9.04.2012

Getting ready for the emotional roller coaster that will be Photokina.

Mr. Martin Burke in Harvey. Coming soon to Zach Scott Theatre.
©2012 Kirk Tuck

Photographed with a nice big beauty dish to camera left, a nice, 
big 72 inch white umbrella just to the right of the camera for fill, 
and two lights on the background.

Camera: Sony a77 at ISO 64. Taking lens: 
Minolta 24-85mm
Post processed in SnapSeed.

From Sept. 18-23 we will all willingly or unwillingly participate in the fallout of one of the world's biggest trade shows dedicated to introducing new cameras that we just have to have. I've proved to have a shaky record on specific camera predictions but a good one on trends and I'm going to weigh in here in both areas so remember that these are my predictions and not facts or rumors...

I can feel it coming. This is the year of the full frame sensor for cropped the frame budget. Seems like Nikon will be the first ones over the wall with the nearly officially released D600 which many seem to think will come to market at around $1,500. Given the pent up demand for a big sensor at a lower price I think they'd safely sell as many as they can make even at $1700. The sensor is probably a Nikon tweaked version of the same one rumored to be stuffed inside the upcoming Sony a99. Thousands will rush to buy them. Lenses will be upgraded. Bragging rights will ensue.

If the rumors are true I'll be amazed not to see Canon stumble all over themselves to get a similar product into the pipeline by the holiday buying season. It might not be ready by Christmas but you can bet Canon will want to get the word out quickly to lock their customers and keep them from scurrying across the road into the Nikon camp.  After the two big players open the flood gates it's game on for everyone else.  If you can get a full frame camera with great IQ performance why would the average consumer look at anything else? (I know, you shoot wildlife, sports, etc and you like the crop....right).  Maybe full frame becomes the new exclusive domain of all traditional DSLR cameras while all the new innovation happens in other areas. Like the mirrorless space.

What will the introduction of the full frame sensor mean to all the people who've been thronging to the mirrorless cameras in both the Sony/Samsung APS-C space and the folks who are now happily nesting with their OMD's? Short term there will be a "disturbance in the force" but long term it won't really matter because Nikon and Canon don't get two underlying truths of the current world wide camera technology acceptance migration: 1. The EVF/constant live view is a driver all out of proportion to other considerations and it will continue to drive the sale of smaller, easier to use and easier to understand photography cameras.  Once people use a camera with a good EVF they will never want to change back. And mover-uppers from cellphones are more comfortable with the live view screen than the "clearer" but more (operationally) opaque OVF.  And 2. For most people the improvements in IQ between a cropped frame camera and a full frame camera will be immaterial for their use. Why pay for the difference? Another consideration is that people like the smaller size and lower weight of the mirrorless cameras.

That being said I'm pretty sure that the Nikon D600 and whatever Canon tosses into the ring will be the best sellers in the traditional full frame category from here on out. The real issue is whether or not a smaller, cheaper but no less capable (in terms of sheer image quality) camera like the D600 will nicely fill the needs of a huge swath of current D800 and 5Dmk3 potential buyers thus radically cannibalizing everything in the product lines above them.  The Olympics are over, who really needs to pony up for 12 frames per second and herculean weather proofing now? (Yes, I know you probably live in someplace where it rains all the time or you can't stay out of swamps because that's your chosen genre....but you already know you are special, right?).

I'm feeling the first rumblings of a trend that may not fully surface for a year or two and certainly not at this year's Photokina.  I think of it as the remedy for a pendulum that's swung too far. The relentless downsizing will end when people realize that dinky cameras aren't as comfortable to hold. Judging from the growing number of people (many of whom are camera veterans...) who are having a real dissonance to the Olympus OMD offering, camera have crossed the line and become too small to comfortably use without attaching prosthetics to aid in gripping and operating said camera. We are about to re-enter the Goldilocks period of camera design.  Not too big, not too small-----just right. I am reminded of Nikon's introduction of the FM film camera. Originally marketed as the camera for people who wanted the flagship F2as cameras but were on a budget it became the de facto pro camera from Nikon for several generations precisely because it traded off no imaging performance, only weight and price. And most of the top pros who used them raved about how well it fit their hands. How perfectly sized it was.

