Sony just introduced the A7C, which they’re calling the smallest and lightest fully-functional full frame mirrorless camera on the market today. They are quite careful to put conditions on their claim that exclude the Sigma fp, which is significantly smaller and lighter, but is missing some features that many of us would consider core parts of any camera – from a viewfinder to a grip to a mechanical shutter. By the time the fp is kitted out for most uses, it is probably going to be quite a bit heavier than the new Sony – but it is also incredibly versatile in how you equip it. One core market for the fp is videographers putting it in odd places (gimbals, cranes, drones), for which the missing pieces are assets – video is always electronic shutter, and grips and finders just get in the way for remote video work. If the Sigma fp is more of a “brain” than a true camera body, similar to a RED or various other cine rigs that don’t enter the still photo conversation, Sony is correct that they have the smallest and lightest full-frame body on the market.
But not so fast… There have been smaller and lighter full-frame, interchangeable lens cameras in the past. Many of them were film cameras – but there were in fact two digital, mirrorless full-frame bodies that were lighter (and very similar in size, although they had viewfinder humps, which the A7C lacks). It is surprising that Sony has forgotten about them, because they were made by… SONY. The original A7 and A7r were a tiny bit lighter than the A7C, although the difference is entirely in battery weight. The A7 and A7r were around 470 grams with battery and memory card, while the A7C is 509 grams with battery and memory card. The newer NP-FZ100 battery is about 40 grams heavier than the old NP-FW50, almost exactly making up the difference in body plus memory plus battery weight. I don’t know of anyone who’d prefer the inadequate old FW50 to save the weight of the FZ100, probably the best battery on the market. In the seven years since the A7 and A7r, Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras have gotten about 30% heavier, excluding the increase in battery capacity – from about 430 grams to around 570 grams. Almost all of that increase is due to new features and ergonomic improvements that users have both demanded and lauded. The originals really felt like an RX1 with the viewfinder permanently taped on and the lens lopped off and replaced by an E mount. They lacked any form of in-body image stabilization, featured a single card slot, and barely qualified as having any weather sealing at all. The grips were, to say the least, controversial, especially with larger and heavier lenses. Most of the weight was added in the transition from the first to the second generation, which added IBIS, the first of the ergonomic grips (which are improved in each generation) and some improvements to weather sealing. The weight added since the A7II and A7r II is almost entirely explained by the NP-FZ100 and the dual card slots. Since all full-frame Sonys since 2015 have been very similar in size and weight, it is easy to forget just how svelte the 2013 originals were (although with very substantial tradeoffs in usability compared to a more modern version).
The A7C is getting back to the compactness of the first A7 series cameras, but keeping some of the features users have loved in the newer models, including image stabilization and the big battery, which both add weight that Sony had to trim off someplace else. They have also released a very compact 28-60mm f4-5.6 lens, seemingly similar to what Nikon did with their 24-50mm f4-6.3. These lenses are tiny, around the size and weight of a standard APS-C kit lens or a traditional 50mm f1.8 – but they cover full-frame and offer a 2x zoom ratio. Sony and Nikon made slightly different tradeoffs in focal length, with Nikon offering a little bit more wide-angle and Sony offering a short portrait focal length at the long end. The only full-frame zoom lenses ever to get this small previously were a few variations of 35-70mm Olympus Zuikos in the film era. They’re slow, and they have limited zoom ranges, but these little lenses make full-frame much more compact. The question that remains is how the 24 MP full-frame sensor with a lens like that stacks up against the newest 26 MP APS-C sensor and the excellent 18-55mm f2.8-4 Fujinon lens. An A7C with the compact lens is slightly smaller and lighter than a Fujifilm system based around the highly capable X-T4, and that’s perhaps the most logical comparison. Pairing any other Sony body with the compact 28-60mm lens would also end up in the same size and weight class as an X-T4 system – much of the weight savings is in the tiny lens, not the 25% body weight reduction.
Other Sony lenses will often be somewhat larger and heavier than comparable Fujinons, although they’ll also tend to be faster, especially when the depth of field effects of sensor size are considered. There is also the question of what other bodies and lenses are available using the same mount. A Fujifilm system will offer more options for getting more compact – any body choice other than the enthusiast-grade X-T4 and the specialized X-Pro 3 is considerably smaller than the Sony, although they are also less capable. To match the Sony’s capabilities, you’d want an X-T4, which is in the same size class. A Sony system offers more higher-end body choices, from the videographer’s dream A7S III to the pixel monster A7R IV. Both offer essentially any non-specialty lens you might want, although Fujifilm is the choice for compact primes and zooms (to Sony’s one compact zoom and a couple of smallish primes, Fujifilm offers two zooms, one of which is a real gem, and three f2 “Fujicron” primes, in addition to several other lenses that might be considered very compact). Sony, on the other hand, offers significantly more telephoto options (two really long zooms to Fujifilm’s one, four mid-telephoto zoom options to Fujifilm’s two, and two exotic primes to Fujifilm’s one) and more really fast primes.
