This is the first part of my article about the Photokina fair. First I would like to start with a few general comments :
First this was a somewhat frustrating fair this year because a lot of products have been delayed , due mostly to the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan earlier this year. As a result some new models here are only shown under glass as non-functioning prototypes or just pre-announced.
Obviously, this Photokina edition was not a great one for the BIG guys : Both Nikon and Canon seem “off the tracks”. Both brands dominate the declining market of professional digital DSLRs, no doubt, but I think they are losing precious ground in the other segments of the camera market.
Let me explain what I mean :
Canon just introduced a new model in its APS mirrorless “M” line and everyone will agree that the M5 (which follows the M1,M2,M3 & M10) is the best M model so far : Nice ergonomics, current sensor and MUCH improved AF over its predecessors. From the specs sheet alone, the model has enough appeal for traveling photographers and professional Canon photogs looking for a small camera as a backup. Unfortunately, Canon seems to think that the target audience for its M line is a different one and, as a result, has as a very limited choice of lenses for this system: Seven lenses in the M line including five entry-level zooms. In my opinion, only the 2/22mm can be looked at as a serious lens. This is very little when compared with the competition. Think about this : during this fair while Canon penibly introduced one more kit zoom to get to that 7 number, the m4/3 rd duo made by Panasonic & Olympus will launch SEVEN new lenses for the M4/3 lens line up, including four which are really pro lenses.
Unless you are a Canon afficionado , investing in the system today is a long shot and probably not the best decision if you are looking to get into mirorrless system quickly and with several lenses. In my opinion the fact that Canon chose to release only a consumer kit zoom along this new model clearly shows that for Canon the M system is first and foremost aimed at current Canon users.
On the DSLR front Canon introduced a few weeks ago its 4th iteration of its highest-selling 35mm model (5D mark IV) and, suffice to say, that some of the choices made seem to have upset a lot of current Canon DSLR users, especially those shooting video regularly.
For Nikon, I honestly think things are even worse.The “big” news this year was the introduction of three action cams.Without going into specific details about these products, it is also not always clear where they bring something better than the competition (Go pro mostly). Of course, one can argue that Nikon had some new products introduced this year prior to Photokina. Yes, the D500 was a long-awaited model (and a very good one at that) but Nikon continue to ignore its pro DX customers when it comes to new lenses.
Not to mention that virtually any DSLR launched over the last 2 years had some flaws or quality control issues.
On the mirrorless front, the Nikon 1 system seems dead in the water, despite some vague assertions to the contrary and even if the line has not been officially discontinued (Nikon may be waiting until stock runs out). Again, Nikon seemed to have decided that this system target was the “soccer mom crowd”.
But worst of all, Nikon had created some enthusiasm early this year by announcing three new seemingly attractive models with a fixed lens and a 1″ sensor. The models were first delayed because of the earthquake in Japan that disrupt Sony sensors facilities as well as other part suppliers but now Nikon is facing other problems on this. As a result, the DL models are nowhere in sight at the fair and no dates of availability are being given on these three new models.
This was relatively a quiet edition for Leica this year. Traditionally Leica introduces a lot of new products during Photokina because of the “home field” advantage. First thing to notice is that this year Leica separared its gallery space from its products booth. Most noteworthy here, Leica introduced some fancy expensive and heavy new lenses ( along with a grip for the gigantic SL camera body for its SL camera (1.4/50mm, 2/75mm, a 2/90mm and a vario 18-35mm).
Of less significance , Leica also introduced “SOFORT” which is only a rebadge of a Fuji Instamax instant film camera (visible on the Fuji booth). Both models will be able to use 2 new films one in color and one in B&W.
Panasonic had a very active Photokina with no less than THREE new models. first the osaka -based company continues to streamline and organizes its M4/3 camera bodies line up. After the GX 80/85 last year Panasonic introduces a new dslr-shaped hybrid to succed the G7 with the G80/85 (or even G81 for the English market). The G80/85 is a very well rounded model with several improvements over its predecessors and is vastly superior to the G7 model it replaces. First , it adopts the new features found on the “rangefinder styled” GX80/GX85 which Panasonic introduced earlier this year such as improved built-in dual image stabilization, better shutter, removal of anti-alias filter. Plus it adds a few extra like weather-sealing and several functions which are going to improve the experience for video users.
