Photokina 2014 Preview — What to Expect?

Photokina 2014, world’s biggest photography show, is around the corner. Taking place mid-September in Cologne, Germany, all major players use the stage to show off their latest and greatest gear. What’s in store for this year’s biennial Photokina? More DSLRs by Canon and Nikon? New curved and organic sensors? Compelling reasons to upgrade? Let’s have a look into the crystal ball:

+++ UPDATE +++

Rumor sites expect these new products for Photokina (most of the exciting stuff is coming early 2015!):

Nikon: An “action” full-frame camera positioned between the D610 and D810.

Sony: A5100 and likely a new A mount full-frame as well a new RX full-frame camera with fixed lens.

Olympus: Not too much, the E-PL7, a silver E-M1 and a major firmware upgrade.

Panasonic: Announcing the GM2, a nice little camera likely with 4K video and built-in EVF.

Fujifilm: X30, maybe X100T…

Sigma: At least one fast prime lens — 85mm F1.4 Art, 24mm F1.4 Art or both… plus a super telephoto zoom lens. On the Quattro front, hoping for a release date of DP1 and DP3, not yet released worldwide.

The most important question on everyone’s mind certainly is how APS-C top models compete against full-frame challengers that enjoy ever lower prices. Will we see a new generation of sensors? And what will Sony come up with? Look at their innovation drive, with the full-frame A7S they just introduced world’s first really totally silent shutter — and we might get an RX2 with curved sensor…

Photokina, world's leading photography trade fair
Photokina, world’s leading photography trade fair
Canon — Calm Before the Storm?

Since 2013 it’s pretty quiet in the house of Canon. Last major announcement was the introduction of the EOS 70D‘s Dual Pixel CMOS AF.

The second iteration of the mirrorless EOS M was only introduced to the Japanese and Chinese markets (available on eBay). Recent Canon “innovations” were limited to the compact class.

In a recent interview however Canon’s digital imaging chief Masaya Maeda suggested the possibility of an EOS M system. He hinted at a new EOS M camera with built-in EVF in the second half of this year (a.k.a. Photokina). It would be the industry leader’s first serious camera with an electronic viewfinder.

Three years after the introduction of the third generation 5D Mark III it’s also safe to expect version IV soon. As a surprise we may get a Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor in the 24x36mm full-frame class with more powerful image processing and the usual incremental improvements.

As Canon doesn’t really over anything with the resolution of the Nikon D800 and Sony A7R it’s likely that they join the pixel race in some way. There’s talk since some time about a Canon medium format consumer offering. 4K video is likely going mainstream — and for sure we’ll see some sort of a EOS 7D upgrade which is in the market since 2009. A 7D Mark II is overdue, but when you can get a full-frame EOS 6D for about the same price, will you still choose APS-C?

Maeda also stressed the future importance of a new generation of improved not only EOS M lenses, but also of many new or revised EF and EF-S optics. Furthermore expect the growing importance of the Cinema EOS lineup.

Nikon Seeking Higher Margins and New Markets

To me, the Nikon Df was a stroke of genius. Not the latest specs, not the fastest and bestest everything, but what a concept and real world usability. Not cheap, but in the end you get what you pay for. The Nikon Df could be a precursor to new models delivering better margins.

Overall Nikon intends to streamline its DSLR range for economic reasons. This is clear from recent official Nikon statements. The focus is on models promising higher margins while expanding in the emerging markets, such as China and Latin America where DSLRs sell very well.

Quo vadis Nikon 1 mirrorless system camera? So many models, no clear direction. Wouldn’t be surprised if Nikon comes up with a more serious alternative. The Nikon 1 V and J cameras may be well and good, they’re a stand-alone solution with great speeds, but small sensor. So we have a new mirrorless system camera in the making?

Excerpt from Nikon financial report Q1/2013
Excerpt from Nikon financial report Q1/2013-14

A mirrorless Nikon APS-C or full-frame would convince many loyal Nikonians to buy into a system that offers Nikon higher margins. We’ll see. And how to make existing lenses compatible is something Sony and Olympus have already demonstrated.

The Photographers’ Fujifilm

With Fujifilm you never really know. They’re churning out excellent cameras non-stop. The high-end X series with its many iterations is only four years old. Photokina will introduce the expected successors, a.k.a. X-Pro2 or X-Pro1S, and so forth. We know Fujifilm is about to introduce its organic sensor technology (developed together with Panasonic) with improved light efficiency and a larger angle of incidence, yet Photokina seems a bit early for marketability.

There’s talk for some time about a Fujifilm mirrorless full-frame series, yet existing Fujinon XF lenses wouldn’t be compatible. And yes, Fujifilm’s said to launch its medium format system soon…

Irreformable Leica

Leica has given the world it’s expected Leica T compact mirrorless system, yet most non-diehard Leica users lament the T’s “form minus function” compromise.

Photokina will introduce the Leica S medium format CMOS successor. Otherwise, except for special editions, don’t expect too many Leica novelties. Leica can sell whatever it produces, the German boutique camera maker seems to be a stranger to the concept of competitiveness. Would love to have an M backup camera with two or three fast primes, but only over my dead body would I part from my not substantially larger Nikon Df / Zeiss 28/2 combo.

Olympus: Focused on OM-D and System Expansion

Olympus has found its preferred form factor with the OM-D lineup. These jewels of optical engineering seem to sell better than the more retro Pen camera.

Meanwhile, we got the flagship E-M1, the initial E-M5 and the OM-D’s latest addition, the sleek E-M10.

Next OM-Ds or Pens in the pipeline? There’s still no Pen camera with the OM-D’s sensor and processor as it would likely cannibalize the higher OM-D series. Still, expect a new technology boost for both the Pen and OM-D series. We might see increased cooperation and technology transfers between Olympus and its majority stakeholder Sony. At this moment it’s still all speculation and some way off. Guess priority is placed on the introduction of compact and bright prime lenses.

Panasonic Refocusing Its Focus

It has been in the news, Panasonic plans to launch fewer cameras in the future than in previous years. In particular the abundance of compact cameras is likely to be reduced. In order to return to profitability in the digital imaging sector, Panasonic will focus on higher-end models of the TC, FC and LX series and Micro Four Thirds cameras.

What they do, they want to do right, and the recently announced GH4 with full 4K video capability is certainly living proof of this.

Ricoh Pentax

The only real question in the Ricoh Pentax camp is how long the peculiar Ricoh GXR system will be kept on life support. It’s a unique system with most loyal devotees. Absolutely spectacular is the GR with its super smooth files. Hardly any other camera comes close to the Ricoh handling. Yet, especially the GXR is an anachronism about to perish.

Generally speaking, everything that has interchangeable lenses will run under the Pentax brand, including the rugged Optio models. Otherwise, Ricoh will market the higher-end compact cameras and new technologies, such as the recently introduced, compact 360° panoramic Theta camera.

Pentax going full-frame? It’s a very conservative, traditional brand not known for courageous experiments. The Pentax Q was already. Together with its APS-C and medium format lineup Pentax would have to support and develop four (!) camera systems with interchangeable lenses. Sounds unlikely, doesn’t it.

Wild Card Samsung Begging for Recognition

Bit by bit the Koreans are recognized for their ventures into serious digital imaging technology. Their cameras are still more gadget and toys than traditional imaging devices, but hey convergence is the future and as the world’s leading smartphone maker Samsung knows a thing or two about contemporary photography…

Samsung is said to introduce a professional NX camera soon. Still hoping for that retro model that was rumored some time ago…

Samsung’s strategy is certainly ambitious, but they’re up against an increasingly desperate competition. Functions and gadgets alone don’t decide over market share, buying a camera has much to do with brand recognition and authority. Samsung’s just not there yet, maybe unfortunately so.

Dark Horse Sigma

Everyone’s expecting a mirrorless Sigma system camera with the still unique Foveon X3 sensor. Sigma has the knowledge, they have the technology. Look how they shake up the lens market. With the Art series Sigma produces some of the most praised optics these days even excelling top of the line Canon, Nikon and whatever glass. Now imagine the own proprietary body matching the glass.

The slightly overpriced SD1 has its own loyal fellowship, yet is awkward and clumsy. A modern-day successor is likely only a question of time and not ready for the mass market anytime soon. Meanwhile you can shorten the wait with a fixed lens Sigma DP Quattro offering three focal lengths. Given the resolution and quality, it’s maybe worth to own three DPs instead of a more common APS-C or full-frame camera.

Sony: Assaults on All Fronts

The innovation drive of Sony, finally, needs no introduction. The newest player in digital imaging consumer electronics is the industry’s driving force behind advancements and setting new standards.

Take the Sony Alpha A7, offered in three variations (what not only lowers production but also development costs…). The latest A7S can see in the dark, has a full electronic, silent shutter and is the smallest, most compact of all the full-frame offerings.

Expect a Photokina 2014 frontal attack by Sony with major upgrades and the introduction of new stuff as well as improved second and third generations of existing models. Sony’s certainly the brand to watch. Over the foreseeable future the optics will be on par with the body hardware — or you can always get a stellar Zeiss lens specifically made for Sony A and E mounts.

New Generation of Sensors, Finally?

Sony’s on the forefront of developing a new generation of sensors that do not require the usual RGB Bayer pattern. There is talk of a 54MP sensor which covers 2,460 focal points for phase detection AF, using 78% of its 24x36mm full-frame area… not to forget the spectacular curved sensor technology that could alter the face of digital imaging as we know it today. Probably not yet ready for the mass market not to mention a system camera with interchangeable lenses, yet an RX1 update with curved full-frame sensor wouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

Such sensor technology would significantly improve dynamic range due to different exposure times for each pixel. Mass production though is not expected before 2015/2016, and seriously: I first have to see with my own eyes that photos can be more real than what my Df churns out.

  • Dave

    Attentively reading your post I am missing a hint at the rumored stacked sensor from Canon. Your post points at a more conservative strategy than expected what would be a bit disappointing after Canon brought almost nothing new over a very long period whilst other brands offer small and excellent gear. Especially thinking of Fuji’s X-T1 Canon should show a more progressive approach to stay in the limelight. I write this as a happy FF Canon owner looking over the fence to where innovation seems to happen.

    • Neither Canon Rumors nor CanonWatch reported on that stacked 75MP non-Bayer sensor… Since about a year no new rumor on this. Whatever Canon will introduce, you can’t go wrong with it, but don’t expect the latest technological bells and whistles. To prove the innovation is up to others.

  • One More Thought

    In a way we are living in a golden age for photography equipment. We have it far better than ever before, and it feels like we are on the cusp of several breakthroughs.

    The problem today is only choosing between a myriad of wonderful options.