The Photokina Report (Contains RANT)

This post is a summary of all the announcements that I found interesting enough to share from Photokina the week of September 19, 2016.  If I miss something that you were really interested, email me and I will look into it.  Please do note that I don't cover smartphones or point and shoots so they won't be here.


Fujifilm is working on square Instax film for 2017.  Not sure what camera it will be used in.

Metz has announced the M400 the leader in their lineup of compact flashes for mirrorless cameras.  Metz is, without question, the third party flash I have depended upon most, for as long as I have been shooting.  Mirrorless cameras have not been really graced with superb hot shoe flash options until now, and you can depend on what comes out of Metz.

Sigma kicks it hard with an 85/1.4 ART, a brand new 12-24/4 ART and a 500/4 SPORT lens.  I have a friend who has been shooting the 85mm all summer as a Sigma Ambassador (who gets access to pre-release stuff) and his feedback has been that it is marvellous.  That 12-24 updates an excellent but long in the tooth full frame that I once owned and the price point is unstoppable.  As for the 500/4.  First blush says expensive.  Then you check the price of the Canon or Nikon.  Then it's a smoking hot deal.

Olympus has announced the development of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, potentially available by the end of 2016.  The original E-M1 was the first mirrorless to really suggest that pros could go mirrorless, even those shooting sports and wildlife.  At the time, glass was the missing.  Glass is there and here comes a blazing fast body with a sensor that Olympus CEO says will beat any APS-C sensor hands-down.  Exciting!

Olympus drives three new lenses.  A 25/1.2, a 12-100/4.5 and a 30/3.5 Macro.  The "mirrorless hasn't got enough lens choice" song is officially over

Olympus also announced the new FL-900R flash unit

Fujifilm has done what was rumoured.  They have announced the GFX 50S, a medium format mirrorless camera and a stable of lenses.  First customer ship should be early 2017.  Hoo Ha!  Note that it's not a full size (645) medium format sensor, more a crop sensor, but this should keep the cost of the base kit under $10,000.  Fujifilm's Fujinon glass is superb and I look forward to being able to do a deep dive on this camera.

Nikon has announced two more Keymission cameras with intent to have them all available this year.  This is in addition to the Keymission 360 announced back in February that was delayed by challenges with sensor availability.

Sony has refuted pundits saying the Alphas series of DSLR cameras was dead by announcing the a99 Mark II.  It has a 42MP sensor and 4K video.  A-mount really did appear to have gone zombie status.  Will the a99-II change things?  It's hard to tell.  Sony's E-mount lineup is growing like gangbusters with the glass lineup to support it.  A-mount while having more tenure, doesn't have much in the way of lens choice.

Panasonic has announced the coming Lumix GH-5 with 4K video and 6K still capture.  The GH-4 opened new doors in hybrid creative's minds.  The GH-5 will build on this, and the lens options are excellent.

Hasselblad has shown a 75MP square format concept camera.  They also announced a special Black edition of the X1D and the full details on the 30/2.5 for the X system.  From a couple of years ago when the company seemed to be coasting, the big H has had a very busy and innovative year.  The H6D, the X1D, new lenses, and now a prototype square format digital.  Cool!

Pocket Wizard formally announced the release of Flex TT5 radio TTL systems with the Sony MI mount as well as units for Panasonic cameras.  PW takes a lot of crap for being pricey, and it's true, but when it comes to third party radio TTL, when they do it, they do get it right.  The availability of radio controlled, off camera TTL, opens new opportunities for serious users.

Canon celebrated the release of the EOS-M5.  


It frustrates the heck out of me to see a company with the capability of Canon continually fail to step up with a serious competitor in the mirrorless space.  Two weeks ago, they announced the 5D Mark IV and it blew down the doors at retailers with huge numbers of preorders and just as fast delivery.  Then they follow that up with the EOS-M5 that is an overpriced also-ran.  If one were really paranoid, one might think that Canon is terrified of having their own mirrorless gnaw away at their very profitable DSLR business.  So they release meh cameras.  I've heard lots of people say this.  It's the same reason given why Canon, once the leader in non-video camera video is now behind the curve and delivering uninspiring or functionally bereft video in new DSLRs.  I seriously hope that the powers that be at Canon can pull their heads out of their butts and smarten up.  You will not gnaw away at your DSLR revenues with your own excellent mirrorless camera.  It would have to get in line behind Sony, Olympus and Panasonic who have been noshing on your entrails for years by doing mirrorless right.  You will not drive buyers away from your superb but stupendously overpriced CINEMA lineup of video cameras by putting decent video in your DSLRs.  Sony has already done that with the PMW-FS5 and PMW-FS7, two 4K cameras that kick the CINEMA EOS lineup to the curb for less than half the investment.  Canon is the most powerful and financially stable camera company in the world.  For now.  Competitors do not sit back waiting for you to catch up.  Stop screwing around guys.

