The 2018 edition of PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo officially opened on October 25th at the iconic Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s West Side. As expected, it drew throngs of professional photographers, photo enthusiasts and the typical assortment of journalists, analysts as well as industry experts.
The energy level at the expo was high and overwhelmingly positive. Most of the major players were there in force. They included Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Olympus, Pentax/Ricoh and many more. Moreover, prominent lens companies displayed their latest glass: Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and Zeiss, among others. In addition, there was the inevitable profusion of imaging accessories, hardware, software, media and services. Emerald Expositions managed to squeeze everything, including many impressively large booths, into one cavernous ground-floor space. As a result, it was slightly easier for showgoers to experience the show and for journalists to cover it.
However, for all the high spirits and genuine enthusiasm for photography in evidence at PhotoPlus 2018, there weren’t any sensational new product announcements. Most were previously introduced at or before the giant photokina 2018 in Cologne, Germany, earlier this fall. On the plus side, many enthusiasts finally got to handle the exciting new full-frame mirrorless cameras from Nikon (the Z 6 and Z 7) and Canon (the EOS R) they’d fantasized about since their recent unveilings.
Furthermore, several major camera companies (Nikon, Canon and Fujifilm) offered free professional in-booth cleaning services for their cameras. This perhaps made the cost of getting to the show well worth it.
Despite an absence of product introductions, a number of significant trends did emerge. And there was certainly enough really new stuff to keep things pretty interesting for those who made it to the show. Here’s a brief rundown on some of the notable equipment we encountered as we cruised the aisles.
Super Secure Storage Solutions
Sony created considerable buzz with its new SF-G Tough series of SD memory cards. The cards feature a one-piece molded construction that is rib-less and eliminates the write protect switch that can be a source of physical damage. The rugged cards can survive being in water 16 feet deep for up to 72 hours.
They are also bend-proof, static-proof and freezeproof down to -13ºF. The cards are also 18 times stronger than conventional cards. Performance is impressive as well. They boast read speeds of up to 300MB/second as well as write speeds of up to 299MB/s, earning a V90 video speed class rating. They’re available in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities.
SanDisk announced a range of solid-state drives (SSDs) that offer a much higher level of security than drives using mechanical components. The most interesting one is the SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable. The USB 3.1 Type-C external SSD has read speeds up to 500MB/s. It is highly resistant to dust, water and shock. In addition, it stores at temperatures ranging from -4º to 158ºF. The SSD is formatted in exFAT for Windows and Mac and also provides 128-bit AES encryption.
Lexar is also getting on the rugged SSD bandwagon with the Lexar SL100 portable solid-state drive that’s offered in a 512MB capacity. It provides transfer speeds up to 550MB/s as well as write speeds up to 400MB/s. Finished in brushed aluminum, it’s drop, shock and vibration resistant. The bus-powered SSD also provides EncryptStick Lite Security software as well as Mac and Windows compatibility.
New Lenses We Actually Got to Handle
Some of the following optics were previously revealed but all were new at PhotoPlus. Moreover, we actually got to put them through their paces for the first time.
Sigma showed three new high-speed prime Cine lenses: the 28mm T1.5 FF, 40mm T1.5 FF and 105mm T1.5 FF. They round out a line that now includes 10 cinema lenses ranging from 14mm to 135mm. All these high-performance Sigma Cine lenses are exquisitely hand assembled and finished.
In addition, we got to handle the new Sigma 28mm f/1.4 and 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lenses. Sigma says they are corrected to cinematic standards using exotic glass formulations. They’re also claimed to deliver extremely high image quality complemented by beautiful bokeh, which is enhanced by their rounded 9-blade diaphragms.
Tamron exhibited its latest high-performance wide-angle zoom, and it’s a real beauty. The full-frame Tamron 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 uses three aspheric elements, including an XGM (eXpanded glass molded), and multiple LD elements to achieve outstanding correction. It also employs a high-performance USD (ultrasonic silent drive) autofocus motor and has built-in VC image stabilization. In addition, it features moisture-resistant construction and a rounded 9-blade diaphragm to enhance bokeh. It’s surprisingly light and very well balanced on-camera.
Sony was understandably proud of its new FE 24mm f/1.4 GM lens in the company’s acclaimed G Master pro series. On display for the first time in the U.S., this E-mount full-frame, internal-focus lens uses two XA (extreme aspherical) and three ED elements to achieve an extremely high level of correction. It also has a focus hold button, an aperture de-click switch for silent f/stop changes when shooting video, moisture-resistant construction and a rounded 11-blade diaphragm to produce inherently attractive bokeh.
Tantalizingly Out of Reach: Cameras under Glass
Panasonic announced the forthcoming (2019 or 2020?) S1R and S1 full-frame mirrorless cameras in late September, but details on what we saw encased in glass at the show are still pretty sparse. The S1R and S1 will have 47MP and 24MP sensors, respectively.
Both Lumix cameras also will shoot 4K video at 60 fps, provide Dual IS image stabilization and have double XQD memory card slots. Moreover, they will employ the L mount pioneered by Leica and now embraced by Panasonic and Sigma—ensuring an enhanced supply of affordable and “expressive” interchangeable lenses.
Fujifilm’s new “rangefinder style” medium-format GFX 50R was also enticingly on display in a locked showcase. Resembling an upsized X-E3, it isn’t really a rangefinder camera at all. Instead, it is a lighter, handier version of the acclaimed GFX that employs the same basic internals. This includes a 43.8x32mm, 51.4MP sensor, a 3.2-inch touch LCD and an X-Processor Pro. It has a smaller (but still 0.77x) 3.69M-dot EVF and is also the first GFX model with integrated Bluetooth.
Zeiss had us ogling longingly at the ZX1 camera formerly unveiled, albeit with fewer details, at photokina 2018. A masterpiece of minimalist design, it boasts a Zeiss-designed full-frame 37.4MP sensor and a noninterchangeable 35mm f/2 Zeiss Distagon lens. Other niceties are a 0.74x OLED electronic viewfinder and a giant 4.3-inch touch-screen LCD with a tool bar in its attractively curved right-hand end.
Remarkably, the ZX1 does not use memory cards; it has internal 512GB SSD storage. Moreover, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC is integrated in the ZX1 for in-camera editing as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Is the world ready for a $4K fixed-lens camera? Zeiss claims there’s a ready market among sophisticated street shooters and pro travel photographers.
Ricoh also joined the “camera-under-glass” crowd with its enchanting GR III high-performance ultracompact P&S. It features a new 24MP APS-C-size sensor, upgraded from 16MP, which should substantially improve its imaging performance. The new sensor also provides phase-detection autofocus and in-camera stabilization. On the front of the camera there’s a newly designed 18.3mm f/2.8 (28mm equivalent) lens with six elements arranged in four groups. Sounds like a winner to us.
Rumors but No Shows
Leica didn’t officially exhibit at PhotoPlus Expo, but they did announce a unique, traditionalist version of the Leica M10. It was on display for those willing to trek down to the Leica Store at 460 West Broadway in New York’s SoHo district. The new Leica M10-D has an ISO-setting dial in place of the LCD on the back of the camera. As a result, there’s no way to instantly review your images. However, it does offer a very quiet shutter, a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor and Leica’s Maestro II image processor.
Other specs include: a 0.73x-magnification optical viewfinder; ISO 100–50,000 sensitivity settings; a 5-fps burst rate; and a fold-out top-mounted thumb rest. It connects to captured images via built-in Wi-Fi and the FOTOS app for image processing. An optional EVF is also available.
Despite persistent rumors, there was no new Alpha a7000 or “upgraded Alpha a9 design” on display at the Sony booth. Moral: Just because a rumor includes lots of specifics and tech data doesn’t make it true. The same applies to rumors of a new superpro Olympus OM-D mirrorless system camera. Though one Olympus exec conjectured that there are “exciting new developments coming down the pike,” without offering a time frame.
At the Capture Integration booth, the Alpa 12 Plus was on display. Just released on October 23, 2018, it is an exquisite high-end medium-format digital camera typical of the Swiss company’s exclusive product line. Basically a replacement—in a lighter, handier form factor—of the recently discontinued Alpa Max, it retains its acclaimed X/Y-axis geared shift adjustment system.
Moreover, photographers can order it with the elegant rosewood grips that defined the Max Anniversary edition. Each side of the Plus is identical, with 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch tripod sockets, so users can turn it in any direction. Also, it’s more than 6 ounces lighter and slightly smaller than its illustrious predecessor.
Westcott showed its Switch beauty dish. The latest version of the light-shaping tool used by many pros, it’s part of the new Westcott Switch line that won a 2018 Lucie Technical Award. All units in the Switch line allow photographers to switch out the rear mounting sections to accommodate virtually any brand of strobe or speedlight in seconds—without having to buy entire separate units for each. In fact, 13 different optional inserts are available.
The 24-inch beauty dish also features a collapsible design with a deflector plate for quick setup, and it uses natural diffusion fabric for true color output. Its durable metal framework is heat resistant; its silver interior maximizes light output, and there’s an optional 40º grid.
ll in all, PhotoPlus Expo 2018 was an enthusiastic, positive show that bodes well for the photo-imaging industry going into 2019.