Japan and CP+ Trip 2018 - Part 2

1st March 2018 Image Science News


This is Part 2 of this series.  See Part 1.

Part II - Impressions of CP+ 2018

Of course, CP+ is a much more than a monitors show.  Now, we don't sell Camera stuff here as such - but of course given almost all of us are, or have been, working professional photographers, as are a great number of our clients, we do maintain a keen interest in the area!

I won't go into all the individual product announcements (most of which are leaked long before the show itself, and have been well covered around the internet) - but just rather give some general thoughts and impressions as a long term industry observer.

The Major Exhibitors

The most notable thing was the growth of certain brands. 

There were 6 key large stands for major photo companies:

  • Sony
  • Canon
  • Nikon
  • Panasonic
  • Fujifilm
  • Olympus

What's most notable about this list is the two consumer electronics companies in there.  10 years ago, Sony and Panasonic probably wouldn't even have had booths.  Now, they were major exhibitors.  Indeed, Sony had easily the biggest booth of the entire show, and to my eye, the most well attended booth as well.  Actually, it would be fair to say their booth was constantly swamped by eager fans. 

They had their amazing new α7 III camera, which is a small fast miracle machine, having most of the tech from their latest α9 in it, at a much lower price point.  If interest at the show is anything to go by, this will be (another) huge success for the brand that must be the most remarkable success story in cameras in recent years.

It may still be that Sony's actual market share is well behind the mighty Canon, and to a lesser extent Nikon, but you would have to think they are gaining a lot of ground while the two big traditional brands seem far less nimble and exciting.

That said, Canon and Nikon both had large, well attended stands as well of course, and Nikon in particular did a good job of showing the sheer range of their offerings.  There's no doubt for many professionals - particularly in sports and wildlife, these are still the go to brands.  The Canon stand was a little cutesy in comparison to the others, but I guess when you're at about 50% market share (so I'm told) - that's ok!  

Mirrorless remains the big trend for sure - Canon's nice new option in this area, the M50, was pleasing to hold, and I spent some time with both the Panasonic G9 and Olympus OMD EM1 Mk2 - which has just got a firmware upgrade that dramatically improves burst mode shooting.  Both of these cameras are small, light, comfortable and a whole order of magnitude faster than previous generations.  I mean - they really are very fast.  In the hand it's hard to tell any speed difference between top of the line Canon kit and these models...the traditional mirrorless bugbear of auto-focus & tracking speed now seems pretty much solved.

Saul trying an interesting sitting tripod from Velbon

Given this was travel, and I was with two professionals hulking around very large, heavy systems -  I was once again reminded of the effectiveness of small sensor systems.  Sure, you can't print to poster size as well, but a micro 4/3 system with a range of lenses weighs less than the body alone of some systems, and is much much more comfortable to use in these sorts of contexts....so I am still a huge fan.  The simple fact is that 16 to 20 megapixels on a high quality sensor is enough for most non professional uses (and many pro ones, too)...especially when complemented by lenses like the excellent Olympus Zuiko glass.  The big issue is more the lenses than the bodies - as soon as you go up in sensor size, the price you pay is a quite substantial size and weight penalty with your lenses.  Of course in many contexts that extra size and weight is fine, but there's a lot to be said for small, fast machines that are much more comfortable to use (and much less intrusive than shoving a massive Nikon 80-200/2.8 in your subjects face!).

Notable also is that in-body image stabilisation (aka IBIS) is becoming more universal - and in some cases and with the right setups now offers up to  6.5 stops of hand holding compensation (e.g. Olympus OMD-1 Mk2 & Panasonic G9).  Think about that for a moment - this means if you can handhold a particular focal length at say, 1/30th without it, you're looking at successfully hand holding to around a full second thanks to stabilisation (or, using a lower ISO instead of course)!  Combine IBIS - that works with ALL your lenses - with high quality low noise sensors that shoot acceptably well even north of ISO 3200 these days - and it really begins to sound like the death of flash, doesn't it?  And of course this same stabilisation works a treat for video too.  And again for the crazy fast burst modes offered by cameras now....if you're a camera maker and you're NOT offering IBIS, you're crazy.

At the other end of things was Fuji's GFX (weapon of choice for Dan Avila - a 50 megapixel medium format size sensor system (again, mirrorless!) in a body you can convince yourself is near to a 35mm size/weight package.  Well - a rather chunky 35mm package, let's say.  This thing is a real beauty and if I were still a working photographer I am pretty sure this is what I would choose myself.  So much sensor quality, good lens selection (and Fujinon glass is right up there with your Zeiss etc.) - and a very modest kit size and weight (for its quality level).  Obviously it's auto-focus speed doesn't match the smaller systems, but I've always enjoyed the slower, more considered end of photography anyway.  It would work beautifully in the studio, but also for professional landscape and travel work. No IBIS on this currently, and to really maximise that image quality you really are going to want to use a tripod mostly, but rumours abound there's a 100 megapixel version, with IBIS, on the horizon.  Now that would be pretty remarkable!

I watched Dan Avila closely using this system over several days and he never seemed to struggle with it, just a really nice natural layout, and having seen some of the results I am very tempted to try and come up with an argument I can use with my wife to get on board the GFX train! 

Dan Avila hard at work with his Fujifilm GFX
Dan Avila hard at work with his Fujifilm GFX

(Of course Dan is an absurdly talented man who makes everything look fast and easy!).  This is in stark contrast to the much more expensive alternative from Hasselblad - which, whilst undeniably gorgeous and petite, has proved itself a buggy frustration for those that have spent real time with it.  I have spoken to a few people who have used both systems, and ALL of them choose the Fujifilm by preference.

The after-market lens makers - and particularly Tamron and Sigma, had large impressive stands.  The major brands have looked down on these brands for far too long, but they've been quietly but steadily fleshing out their ranges and increasing their quality across the board - and there was lots of interest at the show.  Alex Cearns (who is a Tamron ambassador) is one of many professionals I know who have moved over to these alternative offerings - and they're not looking back.  Sigma at the show released a bunch of new lenses in Sony E mount, again showing the rising importance of Sony in the marketplace, and the new Tamron offerings are very sleek and professional looking - and if I do move over to Sony mirrorless (as I am very strongly tempted to do) - their 2.8 28-70 will be high on my list for consideration as my default lens.  (I'm sure Alex & Saul cans sort me out a good deal somehow ;) !).

Printers, Papers and Prints

The usual suspects had small stands - Ilford, Hahnemuhle, Canson and Awagami.  And of course Epson and Canon had their printers on show.  Pretty much all the big impressive prints around the show were inkjet - I can't recall seeing a single chemistry print actually.

Nice prints, and nice papers - but disappointingly really nothing new to speak of from these makers.  Hahnemuhle had their new Gloss Baryta - a smooth gloss fibre based paper that looks a lot like the (now discontinued) Ilford Mono Silk (or the very popular Harman gloss products of yore).  It looks good but we're not yet sure if Hahne here in Australia will import it.  Fingers crossed they will as 'proper' fibre based gloss is not well served with choices overall right now (most of the paper labelled fibre gloss, like Platine and Gold Fibre Gloss are really semi-gloss papers - beautiful as well, but sometimes an image really wants a purer gloss).  Ilford have told us they have a replacement coming in this space, and they are vastly better at reliable availability than the other brands, so we may well have a great alternative from Ilford soon.  Ilford really have turned things around in recent years with impressive growth in the fine art space, and we certainly expect them to be a bigger part of our own offering going forward.

The Epson and Canon printer stands where a bit hard to follow - for the life of me I can't understand why these brands persist in using completely different model/range numbers in different countries - makes it much harder than it needs to be!  At some point, just draw a line and recognise the world is a global place now!  

Fair to say, though, that there's not a huge lot to separate these brands - both have machines capable of brilliant prints, at very similar prices, and it really comes down to who you like and (perhaps more importantly) - where you think you'll get good support if you need it.  We've run both here and they each have their quirks, all of which are liveable with and the end result is much of a muchness from an effort/hassle point of view. 

For most buyers the choice comes down to their retailer's knowledge base (which is our speciality of course!) - and for those of us dealing directly with Canon/Epson, it comes down to who is currently doing Epson and Canon service.

(Our experience is that Epson support is far from optimal, but you can get it - but with Canon Pro Print it's surprisingly easy to hit a brick wall and just get no support at all!).

There was some good exposure of both the Ilford and Hahnemuhle Certified Printing Labs in Japan, clearly doing beautiful work.  These important programmes are really guarantees to the end customer that the lab knows what they are doing, and working at the highest quality level. 

As you are (hopefully!) aware we are one of very few companies certified by both of these brands for fine art printing.  (Indeed, the only reason we're not certified by Canson as well - they've invited us several times - is their programme is a little too prescriptive and would clash with our need for consistency when printing across the different brands).

Drones

There was less drone presence than I had imagined there would be - although DJI (who seem completely dominant in this space to my admittedly ill-educated eye) - had a caged area and demonstrated some thoroughly big brother looking models.  It's got to be said that these things seem amazingly good and easy to use for the price now, and for video work at least you can get a lot for less even than a grand.  No surprise this was also a popular stand...

The fact that DJI now own Hasselblad (a camera company woefully mismanaged for decades now) is interesting.  Unlike when Imacon (the scanner company who make our glorious Imacon 949 film scanner that is the key machine for our film scanning services) - bought Hasselblad a while ago, DJI have not taken to using the Hasselblad name for their other offerings.  Which seems to be to be kind of a sign of the waning importance of that brand name.

PCs for Creatives

One thing good to see was a stand devoted to PCs specifically designed for creative folks.  

For years, this has been one of the most popular articles on our site - and hundreds of creatives around Australia are using these Image Science designed machines:

In Japan,  a company called Mouse make their DAIV range of specialist PCs for creatives ('Dynamic Approach Imagery of Visual' - whatever that means!).  You can get good looking, very powerful workstations (for vastly lower than Mac prices) - and even laptops with high quality screens with AdobeRGB gamut.

Pretty sure these are only available in Japan, it would be nice to see a more international or even local Australian option.

See their site - all in Japanese, though, unfortunately!

They've won several awards with their quirky advertising:

Commercial for Mouse Creative PCs

The Rest

There were bags, cleaning products, and endless tripods (Velbon has a cute model with an inbuilt stool) - but I don't use a lot of those these days. 

I've had a Manfrotto studio tripod for about 20 years now, still solid as a rock, and I pretty much swear by ThinkTank bags.  And thanks to IBIS and better high ISO performance, I pretty much avoid using a tripod almost all of the time.  I'll let you explore the web's various CP+ reports if you have an interest in those sorts of things!

End of Part Two

Please see the other two parts of our Japan trip coverage:

I have also made two complete galleries that show more than the images here.  The best way to use these is to click the slideshow button in the top right corner and you'll get captions as you go: