Visit us at Photokina + Discounts

This year’s Photokina show is about to open on Tuesday. If you happen to visit the fair, we would be glad to welcome you at our booth (B038 in Hall 9).

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We are also offering the following discounts:

The promotional prices are effective immediately (well, as soon as Apple’s servers finish processing the price change) and offered until the end of the show (Sunday afternoon, CEST). The discounts are not limited to Photokina visitors, so anyone can take advantage of them.

Photokina Brochures on Press

Received a few photos from my friend showing the press run of our Photokina brochure at Codex Printing House. Images are published here with Karoly’s permission.

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The brochure isn’t the only printed material we make for this year’s fair, but let me keep the others as a surprise for the show 🙂

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If you can’t make it to Photokina this year, the brochure is also available for download.

By the way if you are into presses, I would recommend you to check out two of the Kuuvik Capture videos (first and third on the linked page), which were filmed in Codex’s press room.

Photokina 2012 – Odds and Ends

This is the last installment of my Photokina reports this year. I already wrote about Canon-related stuff and the currents state of medium format digital, so in this post I’ll try to squeeze all my other observations.

A Tripod is More Than Three Legs

There was an astonishing amount of tripod, head and plate makers selling their – ahem –  stuff. In my thinking the tripod takes the second place (in the order of importance regarding image quality) after the optics and comes before the camera body. So I really pay attention to having a good tripod. So the amount of crap I saw was alarming. How many beginning photographers will be tricked by these manufacturers? At the end anybody takes photography seriously will buy a Gitzo or an RRS tripod. These no-name manufacturers actually steal our money. Avoid them.

Software Updates (actually, the lack of them)

We got OS X 10.8.2, 10.7.5 and iOS 6 from Apple. In a surprise move Microsoft released a retina display aware update to Office 2011 for Mac (they said not long ago that they will not do it in the foreseeable future). But what’s the matter with photography related software? We got no new Photoshop with retina display support. Neither Phase One nor DxO Labs released retina updates. To tell the truth I was hoping for Capture One 7. Maybe later.

Another interesting observation was that most of the exhibitors used Capture One to show off their cameras/lenses/whatever. It is not a surprise because I also found that it provides THE best image quality at the moment.

Lenses

I was interested in two manufacturers: Zeiss and Schneider. The new Zeiss 55/1.4 looked good under glass. But it is vaporware at the moment.

Schneider was more interesting with their new 28mm tilt/shift lens. I’m a huge fan of Canon’s new 24mm TS lens – using it a lot for stitching either 3-shot 4:3 or 2-shot 5:2 aspect ratio images. The only problem with the Canon is the quality of the extreme edges. To compensate for this issue I’m usually cropping the wide images back to the 2.39:1 cinematic “scope” aspect ratio. Schneider glass solves this problem by using a 72mm image circle and not letting the shift mechanism to reach the bad edges. But this comes at a price (both literally and figuratively). The new 28mm f/4.5 lens will cost EUR 4500 plus tax, and it is a huge, heavy lens. A big plus is the built-in Arca plate so that one can directly attach the lens to the tripod avoiding parallax issues.

Glorified Point-and-Shoots

Let’s begin with what surely makes Victor Hasselblad to roll in his grave. The Lunatic. Ooops, Lunar (I think the Lunatic name is a better fit). Take a Sony NEX-7 (of which I can’t say too much good words), dress it in ugly and expensive material, keep the crappy firmware and lenses. I was hoping for a digital X-Pan, but got this gnome instead.  Pfff. I will not invest in Hasselblad stocks that’s sure.

I also checked the Lunatic’s donor NEX line, Fuji’s X-Pro1, the Olympus OM-D whatever (how the hell can one name a product that’s impossible to remember?), Panasonic’s offerings and Canon’s EOS M. No thank you for any of these. I don’t like the image quality of 4/3 cameras, and also staying away from high megapixel APS-C models. Diffraction ruins images so much that the maximum print size I’m comfortable with doing from an APS-C sensor is 30×45 cm for wide-apterture shots and 24×36 for anything else. But do not want to compromise on this.

I have large hands and all they felt small and as a compromised device. Either their lenses suck big time, or they feel flimsy and plasticky. So again, no thank you for the small-sensor mirrorless crowd.

