For me personally the changes for 2020 in photography and video were incremental improvement and not radical changes.
- Smartphone camera and video results continued to improve. This was via the better camera in the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but also software improvements over the year to the camera and the Apple Photos editing app. Significantly you can now do limited editing of videos with the Apple Photos app. The biggest improvements by far were in the IOS version of the app.
- My Nikon Z50 and Z7 are an improvement over last years Sony A7iii in handling and controls, but not so much image quality. The Z50 proved to be quite a good lighter weight but full featured camera body and DX lens system. Plus the Nikon in camera results were much better than Sony’s, the Nikon raw files were easier to edit in Lightroom, and the software of the Nikon bodies reduced file size without loosing image quality better than last years Sony. The Sony system gave similar results, but took more work, most of the time. A few times I used the Z7’s additional megapixels and was able to crop more than with the A7iii. And at times the Sony raw and jpeg files just output files that were hard to impossible to color correct. Not that the Nikons did not give files that were sometimes impossible to color correct, but this happened a lot less frequently.
- I continue to take a significant amount of my images with film. Even though digital cameras get better I still like the look of film. So I have no plans to stop using film.
I still mostly take video with my iPhone. It works well, but so do the Nikons. Next year I should use the actual cameras more.
The best photo and video feature of my new iPhone 12 Pro Max over last years iPhone 11 Pro seems to be it’s size. I can see more details when using the screen as a viewfinder and edit better with the larger images. However the iPad Pro 12.9″ I bought last year or my MacBook Pro 15″ are both better to edit on than the phone.
I spent the year learning to use the Nikon Z50 and Z7 and now they come naturally to me most of the time. I think that both Nikon and Apple have made improvements in their in camera color science. Nikon to me puts out Kodachrome or Ektachrome looking images and iPhone Portra 160 or 400. That said, you can easily change my default setting on the Nikons from landscape to portrait and then get Portra. The iPhone does not do that as well.
The Z50 was the surprise of the year. It is a great camera in a smallish easy to use package. The Nikon two kit lenses the 16-50 and the 50-250 are both excellent. Even the bokeh on both of these new lenses is and improvement over the older Nikon DX kit lenses like the 18-55 P lens and the 50-200 VR. Even though I think the older Nikon kits are fine considering their price points.
The above shot is the the Nikon Z50 and 16-50. Shot at 18.5 mm. f8 at 250. This file was shot raw and required close to zero editing.
And this above shot was also with the Z50, but using the 50-250 at 190mm, f8, 320th of a second. This shot was cropped quite a bit. On both great color and detail.
The Z7 with its ZS 50mm f1.8 makes a great pair. The Z7 can give precise focus with great detail and the 50mm Z lens has beautiful out of focus bokeh. All of the Z lenses I have are excellent. They are very effective in both photography and video.
iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Both of these shots were taken two days ago of my grand daughter using the iPhone Pro Max and portrait mode. I did not adjust the f-stop in edit. The hair in these two has a very good look using computational photography, and the bokeh is not bad. Note that you can see the Christmas tree light through her hair on both images. These two are basically unedited.
I edited the above files in the Apple Photos app. I find that if you export the files from that app as unchanged originals you will get two files. One with the raw data and one with the XMP information. As usual you can bend and change the files more with Lightroom than with the Apple app. I do think the resulting files in LR are better. My over all opinion of the Pro Raw files with only a little bit of experience is that they come out much more detailed than the regular jpegs and with less adjustments from the software. Is the clarity and detail up to my Nikons with sharp lenses using raw, no. The Nikon sensors are much larger and the lenses much more expensive. But I have never seen a phone camera so good.
But no matter how good a phone camera is the shape and way you operate one is not as good as a regular camera for photography. For video I am fine with a phone. Likely that is related to the fact that I learned to take photos with a camera styled camera and not a cell phone. But for videos I learned to take them with a phone. People sho learn to shoot photos on a phone may have a different opinion.
DSLR vs Mirrorless vs Hybrid
I used to have DSLRs. I still have several film SLRs. For the last few years the advice from all those who think they know was that mirrorless was better. Photography and video is a diverse hobby, activity, and profession. Bird photographers-videographers could not be more different than family photos or travel photos. In general I can think of one major advantage of mirrorless over DSLRs if we are talking about old style DSLRs like the Canon 5D IV, Nikon D850. the autofocus and the quiet lenses for mirrorless are much better with video. For photography my experience is that DSLRs are easier to use. After using both systems for the last few years there is no doubt in my mind at all. My Nikon D750 had specific buttons all over it’s body that went directly to a function and that was quicker and easier than any menu driven system. Plus Nikon’s buttons were mostly easy to find without looking. My D750 had an always on optical viewfinder. The one thing I like better about EVFs is you get a histogram in the viewfinder, but the work around for an OVF is just use the exposure setting that reads highlights and does not bust them. Even my old D750 had that setting, and if you turned on the live view screen you could see a histogram. Optical viewfinders have no lag. When you focus manually no lag is a big advantage.
Hybrids in the future – Nikon came out with the D780 right after I bought a Nikon Z50 and Z7. Would I have bought a D780 instead if it had been out? Maybe. Nikon is supposed to be coming out with a D880 and possibly a D580 (crop sensor) cameras right after the first of the year. Do those cameras interest me instead of the Z7 and Z50, yes. For me personally as someone who likes to shoot stills through an optical viewfinder and video with a back screen or iPhone it would work out well. But I think that system will be an attraction for a lot of people. Again this is just my opinion for my usage.
- Cell phone cameras will not replace regular cameras for enthusiasts or pros.
- Film will stick around for a while longer at least as long as people keep buying it.
- I will guess that the big three camera makers Canon, Nikon, and Sony are sticking around for a while.
- Fuji, Leica, Panasonic, and maybe Pentax will too.
- I was very sorry to see Olympus make big changes this year. I just have no idea what the future holds for them.
- My guess is that there will be a Chinese brand joining the Japanese makers in 2021 or 2022.