What a busy week with Photokina happening, next week so lets jump straight in.
Following on the success of the X-Pro1, Fuji have announced the X-E1. It features the same, highly acclaimed 16.3mp APS-C X-Trans CMOS Sensor that is in the X-Pro1 but this time without the fancy, hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder. In fact the electronic only viewfinder in the new X-E1 is an OLED kind, with 2.36mp resolution which is very similar sounding to the one found in the Sony NEX-7. We are looking forward to testing this machine soon, particularly with the new 18-55mm f/2.8-4 standard zoom and 14mm f/2.8.
Contrary to rumours and hopes – so far – Pentax have not as yet, announced a full frame camera, rather opting to update the K-5 range topper to a version 2 or K-5II and K-5IIs. So what is the difference between the old and the new K-5 and the “s” and non “s” version. Firstly, the new K-5II has the same 16.3mp APS-C CMOS sensor the K-5 has been praised for but the autofocus system is greatly improved and works in lower light conditions than any of the K-5II’s rivals. The LCD screen on the back of the camera also has a “no air” design meaning less of a gap between the protective screen and the actual LCD. The benefit of this is a screen with better viewing angles. The difference of the “s” and non “s”, well the “s” version lacks an anti-aliasing filter on the CMOS sensor, just as the Nikon D800e does.
Along with the new K-5II are two new lenses. The first is the 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 ED SDM. A great all in one lens. It is the second new lens though that is of greater interest. An HD 560mm f/5.6 AW. The range and aperture are odd when compared to rivals who offer either a 500mm f/4 or a 600mm f/5.6. The move does seem to have made the lens more affordable (if you call $7000.00 affordable) as a 500mm f/4 from either of the other 3 big DSLR camera brands will cost between $8000.00 and $13,000.00. While on the topic of lenses, it might be wise to highlight the new HD Pentax D FA 645 Macro 90mm F2.8 ED AR SR which – as the sentence long name suggests – is for their medium format 645D camera and has image stabilization.
To end the Pentax report, can we have a drum roll for the new Q10 which follows on from the first Q. It aims to be a modern digital impression of the classic Pentax Auto 110. With a sensor really only the size of a compact camera and a range of funky, toy like lenses, the system has not seen much popularity. The 12mp backlit CMOS sensor has been updated along with the body and autofocus system. A new 15-45mm F2.8 lens offers the equivalent range of a 80-250mm on full frame. That is right, your sensor is so small you multiply by 5.5x and not the 1.5x or 1.6x so frequently used on APS-C equipped DSLR cameras. It is useful to know this as there is also a new K-mount adapter for older manual focus, Pentax K lenses which will likely be so large as to make the Q10 look extremely ridiculous.
The NEX system is growing just weeks after the NEX-5R with its smart, PlayMemory Apps being announced. Meet the NEX-6. It is in some ways the result of leaving the NEX-7 and NEX-5R alone for too long and the new A99 finding them and flipping his new flash shoe. What do I mean? Well, the NEX-6 has the heart of the NEX-5R (16mp sensor, Wi-Fi etc) but with the NEX-7’s OLED viewfinder and a mode dial and controls that will appeal to more traditionalists. It also has the new standard hot-shoe for flashes that Sony have adopted with the NEX-6 and Alpha A99 following many cries for them to do away with the propriety hot-shoe Minolta started with. I cannot lie, I am looking forward to testing this camera more than any other I have seen announced so far.
There are some new lenses for the NEX which I also want.The 10-18mm f/4; a power-zoom equipped, collapsible 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 standard lens and, most appealing of all (for me at least), a 35mm f/1.8 prime. That of course does not take into account the new power-zoom equipped 18-200mm which will be offered on the new NEX-VG30 video camera and NEX-VG900. What is interesting about the NEX-VG900 is that it features a full frame sensor but with the NEX E-mount still, which many have just assumed would only support the smaller APS-C sized sensors. Could this mean we might see a full frame NEX stills camera, a big brother to the NEX-7?
On to the big boy announcement, the Sony Alpha SLT-A99. It has been 4 years since Sony announced their first full frame camera, the Alpha A900. Now, at long last, there is a replacement. The A99 has not got into a mega-pixel war, sticking rather with a 24mp CMOS sensor. They have changed the way it is made though to improve performance in low light. The A99 has an ISO range of 50-25,600 (including expansion options). Much wider than the 100-6400 with expansion of the old A900. There is a dual AF system in the A99. It has the same 19 point with 11 cross type sensor system seen in the A77 but also has a 102 points at the cameras focal plane. This is claimed to give greater accuracy and speed. It is all complicated and we hope to bring you a simplified explanation soon.
In normal continuous “High” mode you get 6 frames per second and from what we can tell in reports, 10fps in Sony’s Speed Priority Mode. WOW! There are big improvements apparently on the video side with certain silent controls etc and the LCD screen has had a resolution bump from 921k to over 1,200k. Perhaps for me one of the biggest talking points is the fact that this camera moves away from the funny hot-show Sony inherited in their purchase of Minolta, to a standard type hot-shoe you might expect to see on a Nikon, Canon or Pentax to name a few. The difference with Sony is that instead of putting multiple pins under the foot of the flash (the new HVL-F60) the connectors are moved to the front edge of the flash’s shoe as you might see in some video cameras and their accessories. It seems that Sony may even expand this new shoe across all their imaging products allowing them to make one range of accessories that will work on Handy-cam, Cyber-Shot, Alpha, NEX etc. It is a bold move.
To end off the full frame fiesta in the Sony camp, there is the new RX-1 Cyber-shot. It is a slightly bigger bodied version of the recently announced RX100 with a much bigger sensor… in fact the same 24mp, full frame sensor that the A99 has. It is coupled to a fixed, Zeiss, 35mm f/2 lens and looks fantastic. Many people are debating why Sony have made this move and with a price not to different from the A99 body alone price. It is a lot more – price wise – than the Fuji X100 for example, but it also a lot more camera. In many ways, the RX1 has no direct competitor. Time will tell if it is a wise move or not.
Not to be left out of the Full Frame fun, Nikon’s much leaked D600 became official today. Many people are describing it as simply a full frame, 24mp version of the hugely successful D7000. The price point is only just over $2000,00 in the USA and that is very aggressive. The last time a full frame was attempting that is when Sony announced the A850 and even then it only really got close to that price near the end of it’s life. I have arranged to spend a little time with the D600 tomorrow morning and will bring my first impression to you shortly thereafter.
Nikon also revealed a new lens in the Nikon 1 range. The 10.5mm f/1.8 is sure to excite Nikon 1 fans. It certainly adds a new appeal to the system for me.
In South Africa we have seen Tamron come under the wings of a new distributor and for the first time in years I am seeing Tamron with a strong presence in stores. As someone who has personally owned several Tamron lenses it makes me feel goof to see them on the up and the announcement of revamped lenses today is sure to help grow their presence even more. The SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC has now been updated to include a faster USD focusing motor which is one area I have felt of late this particular lens has been let down. The new lens should hit shelves before the end of the year and will be available in Nikon, Canon and Sony mounts. There are also reports that the famous 90mm f/2.8 Macro has gained VC (Vibration Control) and a USD focusing motor for Photokina.