Photokina 2018 – Some Brief Thoughts

There have been quite a few announcements around Photokina in September, some of which are very exciting (or comment-worthy) to me. I have been meaning to do a brief writeup but succumbed to procrastination until now. But hey, better late than never right?

Note that I am not going to go into the details and specs, there are lots of other bloggers and vloggers going over those. Just want to share my initial, personal thoughts here.

Nikon Z

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Image Courtesy: Nikon USA

I had the opportunity to briefly play with a Z7 shortly after its launch. Aside from the single card slot design I don’t think there’s anything terribly wrong with it. On the other hand, there’s nothing specifically outstanding either, especially when compared with Sony’s full-frame mirrorless offerings, which are already at their third generation, or its own elder cousin, D850.

I guess one key advantage is better compatibility with Nikon’s existing F-mount lenses so if you are heavily invested in those it might make sense to get one just to enjoy the mirrorless benefits like face recognition AF (sadly no Eye AF yet).

There isn’t much to say about the initial lens line except one, the Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95.

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Image Courtesy: Nikon USA

Judging from its size, I initially thought it would be an AF lens, which would have been awesome. I don’t see the point of getting the lens only to shoot stopped down but meanwhile I can’t really imagine manually focusing such a huge lens with paper thin DOF. The Leica Noctilux is about as big as I am comfortable to manually focus, plus with the rangefinder you can achieve much faster manual focus with reasonable accuracy. I didn’t find focus peaking to offer higher accuracy with fast lenses (YMMV), nor did I find magnifying the scene for super accurate focus practical when shooting fast-paced portraits. Maybe the use of this lens would be just the opposite, contemplated portrait shots.

I have no doubt this lens would shine optically though. Given its size, I expect it to be on par with the Zeiss Otus lenses.

Canon R

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Image Courtesy: Canon USA

The Canon R is very comparable to the Nikon Z6 spec-wise. It is in a slightly better situation imo because Canon only announced the 5D Mark IV’s mirrorless cousin this time. So we can all expect a high-res version (think 5DsR) somewhere around the corner and start wishing for all the features missing from the current R.

It is not like Canon is going to care but hey, maybe, who knows? At least they get the chance to listen to the market response before releasing their high-res, flagship version of R, assuming they do have such card up their sleeve.

L-mount Alliance

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Image Courtesy: l-mount.com

Just earlier this year, Sony is leading the pack with its third generation of a7 series in the full frame mirrorless race. Leica has the Q and the SL, well maybe also the digital Ms, which technically are also “mirrorless”, but their price tags kind of limited its marketshare.

With the Z and the R, Nikon and Canon finally started catching up. Having a huge user base and a complete lens line, they are not very far behind Sony.

Leica, on the other hand, really needed an update to the 3-year old SL to keep up with others. I’ve had the SL for a while. Price aside, it is a decent camera with a bright and clear EVF, as well as a fantastic lens system Leica gradually established. The problem is its 24mp sensor, which does not really satisfy the resolving power of those L-mount lenses and in turn, cannot justify the combined weight. Releasing a high mp body definitely helps but the L-mount would still struggle to stay relevant due to the hefty price tag.

The L-mount alliance changes everything by the introduced possibilities. Panasonic is known to offer cameras that are functionally the same as the Leica rebranded ones at a lower price. Now at least we can speculate that the Panasonic S1 and S1R are going to be much cheaper than what Leica was going to offer, and the lenses too. Sigma can also bring to the table its ability to build amazing yet affordable lenses, and let’s not forget the possibility of a full-frame Foveon sensor.

This alliance revitalized the L-mount with all these options. It also gave Panasonic and Sigma a head start in the race so they don’t have to start from scratch. It was a smart move imo.

Fujifilm GFX 50R, GFX 100S & GF Lenses, X-T3

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Image Courtesy: Fujifilm Europe

I am not personally interested in the GFX 50R, since it doesn’t offer anything more than the 50S and I couldn’t care less about the EVF position but that’s just me. With its price point I am sure it will be the best selling digital medium format camera ever.

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Image Courtesy: Fujifilm Europe

Now, I knew it was just a matter of time for Fujifilm to adopt the 100MP BSI sensor when Sony put it on the roadmap back in April 2017. It is nonetheless exciting to learn that this is finally happening!

Many said it looks ugly but I couldn’t care less. I don’t mind the built-in grip at all (I used to own a Canon EOS-1D X), and I welcome the fact that the back LCD is no longer protruding (presumably because the batteries are now housed in the grip).

For around $10K, the pixel bump alone is worth the upgrade to me, let alone all the other icings like IBIS, 100% phase detection coverage, and X-T3 AF. This is truly a “shut up and take my money” moment!

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Image Courtesy: Fujifilm Europe

I really wish I could use just three GF lenses to cover from super wide to telephoto, much like the full-frame trio (16-35, 24-70 & 70-200). Now with the upcoming 45-100mm (2020) and 100-200mm (2019), and the rumored 20-40mm (no ETA, but the 23mm would suffice in the interim), I can see this particular need being fulfilled in the foreseeable future.

