The Olympic Games serve as a crucial testing ground for upcoming camera gear from leading brands. Most of them seize this opportunity to subject their upcoming equipment to the rigorous demands of professional use. A spectacle of unparalleled sporting action, it provides the ideal background for photographers to push their skills and gear to the extremes. What better opportunity exists for brands to have upcoming lenses and cameras tested by some of the world’s most experienced and talented photographers? With the 2024 Paris Olympics a little over 6 months away, I’m keen to see what state-of-the-art technology will be in the hands of some of the lucky few there.
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Nothing Is Official…Not Yet At Least
Of course, it needs to be said that new gear being tested at the Olympics are often a hush-hush affair. You rarely ever hear about what’s being tested, often relying on news and rumor sites to see if someone spotted a glimpse of something new on site. The Nikon Z9 was one such camera (then unreleased) when it was seen in action at the Tokyo 2020 games (eventually postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic). The 2024 games will undoubtedly see quite a few new cameras and lenses from various brands being tested. Insights derived from these tests will be pivotal in refining these products before their official announcements. Brands are moving full speed ahead with innovations in the mirrorless segment, so it’s unlikely we’ll see any new DSLRs out there.
I fully expect some of the products below to be in use at the upcoming event. I hope that brands have the other models in their release pipeline for 2024.
We’ve been talking about this one for a long time now. And while it may be slightly overdue already, the Olympics in Paris would be the ultimate place to test out the features of the upcoming Canon R1. Aside from the blazing frames-per-second rates, which should match or overtake that of the Sony a9 III, I’m curious to see if the R1 would feature a global shutter. It’s sure to have the Eye Control AF reintroduced in the R3. Some of the features we’d like to see in this camera are:
- 85MP full-frame sensor
- APS-H crop mode (not APS-C)
- A return of the colors and feel of the 5D Mk II
- Better low light autofocus for people of color who move around in a dark venue with little contrast detection
- Built-in SSD memory
- A higher-resolution EVF
- Built-in radio control for Canon’s flashes
The above is just a tiny snippet of what hope Canon brings to the R1 to make it a competitive flagship. Check our review to see more of what we want to see in the Canon R1.
A 24-Megapixel Version Of The Nikon Z9
A model that undoubtedly puts Nikon as a solid mirrorless competitor, the Nikon Z9 is the pro’s pro for being a reliable performer. While the most recent firmware upgrades to this have made it the best low-light camera there is right now, some of us can’t help but wish for a slightly lower resolution model of the same. Given how Nikon has made such variants in the past, such as with the D1, D1x, and D1h, it’s not far-fetched to say the same could be applied to the Z9. If they stick to using the existing processor and hardware, dropping the sensor resolution to half would technically mean that the processing capabilities would be doubled. That could help Nikon easily reach 60fps (or more) in full-size raw and jpegs with such a camera (Z9h maybe?). And imagine getting 240fps as well (twice the current 120fp 11-megapixel) in low-resolution jpeg mode.
Not everyone wants or even needs the 45-megapixel sensor, mainly because of the large file sizes it produces. It slows you down when you have to sift through thousands of images to rate and cull. As good as the Z9 is in low light now, it would bring out noise-free images at higher ISOs with a lower-resolution sensor. 24mp for me at least, is the ideal resolution for sports photography and has often produced some of the most clean images in very challenging lighting conditions. The larger sensor size is still the main reason I haven’t sprung for a Z9 or Z8 camera yet. I feel that such a camera might be spotted in action at the upcoming Olympics next year.
A Sony a1 II?
The recent launch of the Sony a9 III has certainly got everyone talking. Sony stunned the photography world when they announced it with a global shutter, eradicating issues like rolling shutter, banding due to flicker, and eliminating high-speed-sync limitations. With its mind-blowing specs, you can certainly consider the a9 III as a flagship, although technically, that title is held by the Sony a1. If Sony plans to release the a1 II sometime next year, you can be sure that a few of their trusted ambassadors will try out earlier iterations of this camera in Paris. It’ll indeed sport its global shutter, although it’ll be interesting to see how that handles the higher resolution that the a1 is known for. Can they do better than the 120fps of the a9 III though?
Canon 200-500 f4 RF Mount
We wrote about the possibility of this lens back in June. While I hoped such a lens would have an inbuilt teleconverter, CanonRumors seems to feel otherwise. Nevertheless, it’s a lens primarily focused on the needs of sports and wildlife photographers, the former of which will be plenty in attendance at the Olympics. It adds an extra 100mm of reach compared to its EF mount predecessor (over a decade old now) and would be an excellent lens for those who might need extra reach compared to the faster Canon RF 100-300mm F2.8.
Nikon Z-mount 120-300mm f2.8
This is a lens that I’d readily put down an advance payment for, should it be announced next year. While Nikon has been on a roll this year with the announcement of the Z 180-600mm f5-6.3 VR and Z 600mm F6.3 lenses, they still don’t have medium to long fast aperture lenses for close-range sports like tennis. 70-200mm f2.8 lenses are a little too short for such action, and the 200-400 f4 lenses are an aperture stop too slow. While the F-mount 120-300mm f2.8 lens should do pretty well on a Z9 or Z8 when attached with an FTZ adapter, the sharpness a native Z-mount lens can give would be another level altogether.
Just as they did with the Z 400mm f2.8 and Z 600mm f4 lenses, including a teleconverter while keeping the same length would go a long way toward winning over fans. Let’s hope Nikon has thought of this already and will be field-testing such a lens next year.
Sony 400mm F2.8 GM II
The first edition of this lens (seen above) took home our Editor’s Choice Award. In our review, we said:
“The Sony 400mm f2.8 G Master is a holistically fantastic lens. It’s amazingly lightweight, fast to focus, and incredibly versatile. Sports photographers will be able to use it with a variety of cameras and get the shots they want.”
Sony has been significantly cutting down on size with their G Master II lenses. At least they did so on the 24-70mm f2.8 GM II and 16-35 F2.8 GM II lenses. Dare we hope for Sony to do the same with a 400mm f2.8 GM II lens? Wasn’t the main appeal of switching from DSLRs to mirrorless to take advantage of the size and weight reduction? It would be cool if they threw in an inbuilt TC as well.
While it’s often upcoming flagships tested to the limits at the Olympic Games, there’s no reason other lenses and cameras won’t be tried out there. You’re also bound to hear about accessory companies like PocketWizard and BlackRapid getting testing done here. After all, there’s no better place for brands to get valuable feedback for their professional gear being put through the paces along the sidelines of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle.