When they look back at photokina 2010 will they see it as medium-format photography’s last stand or its Waterloo? A lot has happened since photokina 2008 when Leica released its game-changing medium-format/DSLR hybrid, the 37.5MP S2. Suprisingly though, no medium-format camera manufacturer has stepped up to the plate to challenge the Leica S2’s innovative, tough and ergonomic design.
What we have seen are traditional medium-format digital models with some added features, higher resolution sensors and lower prices across the board. Take the budget-friendly 40MP Pentax 645D which was on display at photokina 2010. This $9995 camera with its 44x33mm sensor has made the rounds of the trade shows for several years now and only last June officially went on sale in Japan.
But the camera, which can use all Pentax 645 legacy film lenses and, with the help of an adapter, 67 lenses, has not shipped in the U.S. or even Europe yet due to overwhelming demand (and a limited supply) in Japan. We met with Ned Bunnell president of Pentax USA, during photokina on Thursday to find out what the deal was.
“We’re going to start to bring the 645D into the States in late November or early December but that’s based on availability,” he told us. “We’re still fighting fairly significant back orders in Japan.”
Bunnell added that the camera will be on display at the PDN-sponsored PhotoPlus Expo show in New York City next month but he couldn’t guarantee there will be more than one working model on the show floor. (If there is only one 645D, Bunnell could be the most popular man at the Jacob Javits Center.)
“PhotoPlus is where we’ll make our splash,” he said, while noting that when the camera does come into the U.S., Pentax will be offering one-on-one support to 645D customers.
“What we’re saying is, if a photographer buys this camera, we will provide that photographer with direct contact to one of our support staff in Golden, Co. It’s different from if you bought one of our traditional cameras in the past when you got a support group. In this case, you’ll have a name.” Pentax plans to officially announce this new 645D support plan at PhotoPlus Expo.
Bunnell was pleased with the news this week that Hasselblad would also release a sub-$10,000 medium format camera, the 31MP H4D-31. “That was validation that medium-format can be made affordable at a fairly attractive price.”
Also making a stand at photokina was Olympus which was showing off its snazzy new 12.3MP E-5 digital SLR which was announced a few weeks ago. Sally Smith-Clemens of Olympus said image quality from the E-5 has been improved from its predecessor, the E-3, when camera engineers modified the low-pass filter.
“It has lessened the moire correction the filter applies and by doing that, the optics (of the lenses) render more detail from the sensor,” Smith-Clemens said, while adding that the moire correction is now being performed by the processor.
Olympus also unveiled a new concept camera at photokina, a compact model that will use a top-of-the-line Zuiko lens. The big news though is that unlike other recent Olympus cameras, this model won’t use a Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds sensor, according to Smith-Clemens.
Other details of the new compact model, which is expected to challenge cameras such as the Canon G12, Panasonic LX5 and Samsung TL500, are scant. By looking at the display model at photokina, it appears the camera will have a 3-inch LCD, video recording, a pop-up flash and an accessory port. It will be available in the first quarter of 2011.
Lenses Having Babies
Photokina also saw the debut of yet another quirky lens from everyone’s favorite quirky lens maker, Lensbaby. The company announced its new Composer with Tilt Transformer lens which is now shipping in mounts for Panasonic Lumix G Micro cameras and Olympus PEN digital cameras. There will also be a version for Sony NEX cameras in the last quarter of this year.
In a quirky twist — what else do you expect from Lensbaby? — the Tilt Transformer lets you mount a Nikon lens onto a Panasonic or Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera (and eventually a Sony NEX model) to create an effect that gives you a slice of sharpness through an image with a border of soft blur. To see the effect, check out the image by Keri Friedman to the below right.)
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
There are lots of eye-catching performers at photokina designed to entice crowds to check out new products. One of the most-eye-catching displays of them all was a nude girl covered in body paint in the design of a color checker card (See the top of this story…in case you possibly missed it earlier.)
Photographers were invited to photograph the girl to see if their cameras were properly calibrated. Not wishing to seem like a prude we played along and shot a few photos with a Canon PowerShot S95 we were testing. An interesting gimmick…too bad the naked lady made us forget what the name of the company was.
And finally as we leave Cologne to head back to real world we leave you with one final image of a vintage 1954 photokina poster we photographed in a city shop window. Even back then, the photo imaging future looked exciting.