#175. A visit to “Salon de la Photo” in Paris

By pascaljappy | News

Nov 12


I had hoped to visit Paris Photo (pictures & Photographers) this year but it was not to be and Salon de La Photo (gear) was a close enough second prize. While the initial plan would have given me the chance to finally meet Paula Chamlee and Michael Smith, the alternative was an opportunity to view, handle and compare several of today’s rising stars first hand. In no particular order, here are a few highlights.



While Samsung’s stand was the largest at the show, Pentax had to be the most beautiful to me. At the center stood a 15 foot cylindrical fountain that actually produced text and images using tiny droplets controlled by hundreds of high speed nozzles. Beautifully illuminated, this was a best in show for me. Although my little HTC One cellphone camera couldn’t capture the beauty of it all adequately, it did OK with the colourful display of compact cameras Pentax has surrounded the stand with.


Remember Master Yoda chuckling at Obi Wan “A planet Master Obi Wan has lost, how embarrassing” ? 😉 I visited the Hassy stand in that spirit but eventually changed my mind.

Yes, I’ll admit it 😉 Those rebadged Sony cameras looked really nice, and if money wasn’t an option, well … you know … Come on, they do look good !


OK, moving on with my cred shot!


Continuing the sexy and doubtful trend, MeFoto had displayed superb little tripods (apologies for the crappy image quality)


Note that many other well-known brands offered similar products (of proven quality), but MeFoto must be congratulated for making the product quite cheap and very appealing. Given that a tripod is often more important than a sharp lens, anybody encouraging their use by beginners is to be commended. For my money, the one to pick would be the Backpacker because it is the cheapest, lightest and the only one in the lineup with the fixed center column. Center columns are EVIL. Don’t use them. But the fixed version in the Backpacker seems like an intelligent compromise. Other models included carbon fiber designs, but at the price they commanded, I would shop from a more established manufacturer.


Here they are, not Leica hurricane ! What’s new in Leica land ? Nada. A surly bloke handing you a sample M like it was one of his internal organs. A display of historic wonders the brand abandoned such as the R8 and never resurrected.

Moving on (image (c) Caroline Dache, the silly model being yours truly).



Canons to the left of them, Canons to the right of them! The photographic universe is shifting towards the light and nimble, which is why Canon had opted for the priapic behemoths. Oh well.

Nikon (in the background) may have been performing similarly enlightened tricks or may have been displaying the Df. I didn’t check.


Almost star of the show for me.


The Fuji cameras were a revelation to me ! Caroline, seen here testing the X Pro 1, is very interested in a successor to her trusty but aging M8. I do hope she gets one so I can lay my hands on it and report extensively.

Fuji actually showed visitors prints made with their cameras and lenses. What a concept ! In a marketing era where it’s all about the customer, camera manufacturers simply don’t get it. It’s all about them. About their gear, their lenses, their sensor, their whatever flavour is on offer. Fuji were different. Their representatives showed incredibly patience to answer every question, make personal recommendations and help as best they could. Some of the cameras on display generated envy and kleptomaniac tendencies in this author! And the prints, well that’s simply a lovely touch.

Well done.


I had a great time at the Olympus booth. But I’m biased. Olympus is one of my favourite brands and they could have peed on my shoes without me reporting adversely.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a champ ! There’s no other way to put it. I can’t imagine anyone not making fantastic pictures with it (and the gorgeous array of Oly / Voigtlander / Panasonic /Leica range of lenses) in almost any situation. That’s it. Build is top-notch. The EVF is top-notch. The guy who talked to me was friendly and informative.

Whether you prefer this high-tech high-performance approach or the more meditative one promoted by Fuji is entirely your decision. You’d be a happy camper in either case!

I had such a nice time, the idea of taking pictures of the stand just eluded me. Sorry …


Which naturally leads me to … the Sony A7r.


I like it when people put their money where their mouth is. A year ago, I raged against the Sony RX1’s lack of grip and EVF in an otherwise perfect camera. Fast forward to the A7r and its almost perfect feature set.

Last week, I sold my Nikon D800e and my (much-loved) Olympus OM-D E-M5 and ordered an A7r. Needless to say my hopes were high!