I feel for Nikon these days.  Their business is in rough shape due to the lack of sensors available from Sony as a result of the horrible earthquakes in Kumamoto.  No one could have foreseen this. They built two amazing cameras, the D500 and the D5.  They also spent a lot of time on point and shoots that have never shipped and no one knows when or if they will.  The Keymission offerings might be interesting to the very small market interested in 360 video, especially those who don't yet realize that the whole thing is a visual disaster and a processing black hole.  If 360 Video at this price point was actually a real market, Ricoh would have it nailed to the barn door with the Theta S, which is incredibly easy to use.  Ricoh doesn't and it's because 360 is a limited use function, and people just will not pay that kind of money for bent and twisted footage.  Some lovers love it, but the sales numbers don't lie.  This is not a market that is booming.  Like 3D TV.  Remember that?  Nikon was early to mirrorless with the excellent Nikon 1 lineup and then basically abandoned it, without enough glass and with sensors that proved to be too small and cameras of noted poor performance.  It took until the J5 for the J lineup to reach the point of usability.  They skipped the J4 but that may be related to a Japanese superstition about the number four.  Maybe not.   The Nikon 1 is a zombie.  Nikon said that they were looking into new opportunities built on the concept of the 1 series.  Ding dong, the bell has rung.  Nikon did a stupendous job with the D5500 last year, to my mind the best consumer DSLR still out there.  The D3400 is not a winner.  It's a D3300 with LESS.  As in features that worked in the D3300 REMOVED COMPLETELY.  D3300s were pulled and customers will be waiting on D3400s that are functionally less than the camera that they replace.  Nikon customers should jump right to the D5500 in that market, the D3400 is a disappointment.  Nikon also released two sets of identical lenses, one in each pair without vibration reduction.  Is there a giant cost saving for customers?  Nope.  There's a cost saving for Nikon, so bundles will include the lenses without VR.  It's 2016 people!  VR is proven and inexpensive to deploy.  Making a decision to confuse customers with two identical lenses, other than VR and a price jump to get what everyone else includes as fact is tantamount to stupid.  Such a move will please the big box stores of course as it will give them a price sticker lowball, to which they can attach junk memory cards, junk bags and other crap.  True photo retailers, you know the ones, the folks who actually can spell photography, will be forced to lead with this crap and the customer is the one who loses.

Which will only compound the loss of photographers to smartphones.  Camera stores selling smartphones ranks right up there in the top ten list of dumb moves.  But when people will happily drop over $1000 to get a micro sensor smartphone with "telephoto" lens, and its not a telephoto lens, it's equivalent to a 55mm on a full frame camera, but won't spend the same money on a decent DSLR or mirrorless, that market battle is already over and lost.  Smartphones are easy and they take a darn nice photo, probably good enough for a substantial audience.  This isn't new.  We had 126 film cameras, and 110 film cameras, and Disc cameras, and point and shoot 35mm cameras that surfaced the needs of 80% of picture takers.  That entire space has been taken over, quite rightly by smartphones.  What does this mean to camera manufacturers?  Get out of the point and shoot business.  It's over.  Focus on better cameras with larger sensors, or point and shoot style cameras with better sensors and massive zooms.  Do what the smartphone CAN NOT do, don't do what the smartphone already does faster and easier than your dedicated camera.  When you stop wasting time and money trying to raise the dead, you can deliver products that interested creatives actually want.  Why can't my DSLR deliver decent and easy to shoot 4K video when my smartphone can?  Oh I understand sensor math very well, but if I want better than smartphone quality, don't dumb down or technically cripple your camera.

