Photokina 2018 showcased in one event probably the most number of developments in photography, ever. We’ve seen some distinct and important trends in the world of photography: the push to full-frame mirrorless, better medium format-capable cameras, and top-notch video functionality.
Amongst the many launchs this year are these three cameras that best showcase the tremendous changes we’re about to experience – here they are:
1. Nikon Z7
Along with the Canon R full-frame mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z series of cameras mark the first steps taken by long-time leaders Nikon and Canon in this fledgeling market – their first foray into the full-frame mirrorless territory. They both also have had some experience in making mirrorless systems: Nikon’s lacklustre episode with the 1-series of 1-inch mirrorless cameras, and Canon’s capable but limited M-series of APS-C mirrorless cameras.
Challenging the new incumbent Sony, Canon’s and Nikon’s battles will be uphill, to say the least. Both brands launched their full-frame mirrorless systems in quick succession with plenty of hints and hype-generation preceding the events.
But why the Nikon Z and not the Canon R? Plenty of reasons: in-body stabilisation, no crop with 4K video (both cameras do up to 30fps), and 120fps 1080p for great-looking slow-motion footage. In short, much better for video. The Nikon Z amazed us at the hands-on press event held weeks ago with superb quality both in stills and video – it seems that they have a real fighting chance against the incumbent, Sony.
2. Panasonic S1, S1R
We wouldn’t have been surprised if Panasonic had announced drastic upgrades to its GH-series of video-centric Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras. But Panasonic took all common sense and expectation and stood it on end.
The S1 and S1R by Panasonic surprised even the most informed figures in photography. With 24-MP and 47-MP sensors, Panasonic’s new cameras might be the first full-frame mirrorless cameras to capture 4K 60fps video, just like how the legendary, smaller-sensored Panasonic Lumix GH-5 had done.
Also announced at Photokina was the formation of the L-Mount Alliance, a joint effort with Panasonic, Leica and Sigma. Together, they will create an ecosystem of interchangeable lenses for full-frame and APS-C cameras, much like the Micro Four Thirds protocol between Olympus and Panasonic.
The L-Mount Alliance will be usable on camera bodies with full-frame and APS-C crop sensors, with a very short register allowing for compact lens design, especially for wide angle lenses. Developed by Leica and used on some of its SL and TL cameras, it will be adopted by Sigma and Panasonic in due course.
This diversion of resources at Panasonic to produce full-frame mirrorless cameras could signal the eventual death of MFT. Technological improvements mean that MFT cameras might only save up to 1cm in each dimension, with a total weight savings of about 100g. The Sony A7 is only 84g heavier and 11cm wider in the widest dimension when compared to the Olympus E-M10 series of cameras.
At the same time, full-frame cameras are increasingly able to deliver quality footage. This was particularly demanding given the processing resources required to downsample all the data from the large sensor to provide a high resolution video output (probably the main reason why the Canon R system has a 1.7x crop factor in 4K). Stabilisation is another front where full-frame systems have made great strides in, all following in the lead of undisputed leader Sony with its A7 series of cameras. Yes, MFT cameras allow for a greater degree of stabilisation (lighter, smaller sensor with more room to manoueveur), but full frame is catching up, quick.
3. Fujifilm GFX50R
From the new offerings by Fujifilm at Photokina was the hulking Fujifilm GFX 100: probably the world’s first 100-megapixel medium format camera. In fact, it will be the world’s first 100-megapixel mirrorless camera. This, as a follow-up to the GFX 50s, effectively doubles the resolution and puts Fujifilm undoubtedly as a dominant player in the professional digital medium-format space.
The GFX 50R is what we think is the real game changer here. Let me explain.
It takes the innards of a large, professional, medium format camera like the GFX 50S, and stuffs it into a chassis that is impossibly compact. With a form factor that would be best described as akin to the X-Pro 2, the GFX 50R is designed for the mobile professional photographer: for street, wedding and documentary applications.
Yes. A digital, medium-format, rangefinder-styled camera. Welcome to the future.
With an integrated EVF on the top left (like that on the Fujifilm X-E rangefinder-styled series of APS-C cameras), the GFX 50R has a shallower grip, and a slimmer body. this makes it easier to use, and to carry up on mountains or on treacherous adventures to get that breathtaking shot.
In effect, its compact form (the predecessor, the GFX 50S was already very compact for a medium format mirrorless camera) puts it in direct competition with the sleek, minimalist Hasselblad X1D, but comes in several thousand dollars under, costing USD 4,500.
What this means: digital medium format might very well enter the arsenal of everyday professionals. While shooting large-sensored systems have usually been the domain of the brooding studio photographer, these super-compact, super-competitive entrants give the everyday photographer the opportunity to get more resolution and image quality out of the set and into the real world. Weddings, travel and outdoor portrait photographers all have the opportunity now to get their hands on larger-than-full-frame systems for not much more than an “R” high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera.