Last week was a very busy week for us at Photography Life, since we participated in the PDN Photo Plus Expo in New York and took part in a number of activities related to the event. This was the first time that I took part in a photography event of this magnitude and it was quite an overwhelming experience. My good friend and our team member Tom Redd was able to join me and we both flew from Denver to New York to take part in a four day conference. In this article, I will go over some of the highlights of the event and talk about the upcoming products and some hands-on information, accompanied by photos. I was planning to cover the event at the conference on a daily basis, but I was not able to do it due to my hectic schedule. In summary, it was a great event that will hopefully benefit our site greatly going forward (more on that later).
The 2013 Photo Plus Expo took place at the spacious Javitz Convention Center from October 23-26. We arrived to New York on the 22nd, so after touring the B&H super store, we made plans to spend time at both the expo and the Shoot NYC event for the next 3 days.
The expo floor was huge! As we entered the expo area, we were greeted by the largest booths from Nikon and Canon. Both had massive presence at the show, hosting all kinds of events and speakers, along with separate smaller areas for showcasing their products – everything from point and shoot cameras to DSLRs, lenses and accessories. Interestingly, both were located right next to each other! As expected, Tom and I spent a big part of the first expo day at the Nikon booth.
Here is the Nikon theater, where Nikon hosted presentations by some of the biggest names in the industry like Joe McNally, Corey Rich, Steve Simon and Ami Vitale:
In the heart of the booth stood a glass stand showcasing Nikkor lenses, with a “80 years NIKKOR Lenses” stamp:
Nikon assembled a small area for demonstrating live video feeds from Nikon DSLRs. Since the new theme with the upcoming “Nikon DF” seems to be retro, the area was designed with lots of fancy colors and quite retro look. And the new “it is in my hands again” sound played in the background occasionally! Models rotated this area continuously, with a single male working as a server and a female client mostly hanging out on one of the bar stools. Every once in a while, they would get up and dance:
Towards the end and to the left of the booth, Nikon assembled another area with lots of candy and sweets, probably as a theme for the upcoming Halloween:
Lots of people were stopping by to take pictures there.
While talking to one of the Nikon reps on the floor, we found out that there was an additional room on the second floor for NPS members. This is where Nikon was providing free camera and sensor cleaning services:
There was also a separate demo table for showcasing existing and upcoming products. While Tom was busy observing professionals at work, I approached one of the ladies at the demo table and asked to see a sample of the new Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens. It was quite busy at the general area downstairs, so I was able to spend some time checking out the new lens and comparing it to the 85mm f/1.4G. My first impression – the lens is quite bigger than the 50mm f/1.4G and as wide as the 85mm f/1.4G:
The front element is not as big as on the 85mm f/1.4G, but it is recessed deep inside the barrel:
As you move the focus ring, the front element moves slightly in and out, similar to what you see on the 50mm f/1.4G and 50mm f/1.8G lenses. Although the lady told me that it was a pre-production model, the lens looked pretty solid and autofocus speed seemed to be quite good, similar to AF speed on the latest f/1.4 Nikkor prime lenses. I took some pictures on the D800 and boy, that bokeh looked so creamy and beautiful! Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures with my camera or insert my own memory card into their cameras. Oh well, will have to wait until I get my own sample.
Canon had an even bigger theater area than Nikon and also hosted some big names in the industry like Scott Kelby and Greg Heisler. Within the large speaker area Canon even hosted lighting classes:
It seemed like Canon attracted a lot more people due to their live classes.
Canon has a bigger line of products, so there were demo stations set up for their newest printer lines:
And it also showcased lots of Canon glass:
We did not spend much time at the Canon booth, because there were not any new products to be very excited about. Canon also provided some free services like sensor cleaning to its CPS members, but those took place in different rooms across the expo.
Without a doubt, Sony had a huge presence and was the busiest booth this year, thanks to its hot new full-frame mirrorless announcements. I was told that when the expo opened and Sony pulled out their new A7/A7R cameras and lenses, the whole crowd migrated there, forming lines of people that wanted to check out the new camera system.
Their booth was quite busy all three days when we were there. I had such a hard time getting a hold of Sony’s PR person, that I just gave up and ended up joining the rest of the crowd to look at the new A7 and A7R cameras. I snapped a few pictures of the A7 with my Fuji X-E1 and compared it to the X-Pro1:
As you can see, while the X-Pro1 has a much smaller APS-C sensor, it is physically slightly larger than the A7. Here is a comparison of the backs of both cameras:
The A7 has a shorter body, except for the electronic viewfinder that stands a little taller. It is also shorter in length than the X-Pro1.
The controls and the dial remind me of the Sony NEX-7. Thankfully, the menu system is not the same – it is similar to the menu system used on Sony SLT cameras like A99:
I navigated through the system with ease and it is certainly full of all kinds of fancy features! Sadly, Sony also would not let me use my memory cards, so I could not provide pictures from any of the pre-production models on the floor. I snapped a few photos with the camera and it seemed to be quite responsive and accurate in terms of autofocus. I used a couple of lenses – the new 35mm f/2.8 Zeiss, 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss and the 28-70mm kit lens. The primes showed excellent sharpness wide open and the 28-70mm seemed to be very good as well. Looks like Sony did a good job with these lenses. The 35mm f/2.8 seems like a great fit for the small form factor of the A7/A7R cameras due to its small size. All of these are already in order at B&H for me, so I will hopefully review the system as soon as I can.