There are really three use cases for the A7C – one is as a primary camera, where it competes against other, larger full-frame options – although the A7C kit lens on another Sony body is not very much larger than the A7C kit, and the Nikon Z5 (or another Z body) with their new 24-50mm lens is also similar. It also competes against Fujifilm. The second use case is as an added body into an existing Sony system. The A7C is very similar in features to an A7 III – the AF is slightly improved, mostly on a firmware level, while the ergonomics are substantially different. Essentially everything else is the same – it appears to be the same sensor and image processor, the still and video modes available are exactly the same (still nothing other than 8 bit XAVC, and the crop remains in 4K 30p) and it uses a very similar menu system (not the new system from the A7s III – the older processor borrowed from the A7 III can’t handle it)
The A7 III will continue in the line, at a similar price to the A7C (the A7C is being introduced at $1800, while the A7 III lists for $2000 but sees frequent rebates). With two nearly identical cameras at similar price points, the question becomes whether the different ergonomics are worth it to save the size and weight. There are two noticeable omissions for the enthusiast or professional photographer. One is that the viewfinder, while included and not a pop-up, which are advantages, is among the smallest on any mirrorless camera. The finder is located on the left side of the camera (looking from behind), the classic location for a rangefinder camera, although not as familiar to DSLR users. It is an old-style 2.36 million pixel unit, not the 3.7, 5.7 or even 9.4 million pixel finders on many newer cameras. Even beyond the resolution disadvantage, it is quite a bit smaller than most finders – it has the same magnification as the little pop-up finder on RX100 series cameras.
Most cameras with the finder in a “prism hump” have a viewfinder magnification right around 0.8x, normalized to full-frame – the A7S III has the most spacious viewfinder around, at 0.91x, along with its high resolution. Many of the side-mounted rangefinder-style finders are a little smaller, averaging closer to 0.7x. The smallest finders you normally see are the 0.62x units on the Fujifilm X-E3 and some of the smaller Micro 4/3 bodies. The A7C finder is even smaller, at 0.59x, which is in the same class as many compact camera finders. The optics behind the finder appear to be much simpler than in many other interchangeable lens cameras. These finder changes are probably unwelcome ton a majority of users, although some rangefinder aficionados will find that the new nose-friendly placement outweighs the size and resolution. It is a very similar finder placement to Sony’s A6000 series cameras, and the same resolution as the higher-end models. It may well be the same finder with different optics accounting for the much smaller apparent size.
The second ergonomic feature that many photographers are going to find to be a negative is that the control scheme is mid-way between the A7 series and the A6000 series. It’s missing the A7 series front dial and multiple custom buttons, having only a single custom button shared with the delete image button. Gone too is the joystick for positioning the AF point – the only options are Sony’s excellent automatic focus point selection or using the touchscreen (which does work as a touchpad when using the viewfinder). Many of the ergonomic improvements from the newer A7 series bodies are gone in the name of compactness (but the excellent NP-FZ100 battery has stayed). Another notable omission is the second card slot – this is the first full-frame Sony in years to feature a single SD slot, and it is SD only (it IS UHS II).
The exposure compensation dial from the A7 family is retained in the A7C, unlike the A6000 series. One very recent improvement that did make it to the A7C is the fully articulated screen. Other than the A7S III, all other interchangeable lens Sonys feature only a one-way tilt screen. The A7S III and A7C share a versatile fully articulated display, although the A7S III has a higher resolution unit. Unfortunately, one of the outdoor photographer’s favorite uses for a fully articulated screen – folding it away to prevent damage – is less practical on the A7C, because there’s no other way to move the AF point.
The A7C uses a different type of outer shell than most cameras. Sony calls it a monocoque shell – I haven’t seen a build diagram of the A7C yet, but they may very well mean something like many MacBook Pros (Apple calls it a unibody) or some Leica cameras, where the vast majority of the outer shell is made from a single piece of metal. Something (perhaps the bottom) does need to come off, in order to get the components into the camera, but a significant reduction in seams could make for a stiffer, less creaky camera, and/or make it easier to weather seal. The few people who’ve actually had their hands on an A7C say that it feels very well-built. It claims weather sealing, although one source says perhaps not to the same degree as the A7R IV and A9 II, which are the best sealed current Sony bodies.
A photographer looking to add a 24 MP body to their existing Sony system has three options (apart from the specialized A9 series). They can buy an A7 III, hopefully at a good price because it’s an older model. It’ll be close in feel to any other A7-series camera, with most of the recent ergonomic improvements, but not the very latest AF, body design or weather sealing. For about the same price, they can have an A7C, picking up a few of the most recent improvements in things like AF algorithms, and getting a somewhat smaller and lighter body. The prospective A7C owner gives up some control commonality with their other body, and also gets an RX100-like finder in place of the much better finder on any other A7. The third choice that may appeal to many Sony shooters who don’t need an additional body right now is to wait for the A7 IV. By making the A7C essentially a two-year old A7 III in a new form factor, Sony has left themselves room for an A7 IV.
A hypothetical full-size A7 IV might have some or all of the following. It would almost certainly be housed in the latest A7 series body – something like the A7R IV, A7 S III and A9 II. It would probably get the articulating screen from the A7S III. The latest AF improvements are a near certainty, and the new menus first seen on the A7S III are a very high probability. Beyond that, there are a number of possible but not certain improvements. Sony could use a >24 MP sensor, perhaps as much as a 45 MP sensor that would allow for a pixel-doubled 4K video mode (and could also allow 8K IF Sony figures out how to cool the camera while writing all that data). Whether or not there is any sort of beyond-4K or pixel-doubled 4K, there is a lot of room for video specs in between the “standard” A7 series and the A7S III. Some 4K modes with higher data rates and perhaps higher bit depths seem very reasonable, although nothing like that is confirmed. 4K 60p seems likely, given how many other cameras are able to record it. For the still shooter, the A7 IV is likely to get the latest IBIS, possibly even an IBIS improvement or two we haven’t seen on any camera Sony has yet released. Improved resolution is a real possibility, although by no means certain, especially given the size of the gap between the 24 MP cameras and the A7r IV.
The third class of user Sony is aiming for with the A7C is YouTubers and vloggers. This group has gotten a lot of attention from camera makers lately, with many of this summer’s bodies focusing heavily on their needs. The fully articulating screen makes the A7C vlogger-friendly in a way that no previous interchangeable lens Sony other than the A7S III has been, and it is at a more accessible price point than the A7S III.
Modern Nikon and Canon full-frame mirrorless bodies have settled in at just about the same size and weight as Sony has been using post-2015. Nothing from Canon or Nikon is as small and light as the A7C, once a lens is included – although Canon’s significantly cheaper EOS RP ($999) is actually a tiny bit lighter body only. The difference is in a much smaller battery, and the Canon has very disappointing battery life, while the Sony’s is excellent. The Canon’s video modes are disappointing, while the Sony’s are quite good – getting really good video on an EOS-R series camera means stepping up to the EOS-R6, for $700 more than an A7C ($2499), and back to a standard mirrorless size and weight.
Canon’s one small zoom lens that pairs well with the EOS RP is a 24-105mm f4-7.1, and it is about twice the weight of the tiny Sony lens, but it also offers a much broader range of focal lengths. Once you get beyond that one lens, Canon’s choices in compact lenses are pretty slim right now (there’s a fairly compact 24-240mm travel lens that largely overlaps the range of the 24-105, and there’s a small 35mm f1.8 that doubles as a macro lens if you can stand the short working distance) . The EOS RP also doesn’t have in-body image stabilization, so some of Canon’s lens lineup and most third-party RF mount lenses will be entirely unstabilized on that body. Since newer RF bodies DO offer in-body stabilization, there may be a trend towards more unstabilized lenses, leaving the little EOS RP a bit of an orphan.
Nikon doesn’t offer any smaller and lighter than average bodies, although their new Z5 is very feature competitive with the A7C except in video for $400 less, and it’s a standard-sized mirrorless camera. They do have a very small 24-50mm lens of a similar philosophy to the little Sony 28-60mm. I’d personally rather have 24mm than 60mm on my limited-range zoom, although that’s very much a personal choice. Both lenses are too new to have seen much about image quality yet – if one is a significantly better lens, that will be important to many photographers choosing between the systems. Like Canon, Nikon’s less expensive body means sacrificing quite a bit in terms of video. Right now, Nikon’s Z6, which offers video performance at least on a par with the A7C and quite likely better, is the same price as the A7C body. One possible consideration is that the Z6 is available in an attractively priced bundle with Nikon’s excellent 24-70mm f4.
