Report from Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2011, Yokohama
At the risk of stating an utterly obvious and absolutely not new realization: it has become extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to take a bad photograph with contemporary cameras. At least technically speaking, there is very little that can still go wrong nowadays. Exposure metering is accurate, focus is on target, no excessive lags where you wait for the camera, popping colors, lenses for great image quality, cameras are small enough to not burden even a child and superb looking prints. We are privileged to have all this power available to. Nonetheless, in the context of making photographs, this is meaningless. We, the people behind the camera, are still in charge of picking things from the reality that surrounds us and no camera, sensor or printing paper will help you doing that.
Enough of the philosophizing, since a lot of people will just be interested in the gear, so here you have it.
Everything you heard about it is true. It looks great, the image quality on the display prints is frighteningly good and the EVF overlay is a marvel. The camera is an attractive package and feels good in the hands. Now, I don’t want to be critical on something I have barely seen, let alone used extensively, but I have said that at the end of the day, this camera is just a compact point and shoot with a cool finder. I still think so, even though it is a very good one, perhaps the best one we have ever seen and may see for a while. Is it a game changer? Probably not and a lot of things will depend on how this camera behaves in constant use. The lens is surely brilliant and I doubt that the image quality of the sensor will be disappointing either.
Still, in the few minutes that I handled the camera I noticed some minor niggles: one, there are many controls and buttons, perhaps too many, especially on the back. The camera is not as small like most compacts, but it isn’t large either so the room to put these things is tight. You have a very generously sized screen and on the right several buttons and dial wheel. Only continuous use would tell whether these buttons could be accidentally pressed by handling the camera, large fingers or not, especially with one hand only. Bear it in mind.
The finder — yes, it is a revelation. That EVF overlay in an optical image is absolutely brilliant. A strange thing that I noticed, and I don’t know whether this will disappear in the production version or is something you can set in the options, when you half press the shutter the whole EVF display, lines and parameters, briefly disappear for a split moment (presumably focussing and metering). Personally I would find this a little irritating, because the frame lines are essential for composition and having them disappear or flicker in some way is a distraction, for me anyway. Lastly, and I am sure this can be turned off in the option, you’re composing and shooting while looking at a beautiful optical finder image with the great overlay and, bang, then you are presented with the image you just took displayed full size by means of the electronic finder. That’s an anti-climax.
The camera is slated for release on 5 March 2011 and the price is around ¥130.000 (almost $1600) and you do know that you can get used Leica M8 camera for little more, don’t you? Want it anyway?
This wide angle version of the previously released GF670 will not genuinely surprise you. It has a very solid feel and is well-balanced, so comfortable to hold. In fact, the body is identical to the GF670, except where you previously found the bellows, there is now a lens bolted on which gives it a much more rigid feel. What surprised (and actually bothered) me, is that the lens’ focussing ribs that you are supposed to grab to turn the ring are not applied all the way around the lens barrel, only in two opposite positions as if you are supposed to turn this with two fingers and your hands should travel with the rings movement. That is impossible though and the rest of the ring is smooth and does not offer any grip so your fingers may slip. The booth attendant (funnily enough, the same gent as two years ago) pointed out to me that one is supposed to grab the lens from above with two fingers, but then I saw my own hand in the finder. An odd design decision.
Ricoh GXR Leica M mount module
Yes, you will be able to buy this after all and it should be fun. But then, it won’t turn your Ricoh into a Leica M. Still, great to have it of course and now on a par with the Micro-Four-Thirds and Sony E-Mount systems that let you use Leica M mount lenses via an adapter. You can feel that Ricoh loves photography, despite being a big Japanese conglomerate (that even makes gas meter for homes, as I have seen last week).
Two of Tom’s prints are on display, amongst photos by others. Well done, Tom.
Of course, all of Cosina and Zeiss’ wares are out for display but I could not detect anything new or noteworthy. A little quiet there actually and none of the attractive show hostesses ubiquitous at other booths to photograph either.
Kenko C Mount digital camera
Not sure what to make of this, but it looks like a fun niche product: a digital camera with a native C mount (small format cine lenses) so you can use a wide range of legacy lenses without adapters or other fuss. If the image quality is OK and the price is right, I think this will do well and be very enjoyable. Ironically the camera is said not to offer any movie mode.
Some fantastic prints on the wall at Pentax. A few years ago I remember feeling slightly underwhelmed with large prints from the 645D, but perhaps it is that printing technology has caught up with bringing out all the information that the images contain. The large panels, some so large that they are made up by a mosaic of four or more. Impressive.
Pentax have established themselves as the individualisable camera manufacturer, there does not seem an end to their ability to make non-standard versions of their cameras. A true logistical and manufacturing feat.
And yes, there will be a K-5 Silver Limited!
Shibakawa LED flash
Shibakawa are a OEM/ODM manufacturer of in- and off-camera flash units for most of the Japanese camera makers. What they are trying to do now is develop an LED light/strobe unit. Only a prototype was presented. What’s interesting is that you can daisy-chain small module units, for example to wrap around a lens or hood with velcro and then build your own ring flash — or a strip light if needed. Any shape is possible. At the moment the modules are still a little “large”, the rep says (not to me), but they should get smaller. A limitation is the low power, only a guide number of four so it is targeted at still life and macro setups where this should not be an issue or low power is even desirable. Also there is no wireless transmitter facility, but again this is not a problem in small setups. What’s very interesting is that you can address any single LED in the array and regulate its output depending on the situation, so you can have less light on one side closer to the subject (an issue in macro where you are very close to the subject, creating lighting imbalances) or create deliberate accents. The LEDs can emit strobe and also continuous light, so you can have a modelling light and use it for video too.
An interesting development to watch. It may come to market either under their own brand or via another maker’s name.
Hey, and I receive my first freebie, a pen, from a very friendly English speaking gentleman. Thank you and good luck to the project!
Canon, On-demand photo books
When I wrote my previous report two years ago, I lamented the lack of choice in domestic (Japanese) options to print on demand photo books and other things like calendars. Well, things have changed and we went from few choices to no choices at all. At least nothing was on display today, not even wedding albums, and this may not be the target audience here. Perhaps it is also that nobody is daring to take on the mighty Blurb, Lulu, MyPublisher etc. who have cornered the market. To compete with them you’d have to do what Japan isn’t generally too good at: create a user-friendly web site which is usable by anyone in the world (read: not cluttered in design and not only in Japanese language). Of course Canon would be the perfect candidate, as they have a powerful printing technology division. That’s not just your office photocopiers, but high-end image processing and on-demand printing lines that should be more than able to do what HP does for the others. However, what we get is a little of something: small-ish, single sized on-demand books for photos and text for 20 to 204 pages, accessible via Canon’s consumer portal Image Gateway, which also offers other post-capture services like image sharing. Of course that’s only in Japanese language, but to their credit not too bad an interface the last time I used it. I know Canon is very keen on expanding printing and trying out many ideas. The book looks decent enough quality, even the images, but it is not really a photo book in size and appearance. It would be ideal to print a diary-like affair, or even one’s blog with photos thrown in. In my opinion it is really more a text format book in terms of size and paper.
Best of the rest
Free lens cleaning at Tamron (thanks)
Large lenses at Sigma put any bazooka or other grenade launcher to shame. Try using those in front of the White House and get a free ride in a military or police vehicle!
Casio think that HDR should be elevated to HDR Art and devotes a large section of their booth to displaying, shall we say, unattractive prints created with the in-camera mode HDR Art.
That’s all folks, thanks for reading and until next time! And in case anyone sees Hans, please send him over to the camera bag section!