Photo Plus Expo 2016 - After Show Report

Yesterday, I made my annual pilgrimage to NYC to attend at least a little bit of this year's Photo Plus Expo. As usual, there was much to see. Unfortunately, I only had about five hours to cover the entire show floor. I do think that I did pretty well. Honestly, it wasn't as much fun as it has been the past couple of years because I was just there for the day, and wasn't able to attend any of the workshops or classes. Although I took along my Fujifilm X-E2 with the 18-55mm lens, I didn't take as many pictures as I usually do, largely because I was rushing around, to and fro.

Of course, I did visit the Fujifilm booth, which was crowded with people who wanted to get to see all the latest cameras and lenses. I spent some time playing with the X-T2, and have to say that it's an amazing camera. As usual, I won't bore you with all the tech specs. You can find that at the Fujifilm digital camera web pages. What I will say is that the camera is lightening fast, and that for me, every control and component falls into place exactly as it should, and that I absolutely want one. Someday.

Fujifilm GFX 50S with six new system lenses

Fujifilm GFX 50S with six new system lenses

One thing I had really wanted to see was the new GFX medium format system. I was able to see it. Under glass. It sure looked pretty. Unfortunately, there were none to play with.

I think a lot of people were disappointed in not being of this camera, especially after knowing that there have been a few people playing with them in the real world after Photokina. I guess us mere mortals will have to wait just a little bit longer...

While I have no picture, I was able to have a bit of play with Hasselblad's new X1d mirrorless medium format camera. And, while its firmware is definitely not ready for prime time yet, the camera is definitely something pretty special. It handles superbly, the touch-screen-based user interface is incredibly well thought out, and the image quality appears to be excellent. It's amazingly usable for a big camera, and generally feels good in the hand. There will be three lenses specifically for the X1d at product launch (a 30mm f/3.5, a 45mm f/3.5, and a 90mm f/3.2), and an adapter to allow use of a select group of H-series lenses. For the price of a nice car, you too can be a Hasselblad shooter, once the system ships.

A more traditional (and more affordable) digital medium format is still the Pentax 645Z. I'd never bothered to pick on up before, because I've never really been interested in making any move to a larger system. But, I thought that since I had time, and I was there, I might as well take a look. Plus, I wanted to see what excited my friend Bill Wadman so much that he decided to sell off all is Canon gear and buy one. I have to say that for such a large camera, it was surprisingly agile, and the pricing is pretty competitive, especially if you pick up a used on in good shape like Bill did. Firing the shutter causes the camera to make a really pleasing sound as it records what seems to be a stellar 50MP image. You can get a nice "comprehensive starter set" from B&H that includes three lenses for less than the price of a compact car. If you go used, you can be well set for less than the price of a Canon 5Ds setup.

I also made the rounds of all of the rest of the mirrorless camera manufacturers. That meant venturing into the Canon displays to see their new M5. Having had the little (tiny) beast in my hand, I can quite certainly say that there's absolutely nothing for anyone to complain about with this camera, except maybe the price. $980 for the body is, in my opinion, a little steep. But, it does have a lot to offer -- wickedly fast and accurate autofocus, 9fps burst shooting, a big tilting touch screen, 5-axis image stabilization in-camera, Canon's latest Digic 7 image processor, and a lot more. For a Canon user heavily invested in glass, it actually looks like a pretty good way to move to mirrorless.

While there are only a handful of "consumer-oriented" lenses available now, Canon are probably planning some better glass down the line. In the mean time, an adapter offers full compatibility with all Canon EF and EF-S mount lenses (and probably those of Tamron and Sigma as well). Canon, it seems, smartly chose to keep the lens contacts and communications protocols the same when developing the new EF-M lenses.

Over at Olympus, everything was pretty much status quo. And, the new Pen-F is a darling. The Olympus viewfinders are still the best in the world of mirrorless. The little tiny cameras have gotten a sensor boost on some models, to 20MP. But, at higher ISOs, the recorded images still didn't stellar on the back of the camera. Maybe I was expecting too much, but my Fujis always look better.

Panasonic had some nice gear, too, most notably the DMC-GX8, which is the logical upgrade of their DMC-GX7 rangefinder-styled body. I had wanted to try out the DMC-G85, but I couldn't find it. It may have been there, but Panasonic's booth was horribly laid out, and it was nearly impossible to get close to anything.

Sony was showing the new Alpha 6500, and it's a pretty spiffy little camera. It's the camera the 6300 should have been, with 5-axis image stabilization, a touch screen, yada, yada, yada. I also looked, briefly, at the new A99II, the A77II, and the A68 (which I wrote about back in January). I found them all to be pretty run-of-the-mill. Sony's clearly just about giving lip service to folks who want to remain in the A-mount camp. I'd actually buy an A7II and the rather expensive A-to-FE-mount adapter (the one with the AF motor to actuate the autofocus on my old Minolta lenses) before I'd by an A99II.

Back to the world of Fujifilm ... the Rokinon/Samyang folks are now offering all of their manual lenses in Fuji mount. If you don't mind manual focus, and manual or aperture-preferred metering, these lenses offer really nice, inexpensive options. And, they're beginning to make autofocus lenses as well, though they're currently only available for Sony FE-mount.

In the flash world, Metz have quietly made Fuji-specific versions of nearly every flash they make, and they support high-speed-sync on some Fuji models. Nissin also offers several flashes for Fuji now, and most include a built-in receiver for their new 2.4GHz wireless control technology.

Speaking of flash, my favorite item at the show was a new item from the folks at Sunbounce. They've got a very simple gizmo called the Bounce-Wall, and it looks to be fantastic for event photographers who need to be able to grab quick head-shot or upper-body portraits quickly.

The purpose of the Bounce-Wall is to get the effective light source up and away from the lens axis, and also to provide a larger, softer light. It generally places the effective light source at a 45 degree angle above and beside the camera. An advantage to the design is that your flash stays on the camera hot shoe, which makes for much better balance than having the flash out a the end of the arm, like the old-fashioned Stroboframe. The fellow in the picture, an Italian/German wedding and event photographer (whose name has unfortunately escaped me) was in the Sunbounce booth, and showed me how easy it is to use. The result, depending on the reflector you have mounted (there are six different snap-in reflectors available), is not entirely unlike a beauty dish. Unlike a lot of other solutions, switching from horizontal to vertical requires no adjustment. Just tilt the camera, and shoot.

The Bounce-Wall bracket sells for under U$65, and the reflectors run between U$20-$25 each. Or, you can get a the "pro" set with the bracket and all six reflectors for about U$160 at B&H. It's a few dollars more from Adorama. The demonstration was with a Yongnu0 YN560-IV on an Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II with the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens, and the setup just worked. Of course, being manual, aperture or flash output needed to be adjusted slightly, depending on distance between the camera and the subject.

Here's a really fun video from the Sunbounce web site. It's a time lapse video showing a photographer with one assistant shooting 88 portraits in just about nine-and-a-quarter minutes. The first couple minutes show how the photographs we made, and starting two minutes into the video are the resulting portraits.

88 perfectly lit Portraits shot by LINDA KOEHLER-SANDRING in only 9 minutes and 16 seconds, made possible by THE BOUNCE WALL by SUNBOUNCE.

Obviously, Ms. Koehler-Sandring has had some practice using the Bounce-Wall. But I was able to get good results on a first try (once I got used to the very sensitive shutter button on the Olympus camera). The portable background the assistant was using is a Sun-Mover reflector with a Tight-Fit Screen, also from Sunbounce. Any portable background would work as well.

Otherwise, I had wanted to look at Tenba's new messenger bags, but I never did find their booth. In fact, the expo hall was a bit smaller than last year. Well, it was in the same space, but there seemed to be some exhibitors missing. Or, maybe I just missed them trying to get the whole show done in just a few hours. I was also disappointed that, unlike past years, there were not a lot of smaller-yet-necessary accessories for sale at the show. I specifically needed to buy a sensor cleaning kit to get some schmutz off the sensor in Donna's camera, but there was no place to buy it. Part of that may have been that this years show took place during Sukkos, but usually companies like Hunt's, Unique, and Samy's do have such items for sale.

As I said at the top of this article, I only took a very few pictures at the show. All of them were at the Fujifilm booth. For what it's worth, here they are. All were taken with the X-E2 and the 18-55mm kit lens. All post processing was with On1 Photo 10.5. Click to view larger images.