I think Olympus has carried the downsizing too far. It started with the skinny and hard to hold ZX-1 and the OMD seems to be the latest haptical blunder. Nice to try and downsize products to a certain point but only if you keep in mind that human hands are not infinitely (down)scalable. I'm hoping Olympus announces a new Pen style offering (along the lines of the EP3...) that incorporates the same new sensor. And I won't be upset if they make the body a bit bigger to ease congestion on the button spacing....

Continuing on. If Sony produces the camera that the rumor sites are predicting and the a99 really comes into existence, watch out Canon and Nikon! Sony is the one major company that really gets how revolutionary the EVF experience is and how it will drive the professional camera market going forward. All they need to do is stick the new camera in as many hands (reviewers and pros) as they possibly can and they will shift the hegemony in a new direction. Real time Live View, either on a back screen (for amateurs and studio dwellers) or on a state of the art EVF, with competitive phase detection AF and faster response times for shutter actuation.  The ability to dump the Zacuto and Hoodman vestigial loupes and monitor video in a professional manner, all built in.

My upgrade suggestion for Sony's current DSLT line is to introduce an a57mk2 which only upgrades one single feature: the EVF.  Give this camera the LED EVF of the Sony Nex 7 and a77 and it will dominate the sub $800 category. It's already a great camera.

If Sony continues to flesh out their DSLT lens line and continues to introduce user features that make photography more intuitive the only thing that can stop them from dominating Canon and Nikon will be their own hapless marketing...

The Sony Nex 7 is a great camera. I'm hoping the 6 carries on the same tradition instead of returning to the too small body configuration of the 5. What I'd really like to see is a new and improved (pancake NOT necessary) 16mm lens with kickass performance, and also a 70mm 1.4 lens for all us portrait nuts.  It could be an f2 or even an f2.8, as long as it's sharp and wonderful I'll buy it. If the Nex 6 carries on with the same EVF as the 7 it should sell well.

Along these lines are rumors that Fuji about to start rebating prices on the X Pro 1 because they are about to launch a less pricey body that foregoes the hybrid finder for a full on EVF and the new camera will come in under $1,000. They will certainly find a sweet spot for that offering if the sensor remains the same....

This is more of a plea than a prediction but would some manufacturer please have the balls to introduce a high resolution, interchangeable camera with a square sensor? Now that we have the EVF technologies quickly coming to the market place a camera maker can stick in a big, square chip and electronically give users any aspect ratio they want. Slavishly lashed to the 3:2 image? There'd be a setting for that.  Ready to experience the unleashed power and glory of the big square? There'd be a setting for that as well.  And everything in between. I'm hoping this is what Canon has in mind for the rumored 40 megapixel imager that's being rumored but Canon seems to be the one maker that needs to be pulled, kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

What will Panasonic bring to the table? I waited and waited to hear about a new GH3 this summer. Rumors abounded. One user and pusher of Panasonic whispered "insider" info to me that never came to fruition. Now I'm out of the system but I'm still curious because Panasonic could be a very powerful player in the hybrid, still/video space.  And the GH2 had a lot of promise in its time as a still camera.  I think they'll be the first ones to realize that relentless downsizing is for chumps and you'll see their GH3 increase in size over its predecessor.  And I'm betting they roll out a sensor that is at least as good as the one Olympus is using in the OMD. But I'm betting the real story will be improvements in the EVF and also in the interfaces for movie making. Rationalizing sound input and bumping up throughput and frame rates would make the GH3 a natural for a new generation of multimedia producers.

Will someone please make an HDMI interface for an iPad Retina? I'd love to dump all the proprietary tethering software for all the cameras and just take video out from the ubiquitous mini HDMI plug on my Nikon or Sony and get it into a nice, bright, PC-killing iPad. Wouldn't that be a great way to do a studio or controlled location shoot?  Your raw images would write to your camera's internal card while your monitor images would feed to your Retina screen. Amazingly simple.

Why don't we have this right now? Do we? Have I just missed it?  If you know how to make this work please tell us all!

What's in store for manufacturers like Pentax? Right now they have no pathway to full frame and their execution in the mirrorless space is----------interesting. I like the look and feel of the Kr-5 and it's predecessor but that's becoming a pretty small market niche in the whole scheme of things. An interesting bit of market sabotage would be to drop the price of their medium format camera to $6,999 and chomp up a ton of low end, medium format marketshare while also stealing share from the high end Canon and Nikon "pro" cameras.  They'd need to scale up production on the 645 styled MF body but they'll know within weeks of announcing the price drop if they have a sustainable market... I'd bet that driving sales of a halo product like a MF camera would also help drive sales of their DSLRs.

