The 7 Best New Cameras of 2018, According to Experts
You may not know that photography gear has its own award ceremony—the Golden Globes for cameras, lenses, tripods, and the like—but every October, the jury of the Lucie Technical Awards decides which products are the best releases of the year. Below, we share the recently announced 2018 winners, including cameras from seven different categories, ranging from a nostalgia-inducing instant-film camera to a digital medium-format camera that may require you to take out a bank loan.
Best 360 Camera: Insta360 Pro 2
Plenty of 360-degree cameras have hit the market that will satisfy a range of virtual reality enthusiasts—from an adventurous traveler keen to document incredible landscapes to someone who simply requires a low-tech, easy solution for producing VR content. Samsung and Ricoh have released 360 cameras in the under-$200 category—so what gives the Insta360 Pro 2 its $5,000 price tag? For starters, it has six cameras—each with its own microSD slot to record at maximum speed—and they produce stunning 3D VR footage in 8K resolution. And, for those who don’t have an 8K monitor to view it on, the Pro 2 has a cool trick up its proverbial sleeve: the ability to convert its footage to playback 8K video on non-8K devices.
Additionally, Insta360 asserts that it’s the first VR camera to have in-camera stabilization, to keep footage from shaking without the need for additional equipment to keep it steady. Lastly, the 3.42-pound Pro 2 also saves low-res and high-res versions of your footage; you can edit the low-res footage via an Adobe Premiere Pro plug-in, and voila, the edits will be applied to the high-res version.
Best Camera Drone: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Overhead drone footage has become a mainstay of digital storytelling, but the technology still has limitations. Lighter models are less cumbersome and can fly for longer periods of time, but can lack in image quality—better tech usually means more weight. But DJI has essentially spliced the best features of their bestsellers into the Mavic 2 Pro: the compact body of the original Mavic Pro with the image quality of the Phantom 4 Pro.
The Mavic 2 Pro is the first in the lineup to feature a Hasselblad sensor, which, at 1 inch and 20 megapixels, is comparable to a high-end compact camera like the Sony RX100 VI (the original Mavic Pro had a smartphone-sized sensor). The Mavic 2 Pro can reach speeds just above 44 miles per hour and can fly for 31 minutes before it requires a battery change. It has sensors on all sides to avoid obstacles and you can see what it’s capturing, live, from up to 5 miles away. You can also set specific flying modes from DJI’s app, such as a time-lapse mode that will speed up the world below it; a point-of-interest mode that will send it circling around a single subject; a waypoint mode that will set its path along several points; and a boomerang mode that, as the name suggests, will send it away and back to the original starting point.
Best Fixed-Lens Camera: Sony RX100 VI
With the ever-improving cameras in our smartphones, the advanced point-and-shoot market can be very risky. Sony, however, has seen success with its RX100 line, which is now on its sixth iteration. But while smartphones have been getting wider to accommodate our screen obsession, compact cameras have been squeezing more technology into smaller frames. The 20.1-megapixel RX100 VI is very, very tiny at 4 by 2.3 inches; it weighs only two-thirds of a pound. It has a built-in electronic viewfinder and a long zoom lens (f/2.8-4.5, 24-200mm equivalent) and can capture 24 FPS burst shooting and 4K video. No smartphone camera can match its 315-point autofocus, either.
But reviews have noted that despite its longer lens than the RX100 V, the narrower maximum aperture means it will likely produce more noise when you’re shooting in low light. But, if you’re looking for a compact companion with a ton of features, including expansive shooting modes and video options, and the ability to shoot RAW files, the Sony RX100 VI checks those boxes.
Best Instant Camera: Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6
The square-format image holds a lot of power between its four equal sides. It recorded the memories of Generations X and Y, before nearly going extinct during the digital age, then re-invigorated how we frame our lives on Instagram. After Polaroid film nearly disappeared forever (it was rescued by Impossible Project, now called Polaroid Originals, in 2010), it took a few years for time to complete its circle (or square) and for instant prints to become popular again. And while they have—wildly so—the square format didn’t make its triumphant analog return until last summer, with the release of Instax square film.
