Imaging Trends Observed at PhotoPlus Expo 2019

Imaging Trends Observed at PhotoPlus Expo 2019

5 Key Technical & Marketing Developments Destined to Shape the Future

© Jeanette D. Moses

The aisles of New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center were packed on the opening day of PDN’s PhotoPlus Expo 2019. Attendees and members of the press jostled to get a glimpse of and handle the latest imaging gear. Moreover, the show floor was filled with an aura of excitement, and positivity was palpable.

As in recent years, most of the coolest new stuff was released in the weeks leading up to the show. However, walking the show floor at PhotoPlus Expo 2019 revealed several trends in the imaging realm. Here are five key developments.

                        Imaging Trends from PhotoPlus Expo 2019

1. Mirrorless Cameras Expand and Diversify

With Nikon and Canon firmly committed to the mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera (ILC) market, that category continues to grow. The proliferation of new mirrorless models seen at PhotoPlus Expo 2019 includes: full-frame L-mount mirrorless ILCs from Panasonic, Sigma and Leica; ultracompact models ranging from the tiny Sigma fp to the minuscule Nikon Z 50; the svelte Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III; the palm-size Sony Alpha 6600; and the formidable ultrahigh-res Sony a7R IV.

PhotoPlus Expo 2019 Sigma-fp-w-silver-45mm-f2.8-Contemporary
Sigma fp with special silver version of 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary lens

It’s evident that the mirrorless market is now the most active, diverse and competitive sector among the world’s leading camera manufacturers. These cameras provide a compelling combination of enticing form factors, convenience, still/video versatility, high image quality and overall user satisfaction that’s hard to beat.

However, DSLRs continue to provide impressive performance and value, as well as have an immense installed user base. And while it’s a little too early to write off DSLRs, it’s significant that new mirrorless cameras are being introduced at a rate more than 10 times that of new DSLRs. Indeed, there were very few new DSLR entries in the broad spectrum and middle tier sectors of the market. Though Nikon did reveal the development of the pro D6, with Canon just countering with the announcement that the EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR is being designed and engineered.

2. Mirrorless Lens Barrage

As a direct consequence of the veritable explosion in new mirrorless cameras, the world’s leading lens producers are rapidly responding; they are bringing forth a profusion of incredible new prime and zoom lenses. Moreover, this is true of both independent optical companies and major camera makers. In addition, much of the new glass is especially for full-frame mirrorless ILCs. However, quite a few options were released covering mirrorless models in APS-C and Micro Four Thirds formats.

It’s not possible to cite the scores of new mirrorless lenses individually in this small space, but here’s a representative selection. There are three new Nikkor Z-mount lenses: the DX 16–50mm f/3.5–6.3 and 50–250mm f/4.5–6.3; as well as the amazing Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct (the fastest Nikon lens ever). There is also a a trio of high-performance Canon RF zoom lens, all with built-in image stabilization: the RF 18–35mm f/2.8 L USM; RF 24–70mm f/2.8 L IS USM; and RF 70–210mm f/2.8 L IS USM.

PhotoPlus Expo 2019 Nikkor-Z-58mm-f095-S-Noct
Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct

Moreover, Sigma is offering a triad of superlative L-mount lenses: the 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary; 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art; and 14–24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art. Not to be left out, Tamron announced an impressive threesome of wide-angle macro primes in the Sony E mount: the 20mm f/2.8; 24mm f/2.8; and 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2. In addition, all of them feature weather-resistant construction and smudge-resistant, easy-to-clean fluorine coating on their front elements.

3. Digital Cameras Go Retro

Top honors in the retro-style digital camera sweepstakes go to Fujifilm for the remarkable new X-Pro3 mirrorless camera. It combines the unmistakable look and feel of a vintage rangefinder 35mm camera with an electronically upgraded optical viewfinder (OVF) complemented by a first-class electronic viewfinder (EVF). Moreover, it features an ingenious, concealed LCD on the back that looks exactly like an analog camera back complete with a film-box-end holder. However, you swing it down to reveal a brilliant, high-res touch-screen LCD! Fujifilm previously introduced the current Fujifilm X100F that’s almost as retro as the X-Pro3. However, it lacks the cool concealed LCD.

Rear view of Fujifilm X-Pro 3

Other hip retro-looking cameras include the long-running Nikon Df that looks almost exactly like a vintage 35mm SLR; the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 that’s reminiscent of a 35mm rangefinder camera; the classically minimalist Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII with its cool pop-up EVF; and the Olympus Pen F digital, which looks amazingly similar to its 35mm half-frame predecessors of the 1960s/70s.

Of course, the ultimate purveyor of retro-styled digital cameras has got to be Leica. The current 24MP Leica M10-P is essentially a digital version of the classic 35mm Leica M 35mm rangefinder camera; it has the signature optical-mechanical multi-frame range-viewfinder that has its roots in the original Leica M3 of 1954. Furthermore, there is the beautiful new Leica Q2. This camera is really nothing other than a Leica-M-style 47.3MP full-frame mirrorless camera sporting a glorious noninterchangeable 28mm f/1.7 Summilux Asph lens! And like many Leica cameras of yore, it’s a great walk-around camera that’s perfect for street shooting.

4. Full-Frame Sensor Mirrorless Cameras Take Center Stage

The reason full-frame mirrorless cameras have piqued the interest of consumers and manufacturers is not hard to fathom. They have the potential of delivering superior image quality, especially at high ISOs and in video applications. In addition, they use longer lenses for any given coverage angle, providing enhanced depth-of-field control.

Sony really got the full-frame mirrorless ball rolling with its enormously successful Alpha 7 series. What’s more, their new flagship Alpha 7R Mark IV with its 61MP Exmor CMOS sensor and the sleek 24.2MP Sony a9 II are stunning examples of how they’ve evolved the category. In addition, the recently introduced 47.3MP Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R is another stellar full-framer, as is the 24.2MP Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H.

Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H

It’s also noteworthy that Nikon and Canon both entered the mirrorless category with high-res full-frame top-of-the-line models: the 45.7MP Nikon Z 7 and the 30.3MP Canon EOS R. And no doubt the enthusiastic reception accorded the slim, ultracompact full-frame Sigma fp is a harbinger of things to come. Moreover, we expect to see other manufacturers embrace the ultracompact full-frame mirrorless system concept going forward.

5. Still Cameras Cross Over to High-End Video

The still camera per se may well be an endangered species. The vast majority of new mid-range and upper-tier digital cameras now deliver impressive high-end video capabilities. They include 4K 30p and even 60p capture; S-Log Gamma modes for pro-caliber output; and Hollywood-style movie and camera emulation modes.

Sony Alpha 6600

If anything, this trend is accelerating. Examples: the compact Sony a6600 can capture 4K UHD 30p video with HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) and S-Log3 Gamma; Canon’s awesome new flagship DSLR, the EOS 1D-X Mark III, will shoot 4K videos, including at 4K 60p with 10-bit 4:2:2 Canon Log internal recording. In addition, the Fujifilm X-Pro3 provides internal 4K DCI/UHD recording at up to 30 fps. Also, the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H offers a broad array of video capabilities. It features 3:2 6K 24p video recording along with 16:9 5.9K 30p and both 4K DCI and UHD 60p settings with internal 4:2:2 10-bit sampling. You may rest assured more are on the way.