.

The X-T1 provides built-in Wi-Fi connectivity to Android/iOS mobile devices. The Fujifilm Camera Remote app lets users transfer images and videos, control and monitor the camera (including shutter release, exposure adjustment, white balance, etc.) and embed geotags. $1,699.95 with lens and flash. fujifilmusa.com

Sony FDR-AX100 4K Camcorder
The signature feature of this groundbreaking camcorder: it captures breathtaking 4K Ultra HD video and high-quality still frames.

Still Image Features:
a still image effective resolution of 20 megapixels in movie mode and 15 megapixels in photo mode; Optical SteadyShot image stabilization with active mode for stills or movies; and manual focus assist.

Video Features:
4K (3,840×2,160-pixel resolution) video capture at 24 fps and 30 fps; XAVC-S HD at 60/30/24 fps; Full HD 1080p at 24/30/60 fps; slow motion at 120 fps in AVCHD and MP4 formats; a built-in zoom stereo microphone with 31-step level control; and Dolby Digital Stereo Creator 5.1ch (AVCHD only).

The AX100 uses a 1.0-inch Exmor R 20MP CMOS sensor, and its 12x, 29–348mm equivalent Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens has a wide f/2.8–4.5 aperture and a seven-blade diaphragm for smooth transitions. Other key features include: a Bionx X image processor for enhanced speed, resolution and color capture; CinemaTone Gamma/color; a high-contrast 0.39-inch OLED EVF; a 3.5-inch, 921k-dot touch-screen LCD; and a multi-interface shoe for attaching a separate EVF or remote. Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity to smartphones provide one-touch sharing and remote control via the smart device. $1,999.99. sony.com

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

Panasonic’s latest Micro Four Thirds system camera bristles with innovations, including: 4K video capture; a 3.0-inch, 1,036K-dot OLED swivel monitor; a 2,359k OLED live-view EVF; a 16.05MP Live MOS sensor; and an advanced 4-CPU Venus engine capable of outstanding still and video image quality and speed—all contained in a weather-sealed, magnesium alloy body.

Still Image Features: high-speed, 49-point contrast-detection autofocus integrates with Depth from Defocus technology to achieve speeds of 0.07 sec in AFS mode and enable bursts of 12 fps in AFS mode; ISO 25,600; in-camera RAW development creates JPEGs instead of relying on post-processing; and photo style, D-range control and intelligent resolution functions.

Video Features:
Cinema 4K capture (4,096×2,160) at 24p; Ultra HD 4K (3,840×2,160) at 30p/24p; Full HD; MOV, MP4 and AVCHD file formats; support for 59.95p, 23.98p 50p and 24p; 4:2:2 8-bit or 10bit HDMI output; focus peaking to aid manual focusing; and creative video mode.

Other features include: built-in Wi-Fi with NFC technology pairs with the Panasonic Image app for remote shooting with smartphones/tablets and to embed location data; non-NFC devices can be connected by scanning a QR code displayed on the GH4’s monitor; custom multi AF enhances flexibility when composing shots; and an optional 4K video interface unit has two XLR input terminals. $1,699.99 body only. panasonic.com

Olympus OM-D E-M1

The flagship of the Olympus MFT lineup, the mirrorless E-M1 delivers the DSLR experience in an exceptionally compact, light camera that offers an array of cutting-edge performance and convenience features. These include a 16MP Live MOS sensor; a fully integrated, interactive EVF that displays a 2,360k-dot image at 1.48x; and instant auto switching between the EVF and the 3.0-inch, 1,037k-dot tilting touch-screen OLED monitor.

Still Image Features:
a state-of-the-art dual FAST AF system with 81 contrast-detect zones, 74 phase-detect zones and four AF area sizes to deliver precise autofocus; a focus lag time of just 0.044 sec; unique 5-Axis sensor-shift image-stabilization; 10-fps sequential shooting using tracking AF; ISO 25,600; 12 art filters; color creator; photo story mode; and HDR shooting.

Video Features:
1,920×1,080 Full HD capture at 30 fps in .MOV or .AVI; a direct HD movie button; a built-in mike; movie effects; an art filter movie function; built-in IS; and an optional external stereo mike.

The E-M1’s ingenious camera control array is optimized for fast, intuitive operation and includes eight customizable control buttons and a two-dial-plus-function-lever system that simplifies adjustments on the fly. Other features include wireless connectivity to a smartphone and a rugged, dustproof, freezeproof, weatherproof magnesium alloy body. $1,399.99 body only. olympusamerica.com

Pentax K-3

The latest top-of-the-line Pentax is a classic DSLR that takes the acclaimed K line to a higher level with an upgraded 24MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor and an ingenious user-selectable floating image sensor mechanism that emulates the effect of an optical anti-aliasing filter to give users the choice to leave it off for superior resolution and detail capture, or turn it on to eliminate moiré. Other features include multi-pattern auto white balance; dual SD card slots; a larger 3.2-inch, 1,037k-dot LCD; and a 0.95x viewfinder.

