New Product Announcements from Sony and Panasonic

a New Camera, a New Finish For a Very Popular Camera and a New Lens

- There are plenty of industry shows each year but the month of January is well known for the Consumer Electronics Show (or CES) in Las Vegas. CES is a massive show that I’ve attended numerous times and it’s always been a very fun time for me. At CES visitors can see lots of brand new products, but traditionally it’s a show that highlights home electronics (TV’s, stereo systems, appliances, etc.) and mobile electronics (car stereo, security and navigation systems).

Throughout the year camera manufacturers will take advantage of the gathered press at a big show to introduce new gear and this years CES was no exception. Three announcements caught my attention and with this article I’ll talk about them and what they mean to me as well as what it could be predicting for the future.

CES 2018

This years CES runs from January 9 – 12 (although press events happen in the days before and after the scheduled dates) and each year it welcomes close to 200,000 industry professionals to see what the worlds largest consumer electronics companies are showing off. In addition to the industry professionals there’s a whole lot of media attendance so it’s the perfect place for a company to announce new products. This was the case with Panasonic when they announced the killer looking Lumix GH5S.

In addition to the big announcements at the annual show it’s not uncommon to see announcements made by companies just before the show begins. With some gigantic product reveals at the big show a company like Sony could make smaller announcements in the days leading up to CES. This was the case with the new 18-135mm APS-C lens and the silver A6300.

Panasonic Lumix GH5

Ever since I’ve been in video production I’ve used Sony gear almost exclusively. While Sony cameras have always been in my personal gear bags, I’ve kept an eye on what every other manufacturer is up to. No company has caught my attention more than Panasonic and their Micro Four Thirds camera systems when it comes to video. In my opinion, the small Panasonic Lumix cameras have been pushing the boundaries of what an inexpensive “consumer” grade camera can do.

Because Panasonic has fully embraced the Micro Four Thirds sensor system their cameras are smaller and often give up some still picture quality when compared to their competition. This isn’t as big of a deal when working with video and, sometimes, it’s even an advantage. But one thing Panasonic can’t overcome with their smaller sensor is the low light capabilities, crop factor and depth of field advantages found in the larger sensor competition. APS-C and full-frame sensors are able to do things a Micro Four Thirds camera just can’t.

But for most consumers the disadvantages of a smaller sensor don’t mean a thing.

Where Panasonic has seriously excelled is in the incredible features that Sony shooters, like me, feel envious of. The $1,500 Lumix DMC-GH4 (now available for under $1000) was extremely impressive because this was a camera with some serious video capabilities and several features that I couldn’t find in a Sony camera at twice the price.

The ability to shot DCI 4K video, for example, isn’t’ even an option in Sony cameras until you get to the $9,000 FS7. And their fully articulating touch screen monitor is something I’m still waiting for Sony to adopt. Panasonic even offered an upgrade for videographers who wanted the additional dynamic range of V-Log L. Best of all, the GH4 doesn’t limit videos to 30 minutes! Overall the Panasonic GH4 looked like an incredible camera for people who wanted to get serious about video.

When the GH4 was replaced with the GH5 I really took notice. The GH5 still had that awesome monitor and DCI 4K video, but it added 10 bit 4:2:2 video and 60fps. To get that kind of quality with my Sony gear I need to buy an external recorder (like an Atomos Ninja flame for $800). And, while it may seem minor to most people, the GH5 has a full-sized HDMI connection! I know that connection space is limited on most cameras but if there’s one connection type I hate it’s micro HDMI…

Two more updates include a seriously upgraded autofocus system and in body image stabilization (IBIS). Panasonic took a very solid camera in the GH4 and made it even better with the GH5.

You can buy the Panasonic Lumix GH5 at B&H Photo here

As awesome as the Lumix GH5 looks it does have a few disadvantages for video shooters because it had to appeal to the still photography crowd as well as video people. For example, at 20mp the smaller micro four thirds sensor just isn’t capable of low light performance like other cameras are (especially lower resolution systems which excel at low light video capture).

the Panasonic Lumix GH5S

On January 8 Panasonic officially announced a video-centric version of the awesome Lumix GH5. Like Sony does with their A7 line of mirrorless cameras Panasonic now has an “S” variant aimed directly at videographers who demand the highest performance (even if that means giving up some features important to still photographers).

