What do I want to see at PhotoKina? The wish list for my stuff.

A detail from Sandy Skoglund's installation at the
Denver Museum of Art. 

Everyone will have a different take about the stuff they want to see at Photokina. And I'm going to approach this blog post a bit differently. I'd like to know what you guys would like to see and why. What is missing from your brand of choice? What would you like to buy for the bag? And what do you think will be the successful products from this show?

I'm going to make some predictions and we'll see soon enough if I'm right. I'm not working on any insider information and no one's "suggested" anything to me yet. But I love making predictions because, if nothing else, it seems to clarify my acquisition pathway.  So let's get started and please, remember to chime in via the comment section about what you are expecting and what you want to see. 

Camera Predictions: 

Olympus: They show their first 20 megapixel OMD camera and it actually works well and has even less high ISO noise than their current OMD products. EM-1x? Of course that is accompanied by their 25mm f1.2 aspheric lens. As the photo gods always intended...

Panasonic: The only way to improve on the GH4 would be to come out with a "lite" version of the YACKLW add-on unit. It would be small and light weight and would just provide what most people wanted in the first place, a couple of XLR inputs with pots and a full sized HDMI connector for rough and tough work. Screw those SDI ports. 

Second up for Panasonic would be the replacement for the G6. For want of a better naming concept we'll just call it the G7. Smaller and lighter than the GH4 but with the same EVF specs, the same processor and a smaller selection of codecs. We could really skip the 4K on this model and make it a powerhouse, economical production camera for people on a budget. A tight budget. Keep the body style because I think it rocks. 

Canon: The faithful are finally rewarded with a 28 megapixel body that uses new sensor technology from their new sensor fab. It delivers dynamic range that will make the true believers weep openly. And it goes toe to toe with Nikon at every ISO. The added value? Beyond sensor perfection? 4K video that's sharp. Count on this one. I can see it coming a mile away.

The whipped cream on the chocolate sundae of Canon camera joy? They roll out the same kind of sensor technology into their APS-C cameras. 

The interesting adjunct to the otherwise "all positive" success story? They take yet another stab at the EOS-M series but this time they've paid attention to Olympus, Panasonic and Sony and actually deliver something that focuses within the same hour of the button actuation...

Nikon: The 1 series product manager who obviously came from accounting by way of marketing is fired and sent away. He is replaced by a product manager who gets that this 1 series one inch camera line could actually be a miniature professional line if they stopped dicking around and trying to make it appeal to everyone and their soccer mom. We bring back the integrated EVF (WTF was up with the bone head move of taking it out? Crazy! That's why we fired the guy!).   The body gets upgraded with some external buttons to make it quicker in actual use. They launch more fast zooms and faster primes. People go nuts.

The rest of Nikon's line is pretty fresh. I would guess that the D7100 is the only one up for a refresh but I think we see an incremental improvement, mostly in Live View and video parameters which make the camera a much, much better video competitor for Canon. This one becomes the D7200 and its second biggest selling point is a radically expanded file buffer. 

They spend the rest of the show apologizing for the D600 and promising it will never happen again. Then they show everyone enormous blow ups from the D810, everyone pats them on the back and then asks, "When will we get 36 megapixels in a prosumer body?" The Nikon people shake their heads and walk away. 

Sony: My cynical side says that Sony might introduce two or three different new lens mounts on two or three different lines of cameras along with one and a half lens models for each new line, brag about the cameras being able to shoot at 800,000 ISO and talk a lot about video production but my rational mind says they will introduce new lenses for the A7 line, replace the A7r with a version featuring an electronic first curtain shutter and make other small improvements to that line. They will also most likely introduce the successor to the A99 which will do away with the pellicle mirror and feature the same 36 megapixel sensors as the A7r but utilize the "A" mount and be positioned as a sports and rugged camera.  All Sonys will feature a newer codec like the XVAC S which will make the cameras more usable for professional video recording. 

The Nex line is the one that currently needs some expansion and I think there is an opportunity to come out with a "pro" body in that space that is rugged and does a good job with heat management, along with more external controls. Look for more and more hybrid body style mixes like the A3000. 

Samsung: I'll go wild here and predict that they come out with at least two new bodies. The few rumors that circulate on the web are predicting pretty much what I expect: Samsung will announce and launch a very much improved prosumer camera that will go toe to toe with Canon and Nikon's prosumer cameras in the APS-C space. I'm thinking a new sensor with 24 to 28 megapixels, weather proofing, the ability to use a battery grip, a whole new exterior finish with thick, gummy rubber that feels solid and very "pro."  I would further speculate that they've been stung by criticism of their so-so video and will be incorporating some higher end features there as well. Look for 1080p / @60 in 2K and some sort of 4K implementation in the camera. Also, look for a bigger body with double card slots (one SD and one micro SD) along with the usual connectivity cotton candy. Finally look for a faster than everyone else flash sync and a fast (maybe 1/12,000th of a second) high shutter speed. 

