PhotoPlus 2009 Show Report

canon Nov 17, 2009

Once again, New York City and the Javits Center played host to the PDN PhotoPlus Expo. This year’s show had a very good turnout in spite of the fact that major players like Adobe, Panasonic, & Pentax were not in attendance.

I attended (and I spotted some of my fellow bloggers there as well) and came across several interesting tidbits I’d like to share with you after the jump.

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Nikon and Canon

As usual, visitors were greeted by the Nikon and Canon booths (the largest in the show). Both companies had their latest wares out for show and I headed straight for the Nikon testing booth to get some hands-on time with the recently announced Nikon D3S. The reps were kind enough to let me insert my own CF card in the camera to take some test pics. I am very happy to report that (preliminarily, and only based on in-camera JPGs) the high-ISO performance of this camera is everything they claim. ISO 12,800 shots were at least as good as ISO 3200 shots from my D700. This is very exciting for me as a stagecraft photographer.

25466_D3S_24_70_front_l

This camera also adds a "Quiet Shutter" option. Basically, the shutter will not re-cock until the photographer lifts his finger off of the shutter release. This design is very similar to the "discrete shutter mode" on Leica’s M8 & M9 digital cameras. That feature is aimed squarely at wedding photographers.

Video recording and a dust removal system have also been added to bring the D3S up to par with offerings from Canon. However, the video is 720p vs. 1080p from Canon. It is hoped that a future firmware update will bring 1080p video to the D3S as well. Rounding out the features is the camera’s support of Class 6 UDMA CF cards and a much larger shot buffer.

I had discussed this evolution of the D3 with other photographers and it boiled down to the usual "if you have a business case for those features, then upgrade" which indicates that Nikon’s efforts (while technically amazing in their own right) to generate buzz about this new product is aim squarely at the pro’s and they don’t expect any stampedes to run out and buy this camera.

The Canon booth was so packed that I couldn’t even shoe-horn myself in to get a look at the 1D Mk IV, let alone get some high-ISO sample images. I will have to wait till my local dealer gets them in stock.

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I was able to get around to the printer side of Canon and got confirmation that driver releases for Mac OS X “Snow Leopard” and Windows 7 are on schedule. Here is a shot of the Canon ipf8100 in action (and my wife complains about the size of my old W6400). In the background you can see an ipf5100 (17-in model).

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Leica

Nearby Leica was making quite a splash with near-Production quality S2 DSLR’s on display. They still wouldn’t let you shoot your own cards with it yet, but they did host a photo shoot off-site to allow photogs some actual hands-on time with the new pro system.

Here is a shot of Justin Stailey (Leica USA) and the new flagship camera.

Justin and the S2

For those who are not aware, the Leica S2 is a new, medium-format-ish professional camera sporting a 37.9 mpx sensor and some spectacular new optics. Unlike other medium-format systems (which are box-like modular affairs,) the Leica S2 sports an SLR style body which, although slightly larger than a garden variety DLSR, is very balanced and handles very well. This photo will give you an idea of the relative size of the system.

Big, but handles well.

The S2 also features leaf shutter and focal plane shutter in the same body, a trend that is being emulated by other medium-format manufacturers.

Also present in abundance at the Leica booth was the recently announced (and shipping) Leica M9 digital rangefinder. The new flagship M camera sports a full-frame sensor (the smallest camera body in this class), improved ISO performance (but not up to par with the latest offerings from Nikon), a much, much quieter shutter, and an improved IR filter that removes the IR Cut Filter requirement that plagued the M8/M8.2. It is compatible with practically every M-lens made since 1954 (there are a few exceptions) and (new to the M9) lenses can now be selected on a menu instead of having to manually code older/3rd party lenses.

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Rounding out the Leica presence was the brand new Leica X1. The X1 is essentially a super high-end point and shoot camera sporting an APS-C sized sensor (similar to the micro four thirds systems and Sigma’s DP1-DP2 cameras) and a fixed Leica lens. Reviews on other sites places the image quality on par with DSLRs, but does it justify the $1,995 price tag?

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Olympus

The Olympus booth was screaming E-P1, the new micro four-thirds based EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) camera. They even had a “test drive” program by which one could borrow an E-P1 and use it there at the show. I took advantage of this offer and have some photos taken with this system. I will note in the text when the image was taken with the E-P1.

I had a meeting with the folks at Mullen Communication (Olympus USA’s PR firm) and they flatly denied the possible existence of the E-P2. Besides insulting my intelligence (Olympus exec Akira Watanabe told the British Journal of Photography in an interview that a new mft Pen camera would be released before year’s end), lying to my face (despite the fact that I was willing to sign any NDA they chose to put in front of me), they went and granted another website access and the right to conduct a video interview with Olympus personnel on the (then unannounced) E-P2 in the conference room next to mine! I wish Olympus the best of luck with the new E-P2 but I will no longer deal with the unethical behavior from the staff at Mullen. Consider this my last bit of Olympus coverage.

Phase One/Leaf/Mamiya/Schneider

Phase One/Leaf/Mamiya/Schneider had a booth in the back of the show and was the only medium format digital back maker present. Phase One now has controlling interest in Mamiya who makes their camera bodies and lenses and owns Leaf out right. Mamiya bundles Leaf Aptus II digital backs in their DL series of camera kits, while Phase One sells Phase One branded Mamiya cameras and lenses bundled with their P+ series of digital backs.

Phase One 645DF + P40+

The new 645DF camera body was on hand along with the new line of lenses designed by Schneider. The new lenses include a leaf shutter in addition to the focal plane shutter in the 645DF body. Shutter choice is user selectable. While slightly larger than previous Phase One/Mamiya 645 cameras, the 645DF is well balanced and handles well even in my large hands.

Image quality from the Leaf and Phase One backs is nothing short of stunning. The Phase One P40+ (pictured above) and the P65+ sport a “Sensor Plus” mode that, while quartering the number of available pixels, provides clean 16-bit color/channel images up to ISO 3200.

Phase One 645DF + Aptus-II 10

Photo News of the Weird

No Photo Plus would be complete without a showing of some of the loopier gizmos, gadgets and gewgaws that always show up there.

Radio Controlled Aerial Camera Rig 

First up, a radio controlled mini-helicopter rig for aerial photography. For a mere $10K ($12.5K with a turbulence management system) you can strap up to 6 1/2 lbs of expensive camera gear and send it soaring into the sky. Hopefully, you know how to land softly too. The entire unit is electrically powered and you can stream info and images from your camera back to the ground. The designer was telling me that they’ve even flown RED digital motion picture cameras on this rig. It is way cheaper than renting a helicopter.

Fans of Japanese TV rejoice! Holga is offering a limited edition fuchsia colored Holga as featured in the series Kamen Rider: Decade. Only 50 of these were made and they were available at the show for $179. I would have gotten one but it would have been difficult explaining it to the Mrs.

Masked Rider Decade Holga

I’ll say one thing about Decade: he’s very secure in his manhood to be running around dressed as a hot-pink Power Ranger.

The gang from Spider Holsters had a booth here at the show. On display was their rapid access camera holstering system. I was able to help them confirm compatibility between their SpiderPro and RRS L-bracket equipped camera bodies.

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Arca Swiss had the vaporous Rm3d technical camera on display this time with a new electronic rangefinder coupled to the camera. This is a big step up for MFD tech cameras as those are almost always scale-focused systems.

Arca Swiss Rm3d with electronic rangefinder

(Is it me or does the rangefinder mounted on the camera’s left side look like it was salvaged from and old Polaroid SX-70?)

Anyway, the trip resulted in the following upcoming reviews:

Lensbaby Composer with the Optic Swap System

Wacom Intuos4 + Mouse

Leica M9

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