Report from Photokina '98

by Sal DiMarco

Photokina is the preeminent photo exposition in the world. This year's event was wet, cold and "quiet"---though, The Kulsh, a local beer, was great. Evolutionary, rather than revolutionary is probably the best description for this 25th photographic show of shows.

The biggest trend visible at the show was the enormous increase in consumer digital cameras and products. Film, however, is still an extremely important element in the industry and was showcased as well. Manufacturers are vigorously working on new products. You can expect to see major improvements in the months ahead, particularly in the realm of traditional photography. The "Kodaks" of the world are still conscious of the fact that film has a product life measured in decades, whereas digital stuff is all but out dated when it hits the store shelves.

Here's my list of some of the more notable "goodies," useful to the working pro.

Leica: With the new slogan: "Leica. Optics make the difference," the sultans have introduced three new or improved lenses: a 90mm Apo-Summicron-M f/2 ASPH, a135mm APO-Telyt-M f/3.4 for the M-cameras and a 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8 ASPH for the reflexline.In Leica speak "APO" means apochromatic, and "ASPH" stands for aspherical. Insimple terms, it means great lenses.An improved version of the classicM6 with TTL flash metering was debuted. The flash (SF 20) also works withthe R8 reflex camera.
Leica showed a consumer digital camera called the Digilux. It is a 1.5million pixel camera. This camera is also known as the Fuji MX-700. Their very high-end digital scanning cameras deserve a look for thosein search of art reproduction quality imaging. After years of buckingthe trend, they finally have a 35mm projector for carousel trays: the PradovitRT-S and RT-M.

Lastly, Leica showed a 5x loupe for looking at your slides. This beats theold Schneider 4x looker hands down! It will sell for about $175.

EOS-3 Canon: The big item introduced was the EOS3, which will be positioned in the market place just below the EOS 1N. It has a 45 point AF sensor layout,which should mean faster autofocus. The most interesting new lens was a 35mm f/1.4L
Contax: After trying to take on Leica, Contax is now going after Hasselblad with a new 645 system camera that has interchangeable everything---magazines, lenses finders, etc. (Hey, it's their claim, not mine!) The camera is autofocus with a focal plane shutter (X-sync =1/100). Leaf shutter lenses are promised. Lenses from 35mm to 210mm (24mm to 135 on a35mm camera).No improvement or new lenses for the G cameras were shown.
Nikon: For the working photographer, the most important developments frombrand "N" were two new (I'd say improved) lenses, a 28-70mm f/2.8 zoomandan 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom. Both lenses have a built-in "Silent Wave" motor, claiming it gives "ultra-fast and hushed autofocus and boosts the focus tracking performance." There were many rumors about a Nikon digital camera based on the F5. They admit to it, but will not say who is doingthedigital side---smart money is on Kodak.

Hasselblad: They introduced a dual format 35mm camera with a 45mm f/4 and 90mm lens. It is standard 24x36mm format and 24x65mm panorama format. A total improvement in the lens line, along with databus connections wasannounced. One of the nice things was a PC strobe cord lock. No more loose synch cords. A 2x magnifier for all the 45 degree prismviewfinders and the PM90. They also showed a Zeiss 300mm f/2.8 lens for their focal plane shutter cameras. It weighs as much as a Volvo, and willprobably cost as much.

Mamiya: The big format 21/4 geniuses showed an improved 50mm f/4.5 wide-angle and two short-barrel lenses, a 75mm f/4 and 180mm f/4.5 for use on the shift/tilt adapter for the RZ 67 system.

Tamron: The maker of unique off-brand lenses showed a AF28mm-300mm (that'sright 300mm!) f/3.5-6.3 LD aspherical zoom lens. It will be available inCanon EOS, Nikon-D, Pentax AF, and if it is anything like the 28-200 lensthey make, it will be an excellent walking around lens.

Kodak: On the digital side, the Great Yellow Father introduced threeconsumer cameras: the DC210 Plus, DC220 Zoom, and the DC260 Zoom, in addition to the already announced DCS 560 professional camera. Note the CCDchip in the DCS560 is almost the sizeof a 35mm frame, so a 20mm lens is now a wide-angle and not a normal one.They do seem to be way ahead of everybody in the digital area.
On the film side, there were some exciting developments. The first, wasanimproved Ektapress 800. The film offers greater flexibility and "outstanding results when pushed. A finer grain is particularly noticeable when the film is pushed." To further improve the scanning performance of the film, Kodak and Polaroid created a new "look-up" table for the film.
In the reversal film area, Ektachrome E100VS was shown---"VS" stands for vividsaturation.  A quote regarding Fuji's Velvia from one Kodak executive: "We do cheese better." New print films were introduced in the 160 and 400 ISO area. Both are available in "NC" (natural color for controlled lighting situations), and "VC" for vivid color. They claim regardless of format, both 160 and400, one can expect the print to look the same.

Fuji: The company has merged its Reala technology with its Superia color 35mm and APS color negative films. One of the more interesting benefits of the Reala films is a clean picture under fluorescent lights. They announced a repackaging of Press 400 & 800 films.

On the reversal side, they showed Fujichrome 64T TypeII, a tungsten balanced (3200K) with finer grain, resolution, color, etc. They claim that processing between -1/2 to +1 stop has "minimal impact on eithercolor or contrast."

Sal Dimarco, Jr. is a Philadelphia-based freelance photographer


Reviews of new equipment appearing in the Camera Corner of THE DIGITAL JOURNALIST are solely the opinion of the author. There is no compensation or pressure by the manufacturers considered in the evaluation of the products reviewed on these pages.

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