Unfortunately Sony’s full frame RX-1 is still a mock-up. I seriously doubt that they will be able to finish it until December (or we’ll get the usual pain-in-the-butt menu system and software). But regardless of this, the RX-1 equipped with a viewfinder looked as a good candidate for my travel camera. Until I held the Canon 6D in my hands…

Printing and Presentation

I want to mention just one thing here, as the selection of papers and inkjet printing technologies were basically unchanged. On the last day of our visit, we bumped into an exhibition, which showed prints that I watched in awe. Both the photographers’ work and the presentation were outstanding. It was something I was looking for for years. The mounting process is called UltraSec M, done by the German lab Prolab. Prints were face mounted to museum glass, with aluminum backing. Although I’m still not a great fan of Lightjet prints they used (from the longevity side), they looked great. And I also got the information that they are working on to make the same mounting process available with Hahnemühle Photo Rag (which happens to be my favorite paper). I can hardly wait for this to happen! Actually papers used for Lightjet prints will definitely do in the way of the Dodo, the question is when. So they will have to have a new technology when it happens.

“Most Appealing” Awards

These are the products that I found to be the best of the show, likely resulting in purchases in the coming years. Congratulations to the people behind them!

The ALPA 12 FPS was the most appealing and most innovative medium/large format camera. This is the first high quality camera that allows using your existing glass, making the transition easier.

The Canon EOS 6D was the most appealing new DSLR, with its integrated WiFi and GPS stuff, as well as the feature packed small body.

The most appealing lenses were the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM and the Schneider PC-TS Super Angulon 4.5/28 HM Aspheric. The Canon’s lightweight construction is great, and the Schneider might be the best lens for my wide angle stitches.

The most appealing emerging presentation technology was UltraSec M with Hahnemühle Photo Rag. I know that this is not a final technology yet, but it would be the ultimate presentation I’m after, so it deserves its own award.

Not a “most appealing” piece, but I feel I have to give an award to the most ridiculous product of the show – what else – the Hasselblad Lunatic Lunar.

Photokina 2012 – Medium Format Digital

For 40 x 60 cm standard print size (and occasional 40 x 100 and 60 x 90 stitches) the current crop of 35mm digital cameras are great. Mated with good glass, there is not much to be desired (a little more dynamic range on Canons perhaps). So I’m mostly satisfied with the equipment I have (except that I lust for new lenses all the time). But larger print sizes are outside of the realm of 35mm digital – regardless of resolution. One can increase the pixel count above 24 megapixels, but diffraction effects start to kick in limiting both depth of field and maximum print size. The only way up from here is either medium or large format digital.

I’m not really a fan of scanning back solutions, so let me skip large format stuff for this post.

Let’s take a look on medium format digital offers. First, there are medium format back (or complete DSLR) offers from Hasselblad, Mamiya/Phase One, Pentax and Leica. Hasselblads and Mamiyas are what I call “plastic fantastic” cameras. They were constructed for film, and they cannot handle the tight tolerance requirements of 50-60 megapixels backs. Not to mention the crappy AF. I have seen several screwed up shots from Hasselblad H2 and Mamiya 645AFD bodies where the back was not perfectly parallel with the image plane – resulting in focus problems. Their lenses also leave lot to be desired. Especially if you compare them with digital-optimized view camera lenses. Pentax’s poor lens line (only two digital lenses) and cropped sensor does not invite me to invest money there. The Leica S system is better both in build quality and lens range/quality, but severely lacks in tilt/shift offerings (I tried the new Schneider lens at their booth, but they still does not have wide angle tilt/shift lenses). So all this pushes me towards technical cameras.

Contemporary 6×9 technical cameras from Arca-Swiss and Linhof as well as “compact” models from ALPA an Arca-Swiss, mated with digital optimized Schneider or Rodenstock glass are capable of nothing short of phenomenal. The weakest link is the back…

With current digital backs resolution and dynamic range are both great, but frankly everything else is 5 years old tech. Which severely limits usability. Frame rates. High ISO. Live view. All those are lacking with each and every medium format back and camera system on the market. The only way one could reliably and precisely focus a 60-80 megapixel back on a view camera would be through live view – which current CCD sensors can’t do. Phase and Leaf advertise live view capability, but they are a joke. 1-2 fps with vertical streaks and smear all over the place. They are so ugly that I can’t concentrate on the subject matter using those.

So until Canon, CMOSIS or Sony comes up with a 645-sized CMOS sensor or DALSA or Truesense makes a CCD that provides usable live view, I will stick with my Canon 5D Mark III. It produces smaller prints, but the lens range is great (especially the new tilt-shift offerings from Schneider). And as photography is a hobby for me, I prefer enjoy working with a camera system rather than struggling with it.