Sony also provided free sensor and camera cleaning services, but unlike Canon and Nikon, it was offering the service to any Sony Alpha and NEX camera owner. And the cool thing is, they were doing it right at the show in a small room, behind a large window:
Olympus and Panasonic
Olympus also had a relatively large booth and had quite a bit of traffic. I snapped a photo of their booth at the end of the second day when the expo floor was mostly empty:
The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 was definitely one of the highlights, although many different camera and lens models were presented. Some waterproof cameras were submerged into water, while another smaller demo area had rugged cameras that you could literally throw objects at.
I spent some time looking at the new E-M1 and comparing it to the E-M5. The camera surely looks very solid and feels quite different compared to the E-M5:
It is bigger, heavier and comes with a boatload of controls and dials. I don’t know if I like the new dials on the top of the camera – they seemed cluttered in one area with a couple of buttons in between. Probably not a big deal to get used to, but might not be so intuitive for an average user. The redesigned dial in the front has a shutter release in the middle, so it serves two functions, while the second dial looks similar, but the middle area does nothing. I thought it was a weird design approach – perhaps it would have been better if Olympus made the second dial flat. The power switch has been finally moved to where it belongs – the top of the camera, but it is located to the left of the viewfinder. Still not a great location to put a power switch if you ask me! I was holding the bottom of the camera + lens with my left hand, while operating the controls with my right fingers and I found it inconvenient to power the camera on and off: it required me to hold the camera with my right hand and operate the On/Off switch with my left. My Nikon DSLRs are much better in that regard – I can power the camera on and off while looking through the viewfinder and not moving my hands. And why eat up the space on the left with a useless round dial that hosts AF, timer and HDR features? I think a much better approach would be to move the PASM dial to the left of the camera, leave a single dial on the top for changing a primary function like Aperture and Shutter Speed, and move the On/Off switch with the shutter release to the front. On a positive note, the camera is very comfortable to hold, thanks to the protruded grip in the front – definitely holds better than the E-M5 in my opinion. Images looked excellent at high ISOs and autofocus speed was super fast as usual – something to expect from Olympus mirrorless cameras. Overall, the E-M1 seems like a solid camera, although I might still prefer my E-M5 due to smaller size, lighter weight and simpler ergonomics.
The Panasonic booth also showcased all kinds of cameras and lenses, but I did not spend much time there.
Fuji was also quite active at the show, hosting different speakers and presentations. I was fascinated by a presentation by Elia Locardi, who talked about his travel adventures and showed beautifully blended photographs.
I am not a huge fan of HDR photography in general, because most people end up overdoing it and making images look cartoonish and fake. Elia uses different blending techniques and his photos come out very naturally – I really loved the end results displayed on a large LCD screen. Later that week, I hooked up with Elia and asked to interview him, or write an article about his adventures on our site. Hopefully we can get Elia to share some of his beautiful photos here and talk about his crazy travel life!
There was so much to see and explore at the show, that we often ran out of time before we could finish walking isles. With all the going back and forth between different events and meetings, we did not have a chance to see everything even by the end of the third day. Literally dozens of booths on every isle and there were 13 of them! I did not want to post too many photos and make this article too long, so I am providing only some of the highlights below.
Here is a photo from Leica’s booth, showcasing their Leica S medium format system:
Our friends at Think Tank Photo showed us their new Mindshift hiker backpacks. Compared to their traditional bags, these backpacks are created specifically for landscape and travel photographers:
We will be reviewing these pretty soon, so stay tuned!
Sigma’s booth was constantly busy, thanks to Lindsay Adler that provided different portraiture sessions:
As expected, their booth also had quite a bit of traffic.
Among many interesting products on the show floor, I found a superb panoramic head from Novoflex:
This one has a very unique design, because it is the only head that actually hard stops at certain set intervals! No more slow measurements and inaccurate intervals! You set the interval you want using the dial and the head will stop at each interval as you rotate it. What a cool and innovative idea! Novoflex told me that they patented this design. Hopefully, I will get Novoflex to ship one of these heads to me for a detailed review soon.
Another interesting find was a company called “ProMediaGear“. Run by a couple of brothers that design each product, ProMediaGear had a couple of very cool products on display. The attention grabber was the Katana Gimbal head – a massive support system for super telephoto lenses. The Katana is a very cool modular Gimbal head that can host different accessories like flash, GPS and even an additional camera on the side:
Tom really liked the head, so ProMediaGear will soon be shipping one of these babies for a detailed review and comparison!
There were many other products that we really liked, one of which I have been searching for the past 4 years and finally found. Can’t tell you what it is yet, but stay tuned for a separate announcement on our site!
The Best Part
If you ask me what the best part of the conference was, both Tom and I would tell you that it was meeting old friends and making new ones! My good buddies Lee Morris and Patrick Hall from Fstoppers were at the show, so we had a chance to attend Lee’s class at the Shoot NYC event, after which we had a nice dinner together. Here is a picture of yours truly with Lee and Patrick, listening to someone at the Nikon booth:
And how about a picture with Mr “DSLR is dead” – Zack Arias himself?
Or Nikon’s superstar and the legendary National Geographic photographer Joe McNally, posing with Tom:
And the list goes on and on…
The Second Best Part
And that’s visiting New York! Although we did not have much time to explore the city, we did have an opportunity to see New York from above.
It was a hazy day in the morning and the reflections inside the helicopter made it very tough to shoot with my Fuji and Nikon cameras. However, I still managed to capture a few shots of Manhattan and the surrounding area:
Both Tom and I really enjoyed our trip to New York and the 2013 Photo Plus Expo. I am already reserving the time for the 2014 Photo Plus event – I am hooked! And hopefully you will be able to join us next year!