PMA 2009 Round Up
For those of you who were in a coma this week, or judiciously stayed away from any photography related forum, I’ll inform you that the annual PMA gathering took place Sunday through Thursday in Las Vegas. The PMA is the Photo Marketing Association, whose mission is to help people everywhere create, keep, display and share memories through pictures. In other words: get people to buy lots of gadgets they don’t necessarily need. The best way to do this is to host an annual convention where makers of all stuff photographic get together to show their new goodies and announce upcoming equipment.
OK, so maybe I’m being too cynical about this. Maybe it’s because I was stuck at work in cold New England while the PMA was taking place in warm Las Vegas. But maybe not.
In any case, I’ve decided to round up the new equipment announced this week, but only those that I found interesting. I’m sure there are plenty of sites that will tell you all about every article that was released, but only here can you get the highlights, infused with a bit of irony. Let us begin.
The popular lens maker, arguably the #1 in sales and lens models amongst the 3rd party lens manufacturers, had several new lenses to show. I found two of them interesting. First, the 10-20mm f/3.5, because it is a new incarnation of Sigma’s very popular 10-20mm f/4-5.6, but with a faster, constant aperture throughout the zoom range, while being only slightly larger (but weight is unknown). It also features Sigma’s (almost) silent HSM focusing for all brands.
Second, I liked the 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5, which at the right price could become a big seller as a step up for those who want something better than a kit lens, but don’t want either the size/weight and expense of a constant f/2.8 version. Sigma also manufactures a 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5, which has a longer focal range and an excellent reputation, but the 18-50mm features optical stabilisation, which will sway many buyers.
One constant throughout all of Sigma’s new lenses was the presence of optical stabilisation (except for the 10-20mm f/3.5, which doesn’t really need it), which I believe it will need in order to compete with the big OEM brands (Canon and Nikon). In fact, Sigma may have more stabilised lenses in its, umm, stable than Canon or Nikon. I’m not going to go through their catalogues and count, but you are welcome to do so and correct me if I’m wrong. Life’s too short to be counting lenses.
Tamron and Tokina
The big news from the other two main 3rd party lens makers was that they had spent all year partying and living la vida loca, which is they had no new lenses to present.
Canon gets the Ugliest Camera Award for its Powershot D10. It’s a bomb-proof camera designed for war correspondents who want the ease of use of a P&S or who just can’t be bothered to figure out how a DSLR works. It’s available in orange to show enemy combatants that you’re not really a threat, or a photographer. Conversely, you can declare yourself a threat by donning the camouflage colour using the interchangeable front covers.
Hmmm…nothing from them. The rumour mill had told us Nikon would be announcing the D5000, successor of the D60, and the MX, Nikon’s first foray into medium format. Looks like that mill was broken, or maybe the Nikon guys were partying with the Tamron and Tokina crowd.
In a head-scratching move, Pentax released the X70, their first bridge camera. I say head-scratching, because Pentaxians were expecting a new flagship camera to replace the popular K20D. Yours truly wasn’t expecting that because the K20D only hit stores in February 2008, so a substitute won’t be announced until the 3rd quater of 2009, following Pentax’s usual 18 month cycle. If I sound smug, it’s because I’m proud of being able to count up to 18. If nothing else, the X70 has already become Pentax’s most controversial camera…at least amongst Pentaxians, because the rest of the world hasn’t really care whether Pentax has a bridge camera or not.
In a bewildering case of deja-vu Pentax also announced their new wide angle for APS-C, the DA 15mm f/4 Limited. It should be available in Spring 2009, and like the proverbial tortoise, it’s slow (at f/4) but it can get the job done. Like all of Pentax’s DA Limited line lenses, it features full metal construction and diminutive size (see here).
But head-scratching was not over! The British publication Amateur Photographer reported on its website that it had been informed by John Carlson, product marketing and support manager at Pentax USA, that Pentax was reviving their mythical medium format 645D digital camera, after it had been scrapped, then revived, then scrapped, then revived, then scrapped, then…OK, I’ve lost count now. Anyway, they’re now saying the project is alive and a mock-up will be on display at the Photo Imaging Expo show in Tokyo later this month. Here’s the punchline: The camera will be for the Japanese market only.
Twas only 6 months ago that Panny (as it’s known by friends) released the first μ4/3 camera, the G1. It’s become an underground hit due to the appearance of mount adapters that allow its owners to use virtually any lens ever built. That and its diminutive size. And its availability in blue and red. Well now Panny introduces the GH1, which is like a G1 on steroids, hence that “H” for “hormones” in its name. Its new 12MP 4/3 sensor can capture images in 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 format, but here’s the kicker: whatever image size ratio you choose, you always get 12MP! I guess this means the sensor isn’t really 4/3, but larger, in order to accomodate wider formats at the same pixel count. I think this is a great idea, even if to advanced photographers it smacks of amateurish. Well I’m sorry, but I don’t always feel in a 3:2 mood, and I don’t always feel like stitching images together to make a 16:9 panorama, and when shooting portraits I’d prefer a 4:3 aspect ratio. I guess this is why I’m not a pro.
Further to this forward-think goodness, the GH1 can record video (and stereo sound). I’m not talking about crappy, grainy video either, but high-resolution full-HD 1920×1080 movies at 24 fps, or if that’s too much for your fragile ego, HD 1280×720 movies at 60 fps in AVCHD (MPEG-4/H.264) format. And how do you go from shooting photos to recording a video? You press a dedicated button on the camera and it starts recording immediately. It does a lot more than this (like freaky face recognition), but I can’t be bothered to write it out because nobody’s paying me for this free publicity. Go here to find out more!
Continuing with their tradition of small cameras with big hearts, Olympus released the E-620. While being only slightly larger than the E-420 (“the smallest DSLR in the World”), it still packs almost as many goodies as its bigger brother, the semi-pro E-30. Get all the specs here. I say bravo, Olympus! Bravo for introducing a small, entry-level DSLR that is not crippled in functionality just because it’s not top-tier (which is what some big brands do to their entry-level bodies).
Olympus also displayed (under glass) their interpretation of the μ4/3 system, which will be P&S size, but offer interchangeable lenses. Will this be the compact digital that street photographers have been dying for? I am eager to find out. The photo is courtesy of PhotographyReviews.com, who feature a short article on this Olympus camera.
I’ve left the best for last. I realise some may not find this at all interesting, but for me it is. Back in September 2008 Samsung announced that they too were going to market a mirror-less camera similar in concept to the μ4/3 system, but using an APS-C sensor. At the PMA they announced the Samsung NX, the first of these new “hybrid” cameras. While no exact specs were available, and only photos were shown, they did say they expected to release it later this year. The press release makes no mention of Pentax or its K-mount, fuelling speculation that the long-standing Samsung-Pentax collaboration has come to an end (Samsung rebadged many Pentax DSLRs and lenses with its own brand). Will Samsung create its own mount from scratch? Will it design and build its own system of lenses? We’ll see! For the moment the Korean giant seems very confident and its digital imaging CEO stated With the release of the NX Series, a digital camera that combines the strengths of a DSLR and compact digital camera, Samsung Digital Imaging will become a global leader in the new hybrid digital camera market and achieve the company’s goal to become the global leader in the digital camera market by 2012. Hey, no point aiming low!
That’s it folks!