PDN PhotoPlus 2010 Show Report

javits center Nov 02, 2010
Another PDN PhotoPlus show has come and gone and, once again, I slogged my way through the amassed crowd of photographers, photo buyers and journalists to bring you highlights from the show.

 

This year’s report will be separated into two sections: Cameras & Lenses/Accessories. But first, as always, an Animoto video of the show highlights.

 

Cameras

PENTAX – First on my list of booths to visit was Pentax. There I met Ned Bunnell, President of Pentax Imaging USA, and we discussed at length (such as can be had at a trade show) the new to USA/Europe Pentax 645D medium format digital camera.

Pentax 645D

The 645D is modeled very closely on the venerable Pentax 645N film camera and is compatible with all of the 645N’s lenses. This was a very smart move on Pentax’s part. As a whole new line of digital lenses are being developed for the 645D (only the 55 mm f/2.8 prime is available at launch) photographers can tap into a vast array of compatible lenses right away, many of which are available at reasonable prices (for now) on the used market.

When the 645D launched in Japan, it was a runaway success. I think this took Pentax by surprise. Pentax has been hard pressed to keep up with demand there. Adding the USA and Europe to mix will only make availability even more constrained. Mr. Bunnell expects shipments to realistically start early next year. Those of us eager to get our hands on samples for review will have to be patient.

The camera at the show was a production model so I was allowed to take some test shots with my own SD card in the slot. I have posted a couple of samples shot as DNG and converted using Lightroom 3.2. The DNG files could also be read by Aperture 3, Capture One Pro 5.2.1, ACR 6.2 and Phocus 2.5 on the Mac. Currently, only Lightroom 3 has lens profiles for the 645D.

Sample Shot #2 from 645D

Sample Shot #1 from 645D

OLYMPUS – The Olympus booth was crowded as they showed off their new E-5 top end DSLR and new lenses for the Olympus Pen.

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The new lenses for the Pen included a 40-150mm zoom (80-300mm in 35mm) and a 75-300mm zoom (150-600mm in 35mm). The latter lens is truly amazing as it is barely 6 inches long, making it the smallest 600mm lens in the world today. That lens is a concert goer’s dream come true.

New lenses for Olympus Pen

Other bits of fun at the Oly booth included shoulder rigs for shooting video courtesy of Red Rock Micro. They even made one for the E-PL1!

Shoulder Rig in action

The prototype high-end point and shoot camera that was introduced at Photokina was on display here too. This will be the first point and shoot from Olympus to feature a fixed (non-removable) Zuiko lens. This unit was under glass and not available for fondling, but it looks to be quite sturdily built with and metallic outer shell similar to the black EP-2.

Prototype Olympus high end Point & Shoot

Speaking of point and shoot cameras, Stylus Tough cameras were being abused throughout the show, demonstrating their ability to withstand the elements. They even had one on ice!

Olympus Tough on ice

The only thing missing in the Stylus Tough would be a Lojack to recover it when dropped or lost.

Olympus also shipped me a Pen E-PL1 for review that was waiting for me when I got home. Expect a full review in the coming weeks. W00t!

SONY – Sony’s booth had a half-pipe installed in it and professional stunt bikers doing tricks for all to see and shoot. This was done to showcase the amazingly fast focusing ability of their new SLT (single lens translucent) cameras, the SLT α33 & α55. These cameras are very light and focus incredibly fast. The translucent mirror never flips up out of the way so there is no shake from mirror slap or viewfinder blackout. I can only hope that Sony sees fit to make a pro version of these cameras with weather-sealing and full-frame sensors. Sports and wedding photographers would eat them up.

New Sony Alpha α55 SLT

LEICA – The M9 Titan was on display at the Leica booth, but it was difficult to see due to the crowd of drooling photographers. Also on hand were the D-Lux 5 and the Leica X1 Black. The X1 Black looked very elegant. In an interview with Christian Erhardt, VP of Marketing for Leica USA, I was told that the X1 Black should shipping in quantity very soon, but currently they only have one outside. High ISO performance is supposed to be very good on the X1 (up to ISO 12,800) and I eagerly await my review sample.

Leica X1 Black

X1 Black viewfinder-handgrip.jpg

I asked Mr Erhardt about the possibility of using the red LED lighting system developed for the M9 Titan in existing M9’s and he hinted that it is more likely to be appearing in an upcoming refresh of the M digital rangefinders (M9.2? M10?).

The D-Lux 5, Leica’s premier compact point and shoot camera was there as well and I am expecting one in for review shortly.

D-Lux 5 handgrip-viewfinder.JPG

I also got  chance to take a quick peek at the V-Lux 2, Leica’s entry into the bridge camera segment. Equipped with a fixed superzoom lens, this cam is being billed as the perfect travel camera and they may be right. Leica even has a contest going on where the winner will get to travel to some far-off exotic destination and photograph it with a V-Lux 2.

V-Lux 2.JPG

PHASE ONE/LEAF/SCHNEIDER – Phase One was the only other medium format digital camera maker at PPE this year (as opposed to 2008 when Hasselblad was there as well) and they shared their booth with Leaf (their subsidiary) and Schneider Kruzenach (their lens partner). I was hoping to take some shots with the new Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 Mpx back, but there was a bit of a crowd there as well. I will contact my local dealer, Capture Integration, to arrange for a looksee. I did, however, get to try out the new S-K Tilt-Shift lenses.