That is one of the best zooms I’ve used (I own the 24-70mm f4, and have thousands of shots on it) – if either Sony or Nikon comes CLOSE to that lens with an ultra-compact zoom, I’ll be very surprised. No Sony midrange zoom I’ve used is as good, and I’ve used the old 28-70mm and 24-70mm Zeiss, along with a couple of copies of the newer 24-105mm G. I haven’t used the 24-70mm G-Master, but that’s a big, heavy lens. The one midrange zoom I’ve used on my Sony that’s as good as the 24-70mm Z lens is the excellent new 24-70mm f2.8 Sigma Art DG DN (certainly more compact than its predecessor, but again, not a small lens). The 24-70mm Nikkor is certainly not tiny, but it’s by no means huge. The Z6/24-70mm f4 combo is well worth considering for $300 more than an A7C with the 28-60mm. No, it’s not as compact, but it’s quite a bit more compact than the A7C with a different lens. There are meaningful range additions on both ends of the zoom, and the tiny Sony lens would have to violate everything we think we know about very small, variable-aperture zooms to come close to the quality of the midsize Nikkor.
There are some differences in lens design philosophy between Canon, Nikon and Sony, with Nikon tending towards smaller and lighter lenses that offer excellent performance at the cost of some light. Nikon has a full line of f1.8 primes from 20mm to 85mm (with the exception of a 28mm) and a couple of f4 zooms. As of September 16, 2020, Nikon just added their third f2.8 zoom (a 14-24mm, joining an existing 24-70mm (which just arrived for testing) and a released, but not yet really available 70-200mm), and their first AF prime faster than f1.8 (a 50mm f1.2).
Canon, by contrast, has emphasized faster, but less compact lenses, with two f1.2 primes and three f2.8 zooms plus a f2 zoom, only two non-extreme telephoto primes slower than f1.2 and a single f4 zoom. Nikon relies nearly exclusively on the FTZ adapter for telephoto – there is the impossible to find 70-200mm f2.8 and a 24-200mm travel lens, but nothing over 200mm and no primes. Canon is also weak in the mid-telephoto range (only the 70-200mm f2.8 and a 24-240mm travel lens), but has no less than three extreme telephotos, all unusual designs. The most standard (or least non-standard?) is a 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 – basically a common 100-400mm with an extra 100mm at the long end. The other two are the unusual 600 and 800mm f11 preset, collapsible, diffractive lenses! For whatever reason, Canon has released these three lenses before the sports photographer and photojournalist’s staple long lens, the 300mm f2.8.
In a really odd state of affairs, NOBODY has a mirrorless-specific 300mm prime (except for a Micro 4/3 lens that functions very differently due the crop factor). Both Canon and Nikon offer first-party adapters to excellent, modern DSLR lenses at both f2.8 and f4, and Sony adapts an older DSLR lens. Fujifilm comes the closest with their 200mm f2 – a close APS-C equivalent to a full-frame 300mm f2.8. Both Canon and Sony offer zooms covering 300mm (Sony has three of them), but all are f5.6 or slower at 300mm. There is a Micro 4/3 40-150mm f2.8 lens, but the equivalent aperture is, yet again, f5.6.
There are only two ways to reach a 300mm focal length faster than f5.6 equivalent on ANY mirrorless body without a lens adapter. The obvious one is the Fujinon 200mm f2.0. The less obvious one is a Nikon Z50 or any Sony APS-C body with a 70-200mm f2.8 zoom (or any full-frame pixel monster in APS-C crop mode – to get a decent resolution APS-C image, start with a 40 MP+ full-frame body). 300mm equivalent at f4 equivalent is reachable on APS-C through the zoom lens trick. Sony has two lenses longer than 300mm and faster than f5.6, a 400mm f2.8 and 600mm f4, but, inexplicably, no 300mm prime or fast zoom – 200mm at f2.8 is reachable through a zoom, then there’s a gap where there’s nothing faster than f5.6 until you reach 400mm.
