As some of you may know, I attended Photo Plus Expo in New York yesterday. I went with a laundry list of things to research, including:
- Fujifilm's X-series cameras (specifically the X-E2)
- Storage systems
- Fine-art printing services
- Make new vendor sponsor contacts
- Find a tripod I'll actually use
Climbing Mount Fuji
So, let's start with the biggest bombshell of the day, the Fujifilm X-E2. On entering the hall, I pretty much made a bee-line for the Fujifilm booth. My intention was to get my hands on the X-E2 early and "try" it with a couple different lenses. I fully expected that it would be thrilling.
My first impression on seeing the camera was that it looked just as spiffy as I thought would. It had most of the old-school charm I like about the X-Pro1 and the X100s. After a short wait in line, I got my turn at bat with the camera. The display model had the kit 18-55mm lens, which is the lens I would be getting as my starting point. So far so good. But, once the camera was in my hand, up to my eye, I was shocked: I wasn't in love with this camera. I liked it fine, but I just didn't love it. Yes, all of the things I've been talking about were there -- the control layout, the look, the feel, the quality and all that rot. It was nice, but I simply wasn't smitten.
The first problem I encountered was that I could not see the whole viewfinder. What I could see of it was very nice, but I simply couldn't see all the corners. That's a major issue for me. There were a couple of other oddities as well. For instance, even though the traditional control layout is there, so are the shared data wheels, and they sometimes seem to conflict with each other. And, I couldn't get the new split-image focusing aid to work right. I tried a couple of other lenses on the camera, just to give it due diligence. And I also picked up the X-Pro1. But in the end, I was just a little disappointed, and wandered out of the Fuji booth.
The Big Two-and-a-Half
I ventured into the Nikon and Canon booths, both of which left me cold. There were plenty of new models to see in both camps. Fine cameras, to be sure, but only incremental improvements over existing models. If I'm just going to look at another DLSR, why bother? There's nothing inherently wrong with Sony, but if I'm not going to bother with size/weight reduction in my kit, my camera upgrade just ought to be the SLT-A65 and be done with it, right? Well, that's what I asked one of the Sony reps, in a "what's the future hold for the A-mount" kind of question. His response was surprisingly candid: that I should basically not buy an A65 at this time; that while Sony have said that they will continue to develop the A-mount "for now," he would adopt a "wait and see" attitude before making any Sony purchasing decisions. Hmmm. Maybe Sony's future really is the
NEX Alpha mirrorless cameras.
Speaking of Alpha mirrorless cameras, Sony did have the new Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R on display, and it is indeed a curious beast. It's the first full-frame mirrorless system camera on the market and it's coming at an attractive price. It's also about the same size as the new flagship Olympus OM-D EM-1 (more on that later), but much heavier. I may have mentioned elsewhere that I think the A7 looks awful. It's definitely a prime example of "form follows function," and reminds me of an old Topcon SLR from the '70s. Generally, though, it's a mostly likable camera. With a special adapter, it can use A-mount lenses with no problem, and the control and menu layout is mostly typical Sony. From what I've seen, the image quality is nothing short of amazing. But there's a problem. The shutter release is in a rather uncomfortable position, located too far back on the body! Ah, well. Nothings perfect.
I also wanted to look at the NEX-7, but there were electrical problems in the booth display and the camera wasn't working. Why they didn't just run over to B&H and get a battery and charger is beyond me. I did get to lay hands on the NEX-6, though, and it's a very nice little beast. It is an E-mount camera, of course, but an adapter is available to use all my huge A-mount lenses. In fact, there was a fellow in the Sony booth sporting an NEX-5 with a Minolta Maxxum 70-210 f/4 "Beercan" mounted to it. On the back, he had a big Hoodman viewfinder eyepiece. It looked ridiculous, but he was loving it and it worked perfectly.
I should mention, BTW, that after several conversations, I've all but given up on my desired control layout, and resigned myself to the loss of the functional aperture ring and dedicated, marked shutter speed dial.
From Mount Fuji to Mount Olympus?
The next cameras I looked at were Olympus. I've generally poopooed the micro four thirds cameras due to their small sensor. I have to have at least an APS-C sensor, right? Well, maybe. I will say this. I picked up the OM-D EM-5 with a 14-50mm lens and was immediately surprised at how comfortable the tiny body was. And, when I put it to my eye, I could actually see the whole viewfinder! That was the first all day! And, I was very quickly able to figure out how all the basic functions of the camera worked -- without the help of the wonderfully knowledgeable (and cute) booth attendants. Nice. And the new flagship OM-D EM-1 felt even better. Impressive! Here's a camera system where the "DSLR-ish" bodies share the same lenses as the "rangefinder-ish" bodies with no wonky adapters or compromises. Here's a system that's compact and lightweight. I was in LOVE! But how's the image quality? (my tests on the floor looked great when chimping, but the files were marginal. I don't think I should be surprised by that).
Enter Steve, a sixty-something native New Yorker with a Brooklyn accent. And one helluva nice guy. I noticed Steve because he had two cameras dangling from his neck -- an OM-D EM-5 and a Fujifilm X100. That was interesting, so I asked him what was the deal with that? He explained that the only reason he had bought the Fuji was because it offered a prime lens that approximated the field-of-view of a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera, and that Olympus didn't yet have one (a 17mm is coming soon from Olympus to fill that void). So, how did the images compare? In his opinion, while the Fuji files might have a little greater resolution, the final results from the Olympus were exceptional, and in prints, you couldn't tell a difference. Hmmm... very interesting. VERY interesting.
I also took a look at Panasonic, which I did not like at all (they felt really chintzy) and Samsung (all but the NX300 seemed pretty gimmicky), but I kept coming back to the Olympus booth again ... and again ... and again. If I do make a camera change, I think I know what it will be. But stay tuned. I've got much more to talk about, and I'll do that in a post tomorrow.