There's no place better in the world than Photokina if you want to completely drown yourself in the equipment, culture and business of photography. We spent a couple of days putting together this giant gallery to give you a sense of what the world's biggest camera nerd expo is all about.
What's hot this year? There are definite themes. Any company that's made its fortune building DSLR cameras is hustling to get on the mirrorless wave before it leaves them behind. The camera world's two aging giants, Canon and Nikon, both put their new mirrorless full frame offerings front and center, with Canon's EOS R and Nikon's Z7 the focal points of their impressive stands.
Panasonic is attacking from the opposite direction. Having made impressive waves in the last few years with its G-series micro four thirds mirrorless rigs, Panasonic is threatening to go full-frame itself with new S1 and S1R concepts.
Another thing you simply couldn't avoid this year was stabilizing gimbals, which are sprouting out in all directions, shapes and sizes. From handy smartphone stabilizing rigs to all manner of DSLR and mirrorless gimbal rigs to DJI's monster Master Wheel setups which can smoothly operate a full sized cinema camera on a gimbal, mirroring the action from a remote tripod head, these things were everywhere.
Probably the most interesting was Zhiyun's Crane 3 - a pre-production prototype that strikes out toward a whole new ergonomic for the DSLR gimbal. You can hold this thing one-handed, or like a machine gun, and you can rig it up with all kinds of external controls depending on what sort of shooting you're doing.
Leica used Photokina to give the public a first glimpse at its upcoming S3, a kind-of-compact 64-megapixel medium format camera. Smaller than the Phase One/Hasselblad rigs of yore, the S3 is considerably chunkier and heavier than the new breed of compact medium format rigs like Fujifilm's GFX 50R and Hasselblad's X1D - but in a quick hands-on test, we were blown away by the S3's quick autofocus and 3-shot burst capability. It'll probably cost a squillion dollars when it's launched, but Leica might have built the most usable mirrorless medium format rig of them all.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei showed a cheeky middle finger to the camera community by reserving a stand for its P20 Pro smartphones. With three rear cameras, using Leica lenses, Huawei is positioning the P20 Pro as the serious shooter's smartphone, going so far as to host a mobile photography competition.
While Huawei was the only phone manufacturer to show up, it's worth noting that the vast majority of photography these days is happening on people's smart devices, which are good enough now that the compact camera market has pretty much ground to a halt. Most of the market now seems to be either smartphones or prosumer-level cameras, with precious little in between.
On the other hand, it seems people might be prepared to eschew pixel-peeping quality and carry around a compact device if it offers a bit of charm. Fujifilm's Instax Square SQ6 is a US$127 instant that spits out tiny square prints just like the Polaroids of old... But much smaller. And it was so popular you couldn't get near the thing.
Best known for its medium format digital backs, Phase One has struck out in an interesting new direction with its iXG camera, which combines ultra-high 100-megapixel resolution photography with 3D point scanning. Phase One is using it for "cultural heritage" applications, which appears to entail putting it on robot arms and having it create extraordinarily accurate full-color 3D models of ancient artifacts.
And one thing that Photokina does really well is give visitors plenty of things to point cameras at. Every camera manufacturer seems to pride itself on creating terrific little situations for folks to try out their new gear on, from fully-lit miniature movie sets with actors in period costume, to glamour modeling setups, to still life opportunities and Canon's fun idea of having a ballet dancer working with a giant piece of blue cloth blown around by fans to create a dynamic and random thing to shoot at.
There are also plenty of opportunities to watch professional shooters at work. Here's the Arri team demonstrating their comically gigantic SkyPanel lighting rig with a haute couture fashion shoot.
If you want to test out some lenses, Photokina is absolute gear-head paradise. There's little raised nooks all over the place for folks to get up above the crowd and play with the big telephotos. And look, we know it's not new, and it's not clever, and they're not impressing anyone, but for sheer wow factor you just can't go past the overcompensator's dream lens: Sigma's 200-500mm F2.8 bazooka, weighing nearly 35 pounds and costing a whopping $26,000. Of all the bad boys at the show, there's still nothing quite as bad as this thing.
There's more. Lots, lots more. Jump into the gallery to see what else caught our eye at Photokina 2018.
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more