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Parade of New Cameras

01st October 2012

Photokina Part 1 – the new stuff

Every two years the photographic industry gathers at Photokina to introduce its new products.

The event takes place over a week period in early September at the huge Koelnmesse Exhibition Center in Cologne, Germany.


This year I again attended Photokina along with some 150,000 other visitors and walked the aisles of the messe’s ten huge halls to see the new photographic and imaging products from more than 1500 vendors.

What follows is a condensed report of those products that were of particular interest to me.

Prior to the start of Photokina, many of the photo manufacturers announced new products that would be on display at the expo. Like many others, I was curious to touch and feel some of these products and these were the ones that I gravitated to when I reached Cologne.

Sensor Size

Two seemingly “opposite” trends seem to be taking place in among the camera equipment makers.

On the one hand there is a strong movement towards smaller, yet higher quality cameras. More about this shortly.

On the other hand, there is also a recent movement towards larger sensors. Why larger sensors?

Advanced and professional photographers have historically chosen equipment that produces the highest quality images regardless of size and weight. This has been the realm of equipment with larger sensors.


Left: full-frame sensor; Center: APS-C sensor;
Right: typical point-and-shoot sensor

View showing a full-frame sensor in an upcoming mirrorless camera


The advantage of a full frame sensor is its superior light gathering ability and the reduction of image noise compared to a smaller sensor.

At this show, I saw no fewer than five new models with full-frame sensors.

Camera Size

If there’s one thing that electronics has taught us is that next year’s devices will be smaller than this year’s. For the higher level cameras, this has been happening quietly for several years.

With Canon and Nikon – the “big guns” of the camera industry – now having compact interchangeable lens cameras, this movement gains momentum.


These are also known as mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC). With new models made by Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung and Sony, the MILC is the fastest growing part of the market for advanced equipment.

Removing the moving mirror from a DSLR enables the camera makers to save a lot of camera body real estate. Instead of looking through an optical viewfinder, the photographer composes using the LCD or electronic viewfinder.

Early MILCs used smaller sensors which allowed the manufacturers to design smaller, lighter weight lenses. Canon, Samsung and Sony MILCs use APS-C size sensors but the corresponding lenses are remarkably small as well. The result is a high quality, interchangeable lens camera that is extremely compact and convenient.

This looks like a typical point-and-shoot camera, but is actually a new model MILC from Canon.


Keeping these two trends in mind, I made my way through the aisles of the Koelnmesse.

Nikon D600

First on my list was this new DSLR from Nikon. This model is a lower-cost model than their D800 which was introduced just a few months ago and features a large full-frame sensor (same size as 35mm film frame).

For those interested, I’ve summarized the main differences between these two models:





24.3 mp

36.3 mp

2 SD card slots

1 CF card slot
1 SD card slot
continuous shooting

5.5 frames/second

4 frames/second

39 points

51 points

5.6″ (width)
4.4″ (height)
3.2″ (depth)

5.7″ (width)
4.8″ (height)
3.2″ (depth)

26.8 ounces

31.7 ounces

$2100 (body)

$3000 (body)


The D600 felt noticeably smaller than the D800. The demonstration model was equipped with Nikon’s new 24-85mm lens for full-frame cameras. Both the D600 and 24-85mm lens are currently available.

If you’re the owner of any of Nikon’s DX (APS-C) series lenses, the D600 automatically recognizes when this lens is mounted and adjusts the resolution to about 10mp. This allows you to continue to use your investment in DX lenses.

Nikon also announced a wi-fi adapter for the D600 that lets you automatically transmit images to a smart device. In addition to providing synchronized backup, you can share these images as text messages or with online social media sites. The low cost adapter (about $60) is not yet available.

Canon 6D

Next up was the Canon booth where I saw the newly announced 6D.


The 6D has a footprint and feel similar to Canon’s 7D, only this model has a full-frame sensor.

Here you can see that both GPS and Wi-Fi are built into the 6D

Although the prices of tge 5DMkIII and the new 6D are quite disparate, here are the major feature differences between these two models:




5D Mark III

20.2 mp

22.3 mp

1 SD card slots

1 CF card slot
1 SD card slot
continuous shooting

4.5 frames/second

6 frames/second

11 points

61 points


external with $850 transmitter


external with $400 receiver

5.7″ (width)
4.4″ (height)
2.8″ (depth)

6.0″ (width)
4.6″ (height)
3.0″ (depth)

24.0 ounces

30.3 ounces

$2100 (body)

$3500 (body)


Perhaps the most significant features of the 6D besides the full-frame sensor are the addition of both GPS and Wi-Fi.

GPS automatically adds location information to the images. This is especially useful to landscape photographers who can now precisely identify the location at which a photograph was captured.

Adding Wi-Fi capability to the camera again provides automatic backup and rapid sharing of images through online smart devices.

Two other features which are new in this model: 1) in-camera HDR which combines bracketed exposures to yield images which encompass wide exposure levels. 2) multiple exposure capability to superimpose up to nine separate images onto single frame.

Similar to the 5D Mk III, neither have a built-in flash but reply on external flash units.

The staff at the Canon booth indicated that the 6D will go on sale in December of this year.

Sony Alpha 99

Although Sony is a distant third to Canon and Nikon in terms of high end market share, this company has been delivering products with innovative features.


Sony’s new Alpha 99 is their first full-frame camera using its unique translucent mirror. Instead of a conventional mirror which flips out of the light path when the shutter is depressed, the translucent mirror remains stationary allowing light to pass through to the sensor. This design provides continuous autofocus and exposure and high speed capture.

Below I’ve compared the new Alpha 99 with the Alpha 77, which is Sony’s top if the line APS-C size cameras in the translucent mirror series.



Alpha 99

Alpha 77

24.7 mp full-frame sensor

22.3 mp APS-C sensor

2 SD card slots

1 SD card slot
continuous shooting

10 frames/second

12 frames/second

dual phase detect 19 points,
102 additional points

single phase detect 19 points



1080p @ 60fps

1080p @ 60fps

2.4 mp OLED electronic

2.4 mp OLED electronic


5.83″ (width)
4.5″ (height)
3.13″ (depth)

5.75″ (width)
4.2″ (height)
3.25″ (depth)

26.0 ounces

23.0 ounces

$2800 (body)

$1300 (body)


The Alpha 99 uses a unique dual phase detect system is designed to provide continuous and precise autofocus. Other features carried over from earlier Sony’s translucent mirror cameras are sweep panorama, automatic HDR and multi-frame noise reduction.

The Alpha 99 is due to begin shipments in early November.

Sony RX-1

I didn’t expect to see a camera such as this from Sony.

The RX-1 is compact camera with a full-frame sensor and a non-removable lens.

It looks as if Sony has identified a market of well-to-do photo enthusiasts that can afford $2800 for a camera with a 24mp full-size sensor and fast but fixed focal length Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens. You’ll have to compose your subjects with the 3″ screen unless you purchase either the optical or electronic viewfinder.


with optional electronic viewfinder

convenient settings with multiple dials


All of the RX-1 samples were firmly locked behind glass at Photokina so I wasn’t able to have a hands-on demonstration. Of course Zeiss is noted for its superior lenses so coupled with the same full-frame sensor used in the Alpha 99, we can expect this camera to produce remarkable photographs.

The expected availability date of the RX-1 is late December.



This concludes the coverage of the new full-frame sensor equipment from Photokina.

Coming up in Part 2 of our Photokina coverage are the compact MILC cameras. We hope to see you back here soon.



Written by Arnie Lee



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