There's a good part to this RANT too.  I am thrilled to see that studio flash makers have caught on, and in my opinion, not too late, to the reality that folks who spend thousands of dollars on cameras may want studio strobes that can do TTL and that can be controlled right from the camera without running around the room pushing buttons.  Profoto announced the D2 moonlights and the Pro-10 pack.  Both are serious pro kits and both do TTL with multiple different cameras.  Do you know who is buying moonlights?  It's not studio pros only, the biggest market is aspiring photographers who see a $750 single speed light and figure that they can do a lot more with more.  I have a pair of 1000ws Profoto D2 moonlights in my studio right now as part of an evaluation.  Each head has 20X the power of a top end speed light and I can dial them down to less than 4ws right at the camera.  This is brilliant stuff and the same folks who can afford a7R Mark IIs and 5D Mark IVs can afford these truly pro grade lights.  Bowen, who have been languishing on the deck for years have released two entirely new lineups.  New small moonlights with 500ws of power, that are available to run off AC or in the second line to run solely off battery.  They incorporate radio receivers, support TTL and can be controlled right from the camera.  Bowens gear is built well, but their oblivion to TTL and central control of all aspects of the strobe has finally been bested and this superb offering will reinstate them because their price point is as good as the plastic crap coming out of the far east, that is over specced and that under delivers.  No offence to lovers of Godox or Flashpoint or whomever, but the lights never match the specs, and the reliability will bite you when you least desire it.  If you are a big studio or a big rental house and you aren't stocking the Profoto Pro-10 and Broncolor Move and Broncolor Scorro kits, you are done.  Your competition gets this and they also have figured out how to reach the aspiring creatives with effective and easy to use rental programs.  They've figured out how to make renting truly serious gear as easy as sending an email.  Those rental houses who keep making it harder for people to rent with inane policies won't make it.

As a professional photographer and semi-professional videographer, I love what I am seeing from Fujifilm with their mirrorless medium format.  I have shot (too briefly) the Hasselblad X1D and am looking forward to a longer term eval of the H6D-100C when one is available.  Medium format digital is not a niche, it's a natural evolution.  There's a mathematical maximum that a 35mm sized sensor can achieve, even an excellent one such as what we see from Sony in the a7R Mark II.  At some point, you need a bigger sensor.  Big surprise that Sony already makes one.  Not so big a surprise to learn that those giant sensors could shoot 8K or 12K video when the processing complexes are capable of handling this.  When I shoot a Sony PMW-FS7 off the shoulder, the 4K video is incredible, and the camera is so well thought out, that you are working in minutes, not days.

I'm also seeing the true next generation in LED lighting.  It's not $6000 for four dim flexible panels or underpowered tubes that look like lightsabers. it's cost effective, high CRS panels with brightness that we have never seen before.  The big issue with LED lighting up until now is that it's just too dim for real world fashion or other moving subject matter.  These new panels get you higher shutter speeds and smaller apertures at lower ISOs.  Continuous lighting will no longer be a game of locking everything down and praying that nothing moves.  I love my flashes, but as a videographer, I would kill for decently priced LEDs with the power output of 2Ks, 4Ks and the like.  Less heat, less demand for powerfully heat resistant modifiers, lighter to transport.  The lighting designer can spend more time setting lights than figuring out where to pull all the power from.

Computing needs a kick in the butt.  The software needs to be rewritten for speed and to better leverage multiple cores.  Apple needs to note that the current Mac Pro is now over three years old without a refresh.  The current design is pretty.  Pretty non-expandable too.  Dumb move.  Windows 10 has achieved the stability lost since Windows 7.  You can buy a PC and have confidence that the whole thing won't puke its guts up every other day.  We see new tools such as ON1 RAW (and I am telling you, this brand new RAW processor will surprise you) but we also have viable alternatives to Lightroom with Capture One, and to Photoshop with Affinity Photo.  For some people, particularly those not aligned to subscription models, although they are the future of software, these options are fast and while different, can do what you are already doing.  Black Magic Design has two versions of Resolve.  The non-studio version is a single user application.  It has the best colour system out there.  And you can get it completely free.  I have great respect for Final Cut Pro X (although it needs a refresh) and Adobe's excellent Premiere Pro.  Interestingly when I was taking courses earlier this year to get the most out of the Sony PMW-FS7 4K cinema camera, most all of my instructors were recommending that I take a hard look at Resolve.  I have, and I am using it a lot now.  Cost to me, some learning time.  I'm no loner on Adobe's council.  That's a good thing, they should always be seeking new feedback.  I feel for them.  It's less demanding to build on existing infrastructure and there are risks to making a bold move.  No company can explain the challenges better than Microsoft, but at some point, every software maker has to say, "yeah, we're sorry but our newest version will not run on your eight year old computer".  At some point they have to say, "our single user, flat file database that has worked for years, is no longer efficient enough for 50 megapixel files, because file sizes were 1 megapixel when we built it, time to start again"  That's where Lightroom is today.  New features are wonderful, but that database needs to go to the cornfield (look it up) and be replaced by a proper and fast database.

As creatives, Photokina reminds us that there are people and companies out there building kit for US.  We are their customers.  We, the folks who like the creative process, whether it be still or video, capture or processing, ambient light, or the light we bring and control.  They are building for us.  It behooves each of us to get out from behind the computer and even from behind the viewfinder and look to what is being offered to us and ask if and how it can help us achieve our creative goals

Talk again soon.