Photokina: Year Of The Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera

Photokina is the mammoth international photo and camera trade show that takes place every two years in Cologne, Germany. It started this past Wednesday and will be wrapping up tomorrow.

While such trade shows can serve as key venues to unveil new gear, this year the camera manufacturers took things into their own hands: Nikon and Canon announced in late August and early September that they each developed comprehensive full-frame mirrorless systems with camera bodies, new lenses, lens adapters and more. The announcements were certainly the biggest of the year. And while both companies were showing the new models at the show, announcing the systems ahead of time eclipsed the ability to generate buzz and excitement around Photokina.

Nevertheless, the show offered other announcements and even surprises for photographers, filmmakers, industry analysts and others from the world of digital imaging.

Full-court press for full-frame mirrorless: It’s no secret that camera companies lost much of the consumer-based point-and-shoot market, and with it, millions, perhaps, billions of dollars, over the course of the past ten years in one of the most conspicuous disruptions in an established market. Still, the high-end camera market, comprising high-end point-and-shoots and interchangeable-lens models, has remained viable for camera companies. This is in large part due to the success of the mirrorless camera market, which is still showing growth. And while Sony continues to dominate this market, with its series of very popular mirrorless models, from consumer-targeted models to high-end pro models, other camera makers are looking to make inroads into other segments of the mirrorless market. 

In fact, camera manufacturers are targeting the highest end of the market to be most aggressive, which is great news for professionals. For example, one important announcement, which seemed to be in response to both Sony’s dominance of the high-end market as well as the recent announcements from Nikon and Canon, was the new L Mount Alliance announced by Panasonic, Leica and Sigma: According to the alliance, each company will produce its own L-mount cameras and L-mount lenses will be compatible across the brands.

Panasonic Develops Two Models of Its First Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera Cologne, Germany (September 25, 2018)– Panasonic Corporation has developed two models of its first Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera with a 35 mm full-frame image sensor, the LUMIX S1R and the S1. These models are equipped with the world's first*1 4K 60p video recording function and the Dual I.S. image stabilization system. As part of the LUMIX S series, Panasonic aims to release them on the global market early 2019. For 100 years since its founding, Panasonic has strived to help realize better lives for customers around the world by responding to their needs. Working on the concept of creating a new culture of photography for a digital age with digital cameras, in 2008 Panasonic released the LUMIX G1, the world's first*2 Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera. Over the ten years since then, Panasonic has continued to lead the industry with product innovations, such as the world's first*3 camera supporting 4K video recording, and cameras equipped with the Dual I.S. (Image Stabilization) system, combining stabilization both inside the camera unit and the lens. In recent years, telecommunications lines have increased in speed while social media video-sharing has gained popularity and as a result, more and more people are enjoying a hybrid of photos and videos, widening the range of expression in content production. This new field prompted the need for a new type of camera that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional photos and videos. With this in mind, Panasonic adopted the concept, ‘Fuel the Photographers' Creative Vision’ to develop a Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera with a strong focus on the expressive capabilities for both photos and videos. The company will bring these cameras to market as part of the LUMIX S series, striving to provide "specialized value" to customers desiring higher expressiveness. The cameras are user-friendly and offer a robust assortment of essential tools for professional photography and videography, as well as incorporate an entire array of Panasonic technology refined over a century. The latest innovations in Lumix S series also build on Panasonic’s ten years’ experience developing Digital Single Lens Mirrorless cameras, including digital technology such as image or signal processing, plus optical and heat dispersion technology and more. The combination of these capabilities will provide customers with new value for photography and videography. The key features of the newly developed cameras, the LUMIX S1R and the S1, are as follows. 1. Capabilities with high definition and high level of expression achieved with the newly-developed 35 mm full-frame image sensor and image processing engine. (Effective pixels: approximately 47M for the S1R and 24M for the S1) 2. World's first*1 support for 4K 60p video recording in a full-frame Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera. 3. World's first*1 full-frame camera equipped with Dual I.S. (Image Stabilization), enabling handheld shots for dark or distant scenes that would previously have required a tripod or other equipment. 4. A double slot for XQD memory cards and SD memory cards, the first for Panasonic; and a rugged triaxial tilt LCD, emphasizing ease of use and supporting professional photography and videography. 5. Leica Camera's L-Mount, making it possible to use interchangeable lenses that meet the L-Mount specifications of the partners*4 Leica Camera and Sigma. Expressiveness is further enhanced by increasing options for interchangeable lenses. Panasonic will also expand its lineup of LUMIX S series compatible lenses, developing more than ten by 2020, including a 50 mm/F1.4 fixed-focus lens, 24-105 mm standard zoom lens, and 70-200 mm telephoto zoom lens. For the LUMIX G series of Micro Four Thirds Digital Single Lens Mirrorless cameras, Panasonic has started developing a LEICA DG VARIO-SUMMILUX 10-25 mm F1.7 lens that will achieve the world's first*5 zoom with maximum aperture of F1.7 for the entire range. In addition, Panasonic has announced the launch of LUMIX PRO, a service and support program for its LUMIX professionals. This program has been designed to ensure that professionals can receive service and repair benefits globally. Stay tuned for additional details on the October launch for the US market. The LUMIX GH5, G9, and GH5S high-end Digital Single Lens Mirrorless cameras that Panasonic released since 2017 have already gained a solid reputation among professionals and high-level amateurs across the world for the quality of their pictures and ability to capture the vitality and beauty of life. This success is owed to Panasonic's world-first*6 support for 4K 60p/50p video recording, and the world's fastest autofocus*7 function using the company's proprietary DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology. Panasonic will continue to provide new value to customers through the unique features of the compact, yet high-definition, LUMIX G series, while also reaching the professional market through the introduction of the full-frame LUMIX S series and the greater reach of the company’s support system. Through these measures, Panasonic will help to create a new culture of photography and videography. Prototypes of the new cameras and lenses introduced above will be exhibited at Photokina 2018.*8 Notes: *1. World's first support for 4K 60p/50p video recording in a full-frame Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera. Regarding the inclusion of the Dual I.S. image stabilization system, this is for a full-frame Digital Interchangeable Lens System Camera. As of September 25, 2018 when announced in Germany, according to Panasonic data. *2. For a Digital Interchangeable Lens System Camera. As of September 12, 2008, according to Panasonic data. *3. The GH4 Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera capable of 4K video (as a Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera, as of February 7, 2014), and the GX8 Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera with Dual I.S. onboard (as a Digital Interchangeable Lens System Camera, as of July 16, 2015), according to Panasonic data. *4. “The L-Mount Alliance: a strategic cooperation between Leica Camera, Panasonic and Sigma”(announced on September 25, 2018 in Germany) *5. For an interchangeable lens for use with a Digital Interchangeable Lens System Camera. As of September 25, 2018 when announced in Germany, according to Panasonic data. *6. As a Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera. As of January 4, 2017, according to Panasonic data. *7. For a Digital Interchangeable Lens System Camera. As of November 8, 2017, according to Panasonic data. *8. Photokina is a leading exhibition for the photographic and imaging industries (to be held through September 26 to September 29 in 2018, at the Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany). • Leica is a registered trademark of Leica Microsystems IR GmbH. • SUMMILUX and L-Mount are registered trademarks of Leica Camera AG.

Additionally, Panasonic announced two new impressive sounding full-frame sensor mirrorless cameras, the Panasonic Lumix S1R (47-megapixel sensor) and Lumix S1 (24-megapixel sensor), as part of its LUMIX S series. Both will offer robust dual image-stabilization systems and be able to shoot at 4K-resolution (60fps). Panasonic expects the bring the two new models to market in early 2019.

Sigma also indicated that it would be developing a full-frame mirrorless camera, which would use its unique Foveon sensor. Sigma noted that would also continue to produce its QA lenses, as well as developing a QA lens adapter for its upcoming L-mount camera.

A Whole Lotta Glass: The major camera manufacturers all noted that they would be continuing to build out their mirrorless lens lines. But there were also some nice lens introductions. Sigma unveiled five new impressive lenses, for Canon, Nikon, Sony, as well as Micro Four Thirds cameras. The models include:

  • 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
  • 40mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
  • 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary
  • 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
  • 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports 
70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports
60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports

Earlier in the year, Fujifilm had made an announcement of an extremely unusual lens: The XF33 f/1 R WR, which the company claims is the first f/1 aperture lens for mirrorless cameras. During its presentation at Photokina, Fujifilm mentioned it again.

Also, just before the show, Fujifilm introduced its lens roadmaps for its GFX-series medium-format cameras. It would introduce three new lenses and bring the total number of lenses up to 11, although there was no timeframe on when those new models would come to market.

New Innovation from Unexpected Companies: One of the more intriguing, and definitely surprising, camera introductions came from notable manufacturer of high-end lenses. Zeiss introduced its first digital camera, which it’s calling the Zeiss ZX1, which is an advanced point-and-shoot (or bridge camera). This full-frame Zeiss includes some intriguing, although quirky, features. It has a prime (or non-zoom) integrated (non-detachable) Zeiss Distagon 35 mm f/2 T lens, that includes autofocus and captures images on a 37.4-megapixel full-frame sensor.

Not surprisingly it will capture RAW as well as JPEGs, but the camera will also have a fully integrated version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC within the camera. Consequently, the camera will have a rather unique user interface to support Lightroom CC. The touchscreen display is also very large, 4.3 inches. Another unusual feature, which is sure to get mixed reviews from photographers: It will come with 512 GBs of internal memory. So, it won’t accept memory cards. The ZX1 will also include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and come with USB-C ports. No price was announced, but it will be available in early 2019.

In the coming weeks and months, Digital Photo, Digital Photo Pro and HDVideoPro will be providing hands-on reviews and analysis of all these new products, and how photographers and filmmakers can make the most of the new gear.

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