The last decade has seen awesome advancements in camera technology across the board, and especially for the needs of nature and wildlife photographers. In the late 2000s, we applauded cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which brought 1080 Full HD video recording to the consumer market and ushered in an era of indie filmmaking with DSLRs. Impressive as that camera was at the time, it maxed out at 3.9 fps continuous shooting. Top-of-the-line, professional full-frame DSLRs from Canon and Nikon were faster at around 10 fps, but at much lower resolutions than we’re accustomed to today. (The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV offered 16.1 megapixels, while the Nikon D3s offered 12.1 megapixels.) Mirrorless was a nascent technology, beginning with the introduction of the Micro Four Thirds system in 2008.
Today, mirrorless is emerging as the future of photography, camera speeds have increased significantly, and typical sensor resolution has doubled or tripled. We have 4K video capture as a ubiquitous feature and sophisticated AF systems able to identify and dynamically track subjects, even eyes. Camera systems overall are smaller and lighter, full frame is affordable for most anyone, not just pros, and features like weather sealing on bodies and lenses, which were once found only in the priciest pro bodies, are now relatively common.
As the 2010s come to a close, we took a look back at just how far interchangeable-lens cameras have advanced during the decade and compiled this slideshow of 10 models that we think were groundbreaking or influential in bringing us the technology we enjoy today. This list is from the perspective of the needs of landscape and wildlife photographers in particular and is admittedly not a definitive list of the many noteworthy cameras introduced in the last ten years.
Olympus and Panasonic launched their first Micro Four Thirds system cameras in 2008 (Panasonic) and 2009 (Olympus), but for nature and especially wildlife photography, the system really came in to its own with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 in 2012. The obvious MFT benefit for wildlife photography is the focal length magnification of the system’s smaller sensor—2x that of full-frame, 35mm-sized sensors—allowing for telephoto lenses that are much smaller and lighter than comparable lenses for APS-C and full-frame systems. Two key features of the first OM-D series camera that were important for wildlife photography were its fast continuous shooting rate of up to 9 fps, and the introduction of the most advanced in-body image stabilization system yet developed. While previous in-camera image-stabilization systems compensated only for motion along the vertical and horizontal axes, the 5-axis system in the OM-D E-M5 countered horizontal shift, vertical shift, rotary motion, yaw and pitch—including blur caused by the photographer moving. Olympus continues to lead with image stabilization technology: the E-M1X introduced this year is capable of 7 stops of correction with every lens, and up to 7.5 stops with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO lens.