Hybrid cameras: the comeback of small formats

Hybrid cameras: the comeback of small formats

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In recent years, there has only been 24×36 on the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera market, the Sony locomotive having been emulated within the competition. Yet in 2022, APS-C and Micro 4/3 systems are in the limelight. Proof that they are not ready to bow out.

Finally, it’s not just the full format in life. However, the recent past suggested this idea. During the almost simultaneous arrival, in 2018, of Canon and Nikon on the 24×36 hybrid market – with the EOS R and Z6/Z7 – to challenge the leadership of the Sony Alpha, some felt that the “ small” sensors would be at their expense. A feeling that is all the more legitimate since Panasonic, which has flourished around its Lumix Micro 4/3 range, has joined the movement with its Lumix S hybrids. Despite this irresistible attraction for full format, small sensors still have a voice in the chapter. The beginning of the year attests to this, since among the novelties, the APS-C and Micro 4/3 models take the lion’s share.

APS-C majority in the first semester

The EOS R5C and the Leica M11 seem well isolated, at the end of this first half: these are, to date, the only two 24×36 hybrids unveiled in 2022. And again, they target a limited clientele, that of professional videographers. The rest of the novelties on the photo market concern “small” sensors. Manufacturers loyal to the Micro 4/3 have thus renewed the top of the basket of their respective ranges.

The OM-1, the first Micro 4/3 hybrid box marketed under the OM System banner.©OM System

OM System has unveiled its first box, the OM-1, while Panasonic has formalized the release of its Lumix GH6, whose identity was announced at the end of last year. Fujifilm, which resists the sirens of full format (the large sensor GFX system is positioned a notch above 24×36), continues its merry way in APS-C, with an attractive X-H2S.

The Lumix GH6, a Micro 4/3 hybrid, is one of the flagship cases for the first half of 2022. ©Panasonic

While Canon and Nikon, although very invested in the development of their 24×36 ranges in R and Z mounts, take care not to neglect the APS-C format. The summer releases of the EOS R10, R7 and Z30 are proof of this.

The Z30 is aimed at Generations Y and Z. The lack of a viewfinder makes it ideal for blogging.©Nikon

Opticians in tune

Lens manufacturers are not left out. Tamron has just unveiled a new version of its 17-70mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD zoom, this time in X mount, to be mounted on Fujifilm hybrids, while it already existed in E mount for Sony mirrorless cameras in APS-C format. Sigma has also declined its trio of bright 16, 30 and 56 mm f/1.4 DC DN I Contemporary fixed focal lengths, already existing in E-mount and now marketed in X-mount.

The Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN I Contemporary is now available in an X mount.©Sigma

Symbol of this resurgence of formats below 24×36, Sony, which leads the dance in the full-format hybrid niche, released in the first half of the year three lenses designed for the APS-C format. Two fixed focal lengths, the E 11 mm f/1.8 and 15 mm f/1.4 G, as well as the E PZ 10-24 mm f/4 G zoom.

In the wake of their announcements, Canon and Fujifilm have also unveiled zooms specifically dedicated to the APS-C format, respectively the RF-S 18-45mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM and 18-150mm f/ 3.5-6.3 IS STM, as well as the Fujinon 18-120mm f/4 LM PZ WR and XF 150-600mm f/5.6-8 R LM OIS WR.

The uses at the center of the game

The Cassandres who announced the end of small sensors with the democratization of full format are at their expense. The reason is twofold. On the one hand, the full format, even if it is possible to find more affordable boxes, remains expensive when you want to equip yourself with quality optics. Above all, this system is more cumbersome when taking into account the lenses, with equivalent focal lengths, compared to the equivalent configurations in APS-C and Micro 4/3.

Sony is not neglecting the APS-C format and unveiled a trio of lenses dedicated to this format during the first half of the year, including the E PZ 10-20mm f/4 G zoom, here at work on the ZV- E10.©Sony

Not to mention the advantages, in terms of use, provided by smaller sensors. Fans of long focal lengths thus benefit from the multiplier coefficients inherent in APS-C sensors (1.5x on average) and Micro 4/3 (2x): thus, a 100-400 mm will behave respectively like a 150-600 mm or a 200-600mm. Another area where “small” sensors provide increased ease of use: video. The management of the depth of field is indeed a little less difficult to manage, whereas in 24×36, the slightest error in focusing at large aperture results in irremediable blurring in post-production.

Gone to last

These are just a few examples, but they show that one format does not drive out the other. Thus, in the hybrid era, whatever the mount, several sizes of sensors coexist in the catalog of the same brand, like the medium format and the APS-C at Fujifilm, or the 24×36 and Micro 4/3 at Panasonic. Even around one and the same mount, since, like in the days of reflex cameras, Canon, Leica, Nikon and Sony offer lenses covering the 24×36 or APS-C format around their respective R, L, Z and E.

The X-H2S embodies the top of the hybrid range in APS-C format at Fujifilm.©Fujifilm

Less dissuasive in terms of price, still just as relevant due to their intrinsic characteristics in the field, the APS-C and Micro 4/3 formats therefore still have a bright future ahead of them.

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