The first camera should be enough to scare the crap out of Canon and Nikon while the second one will be the slightly less aggressive consumer model with a lot of the features minus the "over the top" build and materials. I'll consider the camera a successful tool for shooting if they get the EVF just right. And by that I mean it has to be bright, clear and switch at the speed of light from eye level to back screen. No big lag, no hesitation. 

If they get this done and introduce two or three different high performance zooms and a couple of sought after primes (70mm f1.8 anyone?) they'll finally have the framework of a complete system offer. Oh, one last thing. How about a flash that's radio controlled and highly configurable? Oh what the hell, they should also toss in dead on accuracy. 

Medium Format: Pentax opened the "under $10,000"  gate a couple or years ago and now they've wedged a doorstop into the whole mix with a 51 megapixel back that, for pretty much the first time in MF history, actually performs well above its native ISO. There's no going back for anyone now. As soon as Pentax and third party lens makers fill the pipeline with good lenses there will be absolutely no compelling reason for anyone to spend the enormous amounts of money that used to be required to get a functional medium format camera in the past. This means that the race is on for Hasselblad, Mamiya, Leica and Phase One to get product into the mix that gets close to the Pentax pricing model as quickly as they can or risk becoming an interesting curiosity of yesteryear. 

My predictions? The long shot is that Canon steps in with their own product under $10,000 and positions the camera as the ultimate step up from their current EOS line. Look for an adapter that allows users to use their current EOS lenses in crop mode on the new camera while also offering a new line of optics that cover the full image circle. 

The obvious next step is for everyone in the medium format space to get "entry level" products on line to compete with Pentax. What will make it hard is that everyone's offerings right now (not "every" but most) are based on the use of the same Sony 51 megapixel sensor. Phase One still offers a bigger sensor but the price differential is so enormous only people who absolutely don't have to care about money will consider purchasing one. 

My overall prediction by the end of the year is an entry level model with normal lens in the price range of $6995. At least announced by the end of the year.

Lighting gear: No one really cares anymore. The focus of everyone who doesn't shoot for money is on cameras with high ISO potential and in most people's minds that means freedom from lighting and, for the people smart enough to understand that being able to control lighting in many situations really means controlling the quality of light instead of the quantity of light, most will find the battery powered options to suffice. Imagine almost ubiquitous variations with the capabilities of Nikon's CLS system. But in every brand. Profoto will continue selling to aspiring pros who know they need to light well and on a big scale in order to differentiate themselves from the legions of semi-pros and occasionally incurring amateurs. There always be instruments for those who demand the best. So the market will support a low end vendor like Alien Bees, a mid-range vendor like Profoto and a high end vendor like Broncolor. Everyone else will fall to the wayside or shift into LED lighting which broadly appeals because of its ever declining learning curve. Praise to WYSIWYG.

What will we see in the lighting arena at Photokina? Lots of low powered monolights. Lots and lots and lots of LEDs. The LEDs will be divided into two camps, the panels with hundreds or thousands of tiny bulbs and the new, more compact, surface mount LEDs which have led to more fixtures reminiscent of old tungsten fixtures. Fiilex had this market well figured out for a couple of years but now it seems as though everyone is rushing an SMD version of an LED light to market. 

The only pertinent questions at Photokina will be, "How do you want to power it?" and "How much output do you need?"

Finally, Photokina has always been a wonderful boost for blogs and sites dedicated to camera reviews and endless arguments about cameras and camera reviews. I think that's quickly coming to an end. The mania for photography as an ever growing and never capped recreational market is quickly dying and page views across all sites are diving. These sites are now pretty much the purview of older men who love gadgets. Myself included. These sites will slowly die off as they become an endless collection of echo chambers, all telling the same stories about the same limited and largely identical products. Oh, yes we could put up pretty photos and talk about our "art" but it's just like grand children and children: everyone likes to talk about theirs but no one really likes to listen to people talk about theirs. The death of gear oriented photoblogs is at hand. I guess we'll go down swinging. 

What would I like to see at Photokina? Really, just a simple but indestructible camera that only shoots raw and has three controls: ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. We'd focus with a big ring on the lens and our left hands. Every file would be a raw file. There would be no scene modes, no color profiles, no wi-fi and no NFC. You could buy it equipped with any of the popular lens mounts and the mounts themselves would be interchangeable. That's it. That's all we need to take really good images. Let everything else get taken of phones and fixed up with apps. 

