Photokina shows camera makers' new thinking (pictures)
The camera show in Germany spotlighted camera designers suddenly open to experimentation as smartphones and other trends force the camera industry to defend its photography turf. Here are some new approaches.
Palm-size Pentax Q10
The Pentax Q10 mirrorless compact camera is small enough to fit on the palm of your hand.
The Canon 6D reflects multiple trends in the evolving camera industry: It has Wi-Fi networking to connect to smartphones or other devices, a GPS receiver so photos can be geotagged with location data, and a full-frame sensor for premium image quality.
The Sony RX1 is an ambitious model that combines a compact size with a full-frame sensor -- an expensive piece of silicon whose 36x24mm imaging area is the same size as a full frame of 35mm film. It's got a fixed lens, though.
Some compact cameras have had Wi-Fi connections, but the Samsung Galaxy Camera is an Android device that comes with connectivity to mobile-phone data networks, too. It's not a proper phone, though -- the only calls it can make are with VoIP -- but customers will have to pay for that data access.
The Leica M, a 24-megapixel, $6,950 model, brings some modern features to the storied line of rangefinder cameras. Most notably, a CMOS sensor that supports live view means people can focus as they take the picture, for example by zooming in 10X. It's still a manual focusing method, though.
Nikon and Canon, the two powerhouses in the SLR market, were the latest arrivals in the mirrorless market. The Nikon 1 series got a new model at Photokina, the J2. It's a modest update that adds some new features to 2011's J1. With an adapter, the camera can accommodate Nikon SLR lenses, as shown here, but it's far from compact in that circumstance.
Sony is angling for the full-frame market with its Alpha A99, which looks like a traditional SLR but isn't. SLRs have reflex mirrors (SLR stands for single-lens reflex) inside that flip out of the way when a photo is taken, but Sony's uses a fixed pellicle mirror that lets most of the light through straight to the image sensor. The sensor feeds an image to an electronic viewfinder. Sony's first attempts to crack the full-frame market weren't very successful, but the company is trying anew with its SLT (single lens translucent) design.
The Canon PowerShot S110 includes Wi-Fi support that lets photographers transfer its images to a smartphone, where they can be immediately shared. And drawing from the smartphone world, it's got touch-screen controls.
With Project 1709, named for its September 17 launch into beta testing, Canon unveiled an ambition to stay involved with people's photos after they're done taking them. The cloud-based storage service can import photos from a variety of devices and online sources, tag them and organize them accordingly, and share them to other sites like Facebook. It doesn't have face recognition or geolocation support, but Canon hopes to add more features later.
With the Canon PowerShot G15, Canon is trying to appeal to discriminating photographers who have plenty of other choices these days. The G series always were top-end compact cameras, but facing competition from mirrorless interchangeable-lens models, Canon has added a better lens with a wider f1.8-2.8 aperture for low-light shooting.
Pentax's new Q10 has the smallest sensor among the new generation of mirrorless compact cameras with interchangeable lenses. That makes the camera less expensive to manufacture and makes its lenses more compact, but it means lower image quality, too.
This display by Sony shows the comparative size of full-frame sensors, a 36x24mm size drawn from the days of 35mm film photography, an APS-C sensor used in entry-level to midrange SLRs, and a smaller sensor that still is much larger than most used in compact cameras.
The Canon EOS M, the first of the Canon mirrorless interchangeable-lens lineage, takes new EF-M lenses. As with rival mirrorless camera-lens ecosystems, building up a range of lens options will take time, though the EOS M cameras can take Canon SLR lenses with an adapter.
The arrival of computers is rewriting the rules for high-end cameras, too. This 10,000-euro CamCam from Swiss camera maker GFAE is a view camera, a computer-controlled, motor driven version of the bellows cameras of the 19th century. With a computer, the photographer can define three points to be in focus, and the computer will move the lens to precisely the right position. By shifting the lens off the axis of the image sensor and tilting it one way or another, the plane in focus can be shifted dramatically, useful for product photography among other things. This one has a medium-format digital image sensor from Phase One mounted in the center of the back of the camera.
Schneider Kreuznach, headed more toward the mainstream SLR market, added four lenses to its lineup. From left to right are a wide-angle 28mm f4.5 tilt-shift model, 35mm and 50mm f1.4 primes, and an 85mm f2.4 macro.
Canon, with some success entering the cinema business with its EOS 5D Mark II that arrived nearly four years ago, now has a cinema-specific camera line. This new model, the C600 with 4K resolution, is at the top of the line right now.