Hasselblad lost, Leica under pressure, Sony flexes its muscles, Nikon steals the show, Fujifilm has a winner
The last thing I saw from the once great Swedish camera maker was one of its medium format cameras in Ferrari livery. Now Hasselblad has put its name on a $1000 Sony NEX, added some Hasselbling (thanks to Mile Chisholm) and added $5000 to the price. Of course, that's pocket money compared to the $35,000 plus Hassy charges pro shooters for its HD-series medium format cameras. That’s all about to change, CEO Larry Hansen told the press at Photokina: in addition to the Sony-based mirrorless compact, the Hasselblad Lunar, there will be a full-frame DSLR and high-end compact camera.
Luca Alessandrini from Hasselblad explained: ‘The Lunar is a celebration of the passion that the company’s founder Victor Hasselblad had for photography. For the first time the market now has a camera embracing traditional Hasselblad state-of-the-art image capture combined with stunning Italian design features. And for the first time ever we are using carbon fiber, titanium, wood, leather and precious metals – including gold. The camera grip itself offers unparalleled ergonomics and has been developed to embrace both compact E-mount and the larger professional A-mount lenses.'
5,000 dollars? For pimping a Sony NEX-7? Would you buy one?
LEICA CUTS PRICES
Meanwhile, Leica announced that all Leica rangefinder-type cameras from now on will be called "M." Not M9 or M10, just "M." The new M uses a 24-MP CMOS sensor made by the Belgian company CMOSIS. It will fall in line with competition by offering live view and focus peaking. The M will use the same EVF as the much cheaper X2. The M will be a little cheaper than the M9 (about $7000).
The M9 will continue at a reduced price - $5.5K – under a new model name: M-E. Mike Johnston of TOP asked: ‘who really wants to spend $5,450 on a camera widely understood to be a status symbol but also wants to broadcast to the world the fact that he's too cheap to spend an additional $1,500 [on the top model]?’ Good question, but Mike forgets that the people Leica buyers will try to impress will only see the famous brand and the red dot. They'll have no idea that it's not the top model.
Leica’s medium format S2 will now be called the ‘S’, after a minor upgrade. It all looks a bit like they’re rearranging the deck chairs, doesn’t it? With Hasselblad, it looks more like capitulation, going with Sony and adding expensive touches of luxury. Earlier this year, we witnessed the disintegration of the once mighty Kodak. This is all a bit painful, but don’t let anyone tell you that these companies are victims of the digital revolution – they are victims of poor management that lacks essential vision.
Meanwhile, Nikon released the D600 for real photographers, working photographers and others who want the best IQ money can buy. The Nikon D600 sits in third place on the DxOMark sensor quality scale, right behind the D800 and D800E. Ahead of the D4 and various D3s. Way ahead of Hasselblads and Leicas. Just look at these DxOMark comparisons:
The D600 is a $2000 Full Frame camera in a D7000 body. Or a D3x in a D7000 body, as Thom Hogan put it. Only a year or 2 ago, the D3x cost as much as a Leica. The D600 sensor is a more sensible 24mp variant of the new D800 36mp FX sensor. On the DxO sensor scale, the D600 sits in third place behind the D800E/D800 pair.
$2100. Canon was quick to announce the 6D, a smaller version of the 5D MK III, for the same price. The difference is that the D600 is already shipping, the Canon will ship by Christmas. Canon enthusiasts rightly complain that the DxO system is hard on their sensors. They argue that the 5D MkIII is pretty close to a D700 in dynamic range and low-light performance, out there in the real world. And they have a point most likely, but DxO is all we have when it comes to independent sensor testing.
The D600 uses an FX version of the multi-CAM4800 39-point autofocus system. The viewfinder is huge of course, compared to the D7000, and bright and detailed with plenty of info to let you keep shooting without the need to take your eye off the action. Compared to the D800, limitations include a 1/4000 sec maximum shooting speed (vs 1/8000), 1/200 Flash Sync speed (vs 250), and 2 SD cards (vs 2 CF cards).