Still Image Features:
a new SAFOX II AE/AF system with 27 cross-type AF points and an 86K RGB AE sensor that provides superior subject identification to enhance accuracy; 8.3-fps, full-res bursts; ISO 51,200; and built-in sensor-based shake reduction said to provide a four-stop advantage in handheld shooting.

Video Features:
Full HD 1080p video at 60, 50, 30, 25 and 24 fps in AVI, MOV, MPEG-4, AVC/H.264 file formats; the ability to switch from photo to video recording with the flip of a dedicated switch; a built-in mike; an external headphone and stereo mike jack; and USB 3.0 and HDMI output.

The K-3 provides support for smartphone connectivity, and remote shutter release, viewing and importing images are possible with a Pentax Edition Flu card in its rugged, fully sealed, weather-resistant magnesium alloy body. $1,299.95 body with battery grip. us.ricoh-imaging.com

Samsung NX30

The most advanced model in Samsung’s APS-C-format NX line of mirrorless cameras, the NX30 is configured like a DSLR, complete with a built-in, tilting 2,359k-dot eye-level touch-screen AMOLED EVF that makes low-angle shooting easier. It’s clearly aimed at serious enthusiasts seeking high imaging performance plus cutting-edge tech at an enticing price.

Still Image Features:
20.3MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor; 1/8,000-sec shutter speed: 9-fps bursts; a hybrid AF system with phase- and contrast-detection autofocus; OIS Duo technology combines optical and digital IS; and a 3.0-inch AMOLED swivel monitor.

Video Features:
Full HD 1080p stereo video capture at 60 fps; Full HD video streaming at 30 fps via a built-in HDMI connection; MP4, MPEG-4 and AVC/H.264 file formats; a smart range+ feature that automatically gives tonal detail a boost; AAC audio; and a 3.5mm mike jack.

Other features include: 2D/3D panorama capability; instant sharing and archiving via built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n dual band) with NFC; Samsung’s proprietary i-Function smart auto mode; and filter 2.0 effects. $999.99 with 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 ED lens. samsung.com

Nikon D610

This impressive full-frame DSLR is favored by enthusiasts and pros because it delivers high imaging performance in still and video capture, and outstanding low-noise image quality at elevated ISO settings, up to 25,600, with an extended dynamic range. It boasts a 24.3MP FX-format CMOS sensor, an Expeed 3 image processor, a 3.2-inch, 921k-dot LCD monitor that provides detailed image evaluation, and a built-in flash commander mode.

Still Image Features: a Multi-Cam 4800 AF sensor system that employs 39 AF points, can be set to cover 9, 21 or 39 points, and provides single-point, dynamic-area AF and 3D-tracking mode for stills/video; 6-fps continuous shooting at full resolution; 2,016-pixel 3D color matrix metering with scene recognition that works with face priority, exposure, white balance, subject tracking and iTTL flash settings; and creative picture controls.

Video Features:
Full HD 1080p video capture at 30 fps, 25 fps and cinematic 24 fps in MPEG-4 and AVC/H.264 formats; 720p HD recording at 60p, 50p or 30p for smooth playback of fast-moving subjects; manual control of exposure, ISO, shutter speed and full-time AF with face detection and subject tracking; a built-in monaural mike; external mike and headphone inputs; built-in HDMI output; simultaneous live view on external monitors; and D-movie mode that lets user choose between FX and DX recording areas to modify composition and gain.

The Nikon D610 supports the optional WU-1b wireless mobile adapter for Wi-Fi connectivity and remote control as well as a GPS unit for geotagging applications. $1,899.95 body only. nikonusa.com

Canon EOS 6D

Aimed at shooters seeking a full-frame DSLR capable of first-class still and video imaging, the 6D delivers the goods with a 20.2MP CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Digic 5+ image processor. Its 3.0-inch 1,040k-dot LCD monitor offers a crisp, wide view to aid composition and image evaluation.

Still Image Features:
fast, responsive 11-point AF system with central cross-type point; a full-resolution, 4.5-fps burst rate; ISO settings expandable to 102,400; an iFCL 63-zone, dual-layer metering sensor that utilizes AF and luminance values to determine precise exposure readings; creative auto mode; and a variety of special scene modes.

Video Features:
Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps, 25 fps and 24 fps with 4GB of automatic file positioning and manual exposure control; and MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264) file formats.

The EOS 6D has a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter for transferring images and videos to social networking sites using Canon Image Gateway via Android or iOS devices, or for using a smartphone for remote camera operation via the EOS Remote app. It also has a built-in GPS receiver to geotag images, and HDR and multiple exposure modes to expand creativity. $1,899 body only. usa.canon.com