Where will the medium format industry go? I think we've seen some writing on the wall.  There's basically two markets and they're pretty separate. On one hand we have the very high end advertising studio (NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas, London, Paris, Berlin, etc.) who demand and will pay for the best possible imaging resources they can get. Mostly from rental houses. The cost of the cameras is a drop in the bucket compared to ad placement costs, production, etc.  The middle of the market for things like products and even model shoots is about to be eviscerated by CGI and photographic tools like the Nikon D800 and whatever Canon answers with.

The low end of the MF market is about smaller studios in second tier markets, well known portrait photographers and a legion of well heeled hobbyist who who want the differentiation and bragging rights of owning something bigger than what the masses can access. That means there's a market in the $9999 to $19,999 space that will probably keep its head above water. Users in this space typically want to take their cameras into the field, go on a workshop with Michael Reichmann and generally have the same working methodologies they developed using 35mm style cameras. Look for small improvements here coupled with falling prices.  Bigger, brighter rear screens, the addition of live view for focusing and perhaps even more economical lines of lenses.

I predict that Mamiya and Pentax will both work to increase their shares of the market by reducing prices on 40 megapixel models and the market will reward them. There will always be advantages to larger overall geometries and the character of imaging that the longer focal length (for the same angle of view vis a vis smaller formats) lenses provide.  That's why most of us crave MF in this age of already amble megapixels.

Finally, I predict a switch in the marketing mantras from all the major companies. Dynamic Range and "rich color" will replace the megapixel race and the high ISO fascination of the IT crowds. We'll see marketing that reminds us of why we used to use slower films= quality, quality, quality.

I'm sure there will be contenders to the current pocketable throne recently grabbed by the Sony RX100 but I think we all have our eyes on the good stuff.  The bigger stuff.

Can we please  see something new from Sigma with the Foveon sensors? I've seen some cool images, I just wish they'd focus on the product a bit more. More specialized lenses for the smaller sensor inside. More compatibility with industry leading raw conversion software, etc. 

That's enough for now.













33 comments:

davethevet said...

I hear you about the ipad as a video monitor, Id love to know if that can be done.

Im wishing someone would make a digital medium format rangefinder like my Bronica rf. Yeah, ok, thats not going to happen is it.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, you've written a long and insightful post about the upcoming camera market but I'm going to ignore all that and comment on the photo at the top of the post. Quite simply, I adore it. The pose, the lighting, and the post processing all tickle my fancy. This is a classic poster image if I've ever seen one.

Keith I. said...

I sure hope you are correct on dynamic range becoming the next competitive point. I have always loved my A900 for its killer dynamic range in the low ISOs where I tend to shoot. I am hoping the A99 continues that trend of killer DR.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

I agree with Anonymous - top poster photo in here. I'd buy a ticket if I were in Austin - and if they don't have them made yet, I'd stand in a queue at their printer's shop... plus I'd buy that promo poster as well of course ;-)

Vu Le, DDS said...

Kirk, I think the EVF is like Saab's or Windows Phone 7: the people who have them love them, but the rest of the world just dismisses them. (I don't own either... either)

At my local photo club, I've showed lots of great shots from Olympus' superb 45mm that looked just like it came out of a full frame 85mm. The first reaction is "what a cool little camera!" Then they put their eye to the EVF, and I always get the same disappointed reaction: "oh. It's got an electronic viewfinder." Kind of like a thirsty person's face when they take a big gulp of cola/beer and realize..."oh, it's diet" or "oh, it's LIGHT beer." I don't have ESP, but I can swear I can hear their brains going "blech!!!" Some of them even verbalize their disdain. The feeling amongst 99% of the photographers I know is that EVF's are not the next generation of viewfinder, they are a poor substitute for the "real thing", a design compromise to make the camera smaller.

The casual photographers are willing to blissfully maintain their stinky-diaper shooting posture with the point and shoots or smartphones. The vast majority of pro photographers are unwilling to give up their optical viewfinders, no matter how good EVF's get, no matter how good the shots coming out the camera are, no matter how small the new systems get. They just want their optical viewfinders, and not even something ten times better than the NEX7/A77 finder is going to change that. I think even Steve Jobs would have a hard time selling EVF's.

