I stumbled into a big Photo Expo at Precision Camera today. I just dropped by for some ink. I forgot the ink....

From the downtown "Day of the Dead" parade, earlier this Fall. 
Lumix S1 + 24-105mm lens

Holiday traffic all over Austin is horrible this afternoon. You'd think Christmas was tomorrow! Around 11 a.m. I headed up to my favorite camera store intent on buying some more ink for my ever thirsty ink jet printer and I was amazed to see the parking lot at the shopping center filled with cars. I walked into Precision Camera and immediately understood; they were having one of their Photo Expos. It's an event wherein the representatives from all the major camera makers, and most of the big accessory suppliers come and set up their displays of all their current product so customers can drop by, ask questions, and potentially buy stuff, with a 10% savings. 

I had ink on my shopping list but I had "lens" on my mind. I wanted to purchase one of the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lenses for my L-mount cameras. I had seen them on sale at both B&H's website and also on Amazon.com but I didn't need one right away and thought I'd rather spend the money locally. While my sales person quickly matched the (outrageously great) price of $629 he then burst my bubble of excitement by letting know that they had ordered a passel of the 35mms back in late September and still were waiting for them. Low price = universal shortage? Fortuneately, we had the Sigma rep in our sights and we grilled him about the store's order status. He got right on the phone, called H.Q. and broke the log jam. 

The store should get their inventory in by Monday or Tuesday and I'm pretty certain my lens will get delivered into my hot hands only minutes later. I spent some extra time today at the Lumix booth and at the Sigma booth so I could play with product I've been too busy to fondle before. 

The Sigma 35mm Art lens isn't nearly as big as I remembered it when I first played with one a while back. It's probably just a change in perception since I've been walking around with the massive Lumix S Pro 50mm f1.4 lens lately. I can't wait to get mine on a camera body and spend some time shooting with it... (Hidden rationale: wouldn't the 35mm and 85mm Art lenses make a great set to travel with? Yes, together they take up space and are heavy but it would mean reducing down to two lenses and that would mean less brain weight required to make choices. One camera for each lens and then you'd get to switch from wide to tight with fluidity and aplomb).

I got to play with the new Sigma 105mm f1.4. It looks bigger in photos because it's usually shown with the lens hood attached. If the lens hood were a coffee cup it would look to be about 32 ounces or better. Take the hood off and the lens seems more manageable. It's still huge for a 105mm but how much convincing would it take for someone who already bought the remarkably dense 85mm Art lens to add one more big lens without too much debate about weight? I hope people don't start body shaming my lens collection....

All the Sigma Art lenses still seem beautifully made to me and well worth their asking price. More so when they go on sale. 

I'm interested to see the new Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art lens that's supposed to come out on the 17th of December. Why? Because it's supposed to be really good and it's about half the price of the already available 24-70mm f2.8 lens from Lumix. I spoke at length about the Lumix 24-70mm with Jack from Panasonic. "What makes it $1,000 better than the Sigma?" I asked. He said, honestly, that the optical performance of the Lumix might not be significantly better than that of the Sigma but that the Lumix adds the manual focusing clutch (nice for both video and for manual focusing, when you want to do that...) and a dual motor focusing system that's optimized for the Panasonic DFD auto focusing which should make the Lumix S Pro variant lightning fast to focus. The 24-70mm Lumix feels very nice in the hand and does focus incredibly quickly. It's also weather sealed and Leica certified. Interesting system in which a 24-70mm f2.8 premium zoom actually weighs quite a bit less than their "reference" 50mm f1.4 lens!!!

Apparently there is one lens that Panasonic over-engineered and it's actually creating some problems for the company. Nearly everyone who buys an S1 or S1R is also buying the (extremely sharp and overall great) 24-105mm f4.0. I have one and I think it's the best standard zoom I've owned yet. But the company never figured (or didn't count on???) the S1H being in such strong demand, coupled with the fact that just about everyone who is buying that camera is also pairing it with the 24-105mm. They are finding it a bit tough to create enough kits because of the paucity of the standard zooms; their only available "kit" lens! I would say that it's a nice problem to have but I understand the power of being able to deliver into demand. They need to get as many systems into people's hands in order to build the momentum needed to drive the system while it's fresh.  I shoot mine at f4.0 all day long and I love the results (see image at the top of the blog). I can't wait to see it at f5.6 or f8.0. Maybe some day I shoot some stuff with it there...

Jack, from Panasonic, and I did have one discussion about a technical issue I had questions about. It seems that all the technical review sites like DXO concur that the S1R has a very high dynamic range when used in raw mode but some other (more emotional, less informational) sites have dinged the flagship camera for having "one stop less dynamic range" than their two closest competitors ( Sony A7RIV and Nikon Z7 ). It seems, according to Jack, that the S1R has a different characteristic curve applied automatically in post than the other two cameras. It's part of the distinctive look of the files from that camera. Ostensibly, when working with a raw file you can ignore the applied curve and create your own look in post processing which should allow you to exploit the full dynamic range of the file with no DR loss. I've shot the camera a lot in the last week and haven't noticed any differential in DR, personally. But it may be that I am less sensitive to the difference in look between some of the competing cameras to have pegged DR as a variant. In real world comparisons I think cameras with lots of dynamic range expression can look a bit muddy....but all three that are mentioned here seem pretty stellar right out of camera. 

The camera that's in shortest supply for Panasonic right now is the S1H. Apparently it's selling like gangbusters but it's a complex camera to make and test and, currently, the company can only churn out so many of them per month. Far fewer than the number of video producers waiting to get their hands on them around the globe... I've also heard, anecdotally, that of all three cameras the S1H has the nicest skin tones for still photography when the ISO starts heading for the stratosphere. I went into my own camera buying spree knowing that a high resolution camera like the S1R (47 megapixels) would be better in higher light environments (like studios, sets and outdoors) and less advantageous in low light with higher ISOs. In my mind that makes 24 megapixels still the sweet spot for an all around, full frame stills camera. And I'd expect the S1H to be in that same ballpark. 

One thing I did note was how nice the top screen on the S1H camera is. It's very clean and visually neutral and you can see all the information with ease. It's a nice touch. Do I really need an S1H? No, not really. Not until a client with a monster budget for video comes knocking on the door....

One more Lumix note: the next lens up on the roadmap that I think we'll see will be an 85mm f1.8. I don't expect it to be dainty and feather-light but I do expect that it will be much smaller than the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens. There's an argument that having both is reasonable. One for serious, serious, serious work and the smaller lens for walking around shooting without having to attach an extra carrying strap just for your lens. We'll check in on the price. Good to always remember that there's a nice, lightweight 85mm f4.0 hidden in the middle of that 24-105mm lens!!!

Speaking of video, I did get to play with the Sigma FP camera and while I like the minimalist amount of exterior buttons and controls I found it to be a much less "sticky" product than I thought I would. By "sticky" I mean that there was really nothing about its handling, menus, operation or function that made me even think about reaching for a credit card and grabbing one. It just seems too focused on video and not quite focused enough on still imaging. The fully electronic shutter is a stumbler for me. I get that it's standard/needed for video but the lack of a mechanical option means more rolling shutter artifacts in fast moving still captures and more chance of image banding under less than perfect, non-continuous lighting. It may be the antithesis of a theater camera. I put it back down and thanked myself for not pre-ordering one earlier in the year. Yes, it looks darling with the Sigma 45mm f2.8 on the front of it but....what camera wouldn't?

Well represented at the Photo Expo at Precision Camera were: Sony, Olympus, Sigma, Panasonic, Nikon, Canon, Fuji and many other photography suppliers. ou could also play to your heart's content with all three Fuji medium format models and all the associated lenses. I was at the store midday and it was packed with customers. There were demos happening in every corner of the store, and the two that were ongoing while I was there was a photography workshop with Tony Corbell and a lighting workshop with Profoto. 

I guess the traditional photography industry is not quite dead yet. Not by a long shot. Well done Precision Camera!

And, yes. I really did forget the ink. I was just having so much fun playing with the big toys...

Sorry, no affiliate links. If you want to work on impoverishing yourself via photo gear you'll just have to hunt for the stuff you want. But that's half the fun.

If you need a good store you might consider Precision Camera. They match the prices of the big, national firms and they have a wonderful bricks-and-mortar store you can actually visit. Take a look at their website: www.precision-cameral.com Ask for Ian or Ron. Tell them I sent you. I might get a free ballpoint pen.