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The Most Important Photography Gadgets that Dropped in 2021

From instant film shooters, to flagship full-frames with no (physical) shutter.

this year in gear photography
Gear Patrol

This story is part of our end-of-year series This Year in Gear, rounding up the most notable releases of 2021.

Whether you're into still photography or taking videos, and whether you like to use your phone or a more professional bits of kit, 2021 was a good year. Here's all the most notable releases for fans of capturing the world around them.

Sony Alpha 1

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Sony announced its new flagship mirrorless full-frame camera this week, the Alpha 1. With an all new 50MP sensor, the ability to capture video in 8K at 30fps, 4K at 60fps, a new menu scheme that addresses critics' complaints, and 5.5 stops of image stabilization, the Alpha 1 is certainly creeping up to perfect on paper. Of course it also costs $6,500 so, uh, it's not exactly for hobbyists.

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Fujifilm GFX 100S

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Fujifilm also announced a $6,000 camera this week, but the GFX 100S is actually notable for how cheap it is. This medium-format digital camera sports the same 102MP sensor from the GFX100 we loved so dearly in 2019. This new version, though, is smaller, has better 6-stop image stabilization, and comes in at just ("just") $6,000 compared to the original GFX100 launch price of $10,000 which was already comparatively cheap for a sensor this honkin' huge.

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Leica Noctilux-M 50 f/1.2

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When it comes to stuff that's just flat out expensive by any measure, look no further than the Leica Noctilux-M 50 f/1.2, arguably the best 50mm prime ever made, which is coming back into production for a limited run at a cool $16,395 a piece. There are only going to be 100 so you may have already missed your shot, but honestly that happened 20 years ago when you failed to sink your life savings into Apple stock so you could have a dream of affording it.

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Fujifilm X-E4

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format news, Fuji also had a release on the smaller side. The new X-E4 is the smallest entry in Fuji's EVF-sporting X-mount range. Its size and styling (and price, at a comparitively reasonable $850), could make it a good travel option for Fuji fans.

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Sony FX3 Camera

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Sony announced its smallest cinematic camera to date: the Sony FX3. It's a high-end digital filmmaking camera capable of capturing 4K video at 120fps (or 1080p video at up to 240fps) and it's jam-packed with features from the company's Cinema line. Maybe most significantly, it's about the size of the Sony A7C — so you can easily wield it one-handed and slip into a backpack. The Sony FX3 will be available later in March.

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DJI FPV Drone

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The DJI FPV is the company's first 'First Person View' drone that you fly using a VR-looking headset and a remote controller. It's designed for videographers and cinematographers as it has many of the same video-shooting capabilities (4K at 60fps with excellent image stabilization on a 150-degree wide-angle lens) as the recently-released Mavic Air 2, but not quite the same photo-capturing prowess as its higher-end drones. The big differences are that the DJI FPV can fly very fast — up to 87 mph and 0-62 mph in just over two seconds — and you need the goggles to fly it.

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Insta360 Go 2

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The Insta360 Go 2 is an absolutely tiny action camera — about the size of AirPods — that costs $299. It has a number of key upgrades over its predecessor, the original Insta360 Go, including an a larger sensor and improved photo-and-video capabilities (9MP stills and 1440p 50fps video), as well as an impressive case that adds extra battery and controls. Bottom line, this is a super small action camera designed for creators who want to capture that POV-look yet don't want to spend big on a GoPro.

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Fujifilm Instax Mini 40

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The Instax Mini 40 is the Fujifilm's latest entry-level instant film camera. Like the Instax Mini 11 before it, the Instax Mini 40 is fairly straightforward and simple shooter. It has two main frills: a flash and a pop-out macro mode (for selfie photos). The big selling point compared to the Instax Mini 11 is that the Instax Mini 40 definitely looks more like a vintage film camera, but that retro vibe comes at $30 price hike.

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DJI Air 2S

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The DJI Air 2S is the next-generation version of the DJI Air 2 that was announced last year. The big upgrade is that the Air 2S has a 1-inch sensor, which is twice the size of Air 2's size and similar to the sensor in the company's flagship Mavic 2 Pro, allowing the Air 2S to take much higher-resolution photos. It can also shoot better video, 4K at up to 60fps instead of the Air 2's 4K at up to 30fps. The big downside? The DJI Air 2S is $200 more expensive than the DJI Air 2.

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Polaroid Go

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The Polaroid Go is the company's newest entry-level instant camera — and it's tiny. Weighing just over half a pound, it's about the size a small portable speaker or medium-sized. But despite it's diminutive size, the Polaroid Go still packs all the same features as last year's Polaroid Now, including flash, a built-in timer, and a button that shoots double exposures. It also has a new reflective selfie mirror for, well, shooting selfies. The Polaroid Go uses smaller instant film than most of the company's other instant cameras, however.

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Moment Rugged Case for iPhone 12

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Nomad launched a version of its Rugged Case for iPhone 12 that's specifically designed to work with Moment's M-Series line of lenses. The new case comes with the exact same configuration — consisting of a camera ring and a lens mount — as any of Moment's existing smartphone cases. Aside from that, it has the same features as the Nomad's other Rugged Cases, such as a Horween leather finish and 10-feet drop resistance. Each case is available in either black or brown. Moment's lenses are sold separately.

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Hardgraft Focus Camera Strap

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This is a super gorgeous camera strap by Hardgraft. It has a minimalist design, consisting of a thick leather belt with a large shoulder pad (again, made out of leather), and it just looks to be the perfect upgrade for any photographer.