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As for the X-T3, I don’t expect a huge step-up in terms of image quality, but otherwise it has nice upgrades from almost every aspect, AF, touchscreen, video capabilities, Bluetooth, USB-C, etc. The additional battery grip is also redesigned and feels better in hand. To top it off, its price is actually cheaper than the X-T2’s launch price two years ago.

Phase One IQ4 150MP System & Capture One Support for Fujifilm GFX

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Image Courtesy: Phase One USA

The Phase One IQ4 150MP system is really playing in a different league. Comparing to the upcoming Fujifilm GFX 100S it has a full frame medium format sensor (53.4x40mm vs 44x33mm), with 50% more pixels and true 16-bit color depth. Now whether the image quality gain is perceivable, or whether the gain is worth five times the price of the GFX 100S is highly subjective, and only you can answer that. Nonetheless, P1 is no longer interested in the 44x33mm market so it doesn’t see the GFX system as a direct competition.

Comparing to its true rival Hasselblad H system, P1 has an advantage in lens lineup. The newer Hasselblad HCD lenses are tailored for the smaller 49x37mm sensor whereas the Phase One’s Schneider lenses are all designed for “true” medium format sized sensors. Its image processing software Capture One is also more widely adopted than Hasselblad’s Phocus.

It is only a matter of time before Hasselblad releases something like H6D-150c sporting the same sensor as the IQ4 150. Unless of course, Hasselblad decides to give in on the high end battleground and focus on the X system. Before Hasselblad does that, P1 would still treat it as a direct competitor, which would explain why it opened up Capture One support for Fujifilm GFX but not Hasselblad X.

Now Hasselblad is in a difficult position, fighting head-on on two fronts (53.4x40mm and 44x33mm). With both competitors one step ahead (GFX 100S & IQ4 150MP), I am curious to see how Hasselblad would respond.

Leica S3

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Image Courtesy: Leica Camera AG

I thought the S system is a dead end and Leica has devoted much of its resource into the SL line, so the announcement of S3 really caught me off guard. However, I can’t really make much sense out of it.

First of all, it is still a DSLR. With the flagship mirrorless cameras quickly closing the gaps in aspects where DSLRs traditionally had major advantages (AF, responsiveness, battery life), there are less reasons to go for a DSLR.

Although the sensor is a significant upgrade to the one in the latest Leica S (Typ 007), it is not much far ahead the widely used 50MP Sony sensor in similar size (45x30mm vs 44x33mm). And with the GFX 100S offering 100MP at $10,000, it will be very hard to swallow a $20,000 price tag (presumed based on the current retail price of the S Typ 007) for the new Leica S3.

Does the Leica S offer a unique shooting experience? Maybe, but a very niche one: if you want an integrated (as opposed to modular) DSLR body (as opposed to mirrorless) with a medium format sensor (as opposed to just full frame) that can use both global shutter and leaf shutter lenses, this is it.

Although Leica is never about popularity, neither is Hasselblad or Phase One. I believe the intent of an updated Leica S is to stay relevant in the high end market, unlike all those limited edition Leica M’s which are essentially Veblen goods. Nonetheless, the specs we’ve seen so far really underwhelms for the expected street price.

Zenit M

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Image Courtesy: petapixel.com

About time Leica is no longer the only brand offering a digital rangefinder experience. An interesting fact is that, the Zenit M, largely based on the Leica M Typ 240, is designed in Russia and manufactured by Leica in Germany.

Moreover, the Russian version is going to be a limited edition and cost about the same as its actual Leica origin.

Wait, who is this camera for again?

Looking forward to the M-mount Zenitar 35mm f/1.0 though.

New Hasselblad XCD Lenses

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Image Courtesy: Hasselblad

The XCD 80mm f/1.9 (63mm f/1.4 full frame equivalent) now has the largest lens aperture among Hasselblad’s lens line up. Honestly speaking I didn’t think leaf shutter lenses can achieve an aperture beyond f/2, so I am really looking forward to its in-depth review.

Meanwhile I hope the GFX system has something similar down the road. The GF 110mm f/2 is fantastic for portraits but too long for everyday use. The new G-mount Mitakon 65mm f/1.4 is manual focus only and I do have reservation regarding its sharpness wide open at a $800 price point (although at this price I probably will try one some day). I know medium format is not all about large apertures and bokeh but hey it doesn’t hurt to have the option right? There was once some rumor about a GF 80mm f/1.4 a while back so I am going to continue my wishful thinking.

2 thoughts on “Photokina 2018 – Some Brief Thoughts

  1. Hey Michael – I’ve seen you photographs on the chromecast background – could you tell me the location of the photo with the modern glass building on either side and the old church in the background.

    Like

    1. Hey, it is the St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the glass building is a mall called One New Change

      Like

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