What A Week
Wow. That's all I can say. Of all my years following the camera technology industry (as well as taking photos of course) I don't think I ever remember such a slew of interesting announcements in such a short space of time. And, in typical fashion I was utterly swamped with work the last week so I'm completely behind in what's been announced so I'm finally getting to share my thoughts now. So, in no particular order here are some random observations about some of the things that have come out over the last week leading up to Photokina 2012. I'm not going to talk about everything (because there's just so much stuff) but just what I found interesting and worth discussing. (I've had a pretty long week too, so please forgive any bad grammar or typos, or half finished thoughts!)
Sony are on fire at the moment. Hot on the heels of the widely popular RX100 they announced the breakthrough RX1. I'm not really sure what to make of this camera yet. From an engineering standpoint it's very impressive. Do people want a full frame camera with a fixed 35mm lens though? I guess time will tell. It does remind me of the good old days of Sony though. You know, back when the company used to make products that were engineering marvels and you wondered how on earth they did it. I've always been a fan of Sony and most of my audio and video purchases have always been Sony, but lately I, like many others, have felt that the company has lost their way. Instead of precision craftsmanship they were releasing plastic crap. Not everything of course, but a lot. The RX100 is old school Sony. It's precision and it's beautiful and yet pushing the envelope of miniaturisation all in one go. It's not really a camera that interests me personally but I can appreciate the work that went into making it.
Other sony announcements of note were the A99. Sony's full frame SLT. Another full frame in a sea of full frame releases this year (more on that in a minute). Of note is the interesting development that Sony has finally ditched its (well, minolta's) proprietary flash hot shoe and opted for a standard one instead. There's also some interesting video additions on this camera too, and Sony seem to be taking video more seriously.
I'm more interested in the NEX related announcements. In particular, they've finally announced a fast 35mm lens, which the system badly lacked. Hopefully it will be a bit better than their other NEX lenses, which, with the exception of the impossible to get Zeiss 24mm (of which I have no experience) have been less than stellar. Still, it's good to see Sony maturing the system with the addition of some other lenses too including another much needed addition, an ultra wide.
Nikon's big announcement was the much rumoured D600. The third of the high profile full frame releases (after the RX100 and the A99) it's the one I'm most interested in personally. Offering a mid ground in terms of megapixels between the old D700 and the D800 this was the camera many people wanted. What's interesting though is they put it in a smaller and lighter body, so it's basically a full frame D7000. It's a very appealing camera at an appealing price point, or at least it would be if we weren't being fleeced on the price here in Ireland. The D600 retails (suggested retail) for $1999 in the US and yet is somehow being listed for €2299. Given the difference in currencies that makes it a whopping $1000 more expensive in europe. I know there's differences in taxes etc but there is no justification for such a price difference. You could actually get a return flight to New York for the difference in price.
Panasonic and Olympus
Panasonic just today announced the GH3, the long awaited successor to the GH2. I have had the GH2 for some time and I use the hacked version for shooting video. It's an amazing little camera. The video quality, especially with the hack is second to none. It's pin sharp and limited only by the bit depth of the sensor. The work done by the guy who hacked it is remarkable and has earned him and the hacked GH2 numerous accolades. Amazingly panasonic have taken notice and have upgraded the GH series to include many of the features from the hack including a very impressive new 80mbs i-frame compression codec. If you've never shot video this isn't of much interest to you, but if you do this is a really big deal. As well as that, the new camera is dust and splash proof, and the new design is gorgeous. Kudos to Panasonic for taking bold steps.
If you haven't seen it already check out the amazing video shot by Philip Bloom using a pre production GH3.
Olympus announced a new version of their PEN camera, which is not of that much interest to me, but they did release one clever new feature which was a lens cap with a fixed focus lens built in, so you don't have to miss a shot while you search for a lens. It's kind of a gimmick, but it's certainly thinking outside the box. They also announced a very nice looking macro lens for the micro four thirds system.
Over all, the micro four thirds system is becoming quite mature with a wide range of professional and consumer quality lenses available. I've dipped my toe in the NEX world and the Fuji ecosystem, but I keep coming back to the feeling that micro 43 is where the momentum is in the mirror less world. It's looking like a really strong platform, especially if you are doing both photo and video.
Canon announced the Eos-6D today. I have to say, I'm finding it hard to get excited about. It seems to me to be pretty much the 5d Mark II with a few tweaks, selling at the price that the 5D Mark II has been selling at since the 5D Mark III was announced. It seems to have the same antiquated autofocus system from the 5DII which was the same as the 5D1. I am perhaps being a little unfair. It does have basic wifi functionality and built in GPS. I'm sure it's a fine camera in its own right but nothing that exciting, and just a minor iteration of the 5DII which is currently selling for the same price.
There is more still to come from Photokina, and I'll post some more thoughts later in the week.