Photokina 2012: Full-Frame Goes Entry-Level

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Two weeks after IFA ended, interest of technology buffs is back in Germany, this time in Cologne, where Photokina 2012, the biggest global imaging fair, will officially commence on Tuesday. Photokina is a biannual fair and, in fact, the only remaining manifestation of its kind in the world, after PMA merged with CES last year. Thus, the interest of photography enthusiasts and professionals for this year’s Cologne show is bigger than ever.

Compared to CES, IFA or MWC, Photokina is a far calmer show, from which we cannot expect spectacular way of introducing new devices. Many of the major manufacturers have already announced their star products these past few weeks — products with which they will be fighting for the visitors’ interest (Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Pentax). Still, there are a few manufacturers whose announcements are expected Monday, September 17, when the Photokina Press Day will take place, an event closed to the public.

From everything that has been revealed so far, as well as those things that are just rumors, it has been hinted that three market trends would dictate the atmosphere of this year’s Photokina.

The first, which has been current since the last Photokina, held two years ago, is the rising flood of mirrorless cameras, i.e. compact system cameras, whether it is with Micro Four-Thirds, APS-C or some other sensor size. Thus, visitors will have the opportunity of trying Canon’s EOS M for the first time, which was announced a month ago and will finally take the Japanese photo giant to this market segment. This Canon model has an 18-megapixel APS-C sensor and a 3-inch LCD.

Similarly, visitors will also have to opportunity of seeing Nikon 1 J2, which was announced a month ago and is the successor of the exceptionally successful Nikon 1 J1 model that comes with a 1″ sensor, a 10-megapixel resolution and a 3-inch LCD. This is one of the most miniature CSCs in the world, but German Leica hinted that it would present convincingly the smallest camera with an interchangeable lens at Photokina — M10.

Visitors will also see Pentax’s Q10, while rumors suggest that Olympus will present several new PENs during Press Day. Details are still not clear, but there are multiple websites publishing rumors that the E-PL3, a year-old model, will be replaced with an E-PL5 and that the successor of an even smaller Micro Four-Thirds model, E-PM1 could be called E-PM2.

The second hot trend will be a somewhat fresher market novelty, thus the devices which will create it will be the biggest stars of the show — entry-level DSLR cameras with full-frame sensors. These will cost significantly less than the professional full-frame DSLRs, of course. Nikon revealed its wild card of the class several days ago. The D600 packs a resolution of 24.3 megapixels into a body that is 16 percent lighter than Nikon’s D800, which records Full HD video clips with noise reduction in real time.

Sony has also announced that it would have such a device at Photokina — the Cyber-shot DSC-RX1. It comes with a 24.3-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor, a body just 4.5 inches wide and a fixed Carl Zeiss T*t f/2 35mm lens. Of course, we will see the much awaited mid-class Sony DSLT, A99, as well as mirrorless Alpha NEX-6, which doesn’t have a full-frame sensor but is part of the popular E-mount family of mirrorless cameras.

Still, Canon is expected to unveil another interesting novelty, which will hold a vast five-hour event a night prior to the official fair opening. PowerShot G15 is rumored to be presented, the long-awaited successor of PowerShot G12 from the highly successful advanced compact series by Canon.

The third trend is a result of the extinction of cheap compact cameras due to the swarm of smartphones with improvingly better options, and it was hinted by Samsung during IFA, as it presented the Galaxy Camera — a hybrid between a smartphone and a 16-megapixel compact with 21x of optical zoom.

Apart from Samsung’s booth, other manufacturers are not likely to unveil such futuristic devices, however, those who still have the courage to create innovative compact cameras will bring their models which will at least be able to connect to the Internet, with software that enables automating photo editing and posts them on social networks. “Wireless connectivity” will be in the limelight when it comes to consumer cameras — this is the key feature that smartphones posses and most compact cameras do not.

Stay with where I will be reporting live from Cologne in the upcoming days with the first impressions of the most interesting new cameras.

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