The D600 has pretty decent build quality, including a metal frame and some dust sealing. The smaller body size and weight is appealing but is soon cancelled out by the fat FX lenses you'll screw on it. You can use DX lenses on this body, but you’ll be using about 2/5ths of the FX sensor. That means 10mp files, still big enough for everyday shooting. If you want lots more detail on the D600, Thom Hogan has all the answers here:
If Nikon stole the show with a full-frame DSLR that set a new bar for price / performance, Sony produced the biggest surprise: A compact, mirrorless, full-frame camera with a fixed lens 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss lens. Those who got their mitts on one of these say that the RX1 oozes quality, from the magnesium alloy body to the controls. The body isn’t that much bigger than the RX100’s, so that fixed lens looks really lumpy on the front.
The $2,800 price doesn’t buy you a system, merely a fixed camera/lens combo. It doesn’t buy you a viewfinder either. You can buy the electronic finder add-on, but you lose your flash shoe. At least it has a built-in flash.
The RX1’s format is so outrageous, it doesn’t have many direct competitors. The price is outrageous too, at $2800. The cheaper Leica X2 comes to mind, which makes do with an APS-C size sensor and a price tag nearly a grand less. Then there’s the cheaper again Fuji X100, which also uses a APS-C size sensor. That’s about it. Maybe its for people who want to hold up outrageous gadgets saying: look what I’ve got! More here:
After years of full frame neglect, Sony also produced the long awaited successor to the much loved a900: The SLT alpha 99. Its body is even more compact than the Nikon D600’s but the price is closer to $3k. In line with recent practice, Sony has tossed out the traditional optical-viewfinder, moving-mirror system and replaced it with its translucent mirror technology. The a99 gets the same 2,359k-dot OLED viewfinder as the NEX-7, and it’s built in. A new autofocus system uses two phase-detection sensors for increased speed and accuracy when trying for locking on to a subject.
The a99 is a serious video camera that shoots 1920 x 1080 at up to 60 frames-per-second. It also provides continuous autofocus while shooting video. Like Nikon’s D800, the a99 can output uncompressed data to an external monitor or recorder. More serious goodies include built-in microphone and headphone sockets, and 32-step input control. Then there’s a customizable silent control dial next to the lens, which lets you adjust various settings without knocking the camera or adding noise to the footage being captured. It’s pretty clear which market Sony is going after with the a99.
Fujifilm launched the X system early this year, with the X-Pro1 leading the charge. It was an instant success with its unique hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, solid metal body and old-fashioned dials. Here was a great modern interpretation of the classic rangefinder concept. Fuji makes better lenses than most people realise, mostly fast primes in the Leica fashion, so the whole package was a winner with the Pros.
The price tag was a bit high for us ordinary punters, though. Then Fuji announced the X-E1, just before the Photokina show in Cologne got going, and it will compete directly with the top dogs in the EVIL patch, the Sony Alpha NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D E-M5. The X-E1 misses out on that hybrid viewfinder but gets a 2.36M dot OLED unit instead. The rest of the story is much the same.
The X-E1 keeps the excellent sensor and the traditional controls, despite a reduction in body size. Like the Nikon D800E, the X-E1 sensor doesn’t have a Bayer filter, and the pixel count is ‘just’ 16mp. The X-Trans CMOS sensor uses a novel colour filter array to suppress colour moiré, which means there’s no need for an anti-aliasing filter. As a result, the X-E1 offers superior resolution to other cameras with the same 16MP pixel count.
The X-E1 also gets a new autofocus algorithm and a different sensor drive mode. The result is AF speeds that are competitive with the top dogs Sony and Olympus. There's also a new 3x magnification mode to assist manual focus. This looks like the perfect compact system for people who have 2-3 grand to spend on body and lenses, and a great system to get your hands on what Leica purports to offer – simplicity, compact size and brilliant lenses. Fuji does it all at a brilliant price as well. More details here: