PhotoPlus Expo 2011 Show Report - Part 1

Accessories Oct 29, 2011

The PhotoPlus Expo 2011 was held once again at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. With the absorption of PMA into the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), PPE has become the last major standalone photography exposition in the U.S. I once again took up my annual pilgrimage to the Big Apple to see what the camera makers had to offer.

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The Big Three were present with major displays as always, but the show was populated with about a hundred other vendors showing off their new toys. Here are some highlights:

Canon

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Canon’s booth was populated with every existing copy of the newly announced EOS-1DX professional DSLR. I had an opportunity to handle the camera, but as it was a pre-release unit, I was not permitted to use my own memory cards to take sample pictures.

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The camera felt good in the hand and all of the controls fell naturally into place. The two joystick arrangement works in either the portrait or landscape orientations. Canon’s claim to shot speed, tracking focus, and lowlight capabilities seem to be well founded but I cannot render final judgement until I get to personally test the camera fully. That is going to be a long time in coming due to the length of the waiting list and the difficulty I am experiencing in contacting Canon marketing. I did manage to take some shots at ISO 25,600 and it looked pretty good at 100% on the large 3 inch display.

Also on display was the Pixma Pro-1 13 inch photo printer. Sporting 12 inks, this printer is ready to take on the likes of the Epson R3000. Output from the printer looked extremely nice and the speed was reasonable.

Nikon

The Nikon booth was as large as ever with an added counter for their new 1 Series mirrorless compact system cameras. The floods in Thailand have destroyed Nikon’s only factory in the area. The factory was responsible for the manufacture of their low-end DSLRs and consumer grade lenses. They probably have enough stock already made to carry them through the holiday season. The 1-Series is manufactured in China, so the Thai floods have no effect on them.

The 1-Series comes in several fashionista friendly colors including matching lenses. Judging by the crowds around that counter, they may have a credible hit on their hands. Or maybe it was the booth babes…

Sony

The Sony booth featured four new products: the SLT-A77, the SLT-A65, NEX-7, and the NEX-5n. I got a bit of hands-on time with the A77 and was even allowed to shoot some RAW files to my own SD card. I set it up in my usual configuration for shooting ballet (70-200 G lens, manual mode, 1/320s, f/4, ISO 5000) so once I get home and run them through Aperture and Capture One, I will post the results.

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I used the add on battery grip and the camera was very well balanced in my hands. The 70-200 lens was smooth and the AF was very fast. I can’t wait to try it out for real. The shutter was very quiet and in hi speed shooting mode I could not fire less than three shots at a pop. If the images from the RAW files are as good as I think they are going to be, I may switch.

I also got to handle (fondle?) the now delayed NEX-7. Sony reps confirmed that the camera will ship in January. The pre-release version I used was very solidly built and the Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 was very very nice. This combo will be a badass street camera. Sadly, as this was a pre-release camera, I was not allowed to take any test shots with me. The NEX-7 sports the same sensor as the A77 (24 megapixels), however it lacks the translucent mirror of its bigger sibling and has the potential for sharper images and slightly better low-light capabilities. Time will tell. Due to the flooding in Thailand, the NEX-7 will be delayed until January 2012. At least that was the party line at the Sony booth.

Pentax

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Last year, Pentax was all about BIG: they introduced the 645D 40 megapixel medium format digital camera (which I am still in line to try out). This year was the opposite: SMALL. The Pentax Q system was all over the place and I have to say for a tiny little system camera (the body has the same area as a playing card) it felt really solid in my hands. Plus, if you were a Pentax Q owner and you passed by the booth, you were given a highly snazzy leather full camera case! I spoke with Pentax USA President Ned Bunnell and he was quite pleased with the results of from the Q, showing me a series of 13×19″ prints all made from the diminutive little powerhouse. For a small sensor camera (5.5x crop) it is delivering some very impressive results. Currently only available with the No. 1 prime lens (8.5mm, 47mm EFL, f/1.9) and a couple of plastic “toy” lenses, this little guy may be the new definition of “pocket rocket”. When Pentax delivers a telephoto zoom to complement upcoming wide-to-normal zoom, this may become the ultimate concert camera. Can’t wait to get this one in the house!
Leica
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I sat down with Christian Erhardt, VP of Marketing for Leica Camera USA and Jesko von Oeynhausen to discuss Leica’s new product offerings for the show. They had the Leica M9-P with the new Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 lens. The M9-P is a slightly modified version of the M9 sporting a top plate engraved with the Leica script logo instead of the ubiquitous red dot. The camera comes in black paint and chrome. I’ll take one in chrome gentlemen. The Super-Elmar-M 21mm is a super sharp little lens designed to keep the overall size of the M-system trim for the traveling landscape photographer. I will be getting this combination in for testing as well.
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Fuji
There was a bit of traffic over at the Fuji booth with the X-Family of cameras on display. The new X10 compact camera was on display and drawing the lion’s share of the onlookers. This camera follows the recent industry trend to produce really solidly built cameras. It took me a second to figure out how to turn this little guy on as there is no traditional power button or switch. To activate the X10 one simply turns the zoom ring extending the lens and powering the camera on. Very slick.
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The X10 does not sport the hybrid viewfinder of its more expensive sibling, the X100, but it does have a small optical viewfinder for framing. What most folks don’t realize is that Fuji still produces photographic film and cameras. On display here is a collaboration with Cosina Voigtlander: the Fuji 667 folding medium format rangefinder.
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This big fellow uses 120 film and folds down into a trim size that can be easily stowed in a small camera bag. This camera is also sold by Cosina Voigtlander as the Bessa III.
Sigma
Sigma Photo had their recently announced flagship SD-1 on display. Sporting the Foveon sensor, this camera is aimed at studio photographers who want the highest color fidelity and sharpness possible.
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That’s it for Part 1 of this report. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I cover all of the cool accessories I saw while I was at the show.

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