This year's Photokina was all about the unexpected and innovative releases from Sony, Leica and Samsung, it was about the expected releases from Fuji and Olympus, the boring releases from Panasonic, Canon and Nikon, the good and interesting releases from Pentax, Voigtlander and Zeiss and about the ugly releases from Hasselblad and Sigma.
It was about a lot of new, exciting and also about some boring things but what it was not about is Ricoh.
But lets look at each of these individually and keep in mind that I don't care at all about dSLRs so can't say anything about any releases.
No doubt that Sony was the star of the show and the company who has most improved over the past years.
Undoubtedly the biggest news was the announcement of the RX1, a full-frame compact camera with fixed 35mm lens.
Reading about the RX1 being compact and actually seeing how compact it is are two different things. It it a great achievement what Sony has done to fit so much into such a small camera, their only problem remains their work with Zeiss who don't seem able to create small lenses. The camera is exceptionally small but the lens is a bit chunky and big, here working with someone like Pentax, Ricoh or Leica would have helped in having an even smaller overall camera. This should not take away in any form from what Sony has done here as it's impressive and it's the camera most people would like to have but most will probably end up admiring it from the distance.
For me the RX1 is a great achievement but since I don't care much about full-frame I don't see what it really offers over a NEX-6 with the Zeiss 24mm lens.
Speaking of the NEX-6, this is undoubtedly the best NEX camera so far and shows Sony is listening to feedback, it feels the most complete and takes all the best pats of all previous NEX cameras to combine it into one. It has some very nice features next to the flip screen and built in EVF, it offers wifi, in-camera apps which can expand the capabilities and also offers remote control ability through a smartphone or tablet which is also very nice.
The biggest problem with the NEX system was always the lack of lenses and more so the size of lenses, Sony has again listened and not only released a new compact kit zoom with the 16-50mm lens but also expanded the overall lens selection with a 10-18mm wideangle zoom, a 35mm f1.8 prime and new lenses from Zeiss and Schneider Kreuznach.
While the NEX system is still lagging behind the likes of m4/3 and even Fuji X system in terms of prime lenses it is finally getting there. For me the NEX-6 was the camera I would be most likely to buy.
The Sony RX-100 was released before but is no less impressive than the RX1 by fitting a 1" sensor in a shirt pocketable camera and even adding a fast lens to the mix. It is currently the best serious compact camera in my opinion, closely followed by the Fuji XF1 but more on this later.
Leica were for me the most improved brand at Photokina, not because of their products but because of their approach and they also had the best booth design, simple yet elegant.
At the last Photokina Leica came across as arrogant and distanced itself from the people visiting their booth, there were no cameras to really handle and when daring to give some constructive criticism they seemed annoyed. This all changed this time around and they camera across more relaxed and sure of themselves and their brand, they let people handle their (very expensive) cameras freely, without any wires attached to them, they were happy to swap lenses for you, let you use your own cards and even step away from the counter to take some pictures. This made for a great atmosphere and allowed me to use the Leica M Monochrome, the new M Model 420 was in too high demand but I got the chance to look at it, too.
The Leica M Monochrome is the camera I have been asking Ricoh to make for years, I believe having a fully b&w sensor allows for some big advantages and would be a fantastic fit for a new GRD. While I am still not convinced by the rangefinder approach, despite owning the Epson RD1, it is a camera I would like to own.
The new Leica M finally offers live view with focus peaking and a video mode on a rangefinder. It kind of brings the rangefinder into the digital age. Here the only missed opportunity is to have used a hybrid OVF/EVF instead of using an add-on EVF. The focus peaking does not seem as well implemented as the Ricoh mode 2 or Sony's peaking but Leica still has some time to fine tune this.
The Leica M-E is supposed to be the 'affordable' enry level M camera but what it is is simply a re-packaged M9 to help get rid of the parts sold at more or less the same price. So it's still not really affordable for most people.
One of the most innovative compact cameras was the Samsung Galaxy camera, it was half camera, half smartphone. Android worked great on it and you would be excused for thinking you were using an android phone instead of a camera. Turning it around it looked like any other superzoom compact and Samsung even included full manual controls here. I think they were a bit too ambitious in regards to the zoom range and less would have been more here by making for a smaller overall package and better lens but it was fun to use nonetheless. It is an important step towards merging small sensor cameras and phones and the days of compact cameras without connectivity options are numbered.
This shows exactly where compact, small sensor cameras are moving towards as also witnessed by not only Samsung but also HTC, Nokia and Sony showing off their smartphones at Photokina.
Fuji have continued to expand their X series of retro inspired cameras and have also started to fix the AF and control issues they had in the past. Overall theXF1 is a very nice serious compact camera with a neat collapsible lens to make it really pocketable.
The XE-1 is probably the best X camera and even worked well with the 15mm Voigtlander M lens I have tested it with, it would have been great with a flip screen but you can't have everything I guess.
Unfortunately Fuji did not allow for people to put their lenses on and the cameras were always secured with a wire before one could use them. This did not make for a very nice experience when compared with Leica.
Olympus had some nice m4/3 lenses to show and some rather less interesting m4/3 cameras, although the OM-D still remains the best m4/3 camera in my view.
Overall though I was not really interested in m4/3 anymore and having seen the OM-D at Focus I did not spend much time looking at their products.
Panasonic, Canon and Nikon
I think I can lump all of these together in saying that they had nothing interesting or original to show and just went through the motions, too afraid to innovate as it might alienate their users.