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Nikon Z FC

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Nikon

The Nikon Z FC is the company's newest mirrorless camera and the most interesting thing about is that, well, it doesn't look like a new camera. It fact its design to look similar to one of the company's most beloved cameras, the FM2, which first came out in the early '80s. But the Z FC definitely doesn't shoot like a vintage film camera. It packs a 20.9-megapixel APS-C sensor and a Z-mount, so it fit any of the Z6's and Z7's full-frame lenses. It also packs the usual modern upgrades: electronic viewfinder, touchscreen display and USB-C charging.

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Fujifilm GFX 50S II

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Fujifilm

The Fujifilm GFX 50S II is the company newest medium-format camera — and starting at $3,999 (body only), it's also the most affordable medium-format camera ever. In a nutshell, the GFX 50S II is essentially a less-nice version of the GFX 100S, which starts $5,999. It has a large 51.4-megapixel sensor and a similar-sized body, but it lacks the GFX 100S's much adored phase-detect autofocus system, opting instead for a contrast-detection autofocus system. It also has a smaller and lower-mag viewfinder. (DPReview has a nice early review, for those who want to learn more.)

Price: $3,999+

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Polaroid Now+

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Polaroid

Polaroid's newest instant film camera, the Now+, is an updated version of the company's Now. The "Plus" model is unique because it comes with five different physical lens filters that attach to lens and bring color and effects to the final image; there are four color filters (red, yellow, orange and blue) as well as a "startburst" filter. It also works with a companion smartphone app that allows you to adjust settings like aperture, bokeh, shutter speed and flash before you take the shot.

Price: $150

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The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max

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Apple

Apple has introduced two new "Pro" models of its iPhone 13. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have the same flat-edged design as last year's predecessors, but Apple has upgraded them with a smaller notch, a more durable body, its A15 Bionic chipset — now with a 5-core GPU — and a Super Retina Display with a 120Hz refresh rate (which Apple calls "ProMotion"). They have a vastly improved camera system with a new telephoto lens (with 3x optical), a new ultra-wide lens with a larger sensor, and a wide lens with f.15 aperture. The camera system will allow you to take more cinematic videos and better macro photography thanks to a new Macro mode. And they're the first iPhones to ever be available in a 1TB storage option.

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Canon EOS R3

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No, it's not for normies, but Canon's new sports-focused not-quite-flagship EOS R3 is one impressive bit of specialist photography kit. The high-end full-frame mirrorless EOS R3 sports a 24MP CMOS sensor, but its main attraction is probably Canon's Dual Pixel AF system with automatic tracking for humans, animals and more paired with the ability to shoot up to 30 frames per second (RAW!) with the electronic shutter.

Price: $5,999

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GoPro Hero 10 Black

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GoPro's latest action cam packs a new, homegrown GP2 processor which is the follow up to the GP1 chip the company rolled out in 2017. GoPro credits that upgrade for the Hero 10 Black's ability to shoot 5.3K at 60 frames per second, 4K at 120 frames per second and 2.7K at 240 frames per second. Another key part of the release is the Hero 10 Black's cloud capabilities: when connected to power, the GoPro can automatically upload your footage to a cloud account — if you're paying $5 per month or $50 a year for a subscription. If you buy it from GoPro, you can get it for $400 with an included one-year subscription to get you hooked. Or you can go without a sub and get it for...$100 more. Yeah, it's weird.

Price: $400 with subscription, $500 without

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Nikon Z9

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Nikon

The Nikon Z9 is the company's long-awaited new flagship full-frame mirrorless camera — and it's fast, really fast. It has an all-new high-speed sensor (45.7-megapixel stacked CMOS) and a new processor (EXPEED 7) that powers a super-fast and super-intelligent auto-focus system that can capture photos at up to 120fps. It's also capable of recording 8K (at 30fps) and 4K (up to 120fps) videos. It's designed as a true weapon for professional photographers, especially those capturing action sports or fast-moving wildlife.

Price: $5,500

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DJI Mavic 3

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DJI

DJI officially announced the Mavic 3, its newest flagship foldable drone, and it beats out its predecessor, the Mavic 2 Pro, in pretty much every way. It's lighter, faster and has a much-improved battery — its max flight time is better by 15 minutes (now 46 minutes total). It has way better photo-and-video skills thanks to its two new cameras. First, it pairs a 24mm prime lens from Hasselblad with a large 4/3 CMOS sensor, which together are capable of capturing 20-megapixel stills (12-bit RAW) and videos in 5.1K at 50fps or 4K at 120fps (it's now able to capture slow-mo's at 120fps). And secondly, it has a 162mm telephoto lens that's capable of 28x hybrid zoom, so it close-on on subjects far away. Finally, it is upgraded with better sensors and software so that it's better and smarter flyer. (Check out DJI's website to learn even more about the Mavic 3.)

The DJI Mavic 3 is available for purchase today.

Price: $2,199+

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Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo

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Fujifilm

Fujifilm's newest instant film camera, the Instax Mini Evo, is different from the rest. It works more like a digital camera. It has a digital sensor, a rear LCD screen and the ability store up to 100 digital photos (thanks to a micros SD card slot) just like any other digital camera. Like an instant film camera, you can choose which photos you want to print and even add a filter. The camera has a 28mm f/2 lens but, before shooting, you can choose between 10 different lens effects to therefore get a different shot.

The Instax Mini Evo will be available in February 2022.

Price: $200

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