The second objection is the very real hassle and expense of changing lens collections, or worse, maintaining multiple lens collections. It's an f/2.8 CaNikon world, and your contrarian praises of kit zooms do not resonate with people who have spent several times that much on 24-70's and 70-200's. Perhaps we would not like to admit that our high zoot optics are much more similar than we admit at f/8.

I appreciate the earnestness with which you push the craft and its tools. I only wish more photographers were as open minded.

Frank Grygier said...

All the new Windows 8 tablets will have HDMI out. Just sayin.

Libby said...

I'm definitely with you on the square format. I wouldn't care if it had nothing else. Just a nice juicy square sensor, optical or EVF would not matter, and minimum nonsense on the camera - no art filters, food mode, red eye reduction etc, And video? Wouldn't need it because if the cam was dedicated square, it would just be stupid. I could shoot with a square day after day. I have hated 3:2 almost forever. I'm a 4x5 and square kind of gal.

Frank Grygier said...

I do have to say that Olympus gave the user a choice of factory designed grips that enhance the handling of the OMD. Although the extra $300.00 may put off some it is an elegant solution. I cannot use an OVF any longer. Seeing the exposure information in real time is the wave of the future. If I had not acquired an OMD and the prime lens triumvirate I can say I would looking forward to Photokina for the next best thing to pre-order but I have bonded with this M43 system and I plan to stay with it for a while.

kirk tuck said...

I want them to have HDMI in.

Frank Grygier said...

Woops!

kirk tuck said...

Thank you. I hope it gets used that way.

Carlo Santin said...

I think you are right about EVF's, but Canon or Nikon don't seem very interested in them at the moment, and they are still going to sell tons of cameras.
That new Fuji may just be the camera that makes me part ways with my old Nikon D50. If they fix the focus issues of the xpro-1 and bring it to market at the sub $1000 level, they will do very well.

Alas, the pull of the D600 is strong in me too. That's going to be a very hard one for me to resist. I've already got nice lenses to get me going with FF.

I actually think that the micro 4/3 format is in for a rough ride in the next 12 months. Sony, Fuji, Canon and Nikon seem to be bringing some serious toys to the party, at prices that might be the same or less than the micro 4/3 offerings.

An interesting Photokina this year for sure.

Ron Nabity said...

I am one of those DSLR users who cannot wait for a nice crisp EVF in a body that is directly compatible with my lenses. No adapter. Just get rid of the mirror and its associated mechanics and focusing issues!

Also, a square sensor could include a setting to shoot a rectangular mode in vertical format, without rotating the camera 90 degrees. How cool would that be?

Frank Grygier said...

M4/3 is not standing still. Panasonic will have a DSLR replacement that should put pressure on Canon from the video side of things plus it will take a while for Sony, Fuji and Canon to match the lenses that are available for M4/3. Ultimately this will be good for those with GAS.

ODL Designs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ODL Designs said...

Very entertaining post. Interesting market predictions and those are always entertaining.

I was just showing a friend how a good fast lens works, so I turned the light off and shot the picture, because there were white walls I had to dial in exposure comp quickly... Of course watching all happen and choosing an exposure I was happy with, was so simple.

EVFs definitely make seeing results a bit part of picture taking.

kirk tuck said...

My take is that it's all cyclical for some people. We hop from small to big and back again. The thing that gives m4/3rds a lead is the great selection of glass available...especially now that they have something cool to hang it in front of....

Wally Brooks said...

Where is Mirrorless with: EVF, an ISO hot shoe, and a flash trigger for iTTL from anyone like PocketWizzard, Pixelking, Phottix??!!??

kirk tuck said...

I guess you could do most of that stuff with the Olympus OMD but iTTL is only Nikon, right? Olympus has its own very good flash control system. Lots of people use it. Would you actually buy something called, "PixelKing"?

Mandomoose said...

Hi Kirk. I'm a long time reader and first time commenter. Re: tethering solutions for the iPad, there is a wireless workflow using an Eye-Fi Pro wi-fi enabled SD card along with an iOS app called Shuttersnitch that works quite well. It's not exactly what you're looking for, but it might be a temporary solution.

Steve J said...

Photokina will certainly be interesting, but observing the crowds of tourist in London (and most of my friends) I don't see mirroless making much of an impression yet. Anyone who does not have a P&S camera has a low-mid range DSLR, usually Canon or Nikon.

I don't think there is any complex technical reason for this. Most low end DSLRs have pretty awful viewfinders anyway so most EVFs are an improvement. I think it's just a cost issue. Low end SLRs are just pretty good value and market inertia is a very hard thing to overcome. MILC cameras are either aimed at P&S upgraders or just pretty darned pricey. On the shelf, it's actually quite hard to sell an OMD when it is placed next to a D7000 whereas the NEX7 looks kind of radical. It's a very conservative market, at least in the western hemisphere.

For me the main interest points are the D600 and X-E1 from Fuji, plus the new Fuji lenses. Again, not cheap or mainstream but both will probably do well in the enthusiast market.

Michael Ferron said...

I struggled to like my OMD but am starting to get along with it. The 45 1.8 is superb. It's a well built metal camera that really delivers the goods. Image quality, including dynamic range is much improved over the other Oly efforts. Downside is the buttons are fiddly. Too many buttons.

Having said that I love my A57. (This model should be Nikon and Canon's worst nightmare for the price range.) Promised myself I'd keep only one and will be damned if I can actually make a decision.

Martin Duerr said...

Have to work, or better will be able to attend, the Photokina from day one to the last day in the specialized CGI area where I have to show and tell the people all about 3D and photography. So I will see only a portion of what is going on, but in a wide range from enthusiasts to professionals.
For me it is interesting to see that photography is entering more and more "areas" that not just belong to simply take images. And I agree with Kirk that there are a lot of different groups that want different equipment from small cameras to full frame sensors, internet connectivity and so on.

Chris Malcolm said...

Since the Sony R1 I've been waiting for a clockworkless all electronic exchangeable lens camera from Sony. No mechanical flapping mirror and shutter curtains to make a noise and shake the camera.

For lots of reasons Sony should be the first to produce a really well engineered implementation of that kind of camera and able to stay well ahead of the competition. I agree that it's the future, and that really good EVFs as in the A77 enable a considerable step change in how photography is done. No, I haven't got one, but my A550's LCD with live view focus check has revolutionised my focusing. With the help of your comments on the NEX7/A77 EVF I can see that it's a much bigger change in how photography can be done than I imagined, even though I'm a natural enthusiast. I look forward to far fewer trial shots, far more keepers, and much faster learning of the possibilities.

With an APS-C size sensor and approx 40MP. APS-C for the smaller cheaper and lighter format and because it should be able to manage 40MP without requiring new lenses to justify the MP. 40MP because that's a reasonable sized resolution upgrade from 10MP -- a doubling of linear resolution. Enough to give what used to be MF film image quality.

Hm. Obviously not this year. But if I accept a 36MP approx to 40MP it looks like there should be both a NEX-8? and an A78? next year to choose from. And of course it has to have a completely swivellable LCD like the R1 (and the A77).

It's been a long wait, but it looks like the end is coming into credible view...

Anonymous said...

"...new cameras that we just have to have."

Speak for yourself Mr. Kirk guy. I just had to consider real hard before pulling the trigger on a $50 film order. And I'll guess there are a lot more of 'us' folks than 'them' folks that check out your blog daily.

John Robison

Anonymous said...

The OMD is actually slightly larger than the NEX-7. In view of how much you like the NEX-7, I don't think it makes sense for you to argue that the OMD is too small. Perhaps you should consider the possibility that the NEX-7 simply has better ergonomics.

kirk tuck said...

Or that it's larger in the right places and smaller everywhere else....

Daryl Davis said...

+1 for the square sensor. Ooh, how about a square Foveon?

theaterculture said...

I could be misunderstanding the technology, but I think an HDMI out is inherently an HDMI in. Pretty sure the standard allows both devices to control each other across the link - so all you'd have to do is jig the software of the table to tell it "act like a monitor when you receive a video signal your way" and voila...if any manufacturer were interested in offering that feature.

kirk tuck said...

Daryl, You read my mind...

alohadave said...

Looks like Pentax is in the same frame of mind regarding the 645D. B&H has a price reduction on it:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/739072-REG/Pentax_17971_645D_Digital_SLR_Camera.html/

$8799 now.

Noons said...

$50? Beginner...
I spend three times that on each ebay film order.
And use it all!

Noons said...

Mind you: the new Fuji to me is a contender. The only drawback is the lack of body IS. If it's anything like the Pro-1, then the IQ will be excellent. All it really needs is for Fuji to allow third party raw image processing programs to work well with their files. No, I am NOT going to let go of my preferred raw image processing workflow just because mrFuji wants to "sell software"...