photokina Roundup (Part 2 of 2): The Memorable and the Interesting


The last few days have seen some really significant camera releases. Raj Lalwani dissects the hype and tells you what you really need to know. In the second part of this exhaustive roundup, we look at some camera releases that have shaken up their particular market, and a few others that hold a degree of promise. Read part one here.

Sony NEX-6
A fantastic move from Sony, which promises to shake up the mid-end mirrorless market. If you compare mirrorless cameras that have an inbuilt viewfinder, the NEX-6 promises excellent value for money. It is significantly cheaper than the NEX-7 and the OM-D E-M5, and inherits the Sony 16MP sensor that has been a proven performer. Simply put, it promises better high ISO performance than both cameras at a much lesser price. Added technologies like phase-detect AF off the sensor promise to make this a fantastic camera. I daresay that unless you really need 24MP, the NEX-6 makes the NEX-7 obsolete. 

Canon EOS 6D
We have discussed the EOS 6D extensively in a separate article over here, but to sum things up, Canon’s answer to the D600 is a little underwhelming in terms of photographic functionality. However, it does a few things along the way… for those who have invested in Canon glass, it makes a good low-cost (comparitively) option to go full frame, and makes the 5D Mark II completely obsolete. In-built WiFi is a big bonus for multimedia and web journalists. The image quality is an unknown proposition and if the company has managed to work some magic off that sensor, we can see this becoming a very popular camera once the price stabilises. 

Nikon D600
A fantastic camera that delivers high quality images, it makes a good low-cost alternative if you do not need the added functionality and megapixels of the D800. We have an ongoing hands-on preview that is quite extensive (see parts one, two and three), but there is only one thing that bothers me. The D700 is still around and its price is bound to fall. If you do not care for video and are planning to pick up a camera today, the D700 actually makes a better all-round option. 

Samsung Galaxy camera
The ultimate camera for a blogger, with plenty of optical zoom and ergonomics that are tuned for photography but the latest Android as an OS! Our initial impressions of this camera are a little mixed though. (See our hands-on preview here) Samsung’s recent cameras have been a mixed bag, and while the company’s cell phone expertise will ensure that the communication part is flawless, we have some concerns over whether the photographic capabilities will justify the price of this camera.

Yes, pricing details are still fuzzy, but we can expect this to be more expensive than the Galaxy S phones… which basically means a lot of money! Interestingly, Nikon has an Android-based camera too (announced a few days before the Galaxy). While the Nikon model runs only on Android 2.3, it is significantly cheaper than the Samsung.

Convergence is definitely the future and we are quite pleased to see that a major company like Nikon has decided that if we can’t beat them (phones like the PureView and the ever-improving camera of the iPhones), let’s just join them. There are just two concerns. Will the use of a dedicated smartphone/tablet OS compromise on the photographic ergonomics of the product? It needn’t, but one cannot be sure until we have both cameras in our test labs.

Also, why do these cameras not make calls? This is not meant to be a sarcastic comment in a day and age when cameras can do so much. Consider a blogger. Would he want to carry a Galaxy S3 and a Galaxy camera, simply because the latter does not function as a phone? What is the point of convergence then? Until someone comes with a true all-in-one solution, cell phones that have great cameras, like the Nokia 808 PureView and the iPhone 5, will end up being more popular than the ‘Oh-I-am-smart-but-not-smartphone-camera’ products.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH3
Long awaited and man, it lives up to all its promise! If you are a filmmaker who wants convenience and does not want to compromise on quality, the GH3 is a brilliant camera. Some of the video functionality is even better than the Sony SLTs, so if you do not need extreme shallow DOF and thus do not mind the smaller sensor, the GH3 is the best stills-video device around. 

Sony RX1
Full frame has been the mantra at photokina 2012 (how many APS-C DSLRs did we see? Only two from Pentax), and it is not difficult to see why. The term full frame has been given almost a mythical status by a lot of photographers, as it usually symbolises quality that is far superior. Considering that it is really tiny, the RX1 is undoubtedly the camera that has gained the most amount of press hype. After all, it is the first time that a manufacturer has included a full frame sensor in a compact camera. I do not think that the lack of interchangeable lenses is  a problem. After all, there are photographers who have shot all their lives with just a 35mm lens attached to their SLR/rangefinder.

But USD 2800 for a camera that does not even have a viewfinder (you can attach one, but for an added price)… Sony, really? A trend that is being seen of late is that the moment a company has announced a new kind of product, prices are obscenely high. As that market grows and stabilises, the product costs the amount it actually deserves. Looking at the flipside, one can say that the RX1, with its viewfinder, is still cheaper than a Leica combined with a Zeiss lens (or even a DSLR with a similar lens from Zeiss). A bit of this and a bit of that, we cannot wait to have this camera in our hands.

Leica M
The new Leica M10, correction, M (apparently, all future models will not have numbers attached to them) represents a stark difference in conventional Leica thinking. Beat this… a CMOS sensor (not CCD like the previous digital Ms), Live View and video! Sacrilege , a lot of Leica oldtimers may say, but let me tell you why this is such a huge move, in the world of small interchangeable-lens cameras.

With Leica finally having gone CMOS, one can expect the real benefits of full frame technology. The M9 sensor could produce some very good quality images at lower ISO settings, but at high ISOs, it cannot even compete with entry-level APS-C DSLRs of today. Considering how much modern-day CMOS technology has developed, one can expect far superior dynamic range and noise performance from the new M.

Video and a new viewing system may not appeal to the quintessential Leica user, but you’d rather have an option that it not being there at all. While there are real benefits to a rangefinder viewing system, the option of using Live View facilitates the use of certain optics, and considering the growing emphasis on multimedia journalism, movie shooting can only be a bonus.  

 Fujifilm XE-1
For me, this is probably the most exciting camera that has been launched in the past one month. Sure, it does not have the hype associated with an RX1 or the anticipation that a D600 and EOS 6D draw, but the XE-1 is bound to cause major tremors in the mirrorless world. USD 1000 for a camera that has the same sensor as the X-Pro 1… sure, it is APS-C, but Fujifilm managed to work such magic with that sensor that it easily rivals the image quality of cameras like the Nikon D700 and Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

At USD 1300, you can get a camera-lens combination that will deliver full frame quality (though the sensor is smaller), matched with excellent optics in a small size. And it costs half as much as the RX1. Significantly lesser than the D600 or the EOS 6D. Less expensive than the Olympus OM-D whose quality it easily surpasses. If Fujifilm has sorted the autofocus and ergonomic quirks that plagued the X-Pro 1, we have a winner on our hands.