The biggest change came in a brand new 10mp sensor (half the resolution of the GH5) and this seriously  improves the low light capability of the camera (Sony also reduces sensor resolution in the A7S models to offer improvements in low light capture). This is an extremely welcome upgrade.

Another big change is the removal of the in-body image stabilization (IBIS). For shooters who lock their cameras down on tripods this isn’t a big loss. And for shooters who work in moving environments (inside cars, for example) the removal of IBIS is actually a huge advantage because the vibrations of a mobile environment can wreak havoc on stabilization systems. This is also an advantage for videographers who use steady cam style stabilizers to capture smooth video. Video shooters requiring image stabilization that don’t want to invest in an external stabilizer will need to use stabilized lenses.

There are probably many more changes/upgrades on the G5S but one that I thought was seriously cool was the ability of the PC-sync connector (typically used to trigger studio flashes) to be used as a timecode input. This is a huge upgrade for shooters who work in the professional world where a single timecode source is used to synchronize numerous cameras and audio recorders on a set. This one seemingly minor upgrade is a serious game changer for pros.

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is expected to begin shipping in early February and will sell for $2,497.99. You can preorder a GH5 (body only) at B&H Photo here.

Sony Announces Some New Gear

Before Panasonic made their GH5S announcement Sony had some announcements of their own including a great addition to the RX0, a new E-Mount lens and a new finish for one of their most popular cameras.

For the awesome RX0 “action” style camera Sony announced a killer wired control box, the CCB-WD1. With the CCB-WD1 the awesome RX0 can be controlled directly from a computer through a web browser by using a network connection. This means up to 100 cameras can be controlled and synchronized for some truly incredible special effect shooting. Additionally the wired control box can power the small RX0 and allow transfer of gigantic files (4GB) quickly and easily. For many very  specialized studios this is a very welcome addition to the RX0 camera system.

The Sony CCB-WD1 will sell for $699.99 and you can preorder one at B&H Photo here.

People who know me know that I love the Sony A6300 APS-C camera. For under $1,000 there just isn’t a camera that comes close to it. I love the still photography capabilities (24mp sensor, 11 frame per second shooting, killer low light performance, 4K video and so much more) but until recently it was only available in black. That’s a bummer because I’m a huge fan of the retro-look of silver (and I’m an even bigger fan of the graphite finish Sony offers on the A6000). Thankfully, Sony just announced a silver version of their incredibly popular A6300 and it won’t cost a penny more than the black version.

I love the look of Sony’s silver APS-C cameras and I can’t wait to get my hands on a silver A6300.

The silver A6300 will begin shipping at the end of February and will cost $898.00. You can preorder the silver A6300 at B&H Photo here.

And finally, Sony announced a brand new E-Mount lens for APS-C sized sensor cameras (A5000 series and A6000 series). While a new Sony lens may not sound like a big deal I want to stress here that Sony hasn’t introduced a new lens specifically for the crop sensor cameras in more than 4 years. MORE THAN 4 YEARS!!!

Sony has been hard at work creating new full-frame compatible lenses (including the expensive, but awesome performing “GM” series of lenses) and they all work just fine on the smaller sensor cameras. The issue with this approach is the massive size difference between the full-frame lenses and the crop sensor lenses. On a super small camera body (like my A5000) a gigantic lens like the 16-35 GM is almost preposterous looking (and totally cumbersome to use handheld). Finally Sony has shown that they haven’t forgotten about us crop sensor shooters…

Sony’s newest lens announcement is the E 18-135 f3.5-5.6 OSS and I’m thrilled about this super useful range. Before this lens was announced we were stuck with the kit lens, which stopped at 50mm. To go beyond 50mm you had to change lenses. If you wanted a little more zoom length the only choice was a lens that stopped at 70mm (the awesome CZ E 16-70 f4 OSS) or the 18-105mm f4 lens that was clearly aimed at video shooters. One final option was a massive lens that offered 18-200mm range (the Sony E 18-200mmm f3.5-6.3 OSS)  but it was a bit heavy (and awkward to use) on a smaller camera. For travel shooters who only want to bring one lens on a trip this lack of reach was serious flaw in the Sony system.

The Sony E 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS lens will be priced at $598.00 and should start shipping in the middle of February. You can preorder the E 18-135mm lens at B&H Photo here.

