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Camera - - CONTENTS - Paul Bur­rows

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.

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