I’ll report more extensively shortly but here are first impressions :

  • The plastic outer layer initially make the camera feel a little cheap. Particularly after playing with an Oly E-M5. But the build is very sturdy and seems top-notch to me.
  • Ergonomics seem superb (after only a few minutes, that is. Hidden nasties may be uncovered later).
  • The EVF seems absolutely wonderful. This was my main worry. Moving from an optical viewfinder to an electronic viewfinder can be daunting. Not here. It feels as big as a D800 viewfinder. Pixels cannot be see under normal use, there’s no lag to speak of. Really really good.
  • Image quality is … err well, a mixed bag. Jpegs (see samples below made with the 28-70 zoom lens) combine a mix of incredible detail and medium format territory fluidity with absolutely ghastly colour splotches worthy of a sea-sick iPhone 3. Sony carry a notorious reputation for poor jpegs, so it doesn’t worry me too much. But if RAW are even remotely as bad, that’s an immediate deal breaker. At times you feel into Arca / Rodenstock territory, at others you miss that 2004 compact you gave your niece. Hitchwinkle wouldn’t have made my heart beat any faster !
  • White balance seems excellent!
  • Manuel focusing is a dream. Rotate the ring, the center of the frame enlarges and focus peaking tells you what is sharp. While not 100% determinate, this method feels really quick and nice and back & forth focusing quickly tells you how to place the sharpest plane.

Sample A7r pictures with the 24-70mm zoom lens.

Sony 28-70

Sony A7r with Sony 28-70 at 28mm


100% crop at top right (mild noise reduction applied)


Sony A7r & 28-70 zoom at 28mm. ISO 3200. No noise reduction applied.

Colour smudging is terrible below the orange lamp, but the green post at top right is perfectly handled. Go figure.


Horrid colour smudging at 100% (below orange lamp)

A couple of bokeh shots. Bokeh looks very nice to me, both open and at f/8. Not always the case in a zoom lens. Well done.


DSC09839A final pair for chromatic aberration. This may be corrected in camera, or the lens may be flawless; Whatever the case, the result is perfect ! Flare ? What flare ? Well done again.


DSC09841-2All in all, a great stand, very nice and informative people and great products. Now for a better analysis of the RAWs I brought home with me …

Zeiss & Voigtlander

Cameras are great but lenses are what make th candy store exciting for me. And none more than Zeiss and Voigtlander (80% of my lenses are Leica, but Zeiss and Voigtlander really push the envelope for greatness at affordable costs).

IMAG0397And the candy store had one big piece of cake waiting for me : the OTUS 55/1.4 Apo Distagon I am dying to buy for the A7r.

The idea of putting such a huge piece of glass on a tiny body such as the A7r seems preposterous, but no other lens I’ve tried produces that cinematographic look. I want it soo bad !!

Portrait with Nikon D800 and Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 at f/1.4. ISO 800.

Portrait with Nikon D800 and Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 at f/1.4. ISO 800.

The very very kind lady (above) at the Zeiss stand found me a D800 to play with, mounted the OTUS and agreed tobe my model as I fumbled with the hopeless live view to get things sharp.

What does this picture tell us ?

(1) White balance is much better on my HTC One Smartphone than on the Nikon D800. But that’s another topic.

(2) Bokeh is mostly to die for. Perfect creaminess might need a little retouching of some of the most prominent highlights (concentric lines are visible inside). But everything else is pure magic.

(3) The lens is sharp sharp sharp, even at f/1.4 (see below) yet micro contrast seems soft (on purpose) and not as brutal as other lenses in the ZF range. It reminds me of my old ZM Biogon 25 in that respect.

(4) The lens will probably excel on the A7r. On the Nikon, focusing in the viewfinder is out of the question with my eyesight and live view is not entirely satisfactory. Despite my best efforts the eyelashes are sharp, not the eye.

(5) Colour is superb

Same portrait at 100%

Same portrait at 100%

The lens is very well made, in a batmobile school of design. Focus is buttery smooth, yet tight. The ZF.2 version for Nikon mount comes with an aperture ring that makes it more desirable to me than the ZF version for Canon mount.

Using this lens on a tripod would be a problem for any mount, but metabones have had the great idea of placing a tripod mount under their adaptors. Better balance and less stress on the mount. Great news !

Chromatic aberration ?

Chromatic aberration ?

This second picture displays the worst chromatic aberration (spherochromatism) I was able to produce in all my attempts. Again, colours are splendid, straight out of camera, bokeh is perfect.

DSC_0539 DSC_0539-2I want one ! 😉

Special mention to the Voigtlander 21/1.8, which is nowhere near as obtrusive as others have made it seem. It is larger than other lenses in the M-mount range, but very pleasant and manageable. If my Leica-R 19mm Elmarit doesn’t prove great, this may well replace it at half the price, with 1 more stop and much less weight.

