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.
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.
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 :
Sample A7r pictures with the 24-70mm zoom lens.
Colour smudging is terrible below the orange lamp, but the green post at top right is perfectly handled. Go figure.
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.
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).
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 !!
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
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 !
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.
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.
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.
Smaller 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 🙂
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