This page documents things that were not expected that make for (mostly) surprises. Given the nature of how "leaky" the camera industry is this days, true surprises are likely to be few and far between.
Sub-page last updated 9/19/12 at 7pm GMT
B.I.G 15mm f/4.5 shift lens for m4/3—deep in the warrens in the basement areas below the big booths, you sometimes find little gems waiting to be discovered. This is one of those. Not only does it look good, but it also is relatively small, as befits the m4/3 cameras. Note that this lens doesn't tilt, just shift. Still, it'll be a useful tool for some of us to correct perspective distortion and maybe even to do quick panoramas. A little pricey at 1000 Euro. B.I.G. (Brenner Import un Grosshandels) is a European importer and wouldn't reveal the maker, but it's likely Chinese, which means we'll likely see other sources of the lens pop up. I'm going to wait a bit before building a database page for it, as it really ought to be under the maker's name, not one importers. So I'll do the quick and dirty specs here: 8 elements in 6 groups, .5m minimum focus, 45.5mm long, 52mm filter thread (though the lens hood makes the diameter of the lens 65mm), and just 200g in weight. The critical number: 5.3mm in shift. That's a little lower than we'd like (to be equivalent to the Nikon PC-E shift the number would have to be 6.7mm, but as long edge characteristics are good, this would still be a useful amount.
Zeiss 12mm f/2.8, 32mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/2.8 lenses—starting for a clean slate and complete ground up design, Zeiss is readying three autofocus lenses for the Sony NEX and Fujifilm X-bayonet mounts. Zeiss representatives say that the prices of these lenses will be around the price of the Sony Zeiss 24mm f/1.8. This is a development announcement, but prototypes were being shown at Photokina. The sign in the booth said "summer 2013," but the Zeiss representative I talked to was less sure of the timing. As with everything Zeiss, these lenses look to be high quality, and they will be welcome additions to the NEX and X lines.
Hasselblad Lunar—Apparently Hasselblad has gone all West Coast Customs on us, taking the Sony NEX-7 and creating a bespoke version for only several thousand dollars more. Now, it would be one thing if this camera had the design ethos of the Hasselbad lineup, but instead it just has the pricing ethos. Leica got this right: taking Panasonic cameras and making them look like Leicas. Hasselblad isn't getting it right: taking Sony cameras and making them look more gimmicky. Certainly Hasselblad needs something more than their MF offerings to live off of, but it strikes me that adding wood, titanium, or carbon fiber to a NEX-7 isn't the right approach. The Hasselblad experience, if there is one, isn't about materials and OEMing other people's products, it's about a well designed, high image quality camera (and lenses). Adding new packaging on an existing frame isn't the Hasselblad way. They'll lost their way. The Lunar is a "work in progress," meaning its not ready for prime time yet (early next year is the word). But it's the "ideal luxury camera" part I have a hard time with. That, plus in talking with Hasselblad executives, it is clear that this isn't the only Sony product they'll be "rebranding." Watch out A99 and RX-1, you're about to be pimped. I'm not going to build a database page for the Lunar, first because it doesn't exist yet, and second because it really is just a NEX-7. Maybe I'll add a "if you want a more expensive version, see Hasselblad" to the Sony page. Don't get me wrong. This camera will likely sell to a few, just as pimped out Cadillac Escalades were the rage in some (small) circles for awhile. It'll be a way of showing not only do you have good taste in cameras (NEX-7), but also that you have more disposable income than you know what to do with. The sad thing is that the likely reason Hasselblad is doing this is because the MF market is small, not really growing, and may be too tough a market to keep the company long-term profitable and viable.
Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 and 150mm f/2.8 lenses—I no sooner wrote about wanting Olympus to round out their prime set with a couple of lenses when I was hit with some press materials at the Photokina Press Center by someone who made the press conference I didn't get to this afternoon (I was still at the airport): Panasonic showed a slide pointing to 42.5mm f/1.2 and a 150mm f/2.8 m4/3 lens development efforts. From the looks of the slide, they're more than just development, they're in late stage development. The slide says "Further Attractive Lenses Release in 2013-2014" [sic] as a title. Still, I want the 150mm. I've got a big Jones on for that lens. No database pages for these lenses yet, as I have no data other than the basic focal length, aperture.
Schneider announces three m4/3 lenses—Hmm, where to put these: true rumors or surprises? Well, I have to put them under surprises, because I didn't know exactly which lenses we were going to see. We get a Super-Angulon (sounds like an ominous monster from a Sci-Fi film) 14mm f/2 that we kind of knew about. We also will get a Xenon 30mm f/1.4 and a Macro-Symmar 60mm f/2.4. All three lenses are said to be coming by the end of 2013, which, of course, made me do a double-take. Yes, 2013. So consider this a preeeeeeee-announcement. Still, prototypes are being shown and they look nice. These should be three very high quality optics that we can add to our kit (at some point in the future; maybe that Super-Angulon was a sci-fi name, since the lens is definitely from the future.
Olympus 15mm f/8 Body Cap Lens—What happens if you put a lens element in a body cap, then add a small lever for manual focus and/or closing the lens? You get this unique accessory that's as flat as a body cap (adding no real depth to the camera body) but can function as a modest wide angle lens in a pinch. Often times these gimmicks turn out to be just that, gimmicks. But this is a pretty interesting idea, and one that I suspect a lot of us will find a use for in the real world. I often travel with my backup cameras with body caps on, for instance, and this would make them instantly available as cameras, as well, without me having to take the time to mount a lens. The proof will be in the image quality, obviously. It either needs to be good or terrible, not in between. Terrible gives us that Lomo-like option that gets faddy every now and then. Good gives us a real option. Those of us who've seen four thousand camera bodies and four thousand normal lenses in our lives like little oddities like this, it wakes us up and makes us try new things. Olympus continues to be pushing interesting lenses, and they are to be commended for that.
SLR Magic Embraces Fuji XF—SLR magic started with some fast m4/3 prime lenses, and is now branching out. Four new lenses will be introduced for m4/3, NEX E-mount, and Fujifilm XF mount, with prototypes being shown here at Photokina. The new lenses are 25mm t/0.95 (US$650), 35mm t/0.95 (US$1250), 35mm t/1.4 (US$280), and 23mm f/1.7 (US$400). The 23mm f/1.7 is a redesign of a discontinued lens. (t/stops are actual light transmission, while f/stops are theoretical light transmission.) Here in the US you can generally only get SLR Magic products via eBay sellers, but they are popular in SE Asia. The t/stop lenses are mostly promoted to videographers, and have geared rings and continuous apertures. As details appear, I'll add these lenses to the Lens Database pages of the site. Some of these lenses will appear at the end of the year.
Sony NEX-VG900 and VG30—I guess we should call it a NEX Assault. Let's see, a couple of weeks ago we had seven lenses and seven cameras. Now we're up to 10 and 10. Of course, only four of those cameras are still cameras (NEX-F3, NEX-5R, NEX-6, NEX-7). It's the video side that seems to be boiling over with options. The US$1800 VG30 comes hot on the heels of the VG20 camcorder and seems to differ primarily in the OLED viewfinder (now 2.36m dot versus 1.2m dot), and a new power zoom lever. Meanwhile, the US$3300 VG900 goes full-frame in the NEX E-mount! Using the 24mp sensor that drives the RX1, A99, and Nikon D600, the VG900 becomes the smallest dedicated video camera with a 35mm film-sized sensor. The VG900 is supplied with the LA-EA3 adapter that allows autofocus with full frame A-mount lenses. With E-mount lenses, the camera drops back to 1.5x crop for video. Sadly, Sony seems stuck on AVCHD at Blu-Ray compression levels for internal recording: we're still in the mid-twenties for Mbps, and this sensor is capable of creating better files than that. Fortunately, Sony has provided uncompressed HDMI output to get around that.
Pentax 15-45mm f/2.8 lens for the Q series—A couple of surprises here. First, it's tiny yet reasonably specified (at f/2.8), making for the first real pocketable 80-200mm equivalent with a decently fast fixed aperture (note f/2.8 is about equivalent to f/16 in terms of focus equivalence due to the small sensor, though). Second, at US$300 that's barely more than Pentax wants for a glassless, electronics free lens adapter. Given all the other ho-hum news about the Q, this lens is a pleasant surprise.