Simp-Q studio lighting

Another very interesting stand at Simp-Q. Their lighting tents contained products for all to shoot freely. And I must say, the results, even with a smartphone camera, are mind-blowing.







A range of shooting sets were provided by various brands. Lighting was usually great. It would have been fun to spend more time there.



The main exhibition was devoted to Raymond Cauchelier, a French photographer best known for his new wave and asian reportage works.

IMAG0407Smaller displays gave less famous photographers a chance to show their work and I very much regret not noting this lady’s name. Her work was really lovely, delicate, consistent and so expressive. If anybody knows her, please leave a comment.


Be seeing you 🙂

  • I too really enjoyed le Salon de la Photo. I met friends on Friday and we had a wonderful time. We got to see a lot of fun equipment and try out some great stuff.

    For me, the highlight was talking with Clydette de Groot about her and her husband’s foundation and contributions to the photographic arts. Her floorspace was given over to winners of her foundation’s competition. They flew in the 7 winners and I had a chance to meet the marvelous Mafe Garcia from Lima, Peru. The level of achievement in the winner’s work was jaw-dropping. Gorgeous work was on display. Absolutely gorgeous work.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Christopher, tell me more about that foundation (please 😉 )

      Were these the exhibitions at the far end of the hall ? Some of these photographs were absolute gems and I would dearly love to find the name of the lady who displayed the final photograph above. Any ideas.

      I absolutely agree, absolutely gorgeous work on show. Actually quite ironic as none was probably made with any of the gear on show just meters away 😉

      Will be in Paris in December. Care to hook up ?

  • philberphoto says:

    I had but a few mnutes for a quick-and-dirty visit to the Salon de la Photo.
    What struck me is how stuck-in-the-mud Canon and Nikon, a.k.a. Canikon, are. They show products which are very simply “new and slightly improved” versions of whatever they were showing 4 years ago. So, if you factor in that customers used to upgrade their cameras frequently to enjoy improving technology, which is no longer the case, and that smartphones take major bites out of the compact market, you understand why they are hurting.
    Fortunately one company doesn’t follow this trend, and that is Sony. I have a A7R on order, and got to play with it. Frankly, it was a bit disappointing, I did not instinctively take to the shape, the UI, the loud “clang” of the shutter, or the build. Nothing as clean and elegant as the RX-1. Maybe production cameras (these were still pre-production) will be smoother and classier.
    Uncharacteristically, Sony let me try my Leica lenses on their brand new body, indicating they might be serious about chasing business in the alt part of our world. That would be a major departure from the universal business model which is to sell bodies and then make money on lenses. But Sony really seem to be thinking out of the box.
    Back to my attempts. Quality-wise, they are worse than a disaster. The camera was set at high ISO to cope with a dark indoor expo space, I have no idea what in-cam processing was going on, and it was JPEG only. And the Sony chap did not know how I could activate the magnifier, so any hope of focusing flew out the window. But what I do have, be it with my Summilux 50 or my Elmar 24, shows uncanny detail and clarity. I hope the A7R doesn’t give me too many corner issues with either lens, and then I will be in hog heaven!
    Until next time, of course!
    Oh, and I had the greatest time reading your account, Pascal. Super stuff!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Philippe. Can’t wait to see your pcitures with the Lux & the Elmar !!! 😉

      Yes, Canikon are getting closer to becoming the next Kodak a little more every day. The “Innovator’s Dilemma” in full swing, if you ask me. With such a heritage, it hurts to see these guys lose grip of reality so quickly.

      The Sony A7 finish certainly didn’t seem on a par with Leica or Olympus. But that’s probably just a layer of cheap plastic over a very well engineered frame. It did fel like a very sturdy camera. My beloved Mamiya 7 was actually quite similar. Not all that classy but oh so sturdy. I share the same worries re-image quality though. Jpegs are really not a joy to watch. I’ll process my RAWs this week-end and report 🙂

      See you soon.

  • […] posted some A7r test videos on Youtube (Click here). Some pictures with A7r & 24-70mm + OTUS at DearSusans. Siammirrorless reposted the A7r review with legalcy lenses on Pantip. should be server crash proof […]

  • bshaw says:

    ” less famous photographer”
    The photograph that caught your eye was by photographer Florence Notté
    Here are a couple of links – The second link shows the ‘La mer’ / ‘the sea’ image above


  • mathieu says:

    Not sure if you’re aware but the otus vignettes on the a7’s! you can see some results on steve huff photo

  • >