Photokina is happening right now in Germany and a lot of new cameras and lenses are being introduced. Here’s my personal take on stuff…
The most practical tool seems to be the Nikon D600, already available for a price of $2100. That sounds costly, but the image quality should be much higher than the $3500 Canon 5D Mark III (my review). The D600 shares the 14+ f-stop dynamic range of the D800 but without the $3000 and the excessive-for-many-folks 36 MP resolution. See the D600 sensor test from DxO.
The Sony NEX mirrorless system has gotten a big vote of confidence from Hasselblad, which will sell you a $1000 Sony NEX-7 in a fancy case for $6500 (consumers are not impressed). The new Sony NEX-6 is my favorite camera in the line. It doesn’t run Android and therefore lacks full photo-sharing capabilities, but it does have Wi-Fi and can push photos to smartphones and/or to at least one Internet service (Facebook). It has some tricks in the sensor that are supposed to make autofocus work better. Given that the NEX-6 screen folds out, this should be a better videography tool than most DSLRs. Sony also introduced some interesting new lenses, e.g., a super wide zoom (10-18mm; 15-27mm equivalent) and a fast prime image-stabilized normal lens (35/1.8). Bizarrely, Sony also introduced a point-and-shoot camera with a 24x36mm sensor (“full frame” or the same as 35mm film) and a fixed 35/2 lens. This thing costs $2800. Ever since Sony acquired the Minolta line in 2006, I have been expecting Sony to make a serious effort at unseating Nikon or Canon in the DSLR market by coming out with a full professional range of lenses. Instead, the company seems to be putting out one random product after another.
The Nikon S800c compact camera should be the wave of the future. It runs the Android operating system so, in addition to being able to capture photos, it is capable of doing the stuff with photos that people want to do. Samsung supposedly is coming out with a “Galaxy Camera” that will be even better, e.g., with the true Android 4.1 religion installed and a 4G modem.
Panasonic DMC-GH3 seems as though it might be the most interesting four-thirds camera. It can record 1080p high-def video at a frame rate of 60 frames per second (60p). I wonder for whom this will be a significant difference. Sports?
I’ve been a Canon EOS user since 1994, but this year has been enough to challenge one’s faith in the company. Canon introduced a cheap full-frame camera, the EOS 6D, that costs $2100 and does basically everything that the 5D Mark III does. This will be another reason for 5D Mark III buyers to feel stupid, but it does not sound as though they have made any headway in terms of competing with Nikon on image quality. Canon has not introduced any new lenses, though some of their offerings are rather tired (e.g., the 50/1.8 with no USM; no 50mm lens with image stabilization; the 50 macro lens with no USM or IS; the 35/2 lens with no USM). If Sony can put image stabilization into its new prime lenses for the NEX, why can’t Canon do something similar for EF lenses?
For Californians who aren’t satisfied at having spent $327 million on a Web site, Leica offers a camera (the “M”) with the same specs (full frame sensor, 24 MP resolution) as the $2100 Canons and Nikons … for $7000. Leica is also selling a new version of their 30x45mm sensor camera with 37 megapixels (same as a Nikon D800) for $22,000 (don’t ask about lens prices!). Hasselblad has a vaguely similar H5D system with up to 60 MP of resolution from a 37x49mm sensor). The big ‘Blad and Leica cameras are intended primarily for studio use.
Here’s a question for the techies reading this blog… why can’t the latest cameras capture 4K video? The 4K format requires only about 8 MP of resolution, so the sensors in any of the latest cameras put out enough pixels (at least if you’re willing to accept some interpolation of color data). Yet the only camera that I’ve heard of being able to record 4K is the Canon EOS-1D C (announced but not shipping). Is the problem one of CPU power for compressing data at those rates?