It's the trade show season again in the photo industry. The time of year, when the camera manufactures trot out all of their new toys for us to drool over. With Photokina over and Photo Plus Expo winding up, it's time to sort through all the new cameras that were released.
The most interesting thing to me about both of these trade shows is how the cell phone has changed and is currently influencing the photo industry. The first cell phone theme that you hear over and over, is the apparent death of the point and shoot market. Cell phones, have supposedly made point and shoots obsolete. Why carry an extra camera when you have a phone, which in a lot of ways is better than a dedicated point and shoot. But don't tell Sony this. They just released the excellent new Cybershot RX 100 V. It has a 20.1 Megapixel 1 inch sensor and an equivalent 24-70 f1.8-2.8 zoom lens. Plus it shoots 4K video. This beauty will set you back $1000, so it probably isn't for the casual photographer. On the cheaper end, one of the few point and shoots at Photokina the Lumix DMC-LX10 which has a 20 megapixel 1 inch sensor, will "only" cost $699. Photokina also showcased another response to the cell phone onslaught, with many manufactures looking to the past and hoping nostalgia will convince you to buy their cameras. Specifically the rebirth of the instant camera. Why instant, you may ask? The answer is simple, these cameras can do the one thing a cell phone can't do and that is is print your picture. Polaroid helped start this trend by bringing back the famous SX-70 instant camera and continued the trend at Photokina with the new snap touch, which has a small screen on the back and a 13 megapixal sensor. Leica got in on the act at Photokina, with the Leica SoFort instant camera that uses Fujifilm Instax mini film. If you've got a spare $300 it's a pretty cool camera. Lomography also introduced an instant camera with their Automat film camera. This uses the same Fujifilm Instax mini film as the Leica but is expected to retail for $149. Not to be outdone, Fuji who like Polaroid has been leading the instant film charge, introduced a new square version of their Instax film and said new cameras for the square format are coming next year. The square Instax film is a modern spin on the old Polaroid 600 film. They also introduced a black and white monochrome option for the Instax mini film. It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers follow this trend next year.
Another way cellphones are affecting the industry is how DSLRs are being viewed. It was long assumed that any "serious" photographer would only to choose to use a DSLR. But that is proving not to be true. The Chicago Sun Times fired their photographers and handed phones to their reporters. Apple and ESPN came together to give a reporter the iphone 7 and shoot from a fans point of view at the U.S. Open in Queens. Those photos were published in the ESPN magazine. Now as a professional photographer I personally don't ever see the day when I will put down my DSLR in favor of my phone. But I do recogonize how the cell phone is fundamently changing my industry and pushing it directions we never dreamed about.
The camera manufacturers response to this at Photokina and Photo Plus seemed to be the more megapixels the better. Which means expect to see more higher megapixel cameras than every before. Nothing showed this philosphy more than the star of the Photokina show, the Fujifilm GFX mirrorless medium format camera. With it's DSLR like body and big 51.4 megapixel sensor it is a very nice camera. But it also comes with a nice big price tag with the price expected to be between $8000 and $10,000 for the body only. It is squarely aimed at the high end pro or the well heeled enthusiast. As is Phase One's new IQ1 100 megapixel medium format digital back which retails for $33,000. Both of these cameras will produce amazing pictures which no cell phone can ever hope to match.
On the more "affordable" side are four very nice cameras. Canon released two new cameras. The Canon 5d Mark IV with its 30.4 megapixel full frame sensor which costs $3500 for the body only and the Canon M5 Mirrorless with a 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor which costs $949 for the body only. Sony also released two new cameras. The Sony Alpha a99 II with a 42.4 megapixel full frame sensor which costs $3200 for the body only and the Sony Alpha 6500 mirrorless camera with a a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor which costs $1400 for the body only.
In the micro 4/3 sensor world both panasonic and Olympus showed off some nice new toys. Olympus showed off their new mirrorless camera the PEN E-PL8 with a 16 megapixel sensor which costs $549 for the body only. Olympus also teased a new flagship camera. Panasonic introduced several new Lumix cameras, starting with the high end DMC-G85 mirroless camera with a DSLR type body, it has a 16 megapixel sensor and will cost $897 for the body only. The Lumix DMC-FZ2500/FZ2000 are all in one cameras with a 24-480mm equiv. F2.8-4.5 lens and 20 megapixels it a big camera with a big price of $1199. I find the micro 4/3 market segment interesting. They seem to exist in a world inbetween cell phones/point and shoots and DSLRs. The sensors in these cameras aren't much bigger than a cell phone, so they make their stand on being the low cost alternative to the DSLR. They are aimed at the people who want better optics then the cell phone but don't want to pay for the size or price of a DSLR. Olympus in particular has excellent lenses. But even they are trying to seperate themselves from the cell phone by going big. Yes 16 megapixels sounds smaller then the 42 megapixels on the Sony a99 II but on a micro 4/3 sensor, 16 megapixels is huge. As cell phones advance, it will be interesting to see how long the micro 4/3 market will last.
One name you may have noticed was missing was Nikon. They timed their new camera releases with the summer Olympics and did not have any new photography cameras at the trade shows. They did have a presence at the trades with their new action video camera the Keymission which is a Gopro rival and was timed to steal some of the thunder from the Gopro Hero 5 which was also released. The fact that Nikon decided to focus on video at the photography trade show, is interesting to say the least.
As you can see a lot of goodies were introduced at the fall trade shows. In my opinion all of these cameras are very interesting but some are more practical and useful than others. The medium format megapixel monsters are nice but the cost of the camera, not to mention the cost of storage and computing power puts them in the not practical or useful category for almost everyone. The retro instant cameras are nice but they seem best suited for those who want to have fun at parties or share photos with friends which makes them impractical for pros but good for casual photographers. The DSLR and mirrorless cameras that were introduced are the most useful for pros but if you're a causal photographer the DSLR offerings are way more more camera than you need and the mirrorless cameras are little pricey. You might want to look at the older models, like the Sony Alpha 6300, entry level models, like a Canon Rebel SL1 or look at some of the micro 4/3 offerings.