Sunday, 26 June 2016

Product News

This is a somewhat slow time: It is summer, and manufacturers are holding off news until the upcoming Photokina tradeshow on September 20th. That is where we expect to see the new M4/3 flagship cameras: Lumix GH5 and Olympus E-M1 II. In the mean time, there is some interesting news.

Panasonic


Pretty much completely unexpected, Panasonic launched a new Leica co-branded lens, the sixth so far. The Lumix Leica 12mm f/1.4 Summilux is a high quality wide, fast prime lens. It corresponds to 24mm in traditional film format terms.

Like with the other Leica branded lenses from Panasonic, the actual Leica involvement is probably quite small. Panasonic uses the Leica name on their top lenses, as a sign of quality. And the cooperation gives the Leica company more revenue. So it is a win-win for them.


It shares the main design elements with the equally exclusive Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 portrait lens, including the aperture ring, and the physical autofocus/manual focus switch.

The lens is very sharp, delightfully free from chromatic aberration artefacts, and has a very smooth bokeh when used wide open. This makes it a very welcome addition to the Micro Four Thirds lineup of lenses, even if it is expensive.

To see why it is interesting, we can compare it with similar lenses from other systems:

LensLumix 12mm f/1.4Fujinon 16mm f/1.4Sigma 24mm f/1.4
PriceUS$1300US$700US$850
Format, crop factorMicro Four Thirds, 2xFujifilm X, 1.5xCanon EF, Nikon F, 1x
Equivalent focal length24mm24mm24mm
Lens elements/groups15/1213/1115/11
Weight335g375g665g
Length70mm73mm90mm
Diameter70mm73mm85mm
Filter thread62mm67mm77mm
Weather resistantYesYes
Minimum focus0.20m0.15m0.25m

As you see, the Lumix 12mm f/1.4 Summilux is the most compact of the lenses, however, it is also very expensive. Compared with the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4, it is fair to say that the Lumix/Leica lens does not have very good value for money.

In my opinion, though, the most interesting news from Panasonic recently is a less exclusive item, the Lumix TZ100. For the last decade, Panasonic have dominated this market segment of compact cameras with a long zoom, great for vacation and casual use. And this camera is not very impressive in this respect, with "only" a 10x zoom lens.


However, what is special about the camera is not the 25-250mm f/2.8-5.8 10x zoom lens , but the sensor. It uses a "one inch" type sensor, which is very large for this kind of camera. To get a so pocketable 10x zoom camera with a one inch sensor is truly amazing, and it comes with an EVF as well, albeit a fairly small one. On top of this, it comes with all the normal Panasonic features, like 4k video recording and post focus.

To illustrate how compact the camera is, it is enough to say that it weights the same as the Nikon 1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 superzoom lens for Nikon 1 cameras, even if they both cover the same zoom range, and the same sensor size. And to use the Nikon lens, you must add a camera as well, obviously.

Nikon


Hardly news anymore now, but Nikon is also joining the large sensor compact camera club with three one inch sensor cameras: The Nikon DL24-85, Nikon DL18-50 and Nikon DL24-500. These cameras are expected to become available for purchase very soon.

The Nikon DL24-85 is a "standard" premium compact by today's standards, similar in specifications to the well regarded, albeit expensive, Sony RX100 IV, and to the Canon G7 X. As I see it, the Nikon DL24-85 doesn't really bring anything new to the table.

The same goes for the long zoom bridge camera Nikon DL24-500: You get similar specifications from cameras like the Canon G3 X and the Sony RX10 III.

The camera which really stands out, though, is the Nikon DL18-50, with a 18-50mm equivalent zoom range, and an impressively fast f/1.8-2.8 zoom lens. Such a fast, wide lens has never before been seen in a compact camera, let alone a camera with a fairly large one inch type sensor.


On the negative side, the camera is a tad expensive, and does not come with a built in eye level viewfinder. You can put an optional EVF into the left hand side, but it is quite large and awkward.

This type of camera opens up for brand new uses, never before been possible with a compact camera. For example, you can take a ultra wide angle picture of the night sky, at about 30s, f/1.8, ISO 3200 or so. A longer exposure would not be suitable, as the star movement would start showing up. Hence, the bright aperture of f/1.8 is crucial. It is not often a game changing camera like this shows up.

Hasselblad


Again a bit of a surprise, as Hasselblad launched a new mount: A new mirrorless medium format system. So far, only a wide angle and a standard lens have been announced, but more lenses are expected. The 50MP sensor comes from Sony, and the electronics probably comes from Fujifilm, but enough assembling have been done in Sweden to warrant the "Hand made in Sweden" badge:


The camera is very small and compact, for a medium format system, anyway, and includes most features you would expect from a system camera today, including an EVF, Wifi, movie mode, weather protection, and it can even use Nikon flashes. It does not have a tiltable LCD, though, which is a bit of a shame.

So why would you want a medium format camera, rather than a high resolution full format camera? It has a high resolution, obviously, at 50MP. However, the Sony a7R II has 42MP. The difference, 20%, is just enough to be noticeable, in theory, as 20% is the rule of thumb resolution increase you must have to see a real difference.

A larger sensor also gives the possibility for more selective focus. This camera has a crop factor of 0.79x compared with full-frame. This means that their wide angle lens, which is specified as 45mm f/3.5, becomes equivalent to 35mm f/2.8 in full-frame terms, with regards to the angle of view and depth of field.

Hence, you get exactly the same selective focus capability by buying the Sony a7R II and Sony 35mm f/2.8. And Sony also has the Sony 35mm f/1.4 if you want even more selective focus. You could get all three items at less than half the price of the Hasselblad system. So Hasselblad is not the way to go for selective focus.

The other Hasselblad lens announced is 90mm f/3.2, which corresponds to 70mm f/2.5 in terms of full-frame angle of view and depth of field.

Another positive aspect of medium format cameras is the possibility for higher dynamic range, i.e., larger difference between the darkest and brightest details the camera can capture at the same time. However, again the Sony a7R II is capable of near 14 stops dynamic range, which is probably the theoretical ceiling for the Hasselblad as well. So I doubt there is any significant difference.

As I see it, you probably get mostly the same image quality performance using the Sony a7R II, so the Hasselblad X1D is for those who absolutely want a portable medium format camera. The Hasselblad X1D may give slightly higher resolution. Of course, this is mostly a theoretical assessment, the real proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Voigtländer


The Cosina brand has released the Voigtländer 10mm f/5.6 manual focus extremely wide angle lens for Sony fullframe E mount cameras. It is the widest rectilinear regularly available lens today, surpassing even the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4.


The lens will give an out of this world wide angle effect that you could otherwise only get by defishing a fisheye image.