The coolest cameras coming soon
Trying to keep up with the latest camera announcements for the fall and holiday shopping season? You'd better have a fast burst mode. The announcements have been coming quickly over the past few weeks, but we've distilled them down to the most interesting new entries of the lot. Here are the models we're looking forward to the most, including compact interchangeable-lens cameras, premium point-and-shoots, pocket megazooms, full-size megazooms, and...binoculars? Yes, binoculars. Read on.
Sony Alpha SLT-A77
Price: $2000 as a kit with a 16-50mm/F2.8 lens
Sony's second-generation flagship translucent-mirror camera looks and feels like a DSLR, but you'll find some significant differences between this camera and traditional DSLRs. The fixed translucent mirror of the 24.3-megapixel Sony Alpha SLT-A77 reflects light to an always-on phase-detection autofocus system rather than an optical viewfinder, so the camera can autofocus as it's capturing full-resolution shots in its blazing 12-frames-per-second burst mode—the fastest burst mode we've ever seen. The A77 also captures 1080p video at a smooth 60 fps—another first in its class—making it the most exciting new announcement of late 2011.
Canon PowerShot S100
Canon didn't have to change much in the successor to its excellent PowerShot S95 to make the new model an exciting offering in the realm of premium point-and-shoots. And the changes in the Canon PowerShot S100 address the S95's scant shortcomings: Improvements include 1080p video recording, a peppy burst mode that captures 8 full-resolution images per second, a 5X-optical-zoom lens starting at 24mm wide-angle, and a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor optimized for low-light shooting. Welcome holdovers include manual controls, a wide-aperture F2.0 lens, and the excellent lens-surrounding control ring found in the S95.
Nikon Coolpix P7100
Release: Available now
Like the Canon PowerShot S100, the Nikon Coolpix P7100 is a fixed-lens follow-up to a high-end camera that didn't have much room for improvement. Last year's Coolpix P7000 was one of the best premium point-and-shoots we've tested. The P7100 offers a few tweaks and subtle improvements that make it an even more powerful competitor to Canon's PowerShot G12, including a tilt-and-swivel 3-inch LCD, an in-camera HDR mode, and an interesting "Zoom Exposure" mode that zooms the lens as it's taking slow-shutter shots. Among the returning features are full manual controls, a built-in neutral density filter, a larger-than-most 10-megapixel CCD sensor, an accessory shoe, and an array of manual buttons for quick exposure adjustments.
Nikon 1 V1/Nikon 1 J1
Price: Kits begin at $650 for the J1 and $900 for the V1
Nikon has also announced its first mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera line, and the first two models are some of the smallest in the category. The higher-end Nikon 1 V1 offers an electronic eye-level viewfinder and a hot shoe that supports separately sold flashes, microphones, and GPS receivers. The lower-priced Nikon 1 J1 has only a 3-inch LCD, and it omits the hot shoe. Both cameras pack a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor, snappy 10-fps burst capture, 1080i video recording at 60 fps, and a speedy 71-point autofocus system. The new cameras use a new Nikon 1 lens mount, but a big competitive draw is their ability to use legacy Nikkor lenses with a separately sold adapter.
The old-school Fujifilm X10 has a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor (2/3-inch type)—bigger than those of most high-end point-and-shoot cameras—as well as a quick F2.0 lens with a 4X (28mm to 112mm) optical zoom range. On paper, it looks like a worthy competitor to high-end fixed-lens models such as the Canon PowerShot G12 and the Nikon Coolpix P7100, thanks to its larger size, optical viewfinder, extensive physical controls for manual settings, top-mounted hot shoe, and manual focus controls. What's more, its throwback nature extends to its zoom controls, which you operate manually by twisting a ring around the lens, as you would with a DSLR's lens. Here's hoping that it has a low enough price to be something more than an excellent niche camera.
Sony Alpha NEX-7
Price: $1350 as a kit with a 18-55mm/F3.5-F5.6 lens
Sony's Alpha NEX-5 was one of the most impressive compact interchangeable-lens cameras we've ever seen, and the boldly redesigned Alpha NEX-7 supplants it at the high end of Sony's Alpha NEX line. Key changes to last year's line of NEX models include a higher-resolution (23.4-megapixel) APS-C sensor, 1080p video recording at 60 frames per second using the new AVCHD Progressive format, an eye-level OLED viewfinder built into the camera body, a pop-up flash, and a new "Tri-Navi" control system that lets you use two unmarked dials on the top of the camera to adjust different settings depending on the mode context. The NEX-7 is looking like the compact interchangeable-lens camera to beat in 2012.
Release: Late September
Samsung is one of two compact interchangeable-lens camera manufacturers (the other being Sony) to offer APS-C size sensors in their cameras' small bodies. The Samsung NX200 has a 20.3-megapixel sensor, a 7-frames-per-second burst mode, 3D still-image capture, and a unique "iFunction" lens that allows photographers to access settings quickly by using a control on the side of the lens barrel. One of the things holding back the NX system of interchangeable-lens cameras has been their relatively small selection of lenses, but Samsung is addressing that, too: Four new lenses, each of which carries the aforementioned iFunction feature, will be available by the end of the year.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150
Release: Available now
From its Micro Four-Thirds cameras on down, Panasonic has been making some great double-duty cameras for stills and video over the past few years. The 24X-optical-zoom Lumix DMC-FZ150 follows that trend, offering manual controls for both video and still capture, 1080p AVCHD Progressive video capture at a megazoom-leading 60 frames per second, a 220-fps high-speed video mode, and a snappy 12-fps burst mode at full 12-megapixel resolution.
Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS
The optical-zoom capabilities of compact cameras have been growing rapidly over the past few years, and the is one of the most-compact long-zoom models in history. Despite being just 0.86 inches deep, the 510 HS packs in a 12X-optical-zoom lens that reaches from 28mm wide-angle to 336mm telephoto, making it one of the most versatile pocket-size cameras we've ever seen. One of the reasons it can retain such a slim shape is that its controls are largely limited to its 3.2-inch LCD touchscreen, which offers touch-to-focus features.
Release: Available now
Putting an innovative spin on camera LCDs is nothing new for Samsung, as its DualView cameras have front-mounted secondary LCDs to help with self-portraits and capturing the attention of babies. The new Samsung MV800 has only one LCD, but it's a hinged viewfinder that swings upward 180 degrees to face whoever is in front of the lens. You can also swing the LCD out just a bit to prop the camera up while you're using the self-timer, so it can serve as a built-in tripod for some shots.
Sony DEV-5 HD Video Binoculars
Finally, here's a little something futuristic for the bird-watching set. The 10X-optical-zoom Sony DEV-5 HD-video-recording binoculars capture 7-megapixel stills of whatever you're viewing through the eyepieces, as well as 1080p video at either 60 frames per second or 24 fps. These binoculars also record in 3D--and seeing what you're capturing in three dimensions as you're recording doesn't require glasses. The higher-end DEV-5 model offers GPS capabilities for geotagging images and video, an enhanced digital zoom, and some extra accessories (eye cups, a carrying case, and a strap). The lower-end DEV-3 lacks the GPS, the digital zoom extension, and the extras; it's priced at $1400.
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