Photokina: Year Of The Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera

Photokina is the mammoth international photo and camera trade show that takes place every two years in Cologne, Germany. It started this past Wednesday and will be wrapping up tomorrow.

While such trade shows can serve as key venues to unveil new gear, this year the camera manufacturers took things into their own hands: Nikon and Canon announced in late August and early September that they each developed comprehensive full-frame mirrorless systems with camera bodies, new lenses, lens adapters and more. The announcements were certainly the biggest of the year. And while both companies were showing the new models at the show, announcing the systems ahead of time eclipsed the ability to generate buzz and excitement around Photokina.

Nevertheless, the show offered other announcements and even surprises for photographers, filmmakers, industry analysts and others from the world of digital imaging.

Full-court press for full-frame mirrorless: It’s no secret that camera companies lost much of the consumer-based point-and-shoot market, and with it, millions, perhaps, billions of dollars, over the course of the past ten years in one of the most conspicuous disruptions in an established market. Still, the high-end camera market, comprising high-end point-and-shoots and interchangeable-lens models, has remained viable for camera companies. This is in large part due to the success of the mirrorless camera market, which is still showing growth. And while Sony continues to dominate this market, with its series of very popular mirrorless models, from consumer-targeted models to high-end pro models, other camera makers are looking to make inroads into other segments of the mirrorless market. 

In fact, camera manufacturers are targeting the highest end of the market to be most aggressive, which is great news for professionals. For example, one important announcement, which seemed to be in response to both Sony’s dominance of the high-end market as well as the recent announcements from Nikon and Canon, was the new L Mount Alliance announced by Panasonic, Leica and Sigma: According to the alliance, each company will produce its own L-mount cameras and L-mount lenses will be compatible across the brands.

Additionally, Panasonic announced two new impressive sounding full-frame sensor mirrorless cameras, the Panasonic Lumix S1R (47-megapixel sensor) and Lumix S1 (24-megapixel sensor), as part of its LUMIX S series. Both will offer robust dual image-stabilization systems and be able to shoot at 4K-resolution (60fps). Panasonic expects the bring the two new models to market in early 2019.

Sigma also indicated that it would be developing a full-frame mirrorless camera, which would use its unique Foveon sensor. Sigma noted that would also continue to produce its QA lenses, as well as developing a QA lens adapter for its upcoming L-mount camera.

A Whole Lotta Glass: The major camera manufacturers all noted that they would be continuing to build out their mirrorless lens lines. But there were also some nice lens introductions. Sigma unveiled five new impressive lenses, for Canon, Nikon, Sony, as well as Micro Four Thirds cameras. The models include:

  • 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
  • 40mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
  • 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary
  • 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
  • 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports 
70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports 
60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports

Earlier in the year, Fujifilm had made an announcement of an extremely unusual lens: The XF33 f/1 R WR, which the company claims is the first f/1 aperture lens for mirrorless cameras. During its presentation at Photokina, Fujifilm mentioned it again.

Also, just before the show, Fujifilm introduced its lens roadmaps for its GFX-series medium-format cameras. It would introduce three new lenses and bring the total number of lenses up to 11, although there was no timeframe on when those new models would come to market.

New Innovation from Unexpected Companies: One of the more intriguing, and definitely surprising, camera introductions came from notable manufacturer of high-end lenses. Zeiss introduced its first digital camera, which it’s calling the Zeiss ZX1, which is an advanced point-and-shoot (or bridge camera). This full-frame Zeiss includes some intriguing, although quirky, features. It has a prime (or non-zoom) integrated (non-detachable) Zeiss Distagon 35 mm f/2 T lens, that includes autofocus and captures images on a 37.4-megapixel full-frame sensor.

Not surprisingly it will capture RAW as well as JPEGs, but the camera will also have a fully integrated version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC within the camera. Consequently, the camera will have a rather unique user interface to support Lightroom CC. The touchscreen display is also very large, 4.3 inches. Another unusual feature, which is sure to get mixed reviews from photographers: It will come with 512 GBs of internal memory. So, it won’t accept memory cards. The ZX1 will also include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and come with USB-C ports. No price was announced, but it will be available in early 2019.

In the coming weeks and months, Digital Photo, Digital Photo Pro and HDVideoPro will be providing hands-on reviews and analysis of all these new products, and how photographers and filmmakers can make the most of the new gear.

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