After last year’s disappearing act, Canon were back with a vengeance at this year’s Focus on Imaging expo at the NEC in Birmingham. Unsurprisingly, the EOS 5D Mark III, announced just two days before the event, was the star of their stand and of the show, with long queues to get up close and personal with one.
From the, albeit limited hands on I had with the 5D Mark III, my initial impression is that the 1D X and 7D had sex and their offspring has inherited most of its parents’ best genes. Autofocus, the achilles heel of the 5D mark II, appears to have been profoundly addressed with the inclusion of (most of) the 1D X’s autofocus system. Low light performance is suggested to be two stops better than on the 5D Mark II (for JPEGS), a suggestion with which I would tentatively concur. In fact, from what I have seen so far, I would go so far as to say that ISO 12,800 on the Canon 5D Mark III seems to be in the realms of ISO 12,800 on the Nikon D3s, which, given that the former has almost twice the pixel count of the latter, is seriously impressive.
Whilst it wasn’t really possible to look, in any meaningful way, at moire, aliasing and rolling shutter, I’m told the former two have been virtually eliminated and the latter significantly reduced. Encoding is, apparently, still 4:2:0, at either 90Mbps (All i-frame codec) or 48Mbps (IBP codec). Unfortunately the HDMI output is not clean, which many will find extremely annoying given that Nikon have included a clean HDMI out on the cheaper D800 (and D4). Frame rates above 30 remain at 720p, which, although expected, is a shame. Adjustable volume levels whilst recording and a headphone jack (finally) are welcome additions, as are the improved layout of the controls, build quality and weatherproofing. Apparently it is this enhanced weatherproofing that prevents the new 3.2” rear LCD from being of the articulating variety, which is probably a price worth paying. Some have suggested that the 5D Mark III is more evolutionary than revolutionary. That’s probably fair comment. However, what it has evolved into, seems rather magnificent and a worthy successor to the 5D Mark II.
Also present were the EOS 1D X, EOS C300, XF-305, XF-105, Pixma Pro-1 and Canon’s full range of lenses, DSLRs, video cameras and accessories, ensuring their stand was both the biggest and buzziest of the show.
If the EOS 5D Mark III was the star of the show, the Nikon D800 was Best Supporting Camera. However, since Nikon had only brought one D800 body, the waiting time to see it, like the megapixel count was too great for some. As a big advocate of both the Nikon D700 and D3s, I was anticipating the arrival of the D800 as eagerly as anyone and in most respects it seems to deliver, but I must question the wisdom of cramming so many photosites onto its sensor (which some are, ill informedly suggesting, makes it comparable to medium format). As always, until I have had a chance to properly test its high ISO and video performance, I shall reserve judgment, but the promise of uncompressed full HD 4:2:2 video over HDMI is certainly an intriguing proposition and I suspect that its 32.3 effective mega pixels will turn on as many people as it turns off.
Another extremely popular attraction was the Fuji X-Pro 1, which, from what I have seen so far, is not just one of the best looking digital cameras ever made, but also produces excellent results at pretty much all ISOs, thanks in part to an innovative new sensor, that does away with the need for an AA filer. It’s a great shame that Fuji do not currently offer a 35mm equivalent lens for the X-Pro 1, or include focus peaking/magnification to enable one to manually focus third party optics, as one or the other (or preferably both) would seem to make it the perfect street camera.
Sony, who normally have a major presence and all of their key personnel at this show, were strangely absent, with just a single rep putting in an appearance on a retailer’s stall. Very odd! I did manage to get a brief hands on with the Sony NEX-7 (the Fuji X-Pro 1′s only serious competitor) and was pleasantly surprised. Contrary to my expectations of a stupidly small body with horrifically oversized lenses, it turns out that the NEX-7 and Zeiss 24mm 1.8 (the biggest and best of the primes designed for it), sits in the hand perfectly and the ‘tri-navi’ soft control system works really well. Given that the NEX-7 has a non image stabilised 24 megapixel APS-C sensor, I have some questions about noise and low light performance, but this is, nevertheless, a camera with which I am seriously interested in spending some time.
Panasonic (who, like Sony, normally have a major presence and their key personal at this show) were also strangely absent, leaving Olympus as the sole micro four thirds representatives. Instead of a stand, Olympus had erected a runway, populated with alleged models, who seemed to be of more interest to the ‘if it moves, shoot it’ throngs, than Olympus’ new OM-D, which is a shame, as the OM-D seems to be the camera that finally fulfils the potential of M43 (as long as you don’t want to shoot 24 or 25p video that is).
Samyang had their full range of lenses on show, including the new 24mm 1:1.4 ED AS UMC, which looks like it could be the solution to a multitude of problems, including what to put on a Sony NEX FS100 for reportage (albeit with an adapter, as it is not available in Sony E-Mount). Interestingly and somewhat exclusively, I can reveal that Samyang have plans to release autofocus lenses in the future, which, if they turn out to be as good and competitively priced as their manual offerings, should do a great job of photographing the cat they set amongst the pigeons.
One of the most interesting developments for filmmakers, was ‘Limelite‘ a new range of video and broadcast solutions from Bowens. As one might expect from a company with Bowens’ heritage, they have really taken the time to research and understand this market, as evidenced by their first product, the ‘Mosaic’, a 30cm square daylight balanced LED panel, that’s twice as bright and half the cost of a Litepanels 1×1! Offering 5600k daylight balanced output, mains and V-lock battery powering, DMX control, full 360 degree tilt, configurability in banks of 2 or 4, filters and a range accessories, it seems to tick all the right boxes and its ability to optionally display power output in f-stops will make life easy for still photographers trying their hands at motion. What really impressed me though, was that when I asked about CRI, not only did Bowens understand the question, but responded by telling me the Mosaic’s CRI is 90!
However, it wasn’t just about digital. Ilford drew crowds to rival Canon, with their Harman Titan 5×4 pinhole camera (designed and manufactured in the UK by Walker Cameras). Lightweight, yet robust, it features an interchangeable 72mm wide angle cone, 2 built-in spirit levels, 2 tripod mounts, an accessory mounts and comes in a kit with 10 sheets of Ilford Delta 100 film, 10 sheets Ilford Multigrade IV RC paper, 10 sheets of Harman Direct Positive FB paper and a pinhole exposure calculator. Unsurprisingly, they sold faster than cup cakes, with over 1000 purchased during the show.
Although the Harman Titan comes with full instructions, those needing, or wanting a deeper understanding of silver based photography would be well advised to download Roger Hicks’ & Frances Schultz’s excellent new e-book, ‘Black and White Step by Step‘, which Roger gave me a preview of, at the show. It does exactly what it says on the tin, covering, in its 520 pages, 35mm, medium format, 5×4, exposure, filtration, chemicals, developing and printing. Meanwhile, those needing help with finding something upon which to mount their Harman Titan (or other camera) will find Roger’s e-book ‘Choosing and Using Tripods’ invaluable.
And on the subject of film, you know things are bad at Kodak when they can only afford one quarter of a stand…and that quarter of a stand is not even Kodak themselves, but their UK distributors. It gets worse though…. As their section of the stand sported the legend ‘Portra‘, I asked a rep where the film was… and he responded by stating “Film is dead!” (sic). I would suggest that he should be, but let’s face it, this is Kodak we’re talking about…with an attitude like that, he’ll probably be offered a seat on their board…
- New Cameras in 2012 (paul-d.tv)
- And so it Begins… Nikon D4 HDSLR Announced! (paul-d.tv)
- A Letter to Kodak (paul-d.tv)
© 2012, Paul D. All rights reserved. Moral Rights Asserted.