Schneider Kreuzenach 120mm Tilt Shift Lens

Tilt-Shift lenses allow you to alter the focal plane of the lens enabling you to precisely control what is in focus and what is not. They also allow for parallax free stitched images to be created as well as controlling parallax in single shots as well. The following sample was taken by my using a Phase One 645DF camera with a P65+ digital back and an S-K 120mm T/S lens. If you click on the image you will be taken to my flickr page where you can zoom in on the image. The plane of focus has been set (more or less) to follow the diagonal line of the right margin of the page closest to the camera. Very neat indeed. Me want!

Sample Photo: SK 120mm TS on Phase One 645DF w P65+

CASIO – Casio had their entire arsenal of Point & Shoots on hand to try including two fascinating new models. First is their upcoming Hybrid GPS Camera which not only geotags your images but provides maps and plots on the camera itself. The camera can even recommend nearby locations for taking photographs of local landmarks. Going indoors? The Hybrid GPS Camera’s internal accelerometers can track your movements when it loses satellite signal. Once communications is restored, the camera updates all images taken while out of communications with fresh satellite info. “I, Camera” has arrived.

Casio Hybrid GPS Camera

Casio Hybrid GPS Camera - Map Display

The other camera of interest is the FS1000 which can take video up to 1000 fps! Granted that, video is postage stamp sized, but lesser slow-mo speeds can be achieved with larger images. The camera can also switch from normal to slow-mo on the fly for some interesting video effects. All this in a point & shoot. Will wonders never cease?

Casio FS1000 Camera - Front

Casio FS1000 High Speed camera - back

SIGMA – The big news at the Sigma booth was the prototype for their upcoming top-end DSLR, the SD1. Touted at 46+ megapixels, this camera is aimed squarely at wedding shooters. The 46+ mpx figure requires a bit of explanation. Sigma cameras use the Foveon sensor which eschews the Bayer approach in favor of a three layer sensor that captures red, green, and blue values at every pixel. This leads to higher color fidelity and sharpness as no interpolation is needed. However, each layer is only 15.3 megapixels, so 15.3 x 3 = 46.2 mpx, That’s were the 46 mpx figure comes from. The actual image resolution is 15.3 mpx. The Sigma folks will tell you that a Bayer sensor at 15 mpx will only effectively produce a 2.5 mpx image. I am still trying to make sense of that statement. The camera under glass was more of a mock-up than anything else. The sensor and rear display worked and you could snap a picture, but no cards were in the camera and you could not insert one of your own. Standard bill-of-fare for prototypes at trade shows. I will be keeping an eye on this camera as it develops.

Sigma SD1 Prototype

ARCA-SWISS – Best know these days for their tripod plate standard, Arca-Swiss does still make cameras in medium and large format. On display were their Rm3di and Rm2d tech cameras. These high precision tech cameras now feature a grip extension that improves their handhold-ability.

Arca Swiss Rm3di Tech Camera

Arca Swiss Rm2d Tech Camera

And now, on to the accessories section!

THINKTANK – ThinkTank Bags was onsite showing off their latest wares including their new Retrospective line of bags and a refresh of the Urban Disguise line. These bags are worth it.

ThinkTank Urban Disguise Bags v2

LENSBABY – Retro lensmaker Lensbaby was showing off their new Scout and Tilt-Transformer at PPE. The Scout allows you to mount the Optic Swap inserts on you camera in a fixed way, as opposed to the Composer which allows you to tilt manually.

Lensbaby Scout

Here is a shot of yours truly taken with the Scout + Fisheye insert:

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The Tilt-Transformer was also there. The T-T allows you to mount Nikon lenses on μ4/3 and Sony NEX cameras on a tilt base like the Composer This allows for diorama style shots to be easily created optically instead of through software.

Lensbaby Tilt-Transformer for μ4/3

Newcomer Vanguard was present showing off their line of tripods, heads and bags. These look to be very well built items. I hope to have some in for review as well.

Vanguard CF tripod

AQUATECH – Maker of surf housing for DSLRs, AquaTech was introducing their SoundBlimp at the show. A SoundBlimp is a case that muffles all of the noise made by a camera for shooting in venues where the click of a shutter can be very distracting (like when I shoot ballet). The unit is expected to go on sale in Q1 2011.

AquaTech SoundBlimp

360 SHOT SYSTEMS – There were at least three companies at the show demonstrating these linked turntables/lightboxes. Ranging in price from $500 to $2599, these systems allow you to automatically create 360 degree images of products very easily. Ortery makes one that can take large, heavy objects like people or motorcycles!

Ortery PhotoCapture 360

ProductOrbit by electrobee

JILL-E DESIGNS – makers of camera bags for women, JillE has added their new Jack line of bags for men. Stylish and luxurious, the Jack line of camera bags protects your camera gear while making you look good too.

Jack Bags for Men by JillE

Jack Messenger by JillE

That’s it for this year. The trip has once again produced many opportunities for me to provide you with quality reviews in the coming year. Stay tuned.

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