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Charged: Five Next-Gen Digital Cameras
A GIF-camera, an HD drone, a camera machined from a single block of aluminum and more
by Hans Aschim
on 10 June 2014

Since the first widely available digital cameras hit the market in the early '90s, the technical leaps made in the field of digital photography have been exponential. Today smartphones house cameras with sensors that dwarf those of high-end models from a decade ago. While the megapixels race has been raging for as long as digital cameras have been around, we've selected five new models pushing the bounds of innovation in digital photography. From Leica's never-ending quest for (mirror-less) perfection to Ricoh's seemingly indestructible field camera to a HD-equipped drone, the art of capturing imagery looks better than ever.

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Leica T: Precision meets beauty with a tie to the past

Arguably the most lauded camera maker in the film world, Leica's digital offerings have been met with mixed results. The German optics company's latest digital offering, dubbed simply the Leica T, is a testament to craftsmanship and refined minimalist aesthetic. Forged from a single block of aluminum, the Leica T body is built to last—and to induce drooling. A large touch-screen featuring only the most essential dials and buttons makes this high-performance compact easy to use for experts and beginners alike. For the legion of longtime Leica users, the T provides an easy pathway to utilizing existing lenses: with the addition of the M Adaptor (sold separately), Leica's legendary lenses for the M Series cameras can be used, providing a bridge from the past to the future. ($1,850 without a lens).

OTTO: The hackable GIF camera

The internet seems to run on animated GIFs, but they're also increasingly the way we communicate with one another as digital screens become the ubiquitous platform for sharing. The question is how to capture one from a moment in everyday life, and the answer is the OTTO; the first dedicated animated GIF camera—but it's so much more. Powered by a Raspberry Pi computer, OTTO is completely hackable and might be more aptly described as an "image machine." Using the dedicated app, users can modify and create the OTTO's modes and operations. For example, you can create a time-lapse or make a GIF photo booth—the limits lie in the creativity of the user. Sharing and uploading is easy since OTTO is wi-fi enabled, though the amount of setting options will keep even the most dedicated photo nerd curious. ($200)

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Parrot Bebop Drone: Get the shot from all angles

Consumer-level quadcopters have begun filling the skies in recent years as prices continue to drop and easy-to-fly modes make even the most novice of pilots ready for liftoff. But most existing copters are fitted with wide-angle GoPro cameras; although the GoPro takes high quality footage, its wide-angle lens can distort horizon lines, making the imagery of limited use. The soon-to-be-released Parrot Bebop Drone, however, comes equipped with an onboard HD camera that shoots HD 1080p video in a full 180-degree field of vision. The result of three years of R&D, the drone is equipped with triple-axis stabilization, so no wind short of gale-force is going to disrupt your shots. Embedded GPS ensures the Bebop lands where it's supposed to, and an unrivaled control system lets the pilot focus on getting shot—streamed directly to the iOS and Android compatible app—just right. (Price not yet released.)

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Ricoh WG-4 GPS: Adventure-ready for all conditions

Taking a camera into the field no longer means sacrificing quality or shooting ability. Far from your standard adventure camera, the Ricoh WG-4 GPS features a large aperture 4x optical zoom F2.0 lens that excels in the low-light conditions of underwater shooting. Shake reduction technology provides stable shots under even the most difficult conditions—shooting a sunset from a surfboard, say, or taking a portrait while rappelling down a waterfall. Video is captured in sharp 1080 HD in a range of modes including time lapse and ultra slow motion. The optional GPS feature allows for photo geotagging as well as providing location-specific information like altitude and depth below sea level. Best of all, the WG-4 is hardier than most adventurers: the camera can handle a two-meter drop, travel to 14 meters below sea level, withstand temps up to 10 degrees below Celsius and is virtually crushproof. ($380)

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Cyclops Cameras Digital Diana: A plastic classic for the digital age

Following up its successful run of limited-edition, lo-fi digital fisheye cameras, UK-based Cyclops Cameras is at it again with the Rhianna. Inspired by the all-plastic classic 35 mm and medium format Diana camera of the '60s, the digital remake features a plastic lens to mimic the lo-fi patina of the past. Featuring a 1/3'' CMOS sensor and built to exact 1:1 scale of the original., the camera comes equipped with enough manual controls to do its namesake justice. Experiment with ISO, white balance and a custom-built in-camera settings to create dreamy vintage shots. And with a nod to the present day, the camera also shoots HD video.($110)

Images courtesy of their respective company

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