Top 5 Cameras of Photokina 2016

By Leonard Goh (freelance writer/Singapore)

Here’s a roundup of what we think are the best announcement at the biennial imaging tradeshow in Cologne

Photokina, one of the most important imaging tradeshow, has just wrapped up in Cologne, Germany. It’s during this fair that most camera makers will put forth their new imaging products for all to see, and also to share their vision and roadmap for the next 2 years. It’s also a time for the brands to leapfrog one another and showcase their wares and pit them against each other.

We’ve sieved out the highlights of this year’s Photokina, and here are our top 5 picks.

1: Fujifilm goes medium format, steals limelight

Rumors that Fujifilm is making a medium format digital camera have been spreading online since last year. It’s not without basis, actually, as Fujifilm does have roots in medium format photography since the film days with their G series medium format rangefinder.

So when the company announced the GFX 50S, it was already anticipated, and it stole the limelight at Photokina.

The 51.4-megapixel mirrorless medium format shooter is still in development, with 3 lenses in the horizon. What makes the GFX 50S unique is that despite having a much larger sensor, Fujifilm has managed to keep the body relatively petite, tipping the scales at only 800g for body only. Also, the GFX 50S faces little to no competition on the market now, with only the Hasselblad X1D being able to go head-to-head with it. As long as Fujifilm can keep the price for the GFX 50S competitive (below US$9,000, which is the price of the X1D body), we think this camera may very well be the pioneer of a new generation of digital camera.

Although no availability have been announced, we are guessing that it will hit the shelves after February 2017’s CP+ imaging tradeshow in Yokohama, Japan.

2: Sony Alpha marks 10th anniversary with α99 II

It’s been 10 years since Sony released its first Alpha dSLR into the wild, and this year the company is celebrating this anniversary with the α99 II.

For the uninitiated, the full-frame α99 II was first announced in 2012 as the flagship Alpha DSLR. Everyone knows that from then on, Sony started to shift its focus on its mirrorless ILCs, and the dSLR Alphas soon faded into the back.

It’s great that Sony is paying homage to the Alpha lineup with the α99 II, and it has impressive specifications to boot, too. The camera will feature a full-frame, 42-megapixel sensor, 399 phase detection AF points and 4K video recording without pixel binning.

The α99 II will ship in November, and the body will cost US$3,200.

3: Olympus steps up its video game with the E-M1 Mark II

For Micro Four Thirds cameras, Panasonic once held the reign with its GH series for videographers. Though it may seem late to the game, Olympus is now ramping up its effort for video capture in its flagship Micro Four Thirds camera, the E-M1 Mark II.

The E-M1 Mark II will be capable of capturing 4K video at up to 237Mbps. Also, it output “clean” videos through the HDMI output to an external recorder, making the camera suited for seasoned videographers.

The new mirrorless camera features a 20.4 megapixel sensor, an upgrade from the 16-megapixel E-M1. Also, the processor gets a bump to the quad-core TruePic VIII image engine. The boost in speed is required, considering that the E-M1 Mark II is capable of up to 60 frames per second (fps) shooting with the electronic shutter, or 15 fps using the mechanical shutter. Autofocus is also expected to be speedier, with the new 121-point phase detection sensor.

No word on availability, as the E-M1 Mark II was announced as an “in development” camera. But as with the Fujifilm medium format camera, expect to know more in next year’s CP+.

4: Fold up your drone, if it’s the GoPro Karma

Think of drones, and what comes to mind are typically the large machines with 4 extended arms that hold the spinning blades.

Action camera maestro GoPro took the opportunity at Photokina to unveil its first drone, the Karma.

The Karma is posed as an ultra portable drone, with the 4 arms being able to fold inward to the main body. As part of the package also comes with a detachable 3-axis stabilizer that allows the camera unit to be mounted to vehicles or handheld for smooth captures. The included controller also has an integrated touchscreen, making it easy for first-time drone operators to use.

Compatibility wise, the Karma can work with the HERO 4 and the new HERO 5 units.

Come October 23, the GoPro Karma will be on shelves, starting at $799 for the drone unit.

(Editor’s note: It’s interesting also to note that one week after the Karma’s announcement, DJI has also announced a foldable drone, the Mavic.)

5: Micro Four Thirds latest addition: the YI M1

The Micro Four Thirds is a consortium, meaning that companies who wish to use the lens mount can freely do so. The latest company to join the standard and showcased its first camera is YI, a China-based company.

Dubbed the M1, the mirrorless shooter sports a 20.4-megapixel sensor from Sony. But what sets it apart from other Micro Four Thirds cameras is that the M1 will utilize mostly touchscreen controls on the 3-inch display, as opposed to using physical buttons.

Interestingly, the RAW format from the M1 is DNG files, and it is also capable of capturing 4K videos at 30fps.

2 lenses will be available with the M1: a 12-40mm and a 42.5mm prime lens. But being a Micro Four Thirds camera, the M1 will be compatible with a wide range of lenses from notable companies such as Olympus and Panasonic.

The YI M1 will retail from US$499 with the 12-40mm kit lens in China. Availability in other parts of the world is to be announced.

Leonard Goh

Leonard is an advocate of photography in Singapore and also an educator in this field. He has served as senior writer for the now-defunct CNET Asia, before moving on to working for various camera companies in the business development and marketing capacities. He is also a co-founder of Platform, a not-for-profit photography initiative in Singapore which also published Twentyfifteen, a collection of 20 books to commemorate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee (SG50).

More on Photokina 2016

Photokina 2016: the Day Before the Opening
Photokina 2016: Panasonic
Photokina 2016: Sony
Photokina 2016: Olympus
Photokina 2016: Fujifilm
Photokina 2016: Nikon
Photokina 2016: Sigma
Photokina 2016: Leica
Photokina 2016: TIPA Awards Ceremony
Photokina 2016: Fujifilm GFX Press Preview

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