Ceterum censeo
Photokina Drooling

Every two years, there’s something that gets camera nerds drooling. Photokina. This year’s version was especially drool-worthy, I thought. Perhaps the improving cell phone cameras have lit a fire under their butts, but there’s a quite a lot there that’s caught my eye.

Leica. If they manage to release a 4800€ camera and call it “affordable,” they must be doing something right. I get occasional massive attacks of Leica envy, which is usually cured by visiting some Leica owners’ forums. Even so, the new M (the top-tier one, not the “affordable” version) pushes my buttons. It’s a product from a company that’s confident about itself.

Until now, the digital M’s felt very much like something made by a company that’s looking back, not forwards; they were shoehorning a digital camera into a body that hasn’t really changed since the M3 in the 1950’s. The M, on the other hand, is a completely modern, fully-rounded digital camera, that also manages to keep all the rangefinder mystique. Not to mention the ability to use all those lovely lenses exactly as they were intended. If I was a millionaire, I would be so in. As it is, I think I’d be embarrassed to be seen in public with one, even if I could, technically, afford to buy one.

At this point, one minute’s silence for Hasselblad.

There, done.

Carl Zeiss. They’ve announced a line of autofocus lenses for mirrorless cameras, including the Fuji X system. Now this is I’m going to keep an eye on. Back when I was shooting Canon, lots of people were drooling over Zeiss lenses. That never made a lot of sense to me. Using a manual-focus lens on a camera designed for autofocus just felt like a drag. Also the damn things are not cheap. On the other hand, Zeiss optics really are very good and their lenses are very well made; the fact that they’re made in Japan by Cosina does not detract from this at all. The Fuji XF 35/1.4 is a superb optic, but since one of my philosophies is that you can never have too many normals, I might be interested in the Zeiss 32/1.8. Assuming it measures up not only optically but also and especially in terms of handling and autofocus performance. I’m less interested in the 12 mm and the 50 mm macro; I don’t do macro, and I don’t really have much use for anything wider than the 18 I already have – which I’ve learned to enjoy a lot more over time, by the way. 

Which brings us to Fujifilm. The X-E1 looks like a really nice camera. With it, Fuji has a real shot of making it in the mainstream. The hybrid viewfinder on the X-Pro1 is expensive, takes up space, doesn’t have an adjustment for people who wear glasses, and is sub-optimal for zooms; a higher-resolution, better EVF is much more versatile.

I still wouldn’t trade, though. I just like shooting through that OVF so much. 

I also like the XF1 a lot. Cute as a button, tiny, and promises to deliver a lot of photographic power per cubic centimeter. I might trade up my Canon S90 for that, somewhere along the line. Gotta keep up with the times.

What I’m most waiting for, though, is the 23/1.4 lens. I miss that focal length.

And that’s pretty much where it is for me. Sure, there were a bunch of new, improved dinosaurs (=full-frame dSLR’s) demoed, there’s the “because we can” $2800 full-frame compact from Sony, the “because we can” 50x (!) zoom compact from Canon, and what have you, but none of that’s for me.

So in summary, here are the objects of my consumer lust announced or showcased at Photokina:

  • The Fuji 23/1.4 lens (will almost certainly buy)
  • The Fuji XF1 (will possibly buy)
  • The Carl Zeiss 32/1.8 (keeping an eye out)
  • The Leica M (admiring from a distance; if rich people make it possible for such things to exist, they are contributing something to the world, at least.)