Now Sony has a lens that, in my opinion, offers a perfect compromise between zoom range and size/weight. While I love the 135mm reach on the long end I do wish it went a bit wider (16mm would have been awesome). But let’s be honest, that little increase in width could have seriously affected the size, weight and price. So for travel shooters looking for an awesome still photography lens with a bunch of range the 18 – 135mm lens looks perfect. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these to try out!

Looking forward

The Panasonic GH5S announcement and Sony’s announcements have me thinking about what the future may hold. I believe the Panasonic GH5S is an extremely serious offering to the video world and if Sony doesn’t answer with the A7S MKIII they’re going to look helplessly behind. For me these are the features I’m looking for when Sony finally announces the newest video-centric A7 camera:

  • A switch to the new NP-FZ100 battery used by the A9 and A7RIII
  • remove the 30 minute limit for video capture (this is a must if Sony is going to taken seriously)
  • Dual memory card capability (with lots of options for how they’re used)
  • Internal 4:2:2 10 bit recording capability
  • the ability to capture DCI 4K resolution
  • a dedicated time sync input and output
  • a real flip-out and fully articulating touch screen monitor (I acknowledge this is a serious longshot)
  • the A9′s LAN connector for faster video offloading, tethered video capture to a computer and control of multiple cameras (synchronized start/stop).
  • An optional variable ND accessory that goes between a lens and the camera body to give shooters the same ND capability as the awesome FS7 (I know this is also a massive long shot – but it doesn’t change my wish that such an add-on could be created)

The truth is – everything I saw in the A7R MKIII camera points to Sony only needing a few minor additions to create a video camera that will be the absolute king of the industry.

With the addition of the silver finish to the A6300 I hope it’s just a matter of time before the A6500 has this awesome retro-look as an option. And if anyone at Sony is listening, I’d love to see that killer graphite finish added as well…

And finally, with the announcement of the E 18-135mm OSS lens it’s nice to know that Sony hasn’t forgotten why people like me love to travel with as small of a camera system as possible (even if it’s about 4 years late). Now that they’ve shown a renewed commitment to us crop sensor loving shooters I’d like to see this taken to the next level with a flagship APS-C camera (an A7000 series) with a slight increase in size (to accommodate the awesome NP-FZ100 battery, a physical joystick, a flip out touch screen monitor, a front control dial and locking dials on top), no 30 minute video limitation and a slight increase in resolution (32MP would sure be a nice number).

For new APS-C lenses I’d love to see a recommitment to the “G” series of lenses. Up to this point the only G series lens made for the crop sensor cameras is the awesome PZ 18-105mm f4. I’d love to see some lenses made for still photographers that offer great zoom range, small size and reasonable pricing.

I’d also love to see more prime lenses like the awesome 50mm f1.8 and the 35mm f1.8. Those two lenses are absolutely incredible lenses that are priced for anyone. Sony really needs to fill in the gaps here with small, fast and sharp lenses that are reasonably priced. Specifically there are four focal lengths that Sony really needs to address for the APS-C system:

  • 12mm or 14mm f2.8 prime lens (for landscape and travel shooters)
  • 16mm, 20mm or 24mm f2.8 (full sized, not pancake sized)
  • 85mm f1.8 (for portrait shooters)
  • 200mm or 300mm f4 with 1.5 and 2x teleconverters (for sports shooters)

The Sony 10-18mm f4 lens is an awesome lens but at $848.00 it’s a bit pricy for people who want to get into wide angle shooting. I’d love to see a good quality super wide prime lens that doesn’t break the bank.

The Sony 16mm and 20mm pancakes are nice lenses, but their picture quality are compromised because by their small size. Just imagine what a full sized version would look like!

Sony makes an 85mm f1.8 for their full-frame systems already so a smaller version specifically for the smaller sensor system would be great. For portrait shooters who hand hold their camera for full days of shooting a smaller, lighter 85mm would be amazing.

And finally, Sony has yet to create a real sports lens for crop shooters other than the FE 70-200mm f4 (or the very expensive GM 70-200mm f2.8 and equally expensive FE 100-400mm f4.5 to 5.6). Because they would only need to cover the smaller sensor area of the APS-C cameras the size, weight and price of a 200mm or 300mm lens should all be lower than what is currently available.

I’m looking forward to more announcements in 2018 and I also look forward to reporting about them here on my blog.

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