Friday, 24 September 2010

Photokina 2010 - Day 1

It has been two years since my first visit to Photokina and quite a lot has changed. Last time only Ricoh and Panasonic had interesting serious compacts to show and Olympus had their m4/3 mockup which ended up being completely different in the shape of the Olympus EP1.

This year almost all manufacturers had serious compacts even if for some it meant copying their biggest competitor (yes, I am talking about Nikon's G11 clone). At least it shows that the market wants serious compact cameras and expects more than just a simple point&shoot camera.

For me the first day was all about renting and trying out different lenses for my Panasonic GF1, it was a very interesting experience but more about this later. The main ting I wanted to see was certainly the most talked about announcement, the Fuji X100.

Fuji surprised everyone with their announcement and it certainlygot people talking and hopefully manufacturers thinking that maybe specs alone are not enough and sometimes you need to pay attention to design and functionality.
The X100 certainly got my attention with the retro Rengefider styling and controls. It is no surprise that I absulutely dislike dSLRs and especially the dSLR shape an form factor. Rangefinders on the other hand I like ver much and think this is exactly how cameras should be designed. The Fuji X100 reminds me a lot of my Panasonic LC1 and I am interested to get one just because of the build and controls of it and to support a manufacturer who goes against the trend of producing fake dSLR lookalike cameras.

The OVF with overlay is fantastic and aside from the body the only think which was finished but it is fantastic and provides a great experience, kind of what a Rangefinder these days should be if it does not have a red dot on it and is forced to live in the past.

Photokina was not all about the Fuji X100 though, it was also about new m4/3 lenses. The m4/3 format has really established itself as the best mirrorless format out there and now with not only Panasonic and Olympus but also Voigtländer and Zeiss releasing lenses for it, it gets better and better.
Since I took my GF1 with me I had to try all of the most interesting lenses for the format. First, I could not care less about the huge, slow and very boring telephoto zoom lenses for m4/3 and think they are mostly a waste of money and completely pointless. The lenses I was mostly interested in were the new 14mm f2.5 Panasonic lens, the 8mm fish-eye lens from Panasonic, their really cool 7-14mm ultra wideangle lens, the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f.28 macro lens, the new superfast Voigtländer f0.95 25mm lens and the only halfway decent lens from olympus the 9-18mm wideangle zoom lens. And I have tried them all, the rental system where one can try lenses and walk around with them is a fantastic idea.

The first lens I tried was the new 14mm f2.5 Panasonic but unfortunately it ended up being the most disapointing one. Sure, it is tiny, it is light and it focuses extremely fast while providing a very usefull 28mm focal length. Unfortunately as you can see above it is optically extremely poor and has actually more distortion than the 8mm fish-eye lens. Sure, with enough software correction it looks decent but not for he price Panasonic wants for it.

The next lens I tried was a completely different story, the 7-14mm lens is the most expensive m4/3 lens but it is worth every penny of the asking price. Not only does it focus very fast and has a constant aperture while not being very big, it is also optically excellent. There is almost no distortion at all and the lens performs well at any focal length. I lov the 14-28mm it gives and can't wait to get one. I just hope Panasonic will release more high end lenses like this which don't require massive software corrections.

The next les was the excellent Panasonic/Leica 45mm f2.8 macro and portrait lens. This is the best built m4/3 lens and fully deserves the price it's sold at. Optically it's excellent and it just fells nice to use. It works great for both portraits and macro. This is also a lens that I want to get at some point.

Next in line was the new Voigtländer 25mm f0.95 lens which should prove very usefull in low light, assuming one likes to manually focus. The lens itself was pretty light and well built but he lens hood looked weird and felt very cheap and flimsy. Unfortunately the lens does not have any electronic contacts to communicate with the camera o it acts lik any other legacy lens but a very fast legacy lens. Considering the only other f0.95 lenses are either overpriced c-mount lenses or the even more overpriced Leica 50mm f0.95 Noktilux this is certainly a very interesting alternative for m4/3 owners. This is a lens I really want but am not sure I will actually buy it.

Last on the list was the Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 lens. It is a nice lens and inexpensive so worth looking at. While i really liked he size and build it did not really impress me, 18mm is not really wide and f5.6 at 18mm is not realy fast either. It's more of a budget lens (as all Olympus m4/3 lenses I guess) and worth only if you can't afford the Panasonic 7-14mm lens.

I also had the pleasure to meet with felow blogger Björn and Hynek from the DP Review Ricoh forum and had a fantastic time and very interesting chat with them.

If you ask what about Ricoh, I have also seen them but this will be something for Day 2.


  1. Cris, thanks for the insight to the show. Now I must find out from you, do you know what happened to that poor Zeiss 25mm lens? :-(

  2. I am not sure what happened to that lens, they did not have it written anywhere and there was nobody around to ask but it did look cool.