News Opinion

Japan’s CP+ 2012 news and my opinion so far…

So CP+ is under way and the announcements are starting to roll in.

There is a lot being announced, so I’ll just talk about a few of the more interesting items.

They are starting to get it. Well starting to at least.

Sigma SD1 – There is talk of a MSRP price reduction to $3300 by way of re-branding the camera “SD1 Merrill” edition. The problem is that they probably still won’t make much ground at that price, even though it’s considerable cheaper than $6900 they are currently charging. The street price could potentially be $2300. They mention giving some type of points to existing SD1 users to make up for the price drop making their camera worth substantially less (…or more if collectors decide the original model is special somehow).

The camera is lacking compared to considerable cheaper semi-pro cameras (I’ll call them S.P.C.). Those cameras are now in the $1200 – 1500 range.

For example,
– 98% coverage viewfinder. All S.P.C. have 100% coverage.
– An LCD screen with about half the resolution of other S.P.C.
– No video.
– No Live-view.
– A fixed focusing screen.
– Sigma lenses only. I doubt decent 3rd party lens manufacturers like Tamron or Tokina would ever make Sigma mount lenses.

So the question will be asked if the sensor makes up for the expected difference of around $1800 – $2100 in price? Sure, it’s better than thousands as before, but still not there.

Along with the SD1, they announced new new versions of their compact DP1 and DP2 cameras. The positive here is that they will have the sensor from the SD1, but we can expect a high price to go along with that. Another negative is that they say the cameras use the same imaging processor as the older DP cameras, so one can assume they could only do so much optimisation to improve speed. Not to mention the cameras will be dealing with at least 3 times more data than the 5mp x3 chip. I think Sigma should move away from their one-trick Foveon pony. All other things being equal to the competition, a Foveon sensor could sway people to their product, but they first need to make the rest of their camera’s properties competitive.

Sigma, I’d like to be proven wrong about the camera’s value if that is the case. Send me a revised SD1 for testing, so I can compare it with the K-5 that I have. I think around $1800 MSRP would have been more reasonable given the camera’s lack of some semi-pro features.

The D800 and D800E were announced. An impressive camera for sure. It’s actually physically smaller than the D700, but adds a 36 mega-pixel sensor and full HD video recording capabilities. I applaud Nikon for actually making the camera smaller than the previous model, yet of course improving it in every way possible (36mp is a bit much, but as long as the quality and ISO performance is there…). The camera is set to be introduced at $3000 and $3300 for the E version with a “self-cancelling” anti-aliasing filter.

So in my Sigma talk above, do they think the SD1 is any match for this in image quality given that they are a similar price? It’s obvious that feature wise the D800 wins hands down.

Pentax & Ricoh:
Ricoh officially stated that their Ricoh camera division will be merged into the newly formed Pentax Ricoh Imaging (PRI) business unit that will take over all design, development, and sales. It makes sense. However, it doesn’t say if camera branding will change to entirely Pentax or not. Personally think they should just switch the Ricoh cameras entirely over branding wise and be done with it given that the Pentax brand name has the true photographic history to it.

In just a few months of the official combination, we have already seen positive results. The K-01 uses Ricoh’s peaking technology for manual focus assist. There was also an official mention of a K-mount module for the GXR system. Not to mention the rumours of rehiring quality Pentax lens engineers Hoya axed (such as the designer who made. It sure looks like an acquisition done properly to make quality tools even better. They even started with similar goals, just look at the K-7/K-5 and GR/GXR designs. Comparable small, rugged, and fully featured semi-pro.

– The K-01 was announced for Japan. I’ve already given my thoughts on that camera, so look back a post if you are interested.
– The Pentax Q gets a (very) limited silver edition. It looks pretty nice, but assume it will be at at unreasonable premium over the existing black body.
– Pentax released a lens roadmap…It’s been a while! This is a big step and probably a result of Ricoh taking over and allowing Pentax to be more flexible and return to some of their pre-Hoya traditions. Lenses mention specifically at CP+ were the DA 560mm f5.6, DA 50 f1.8, and the 645 D-FA 90mm f2.8. The 560mm looks and sounds really interesting, but somewhat of an odd focal length. I’ll really be curious to see what the final specifications are on that lens. The DA50 is basically a 50mm lens with the same properties as their DA 35mm f2.4 lens. I expect the DA50 to be their cheapest prime lens in the line up. The 645 lens is a portrait lens and will be the 3rd new lens to be offered specifically for the 645D camera. They also announced the 645 D-FA 25mm f4 lens will finally be shipping in the next month or two.
– They announced a lens specifically for the K-01 (this is not the 40mm f2.8 XS). It appears to have the lens elements pushed back into the camera resulting a thinner visible profile. It should further make the K-01’s thicker-than-other-mirrorless-design more appealing. The negative here is that the lens will probably not work on K-mount DSLRs because the lens would interfere with the mirror.
– An official K-mount lens to Q adaptor was announced. The benefit of this one over 3rd party options is that it has manual aperture control and an internal aperture. You won’t get auto-focus, but everything else will work. That means all DA/DA* lenses that lack an aperture ring lenses will be compatible.
– They announced the WG-2 digicam. This is the next revision in the long running ultra-rugged waterproof camera line. The only interesting aspects are: waterproof depth increased to 40 feet and the sensor is now a back-lit model. Hopefully the image quality, especially in video mode, is a large improvement over the WG-1. Design wise, they further increased the masculinity factor with sharper edges and stronger angles.
– Pentax adds tethering to the 645D… at $200 for the software. Sure, 645D owners probably won’t flinch at that price, but the software better be great for that price.

They announced that they are developing a full-frame camera destined to replace the A900. It is a long time coming, so I think we can expect a departure from the normal DSLR setup. It might be a fixed translucent mirror, or maybe even mirrorless with an EVF. My guess is they will go with the fixed mirror setup because it is less of a departure from normal DSLRs. I think this will probably be one of, if not the fastest, full-frame camera around.
– Announced a 500mm f4 lens. Looks nice, but priced around $15,000.
– The released an E-mount lens roadmap. We should see 4 new lenses in 2012. One of them being a large aperture standard focal length lens.

– Announced the OM-D E-M5 micro 4/3rds mount camera body. It has a very retro look, which I think looks pretty decent from most angles. The starting price doesn’t look to bad at $1000, but given that it has a 1/4000th sec. maximum shutter speed, I wouldn’t call this a semi-pro body just for that reason. I’d like to try one out in person to see how it functions. I’ll give them a pat on the back for not bothering to force in a pointless built-in flash into the camera and weather sealing the camera.

On a side note, the one problem with Olympus is that they’ve been tainted a bit to my eyes after that big fiasco about unlawful business practices. That being said, users interested in the OM-D as an entry to Olympus should consider their longevity because I don’t think those problems have been resolved.

A few expensive full-frame lens announcements. The revised EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM should be interesting to see how much of an improvement it is over the previous one.