Many of the instant cameras on the market currently are a hybrid of digital and analog, but the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 and its peer, the Lomo’Instant Square, are both entirely analog. The SQ6 is $130, however—half the price of Lomography’s camera. The SQ6 comes in colors like Blush Gold, Pearl White, and Ruby Red, and has modes for macro, landscape, and double exposures. Instead of a front-facing screen for selfies, it has an old-fashioned mirror, and you can change the toning of your photos with three color filters that attach to the flash. And, in the spirit of keeping it very old school, you won’t find an LCD screen anywhere on the body; instead, a light will indicate which mode you’re currently using.
Best Small-Format Camera System: Panasonic Lumix G9
Price: $1,297 (body)
Generally speaking, the larger a camera’s sensor, the better the image quality will be, thanks to larger pixels and higher resolution. It also dictates the cost, with many full-frame DSLR cameras reaching into the thousands, and digital medium-format cameras tipping into the tens of thousands (the first digital large-format camera? $106,000).
But professional camera systems with smaller APS-C or Micro Four Thirds sensors have taken the market by storm in the past decade; they are increasingly improving in image quality and shedding bulky DSLR frames for sleeker, lighter bodies. Panasonic was the first to release a Micro Four Thirds system in 2008, but since then, their cameras have been better known for their videos than their stills capabilities.
The 20.3-megapixel, 1.45-pound LUMIX G9, however, does both well, offering 4K video at 60p and a max frame rate of 20 FPS, as well as a multi-shot high-resolution stills mode that combines eight exposures into a single 80-megapixel RAW or JPEG image (a tripod is required for the latter). Its ISO range is 100–25,600, offering solid image quality in low light.
The mirrorless camera also has the best stabilization rating currently on the market, plus a massive electronic viewfinder with a beautiful 3.68-million-dot resolution. (It’s so large that Panasonic offers an additional eyecup accessory for extra comfort.) It also has a smart design, and, according to Digital Trends, it’s quite comfortable to hold; all of the critical controls can be accessed with one hand, and the grip is sizable and secure.
Best Full-Frame Camera System: Sony a7R III
Price: $3,199.99 (body)
You don’t have to buy a DSLR anymore if you want a full-frame sensor. Mirrorless cameras, as the name suggests, don’t have a reflex mirror underneath the hood, but instead expose the sensor directly to light. These cameras have earned a lot of attention because they allow photographers who want professional image quality to lighten their load (and they usually look a bit cooler around your neck).
This year, Sony dethroned Canon and Nikon from their long-held top spots in the full-frame market, thanks to the popularity of Sony’s mirrorless alpha series. The a7R III, the third iteration of the a7R line, has many features of the high-end a9, but at a cheaper price. It has been a huge crowd-pleaser, with a 42.4-megapixel full-frame sensor that is backside illuminated, which means it can capture more light and turn out images free of digital noise. (The extended ISO can reach 102,400.)
The a7R III also features a speedy image processor, 4K video recording at 30p, and a hybrid autofocus system (399 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection areas) that keeps your images sharp. One major update to this a7R model is better battery life; you can fire off 700 shots before it needs a recharge.
Best Medium-Format Camera System: Phase One XF IQ4 150MP
Price: $51,990 (body + 35mm lens)
You may need to sit down before seeing the cost of the IQ4 camera system. Digital medium-format cameras are always pricey (though the Pentax 645Z and upcoming Fujifilm GFX 50R are both lower than the down payment of a house, at under $6,000), but the beautiful images they produce are unbeatable. Luxury digital medium-format cameras like the Phase One IQ4 are coveted by editorial and fine-art photographers alike.
The 4.8-pound Phase One IQ4, like all Phase One cameras, is modular; you can switch out the digital back, the lens, and the viewfinder as needed. It has the first-ever 151-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor, and comes with Capture One image processing in-camera, meaning that you can process RAW files and edit images before your files ever reach your desktop. Capture One’s internal program also offers better image previews and live view and a faster frame rate. And, through what Phase One is calling the “Infinity Platform,” it looks as if the IQ4 will be updated with new tech as it’s rolled out in the future.
Jacqui Palumbo is Artsy’s Visual Culture Editor.