Wetpixel show coverage: Photokina 2012

Photokina 2012: Wetpixel show coverage conclusion.

Photokina is billed as the world’s largest imaging show and it is unique in that it is a single venue in which imaging products can be showcased practically side-by-side. The amount of resources that the major companies put into this event is quite staggering, massive stands, with large numbers of staff. The numbers of visitors seemed quite high. The weekdays were deemed as being “trade” and carried an entry fee of €45, and the weekends were hence significantly busier, with a €25 entry fee.

I think there were two themes running through Photokina 2012. The first of those was sensor technology. The “race” for full frame seems to be in full swing.

Nikon started the race when they broke Canon’s virtual hegemony of full frame sensors with the D3. The competition was ramped up a bit with the introduction of the D800, which, arguably seems to eclipse Canon’s offerings in many respects. Both manufacturers released “entry level” full frame cameras at Photokina, an obvious attempt to draw more photographers into the genre. I was able to speak at some length to some of the management from Nikon Europe, and tried to get them to divulge the company’s development roadmap, especially with regard to DX. I can state that they either don’t know (as they claim) or are under a great deal of pressure not to say. Certainly there was not even a hint that Nikon will be reviewing its DX cameras. All of them did qualify this by saying that Japan had its own ideas on this, and they were simply not privy to them.

Elsewhere, full frame sensors are being sought by other manufacturers. Sony is first past the post with the a99, and interestingly, with a full frame compact, the RX1. The incorporation of a full frame sensor into an EVIL camera would seem to be a likely development. Other manufacturers are also seeking enhanced performance with cropped sensors too. Both Sigma and Fuji have announced high performance sensors in their new cameras, and are claiming improved dynamic range and detail with them, both traditional advantages of full frame cameras. Both of these camera are going to have support from at least one housing manufacturer.

There are strong rumors that Canon will be announcing a 40+ megapixel camera soon. Nikon is likely to add “X” and/or “Xs” versions of the D4, with significant increases in resolution.

The second theme is that of EVIL cameras. Development has continued, and everyone, bar Nikon and Canon, seems to be investing a great deal of energy into the genre. Panasonic’s GH3 is being touted as being a SLR equivalent, and certainly, its control layout seems the best amongst the offerings, although its overall performance is still to be decided. Both Olympus and Sony also released significant new models, although lens choice is still affecting the latter. Whilst EVIL is undoubtedly a growth category, I do not feel that it is true to claim any have equivalent performance to that of a top end SLR. Whilst the image quality, ergonomics and function may be approaching that of an SLR of a few years ago, the continuing development of SLRs means that they have kept ahead in performance and are likely to do so for the foreseeable future. EVIL cameras do offer significant advantage in price, size and weight, however.

Sony’s new Action Cam may well be the first real competitor to the ubiquitous GoPro. Its feature set appears to be better than that of the market leader, although the supplied housing is a disappointment. This does however allow for third-party housings with better features to be sourced from within the underwater industry.

Surrounding the battle of the giants was a host of stand supporting just about every other accessory needed for imaging.

Including some big lenses:

And the most photographed birds of prey around:

Speaking of lenses, Zeiss’s entry into autofocus lenses, whilst a tentative one at present, may well prove to be what is needed to cope with the higher resolution sensors of the future.

The underwater area at Photokina 2012 was a little disappointing. In the past, it has featured tanks with underwater photography demonstrations and seminars, this year it lacked any such attractions. The exhibitors that attended were active, but few in number.

If Photokina want to attract underwater image makers to the show, then I think they need to offer the exhibitors significantly more.

As always, it is great to see so many familiar faces:

And I got to play with a Lytro camera for the first time:

Aptly, the image is of Wetpixel Publisher and Lytro Director of Photography Eric Cheng.

Photokina is a massive show, not just in size, but in terms of importance to the imaging community. It is the place where anyone can get to handle the latest technology from the giants of our industry, or dig out “hidden” gems from amongst the myriad of stalls and booths. I look forward to attending Photokina 2014, and hope to see more of the Wetpixel community attending.

  1. Day one: Sony, Canon and Nikon and others.
  2. Day two: Subal, Nauticam, BS Kinetics, Olympus, HGTV.
  3. Day three: Fantasea, Panasonic, Zeiss, Fuji and the Epson Red Sea Shootout.
  4. Conclusion