Photokina Report

September 28th, 2008 - 12:36:45 PM:

This is my first report from Photokina 2008.


I arrived early before the fair opened, and I headed right to the large Sony venue. Of course, the product of interest was the new α900 DSLR, followed by the two new lenses Sony Alpha 70-400/4-5.6 G SSM and Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35/2.8 ZA SSM.

Sony at Photokina

Sony's venue was in a different corner of the fair than Canon, Nikon and the other large camera makers. Their stand, however, was large. About a third of it was dedicated to the Alpha system (the other was reserved for Cybershot cameras and video equipment).

Soon I also met fellow Dyxumers Mark Tiller (mtiller), Jelle Dekker (Dipsausje) and Dyxum owner Mladen Sever (Kiklop). Also joining for a short chat were Gustav (ijsvogel) and Klaas (klaas).

Display with the new stuff, with mtiller drooling over it
In the central area there was a large display containing the α900, the new 70-400/4-5.6 G SSM and the new 16-35/2.8 SSM CZ.

The candy shop

Around this area there were three counters from which you could borrow and try the entire range of Alpha cameras (including the α900) and lenses. I have tried a few and may publish the test shots in a different posting (I haven't had a closer look at them yet).

The shooting gallery

At the edge of this area and overviewing it was a gallery with tripod-mounted α700 and α900 and 70-200/2.8 G SSM, 300/2.8 G SSM and 70-300/4.5-5.6 G SSM.

Sony Alpha 70-400/4-5.6 G SSM

The only lenses that were not available for testing were the two new ones. The lenses in the display were only prototypes, at least officially.

The silver color of the new 70-400 is already harshly criticized in online forums, and I have to agree. In real life it looks even cheaper than in the press photos, like spray-painted plastic. It would look a lot better if they had used the darker anodized finish of the front ring for the entire lens body. And the combination of black camera, white TC and silver lens must really look clownesque.

Sony seems to have a serious misunderstanding of their market here. They want to set themselves apart from the competition in terms of lens color, so they chose neither black nor white but silver, thinking it makes the lens look stylish. But a large part of their user base is made up of former Minolta users, and Minolta's silver colored lenses and cameras were their cheapest and worst performers. So while Sony wants to send out the message “stylish and noble”, it is received as “cheap and awful” by their user base.

I fear it's too late to change the color now. If it will be available in January, a good number of lenses must already be in production. I can easily imagine someone taking this as a business opportunity, buying silver lenses from Sony, re-painting them white or black, and re-selling them to end users. It will likely be a too good performer to be simply ignored.

So Sony, if you read this, here's the summary again: DON'T. MAKE. SILVER. LENSES.

The new 16-35/2.8 was also only on display, and luckily Sony didn't make silly experiments with its finish. But read more about this lens in the Zeiss section...

Dyxumers Dipsausje, Kiklop and mtiller (left to right) taking a break


The Sigma stand was packed with people. I intended to try the new Sigma fish-eyes, but didn't have the stamina to wait in line. They are not yet available for Alpha mount, anyway. At least it was possible to have a closer look at them in a glass display.

The Sigmonster

On Sigma's shooting gallery they again had their APO 200-500/2.8 EX DG zoom, the infamous “Sigmonster”.


Tamron showed their entire lineup of lenses. Of special interest for me was their new 10-24/3.5-4.5 Di II. It is not yet available for Alpha mount, but I could at least try it in Nikon mount. Unfortunately the camera only had an SD card slot, so I couldn't take home any test shots.


The Zeiss Monster
If you think the Sigmonster is a large lens, just look at this Zeiss lens! Just kidding, it was only an original walk-through display presenting their lens manufacturing technology and some of their famous accomplishments, among them the Planar 50/0.7, used by Stanley Kubrick for “Barry Lyndon”.

Apart from that they showed their different lineups for various lens mounts, including Sony Alpha (ZA). Interestingly, while you couldn't even touch the new Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35/2.8 ZA SSM at the Sony stand, they readily handed out this lens mounted on a α900, and it was even possible to make a few test shots with your own CF card! I will probably publish them in a separate posting.

Hardly surprising, the lens mechanics are top-notch. The zoom ring was a bit stiff, but this may be intended to avoid zoom creep. The focus ring was smooth and precise, and SSM was fast and noise-free. I think we have the worthy successor of the Minolta 17-35/3.5 G here.