For attendees at the giant biennial photokina exposition in Cologne, Germany, the mild fall weather and brilliant sunshine (at least for the first three days) was a welcome relief from the usual seasonal overcast and drizzle, and the mood inside the show was equally upbeat—mirroring the German economy, which seems to be in somewhat better shape than our own.
There were, of course, the usual product introductions timed for the big show, including the prosumer Olympus E-5 and the enthusiast-aimed Pentax K-5, Canon 60D and Nikon D7000 compact full-featured DSLRs with (surprise, surprise) higher resolution and HD video capability. But the standout trend from photokina 2010 is the rise of the compact, large-sensor, mirrorless, interchangeable-lens camera—really the first species to depart from their film-derived counterparts of yore.
There were enticing new entries from Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Fujifilm—all aimed at the enthusiast market, that is folks who want greater shooting flexibility in a smaller, handier package.
Panasonic extended its DSLR-like G series with the GH2, based on the Micro Four Thirds system used by Olympus in their Pen cameras. And Samsung is using an APS-C-size sensor in the NX100. Ricoh’s GXR is the first of the breed with interchangeable-lens-and-sensor units that let you upgrade to larger sensors while changing lenses. Yes, it will be available in the U.S.
Fujifilm jumped into the fray with the preproduction version of the FinePix X100, a classically styled, APS-C-sensor f/2-lens rangefinder-like camera with a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder. It’s clearly targeted at serious enthusiasts, and a competitor to the Leica X1. And speaking of Leica, the limited-production Leica M9 Titan in titanium created quite a buzz of its own. It will be released as a Nieman Marcus-labeled model at an antirecessionary price of over $26,000 just in time for Christmas.
I ogled at one fascinating piece of equipment at a booth officially sponsored by a German distributor but festooned with Tiffen banners. In addition to a full line of Domke bags and a very cool-looking photographer’s jacket, I noticed a little knot of serious photographers gathered around Frank Rush, the Steadicam guru, who was demonstrating the Steadicam Smoothee, a Steadicam designed for cell phone cameras! My first question: Why would anyone want to shoot serious HD movies with a cell phone camera? His succinct answer: “When this reaches the market in December, we’ll have a cradle for the iPhone4 that shoots 5MP video, and for spot news or events, it works incredibly well.” Anyway, the cute little gizmo does for the iPhone and 3G phone exactly what the bigger Steadicam does for Hollywood movies. Surely we must be living in the 21st century.
Down the hall, there were exotic dancing girls at the Hasselblad booth, and you could photograph them with the digital medium-format H4D. Leica showcased their impressive Leica S2, a rugged, weatherproof medium-format DSLR not much bigger than a pro Nikon or Canon.
There also were forests of tripods with cool new models from Vanguard, Davis & Sanford and Manfrotto. The Lensbaby stand was, as usual, crammed with enthusiasts ogling the ingenious lenses and optical devices. And my award for creative booth design goes to Crumpler, whose “hanging rain forest of camera bags” did full justice to their wonderfully wacky marketing strategy.
Yes, a great photokina was had by all, and while American attendance was down this year as a result of the economy, the enthusiastic international crowds offer proof that reports of the photokina’s demise has, as always, been greatly exaggerated.