The Photokina extravaganza is over for another two years, but it was one of the most exciting shows for a long time with lots to look forward to over the coming months. The highlight was undoubtedly Fujifilm’s new GFX digital medium format system, but there was a long list of goodies, including Olympus’s OM-D E-M1 II, Panasonic’s GH5, Sony’s A99 II and Sigma’s new Art and Sports lenses. They’re all here in our comprehensive round-up of Photokina 2016.
THERE WAS LOTS TO love at this year’s Photokina, but also a few causes for concern. The star of the show was undoubtedly Fujifilm’s all new digital medium format camera system which looks certain to continue the success story created by the X Mount. While the GFX system will target a different audience, it’s already evident that the elements that have made the X Series a big hit are present here too. In fact, if anything, the 2016 edition of Photokina was a lot about digital medium format photography with the debut of Hasselblad’s much-anticipated X1D (plus an exciting concept reprising the classic 500 Series) and a ‘budget’ 100 MP option from Phase One. The IQ1 100MP still isn’t going to be cheap, but all this activity creates excitement and, of course, the new mirrorless cameras will be a lot more affordable – relatively speaking – so this market will, finally, start to grow after years in the doldrums.
The discussions about digital medium format photography which are now going to follow will also have more widespread implications in terms of emphasising the value of high-end cameras in the pursuit of technical excellence. There’s been a general devaluation of the camera in the digital era – which is why smartphones have been able to grab so much market share – and it’s time to put some cache back into photography… more specifically, photography using a camera. A bit of technical snobbery will be no bad thing – remembering, of course, that ultimately it’s still the crea-
tive input that counts the most – and hopefully they’ll be a trickle-down effect to the smaller sensors. Making photography appealing again – and something more than just mindless snapping – has to be an industry priority as the global sales of cameras and lenses continue to slip.
Which is why you have to applaud Leica’s surprise move into the world of instant print photography. It’s hard to tell whether we might have been more surprised if Leica had done this during the height of Polaroid’s popularity back in the 1970s, but once you’ve got over the initial shock, the whole idea starts to make sense. For starters, the Sofort is the cheapest Leica camera you can buy (at $400) and while there’s obviously a lot of Fujifilm Instax bits on the inside, it looks the business on the outside. Here Leica is trading on the cache of its famous red-dot logo and its 100-year history… so you’re just simply going to want one. Then it produces instant prints and, in its exhibition space at Photokina, Leica was already showing what you can do with these in terms of the display possibilities. Leica really knows how to create excitement around the printed photograph – thereby emphasising its value – and it’s not hard to see a whole Sofort movement starting. And you know what else is clever about this product? Fujifilm has built up a big business around Instax, but its colourful cam- eras are mainly aimed at children. Leica Sofort is Instax for grown-ups. And it’s very much all about photography using a camera.
We managed to score a few hits with our Photokina 2016 predictions published in the last issue – including Fujifilm’s DMF system which surprised and delighted as much as we expected – and a few misses too. Sony’s up-graded A99 II was a surprise given how committed the company is to full-35mm mirrorless, but as the brand slowly but surely builds up market share in higher-end cameras, it makes sense to have it as an attraction for the D-SLR diehards. Sony’s reasoning is that it has a pro-level D-SLR to rival Canon and Nikon, and can convert A99 II users to the A9 when it eventually arrives. It was very telling that flash-maker Profoto added Sony to its TTL system, stating that the brand is now very much competing with Canon and Nikon in this area. Likewise, Panasonic is pushing more up-market with its GH5 – due in 2017 and undoubtedly stiff competition for the EOS 5D Mark IV – and new enthusiast-level G85.
However, the biggest news in mirrorless cameras came a week or so before Photokina as Canon took the wraps off its EOS M5… its first enthusiast-level mirrorless camera. It’s a fantastic little camera – essentially a scaled down EOS 80D – and we’re suspecting it will do huge business for Canon, much of it likely to be new so there’s not likely to be much impact on its D-SLR sales. And, we suspect, now that Canon has a taste for mirrorless, there may be an M7 (based on the EOS 7D II) before too long. It’s an exciting prospect.
Those concerns? For all the new product activity, Photokina 2016 seemed… well, a bit static. Where was the flying area for camera drones? Or the dirt bike arena, for example, for trying out actioncams? While some stands included shooting set-ups – notably both Panasonic and Sony – the experiential elements looked to be a bit lacking. Even the birds of prey display which has been part of the binoculars and spotting scopes area for many shows was missing. Cost cutting? Probably, but in the end photography is all about the experience, the technology is just the means to this end.
1 Nikon is making a significant move into actioncams which could well help replace the declining compact camera business.
2 Fujifilm continues to do good business with its Instax instant print product line. 3 Land Rover Defender display vehicle for GoPro. 4 Panasonic is heavily promoting its ‘4K Photo’ functions which are derived from 4K video… with the promise of 6K to come next year (giving 19 MP stills). 5 New Mazda MX-5 in a virtual reality rig using Canon D-SLRs. Mazda Germany was an exhibitor at Photokina… well, photographers buy cars too, don’t they? 6 Sony surprised everybody by launching a new D-SLR flagship, the A99 II.
7 Leica filled Hall 1 with a series of photo exhibitions. Das Wesentliche translates as ‘The Essential’ which is Leica’s slogan at the moment.