Long time no see dear reader, but life catches up, and more sleep is always required. I visited The Photography Show at the NEC in Birmingham this week to pick up and handle a few different camera’s at the same time – albeit with some shuffling between exhibitor stands and avoiding the pixel-peeping zombies!
I’ve had my Pentax K7 since 2010. The K5 had just been launched, so it was going for a good price. So, with the show approaching I thought I’d take a look at some potential replacements, which with the sale of a couple of other collected boxes of light and a PPI insurance refund from a begrudging bank, could be funded.
The heavyweight contender was the newly launched Pentax K1, which finally released its full-frame beast, with a moderately slender price tag, in comparison to its traditional rivals. Of all the cameras here, it had the best grip, but also the biggest and heaviest. It also felt the most solidly made. Pentax prides itself on the weather proofing and rugged construction. The odd metal pronged tilting screen is an interesting design, but felt over-engineered for little benefit. Nice 100% optical viewfinder, which is still my preference, but the EVFs win in some areas, like low light. You can also attach both full-frame and APSC lenses (in either full frame or cropped APSC mode depending on lens) – a nice feature for Pentax’s vast collection of lenses over the years.
The Sony A7II is a technical marvel. In a specification duel to the death, the Sony A7 range win out. Sony has worked on the body design from the original A7 cameras and improved on build quality, button and shutter layout, grip and the look and feel – gone is the slightly tacky shiny black finish and now it has a very nice textured matt finish. Compact size, but has a nice solid weight in the hand. They’ve also simplified their menu system from when I remember the NEX cameras. The EVF is also best on market, which you might expect from Sony. Tempting…
The Nikon Df is a purest camera – no video, manual dials! Retro design harking back to classic Nikon SLR camera’s, the Df uses the same sensor as professional heavyweight D4, which has incredible sports and low-light ability. Again, full-frame DSLR, but fairly compact actually. Curiously a feature that tickled me was the lovely large bright optical viewfinder that flashed red when focus was confirmed. It really is the little things sometimes… On second inspection I noticed that the Pentax K1 had the same feature. Nicely designed camera, but perhaps not as well made as the Pentax, or actually as flexible and definitely not the same value for money.
Next up, the cool outsider, the master of photography, the icon, the Leica Q. A full-frame, 28mm manual and auto-focus, with macro facility lens. Again, a wonderful EVF and gloriously simple menu system, which also gets my best typeface award for simple yet characterful modernity. Compact sized, this the camera that Leica, or rather Leicaphiles had been asking them to make for years. Leica quality lens, 35mm, built in EVF and made by Leica in Germany. Loved it, but nowhere near my list as its £3,000. Well done though…
The Olympus OMD series of cameras have had heaps of praise upon them, and I wanted to see what the so called professional (not that I am one obviously, but I like a bit of quality!) level camera felt like. The OMD EM1 is compact and emulates the style of a DSLR, though with 4/3 sensor. The body felt quite solid, but again, my reference was becoming the Pentax K1 and Sony A7’s. I hadn’t liked images I’d seen of the top face of the camera as felt much too busy and cluttered. In the flesh…there are those zombie models again…it didn’t really win me over. The EVF seemed glitchy in comparison to others, though is meant to be excellent. All the EVF’s suffered a little under the harsh arena lighting I think. Not for me.
Fuji have just released the X-Pro 2 to replace..yes, the X-Pro 1. Fuji like incremental changes to their camera’s, so at first glance they look similar, but the rangefinder style body has had nips and tucks and subtle changes to the feel of the camera and button positioning. The X series key party trick was always the dual viewfinder, with optical and EVF, changed at the flick of lever. I still like my X100, despite some well reported quirks. The X100T has fixed these and is considered probably the best travel camera currently available. As long as you zoom with your legs. The problem with small subtle changes is you don’t always appreciate them until using the camera properly. The fit and finish on the X-Pro 2 is nice and the jpegs that Fuji’s produce are excellent right out of the camera. Was there a wow factor…like the original X100, or the Leica Q?
Where would I put my money? Tech specs are one thing, but feeling in the hand, size and weight, simplicity and use are others. Do I need a bigger, heavy DSLR now – since the accident I don’t get out much on photography days as I used too, but I’d still like to keep a good camera with me more often to capture the moment. In that case, you could argue for the Ricoh GR II we saw at the show – a beautifully discrete camera. Quality is always important as it will usually last longer. The Pentax is a cool independent type these days, but new kid on the block Sony has started to intelligently refine, rather than just re-imagine the latest box of tricks.
Final warning…look out for the pixel-peeping zombies!