And that's my set of predictions for Photokina. What are your predictions? What would you like to see?

I've also been working on getting nice skin tones in black and white and can report that using

Lauren in Black and White.

The DXO Filmpack 3, Rollei IR 400 profile works well. You just need to bring down the contrast and increase the exposure. It helps to turn down the grain function as well.  Finally getting this stuff nailed in. It's about time.

By the way...for all the sharpness folks....the Nikon 18-140mm f3.5-5.6 lens is very sharp, even wide open. Now if you shoot architecture or other things requiring straight lines you should run from this lens as fast as you can, but----if you just want sharp and tonally well behaved this one is a good one.

Portrait Project. Ongoing. My eccentric thought process/workflow.


You are what you practice. I forget from time to time that portraiture is a process and not just the click of a shutter. You really have to decide what you want from a session and then do the practice in order to make it work. Lauren is one of my clients and I asked her to come into the studio to have her portrait made. She was kind enough to agree and we set up a time and date. 

Then I came to grips with the fact that I'd slacked off doing portraits for fun and portraits for my art over the last few years spending much more time either doing straightforward images for clients or writing about various things on the blog. Frankly, I felt out of practice. 

So the first thing I had to do was go through a selection process. I knew I'd be shooting in the studio but I was unclear about what gear to use. Which lights? Continuous light or flash? What kind of modifiers? Multiple smaller lights or fewer, bigger lights? What kind of background? Plain paper? Muslin with color? (And I still need to work on dropping the saturation in the green channel in post...). What camera should I use? And once I'd chosen the camera then what lens to put on it to get the look that I wanted to see?

Then, of course I'd have to think about posing and what kind of crop I'd like on the final image and even what I might talk to Lauren about to put her at ease and get her into the flow of the session. 

Afterwards there's another slew of process driven questions. What Raw processor would I use for the files? How would I manage color? Would this image be a good one to put through DXO Filmpack and use one of their film profiles? Which program would I use to do a nice vignette? (How about Snapseed?).   And finally, how would I share the image with my check writing audience? 

I chose the muslin background because I had done a recent portrait with it and liked the look. It's bright summer here and we were shooting in the middle of the afternoon and I didn't feel like blocking all the windows to cut down on color contamination from daylight when using fluorescents or LEDs so I chose to got with electronic flash. I used the Elinchrom Ranger to give the batteries a work out and because it has nice, 1/10th of a stop control. The Elinchrom flash heads also give off a nice, warm light. There's no UV spike anywhere as there often is with inexpensive battery powered strobes or cheap monolights. Since I had nearly infinite power at my finger tips I used a 72 inch Fotodiox umbrella that's white on the inside and black on the backside. I also covered the business side of it with a white diffusion cloth. With the flash head correctly positioned to really cover all of the inside space it's a wonderful soft but direction light source. 

I placed two 4 foot by 4 foot black panels to the opposite side of Lauren from the main light to keep the spill from bouncing off the studio's white walls and reducing lighting contrast in the image.  A second flash head, at 1/3rd power (compared to the setting for the main light) was used in a small soft box to light the background. Two lights seemed just right for the effect I had in mind. 

From the zany collection of cameras currently in my possession I selected a Nikon D7100 coupled with an interesting 18-140mm zoom lens. I set the camera to 14 bit raw, lossless compression, in manual mode. The ISO was nailed to 100 and the camera was set to 1/125th and f5.6. 

We chatted and took images for about an hour and I ended up with around 250 image files. I put them into Lightroom to do a quick color tweak and convert to gallery sized jpegs. I'll put the ones I like up in a private gallery on Smugmug so Lauren can make her selections. In the meantime I output the first image of the shoot and pulled it into Portrait Professional to soften her skin tone just a bit and do a few little color tweaks. Then I pushed the file into Snapseed to add a nice vignette---darkening the corners. Finally I pulled the file into DXO Filmpack 3 and converted the image into a Fuji Astia film profile.  I uploaded the portrait to this blog as an sRGB files at 2100 pixels on the long side. 

When Lauren makes her selections I'll first open them in DXO and do my raw conversions there. I'll take large 16 bit tiffs and do my retouching in PhotoShop. From there we'll see where the creative, post production process leads. 

We've had enough columns here about tangential subjects that barely graze the photographic arts---I thought I'd pull myself back on course and write about the stuff I really care about.  That's making portraits.

Edit: I never imagined that each site would compress and display images so differently. Go to 500px to see Lauren's image much closer to what I'm seeing on my screen: 


p.s. Thanks Robert for making me double check!