As you know if you read the blog I spent three days in NYC at the PhotoPlus Expo. Part of the time I was working; showing off the new Samsung camera and playing around with light. The rest of the time I was walking around the exhibit space trying out new stuff and exploring the what's new aspect of the show. I saw lots of the same old things but I also saw some fun new inventions and got to handle some recently launched cameras....some of which made me smile in a good way.
Let's start with the interesting stuff. I think Nikon finally launched a product that's hard not to like. It's their new little underwater system camera, the AW1. It's waterproof, freeze proof (down to 14f) and shock proof. It's part of the Nikon 1 system so you've got a very good 14+ megapixel, one inch chip and the system includes two waterproof lenses. It's about time someone created a replacement for the Nikonos! The camera will use all the Nikon 1 series lenses (but is only waterproof with the two specialty lenses. It generally comes bundled with the all purpose zoom lens. I'll buy one for the times I want to get in the pool and photograph or videotape (1080p) from underwater. I handled the camera and found it to be nice and solid. I kinda like the silver finish because it will be easier to find at the bottom of a camera bag. Good for Nikon for a well thought out specialty product. One that many of us need and at a price most will be able to afford. To find out more or order yours click this link.
I just want to give Nikon another thumbs up for their fun
display of the AW1 camera. They basically built a terrarium
and partially submerged the camera and lens in water. Nice.
And the display was well crafted.
The next camera that caught my attention was one that's been out since last Spring and it's one that I had overlooked entirely. It's the Panasonic G6. It's a smaller. lighter, cheaper version of the Panasonic GH3. I recently had occasion to see some really wonderful video from the GH3 and immediately rushed over to Precision Camera and bought one, along with the standard zoom and a perennial fave of mine, the Leica 25mm f1.4. My intention is to make the Panasonic system my primary video system. While the Sony a99 has much to commend it for video the Panasonic files just flat out look better. They are more detailed, sharper and have a less "compressed" feel about them.
I walked over to the Panasonic booth just to see what they had in lenses when I came across the G6. It's beautifully designed and breaks with the new enthusiasm for making everything look like a rangefinder camera from the 1950's. I understand that the image quality of the G6 is no better than its predecessor, the G5 but I like the implementation of focus peaking which comes in very handy for use with legacy lenses and I love the body style. The final tipper for me was the beautifully done EVF. A really well done one for a camera that's currently selling for about $638 with the (well regarded, new version) kit lens. I'll take one. If the color in video is a good match with the GH3 I'll use it as a "B-roll" camera on smaller, guerrilla style video projects. But of course this now puts me right back into the lens buying situation that I've largely avoided by sticking with the Sony SLT system for such a long (relative to my previous buying patterns) time.
By the way, while everyone in the film world keeps getting elated and then burned by Black Magic 4K video camera announcements and then endless delays, there's a solid rumor that Panasonic will be introducing a 4k version of the GH3. People are tentatively calling it a GH4. If the rumors pan out then it may be a camera that will drive sales for Panasonic in both the video and the still markets to a much greater degree. Especially if they keep the pricing relatively the same.
I was also impressed with the direction Panasonic took in doing their booth at this year's show. They set up an interview setting and did multiple camera interviews with GH3's on big, fluid head tripods. There was a console set up with multiple monitors and an editor/switcher. They were making the point (well) that they really get the whole hybrid: video+still market that's quickly growing into the next hot thing in imaging. Well done. Now if only the representative who came over to answer my questions had been up on his product knowledge....the first thing I asked about the G6 was about the ability to use a external microphone. He claimed that the G6 didn't have that capability. Further exploration revealed the port on the front, under a flap. Even further inspection revealed complete manual control of audio levels and level meters on screen. Send that sales guy back to market presentation school....
So yes, I am currently buying up some additional Panasonic stuff but I know that when I talk about video it bores the bejeezus out of a lot of people here so I'll just leave it at that....
Moving on to the next pretty, shiny object I played with.....The Fuji Xe-2. It looks killer in black. The EVF is great and it's still being bundled (as was the Xe-1) with the really terrific 18-55mm f2.8 to f4.0 zoom lens instead of the cheaper 3.5-5.6. The camera felt really nice and made me wonder for the hundredth time why anyone would buy a x100s when they could have a camera with equally good sensor performance that also allow the use of different lenses. Sure, I would have fun with a x100s but I'd spend nearly every day bemoaning the fact that the focal length bolted permanently on the front of the camera is not at least a 50mm equivalent... The smaller cameras without EVFs from Fuji make no sense to me but then I'm not in the demographic for them so I've given up trying to figure out the rationalization. All the Fuji stuff looked really nice but that Xe-2 is the one that hits the sweet spot for me. Will I get one? Naw. I'm fooling around with some of the m4:3 stuff again and having fun.
While I was attending the show I also had occasion to have a nice dinner with the new president of Imaging for Olympus USA, Mr. Harry Matsushita. We were joined by five other photographers and a handful of public relations folks. During dinner we were passing around a couple of the new OMD eM1 cameras fitted with 12-40mm f2.8 lenses. It was the first time I had handled the new camera and I can see what all the excitement is about. The camera feels remarkably solid in my hands and the focusing, even in our dark dining room, was snappy. Actually impressively snappy.
Most of the photographers at the dinner were Olympus faithful and it was fun to share stories about launching digital imaging careers with Olympus products like the classic E-10 and then the legendary E-1. My involvement with Olympus digital cameras goes all the way back to the Camera DL-500 (I think that's the model...it actually had an EVF and it was a whopping 1.5 megapixels. Circa 1998).
If Olympus keeps knocking it out of the ballpark with solid cameras and genuinely wonderful single focal length lenses I predict they will eventually steal profound industry market share from Canon and Nikon. You can already see the approaching tipping point if you look carefully.
What was I looking for that I didn't see? I would have loved for Samsung to come out with an EVF equipped version of their very good NX300 or a step up model from the NX20 with a better EVF. I was also looking for Nikon or Canon to break out something new and splendid that's different than the same old DSLR construct. Didn't see it.
What about Sony? I'll save my take on Sony's A7 and A7r for the next blog. It's a subject that WILL step on toes so I don't want to muddy up the positive stuff I talked about here.
Did I have fun at the show? You bet.