As some of you may already know, Panasonic also pre-announced the future GH5 which will be the flagship of the G line , at least for video shooters. This new model is scheduled to make its debut some time in the first half of 2017. As of today , its exact characteristics and pricing are unknown. While I am sure it will include some attractive features for video users (like 5K video) I submit that the G80/85 might be the best rounded model for users who are either still photographers or those who do not favor video over stills.
For now, the G80/85 is the most feature-rich model of the G line outside of the Megapixel count. Indeed the G8 at 20MP still has the lead on that score but “aged” considerable with the arrival of both the GX80/85 and now G80/85 and should be the next in line to be updated, probably in the first quarter of 2017 if I had to make a guess.
In the bridge category, panasonic has a new model with the FZ2000 -FZ2500 in North America- with an impressive 20X zoom range on a 20MP 1″ sensor corresponding to a 24-480mm. This is brought to replace the FZ1000 and compete with the Sony RX10 mark III which goes to 600mm.However the Sony is heavier (1,051gr versus 915grs for the panasonic) and more expensive ($1,1499 versus $1,199). It is worth saying that a lot of improvements made on the Fz2000/2500 are very video-friendly.( headphone jack, variable density filter on the lens barrel,better zoom ring..).
Finally, there is also a LX10/15 (replacing the LX7) with a 1″ sensor.. I only handled the camera fir a few minutes but let le just add that I was not really impressed. The lack of external controls clearly indicates a very entry-level camera in my opinion.
Sony surprised many by introducing the A99 II with its 50 MP 35mm sensor when some thought Sony was quietly burying its alpha DSLT line.
On the stand nothing new to see, alas. Ricoh being most popular in Asia usually awaits the fairs in Asia,(February and March) to introduce new products; Everyone there was busy promoting either the K1 or the Ricoh Theta S.
On the Olympus booth, announcements of two new cameras and three lenses . I will skip details of the new EPL8, the belated successor to the Epl6. More noteworthy is the announcement of three new lenses for 2017 : A very big very bright 1.2/25mm (50mm equivalent) priced at $1300, a pro Zoom 4/12 to 100mm at $1,400 and a true macro 3.5/35mm which even reaches a “bigger than life size ” 1.25/1 ratio and priced at a more reasonable $400.
Of course we also have the announcement of the flagship OMD EM1 Mark II…
This new Olympus model is like an EM1 “on stereoids”. Faster AF, faster frame rate, larger buffer, dual SD cart slot. Alas, there is a price to pay for all of this extra power : Olympus has introduced yet ANOTHER battery. I was unable to see it at the fair but dpreview talked about the battery as “significantly larger” which means that the new charger is likely going to be significantly larger as well. This is not good news for travelers and for those who were planning to get and use this new body in conjunction with another OMD model. One can understand that the same battery cannot be fitted in,say, an OMD EM1 mark II and an Olympus EPL body. However, from now on, OMD users will have THREE different batteries and chargers for the THREE models of the same OMD line (EM 10II, EM5 II and EM1II). Not a very good example of product planning & development for sure.
Hopefully, Olympus will upgrade the battery of the next EM10 model with the one of the EM5s. More importantly, let’s hope that Olympus will not force this new battery down the throat of the users when they release the third iteration of the EM5 model (most likely next year).
On the plus side, this new battery is supposed to be a little quicker to charge (Olympus battery chargers are notoriously slow). Small miracle, this new charger should finally allow to see remaining power in the camera as a percentage, like any “a 25 year-old Chinese laptop rather than the prehistorical battery charge indicator with the three bars which plagues of most non-Sony digital cameras. This lousy interface for remaining power has been a long complaint of mine, much more important, in my eyes, that the constant whining about having to change batteries every 300 pictures or so. This argument is usually produced by reviewers who only use the cameras for a few days, DSLR users who are used to larger batteries (in larger bodies !) or people who are just too lazy. As a traveling photographer, the size of the battery AND of the charger in relation to the camera size is an important factor to me and carrying one or two extra small batteries in my bag or even in one pocket is a non-issue.