I saw on Franke & Heidecke's website that they were going to be at PMA. As many of you know I've been trying to figure out a way to get my Phase One P45+ back onto a Hy6 for quite some time now, and thought I'd go talk to them in person to learn more about if and when this would become a reality.
I only spent one day at the show, and here are my impressions.
Franke & Heidecke
I was able to play with the 90/4 Makro (unusual design and silky smooth focusing barrel), the 180/2.8 (just about pure glass--sexy!), the 80/2.8 as well as the Rollei 6008AF with a db20p 16Mpxl digital back and of course, the Hy6.
This was my first time handling the Rollei 6008AF. As it is the only alternative available for putting a Phase back behind Rollei glass, I assumed that this would be my camera for the forseeable future. Unfortunately, after holding it for some time while talking with F&H I simply found it to be too heavy for the field work that I do (and this was with the 80/2.
. It has a heavy-duty built-in motor for rapid film advance which I obviously don't need to carry around and power. But it was a very solid, heavy piece of metal, and I knew I wouldn't be particularly comfortable traipsing through the wilderness with this camera at the ready. I am comfortable doing so with a Canon 1D Mk II and a 300/2.8, so I can only assume the ergonomics of this older design were making it less than comfortable to hold. The "pinch" position I had to hold my fingers in to fire the shutter was also not especially comfortable.
Franke & Heidecke really impressed me with the Hy6. I spoke with them for over an hour where we discussed everything from company history to principles of lens design and reasons why they went one way with some feature versus another. I came away with newfound respect for the work and passion they put into their product.
The ergonomics of this camera were spot on. Everything from mirror lockup through AF-Stop or AF-start were very intelligently located. The camera was much lighter, and the grip fit my hand so well it only seemed to make it lighter still.
But as for putting a Phase back onto this camera from everything I can piece together from Phase, F&H and other players, it doesn't appear likely any time soon. I'm very sad about this because I feel a Rollei/Phase pairing would be the dream team of MF digital photography.
I am determined to use Schneider, Rodenstock or Zeiss glass for the consistently best possible quality in my photography, so I'll have to keep looking for solutions.
I also saw the new 45-degree Hy6 finder. I like 45-degree finders, but I found that this one could have used more eye relief (I wear glasses). I found that either the exposure information at the top was occluded or part of the the bottom of the viewfinder was. I love the big, spacious views MF affords (cue LF snickering, but I come from small format! ).
I think about Sony and photography about as often as I think about Wal-Mart and photography. But the morning I left, Sony showed their semiconductor prowess by announcing a 24.8Mpxl 35mm full-frame sensor, promising a pro-spec camera while at the same time announcing a new 24-70/2.8 Zeiss zoom for the platform. When I thought about it a bit more, I realized that Sony's ergonomics might be the best in the business if they haven't messed with Minolta's layout too much (I started on a Minolta, and still felt they had the best ergonomics in small format, for me, at least). Combine that with the promise of their new sensor, pro-spec camera and a filled out lineup of Zeiss glass, and I think that's a compelling story.
I was chatting with their rep about the effectiveness of their in-body stabilization and telephoto lenses. The rep was claiming 4 stops with the 300/2.8, so I popped my CF card in and put him to the test. I haven't pored over the files yet, but at 15x magnification on the back of the camera, I wasn't seeing obvious blur from shooting handheld at 1/30th of a second. I have the raw files and I'm sure I'll find it, but I'm already sure it's good for at least two stops--with a tele!
I thought about it--they're offering image-stabilized AF Zeiss glass with round aperture blades for ideal bokeh.
I've learned my lesson about waiting for announced camera platforms, and I'm not about to abandon my MF aspirations just yet, but it is great to see amazing new tools on the horizon such as this. I found myself going away from their booth shaking my head... "Sony??" Nice job, so far, guys.
Sony also had prototypes of their top-spec (non-Zeiss) glass on display, some of which looked like a 400 or 500mm lens, perhaps a tele zoom, and a few others (they were not labelled). It is clear Sony intends to make themselves a viable alternative to Canon and Nikon in every way.
Nikon had their superteles out in full force (actually all of the companies did). All hooked up on pedestals to D3's and Wimberly gimbal setups.
I have to hand it to Nikon, their VR has come a long, long way. Originally it sounded like marbles rolling around in a can. Now it's just a soft whirr. The supertele's AF-S focusing was a tad slower than Canons, but still lightning fast compared to anything in MF.
Similarly, Canon had their lenses out. The 200/2 IS and 800/5.6 IS were there too, but under glass. The 800/5.6 didn't look like the monster (for definition of "monster", see Sigma, below) I thought it would. It's apparently going to cost $12K USD, so I guess I'll be digging for change in my sofa for a bit.
200-500 2.8 Zoom anyone? Of course I couldn't resist playing with it. With dedicated 2x teleconverter (they don't call it a teleconverter, though) it can become a 400-1000/5.6. It weighs 16kg (~35lbs), and uses power to zoom. I'm not sure what the market is for this lens, but everyone sure smiled when they saw it.
Epson was displaying gorgeous 50 and 60-inch prints around their booth from all their printers, but notably the 11880. I am still not sure how neutrally it will print black and white without a RIP, but the hung images they showed (some were B&W) were all flawless (and were printed without a RIP). If anyone is interested in one of these (11880's) that has been used for just the three days of the show for about a $1500 discount, PM or e-mail me in the next day and I'll put you in touch with the vendor who let me know they were selling theirs. (I have no affiliation with them).
Between seeing all the camera pr0n and a couple of meetings, it was a pretty full day. Glad to be back, though. Vegas is... well... Vegas.