Sony is somewhere in between Canon and Nikon in philosophy, although with a multi-year head start, gradually plugging the holes in their lens lineup with generally excellent designs. Sony and Fujifilm are the only makers to build mirrorless-dedicated exotic telephotos. Since Sony has been working on their lens lineup the longest, they have the most choices at similar focal lengths, and the most exotics. Sony actually has no less than FOUR ~50mm full frame lenses in their catalog, the big and beautiful 50mm f1.4 ZA, the old 55mm f1.8 ZA, the 50mm f2.8 macro and the inexpensive 50mm f1.8. They have a much wider range of dedicated mirrorless lenses than Canon or Nikon (although Nikon is catching up below 100mm), but don’t have an easy first-party adapter to a current range of DSLR lenses to fill the holes. Fujifilm’s APS-C line is comparable to Sony’s full-frame line in most regards.
Nikon’s brand-new 50mm f1.2 has the distinction of being the most complex standard prime lens I can recall seeing (the only more complex primes of any focal length I’ve been able to find are a few newer supertelephotos). For many years, standard primes were six to eight element lenses, modifications of pre-1900 Planar and Tessar designs. They used different glass formulations, and they often threw in an extra element or two (a true Planar is a six element lens, and some standard lenses were up to eight or so) – but they were basically Planar-type lenses.
When the Zeiss Otus 55mm was introduced in 2013, it was a much more complex design than most other standard lenses. The 55mm Otus uses 12 elements in 10 groups, which became relatively standard for the new “super 50” lenses. The Sigma Art 50mm lens was among the next to arrive, and it is a 13 element design in 8 groups. The Z mount Nikkor 50mm f1.8 is a 12 element lens in 9 groups, in contrast to the 50mm f1.8 DSLR Nikkor, which has historically been a six element lens, with the current version up to seven elements in six groups. The best 50mm for Sony mirrorless, the very sharp 50mm f1.4 ZA, uses 12 elements in 9 groups.
Faster lenses often have a couple more elements, and the two most complex “standard” lenses I was aware of until the new Nikkor are both very fast. Canon’s 50mm f1.2 RF uses 15 elements in 9 groups, while Nikon’s ultra-exotic 58mm f0.95 Noct uses 17 elements in 10 groups. A new standard for high-end primes seems to have emerged around a low double-digit element count, mostly separate with a few groups. These lenses have far better edge to edge performance than the classic Planar types. Nikon has upped the ante again in terms of complexity – the new 50mm f1.2 is a 17 element, 15 group design. A few years ago, that would have been considered very complex for a zoom lens! Just as many of us were characterizing Z lenses as tending to be very good designs that sacrifice maximum aperture for compactness and quality, Nikon releases a statement lens that is the size of an Otus and considerably more complex.
And Nikon adds enough elements to make an Otus look simple. The new 50mm f1.2.
One other Sony introduction may prove especially relevant to Sony-shooting LuLa readers. The little HVL-F28M flash doesn’t look particularly imposing, but it has two important features. One is that it’s a tiny, mid-priced flash that fits in the bottom of a camera bag, useful for the photographer who rarely uses flash, but wants to have one around for the occasional kids’ birthday party or the like. There are cheaper third-party options, but the $249, less than 8 ounce F28M is a reasonable original Sony option. The second use is that, unlike its predecessor, and unlike most other manufacturers’ small flash units, it’s a full radio flash transceiver. In many systems, only the “big flash” serves as a full-featured controller. This has two drawbacks. First, it means a big, heavy flash attached to the top of the camera, when that flash is unlikely to be providing much of the light, if it fires at all. Second, that means using up a $600 flash as a controller. The other option is to use a dedicated control unit, which is much lighter, but can’t provide a little bit of fill light, nor can it double as a flash for run and gun shooting. The little HVL-F28M is actually $100 cheaper than Sony’s remote commander, and it has the full channel and group functionality. It doesn’t have its own screen, but Sony cameras allow wireless flash setup from the camera, using the viewfinder or rear LCD.
Besides Sony’s new body, lens and flash and Nikon’s pair of lenses, one other electronics manufacturer just released some new products. While Apple introductions are often eagerly followed by photographers, the recent ones have little photographic relevance – they may have relevance to photographers in other areas of their life, but not much to photographic pursuits. Apple spent much of their presentation on the Apple Watch, which has potential as a photographic tool, but is severely hampered by its short battery life. There are very good sunrise/sunset and weather apps for the Apple Watch and it has GPS tracking capability, with several track logging apps that could allow geotagging of photos. The problem is that it has a battery life around 1/3 or less of something like a Garmin Fenix with GPS on in a tracking mode more than sufficient for photography – the Garmins offer tracking modes that will run for a week or more on the latest models – not fast enough for running or skiing, but plenty of track points for most photographic applications. In contrast, the Apple Watch has trouble running for a full day in the field with GPS on. They aren’t as pretty, but there are perfectly good sunrise/sunset apps for the Garmin watches.
If the GPS functionality isn’t important, or you’ll be carrying a more accurate handheld Garmin, there are many watches that offer sunrise/ sunset functionality. Among the most intriguing is the Yes Watch, a unique tool which focuses as much on solar time as on clock time. Michael Reichmann reviewed an early version of the Yes Watch here many years ago, and I have the current model coming in for review – look for it to anchor a pre-holiday gadget article. The Yes Watch’s battery life is measured in months between charges. My current go-to photographers’ watch is an older Garmin Fenix 5x that I’ve used several years, and if I were to replace it, it would either be with a newer Garmin or a Yes Watch.
Smartwatches have two real problems – the practical one is battery life. At least for me (and people’s opinions will differ on this), the second problem with smartwatches is that they try very hard to keep you in the internet world. When I’m in the field photographing, the last thing I want is something on my wrist telling me that I have more deals from Priceline, or that yet another politician wants me to make a donation. Time in beautiful, special places is supposed to be an escape from that world, and a smartwatch’s job is to make sure you cannot leave it. Philosophically, I love the idea of the Yes Watch, and I’m very excited to take a look at it. The decision long-term between it and the Garmin will be whether it’s worth keeping another source of GPS running while I’m in the field (I always have one, but it’s not always running if I rely on my Garmin watch for a continuous track).
The second thing Apple talked about was iPads. Many of us use them as a mobile editing tool in one form or another, and an increasing number of photographic apps run on them. One of the iPad updates was to the economy model, which is probably of little interest to photographers – it’s more of a student tool that Apple tries to keep the price of down. It is the slowest iPad, having just now received an update to the same processor used in two year old iPhones. It is also an unusually constrained iPad for downloading images, for a couple of reasons. It has a Lightning connector, while other current models feature USB-C for easier connection to cameras and card readers. It also has very limited storage – even the upgraded version has 128GB. How many LuLa readers have a single memory card of at least 120GB?
The second update was to the iPad Air – the midrange model that may be more interesting for photographic use. It just became the fastest iPad of all, debuting the new A14 chip that is widely expected to power the new iPhone. The iPad Air DOES have USB-C, including the ability to connect cameras, card readers and external storage devices. The one skunk in the living room? Its maximum available storage capacity is a still slightly skimpy 256GB. Of course, unlike its little brother, it takes external storage easily, so you can load photos onto USB-C SSDs or hard drives, freeing up internal storage on the iPad.
The new iPad Air is sufficiently powerful that it raises the question of what Apple will or won’t do with the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro got a minor update this spring, but is really a 2018 model, using a 2018-vintage CPU. It has a couple of minor extra features over the new iPad Air, but the real kicker is the availability of 512GB and 1 TB storage options (for a price – this is Apple). It probably won’t be long until we see an iPad Pro update to use a version of the new A14 CPU with extra cores. The new Pro may very well be the photographers’ special iPad when it comes out.
There were two products notable by their absence at this Apple event – the iPhone and any Apple Silicon Macs. We typically see iPhones in September, but this year’s are held up by the pandemic. The big feature on the 2020 iPhone is expected to be 5G cellular – very useful for the 27 people who actually live within range of a 5G tower, future-proofing for the rest of us. Will they do anything significant to the photographic capabilities? No rumor I’ve seen suggests anything other than the usual collection of small-sensor 12 MP cameras with various lenses. With current technology, anything else would mar the iPhone’s slender profile, so expect most or all iPhone photographic innovation to take place in software.
One place where the new iPhone could make a real difference to certain types of photographers is that some variants of 5G are quick enough for large-scale image uploading in the field. In the few cases where 5G coverage is sufficient, and assuming no carrier throttling of large uploads, sports photographers and photojournalists could use a 5G iPhone to upload many gigabytes of images in near real time. Unfortunately, rumors suggest that the Lightning port will survive for at least one more iPhone generation. That use would be tremendously helped by a USB-C port instead of Lightning, allowing direct, high-speed connection to a camera.
The Apple product that will make the most difference in the most photographers’ lives is the Apple Silicon Macs. What software will be native on Apple Silicon? How fast will non-native software run? How quickly will more software become native? Even with native software, will the new Macs be faster, or is this a move for power efficiency in small notebooks that matters little to the rest of the line? This all remains to be seen, and it will take experience with Apple Silicon to find out the answers. For those of us who use higher-end MacBook Pros, iMacs and Mac Pros, Apple Silicon is an intriguing mystery.