Pansonic had a new, bigger and still fake dSLR looking GH3 but seems to have lost the plot and lead in mirrorless cameras. There has been a distinct lack of innovation since the GF1 and every new camera is more of the same.
Canon showed of the EOS M, probably the most boring and unimaginative mirrorless camera you can find. It's plasticky, has no lenses to choose from, no flip screen, no EVF, no stand-out features. It's basically a NEX-3 but worse in every way. Their G1X is more daring and innovative compared to this.
Nikon showed absolutely nothing new that was of any interest to me, their 1 J2 is the same as the 1 J1 and there still are no decent lenses available for it. You are better of buying a RX100 if you want a 1" camera or if you want a small interchangeable lens camera get a m4/3 or even the Pentax Q instead.
The Pentax Ricoh booth was nicely laid out with the different cameras sorted by class rather than brand so it was nice mix between Pentax and Ricoh cameras.
While Pentax had some new dSLRs and also a new Q10 to show but I actually really grew to like the K-01 after spending some more time with it.
People either love or hate the design but I do like it since it's different, the size is another issue being mentioned but I have to say the camera feels great in hand and is one of the best built cameras I have held, sure it's chunky and feels like a brick but it just feels like you can go to war with one and it would survive anything you throw at it.
The buttons and dials are limited to the necessary but easy to use and would work great even with thick gloves on.
Most of the naysayers tell how big the camera is but forget how small the Pentax lenses are, some are hardly larger than a body cap so the overall package is actually smaller then other mirrorless cameras. I also like how you can automatically magnify the screen if you keep the shutter half pressed after it acquires focus.
Next to the NEX-6 this for me was the nicest camera I have handled at Photokina and I need to try and get a review sample to spend more time with it. The lens selection is surely fantastic with the amazing Limited primes from Pentax.
Moving on to Ricoh there was nothing new to show, nothing new to tell and nothing to see. Now Ricoh has never bothered to release or announce anything at Photokina and they have always done their own thing, this is all fine and well but for over a year, since the acquisition of Pentax, there has been nothing from Ricoh, no new products, no new announcements, not even a hint of where things are going. People are growing impatient and worried about what's going to happen with the Ricoh brand and I tend to agree with them.
Only a few years ago, Ricoh was one of the main manufacturers to go to if you were looking for a serious compact camera but now they have been overtaken by Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, Canon and Samsung.
Don't get me wrong, the GXR Mount A12 is still the best camera for me and the reason I am not really all that interested in any of the new cameras shown at Photokina but the GRD line is for a while not up to par with the competition and the GX line has been replaced with the GXR which is not quite the same.
Speaking of the GXR, it is certainly in need of a new body but most important a new roadmap or at least a new module.
I don't doubt there will be something new coming from Ricoh since I doubt their engineers and R&D team have been sitting around doing nothing for the past year, they had to work on something and in true Ricoh fashion we will know about it sooner or later but it will always be in their own time. One thing is for certain, when they finally announce something it will be available to buy just a few weeks later so there is none of the long wait for a camera as you get with other manufacturers.
Voigtlander and Zeiss
Both showed some very nice lenses with Voigtlander showing a 21mm f1.8 M lens I can't wait to get, it is relatively small and light but offers great image quality and makes for a nice 32mm f1.8 lens on the GXR (the pictures above and below are taken with this lens).
Zeiss on the other hand had some very nice E lenses to show, most notably the 12mm f2.8.
Hasselblad have certainly taken the motto "any news is good news" and ran with it. They have announced one of the most controversial cameras at Photokina with the Lunar. Think of it what you will and I think it's a ugly looking case for the NEX-7 but the move at least put their name out there.
hey, it got me visiting their booth and I would have not done this otherwise so it part they succeeded. :)
Despite them using a ugly case to wrap a NEX-7 in, I can see how this would be successful in certain countries where people have more money than sense and think they will sell lots of these to Saudi Arabia, Russia and China where bling is everything. I mean, how many cameras really have a ruby on the on/off switch? ;)
I briefly stopped at the Sigma booth to try out the DP1 Merrill, the stop ended up being longer than expected due to the camera displaying the processing hourglass for what felt like ages after each shot. No doubt the image quality is superb but the camera is still only for very patient people (this coming from someone who uses the GRD I in RAW mode at times and the LC1, so I know about slow).
So to wrap this up, the highlight was certainly Sony who are very aggressive and cover the market from every angle with innovative and unique cameras.
Leica improved most, not only their products (despite them still being out of normal people's price range) but also from the interaction at their (well designed) booth.
Samsung showed where compact cameras and phones are going in case anyone doubted this after the Nokia 808.
Fuji and Olympus released competent products but nothing to really stand out against Sony while Panasonic, Nikon and Canon were just there taking up space without any innovation.
Pentax Ricoh were two halves where one, Pentax, released more controversial but also innovative cameras (K-01 and Q10 here) and the other, Ricoh, did the exact opposite and did not show anything new.
Both Zeiss and Voigtlander showed some nice lenses I can't wait to get my hands on, especially the Voigtlander f1.8 21mm and if I go for a NEX-6 camera as my backup, the Zeiss 12mm f2.8.
Hasselblad was certainly the most controversial manufacturer but it brought the name out there and people to the booth and as they say, there is no bad publicity.
In the end the most important thing I noticed at Photokina was that I am actually very happy with the GXR Mount A12 and the lenses I have that I don't really have any real desire to buy a new camera, no matter how nice some of them might be.
For more impressions make sure you also check out Björn's report here.
UPDATE regarding Ricoh: I received a hint that something GRD related might come during the 7th GR Blog meetup on the 27th October: http://www.grblog.jp/