Photokina 2008: A Wrap-Up

5D Mark II

While I was at Photokina last week I was particularly interested in Canon’s new 5D Mark II and Nikon’s D700. Both models are currenlty in line for an upcoming upgrade in my backpack. I don’t have that many Canon lenses, so I could make the jump to Nikon with only a minor loss.

I played around with the new 5D at Photokina for a while and having worked with the original 5D I have to say, it just feels the same. Obviously Canon has done many improvements but at the same time kept many things that were already known from the old 5D. I’m looking forward to getting the D700 in for testing in a few weeks. But back to the 5D and its 21.1 Megapixel sensor that makes it Canon’s second camera with this sensor size. The first one was and still is the EOS 1Ds Mark III.

The biggest news for the Mark II is the addition of video recording, which Nikon only presented in the D90 a few weeks before the 5D Mk II. The difference: The D90 only shoots 720p while the 5D Mark II can do 1080p. A common problem with both cameras unfortunately is the so called rolling shutter problem. Here’s a sample of this problem with Nikon’s D90 (the actual problem shows up in the end of the video, starting at 2:00):

<param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" />
<param name="movie" value="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=1641816&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1" />
<embed src="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=1641816&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="500" height="281"></embed>

Obviously, if you don’t pan fast the problem isn’t a big deal, but still, you have to keep it in mind when using the movie mode.

Vincent LaForet put together a short video, which was completely shot with the new 5D. They only had 2 days for the whole thing; including writing, shooting and editing it, so the actual production wasn’t really great. It’s just a movie with beautiful images (can you say “Bokeh”?) that were thrown together in a short clip. A behind the scenes video is available here. All the information about the gear used in the video can be found in the video and on LaForet’s blog. (Disclaimer: He is getting paid by Canon for doing stuff like this.)

Another new fine addition is the high(er) resolution 3″ display with 920.000 pixels. Finally, Canon made the step there. I always find it hard to judge the quality of images based on the LCD of my 40D. They look so-so on the small screen, but come out great on my Mac after loading them into Lightroom. The two things that disturb me most on the new 5D, compared to the D700, are the mediocre 3.9 fps and the autofocus system, which still features the same old AF we know from the original 5D. Of course, the 5D features a 21 MP sensor (D700/D3 only have 12 MP) and I guess Canon just didn’t want to up the fps, since it would seriously hurt sales of the much more expensive 1Ds Mark III. The same goes for a professional AF system. Still, I’ve heard from many photographers that they would rather go with the 5D Mark II (2,700 USD) now, rather than spending almost three times for the 1Ds Mk III (7,500 USD!). Although the video mode in the 5D Mk II might be a problem for some pro photographers, because they are only allowed to shoot photos and not video.

I talked to Nikon’s Marketing Manager about the video mode and the integration of video into the D3 or D700. He said they’re watching the market, exactly due to this limitation. They chose the D90 because this camera isn’t aimed at pro-photographers. Obviously it’s his job to say this. In the long all SLRs will get the video mode. It’s only a question of time now. The same happenend with live view. First there were only a few cameras that actually came with this feature. Now every new camera has it, from consumer camera to professional SLR.

I’m looking forward to getting the D700 for a few days. I played with it for a while at Photokina, but of course that is never the same as actually using it, especially since I worked with Canon only.

If you want to find more about the 5D Mark II, Raoul Pop has a nice summary including links and his own opinion about the camera.

One company I totally missed at Photokina was Sony. I haven’t had that much time to just walk through the halls, but managed to at least take note of the booth of every major camera manufacturer. Sony? Not really. I’d have to look at the exhibitor’s list to see if they were actually at Photokina. First they show up with this 24 Megapixel monster, but – at least in my case – fail to impress on the show floor.

A new product I’m not so sure about is the micro four-thirds, which is currently pushed by Panasonic and Olympus. Micro four-thirds allows for smaller bodies because there’s no big mirror box required. The viewfinder is completely electronic. You’re not looking at the optical representation of the image but rather at a small display inside the camera which is fed directly by the sensor. No mirrors involved. It’s sort of a mixture between a point and shoot and DSLR. You still get exchangeable lenses but in a smaller body. The main problem I see with Panasonic’s G1 is its price: Retail price for the kit in Germany starts at 700 Euros (roughly 1.000 USD), while the EOS 450D with the 18-55 IS drops at your door for just 520 Euros. The G1 isn’t that much smaller than a regular DSLR, but it’s just the beginning of the things to come. Olympus actually brought a smaller prototype to Photokina (and our show).

Canon Booth

Overall Photokina was a great show for everyone who loves cameras, imaging and everything in between. Getting to touch and play around with all these nice cameras, lights, tripods, watching people who teach you things from Photoshop to the correct setup of lights, etc. is an awesome experience. I hope koelnmesse, the organization behind Photokina, will up the ante and make it a yearly show. There are far too many new developments at the moment for a fair that only takes place every other year.