Cameras I Crave – Or, Camera Envy

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There have been so many new cameras announced just in the last few days that it’s hard to keep up with it all. Widen the dates to include the last few weeks and the list grows much larger. Some of these cameras will definitely induce drool. It’s hard to listen to all the amazing features and raving reviews and not want to empty out the bank account to get one. It’s also hard not to join in on the discussion.

The camera that I really, really want to get so badly is the GFX-50R, which is the newly announced medium-format rangefinder-style camera by Fujifilm. It also happens to be the cheapest digital medium-format camera ever, coming in at “only” $4,500 for the body. If it was on sale for 50% off I might be able to afford it, but as it stands now it is well outside the reach of my budget. I’ve wanted to get into medium-format for nearly 20 years (I have dabbled in it some), and I feel like this camera almost puts it in reach, almost being the key word. It’s hard not to be envious of those who are putting in their pre-orders right now.

Fujifilm also announced that it is developing a 102-megapixel medium-format camera to be released next year that will cost somewhere near $10,000. It wasn’t all that long ago that $10,000 was the price of a budget medium-format digital camera, and the “serious” medium-format cameras had a price-tag that was much higher. This upcoming Fujifilm camera seems like the complete package, and for what it purports to be it will be a great bargain for those who can afford it.

There has been a lot of criticism directed towards Fujifilm for skipping the full-frame market. They have APS-C cameras and medium-format cameras, but nothing in the middle. To me, though, this is brilliant. First, beginning with the X-Trans III generation, Fujifilm APS-C cameras deliver image quality that is on par with current lower-tier full-frame, and on par with higher-tier full frame that’s one model-year old or perhaps two at most. In other words, outside of shallow depth-of-field, you are already getting full-frame quality out of your Fujifilm camera. I think that a full-frame Fujifilm camera wouldn’t feel like a huge upgrade over their APS-C offerings, especially compared to the X-T3. Second, they are putting themselves into a market that doesn’t have a lot of competition and has the potential to grow significantly if fostered correctly. By making medium-format cameras that are smaller, more affordable and more feature-rich, they are opening it up to those who would otherwise buy a higher-end full-frame camera. Besides, the ceiling for medium-format is much higher than the ceiling for full-frame, and I think the current full-frame cameras are approaching that ceiling.

Interestingly enough, Leica is delving into the medium-format market. There are certain people who will spend gobs of cash for something just because it has the Leica name on it. There is no doubt in my mind that the upcoming Fujifilm camera will be better in every way and will cost half as much, but those who will purchase the Leica would probably never buy a Fujifilm anyway. Good for Leica, though. Maybe there is a larger market for medium-format than many people realize.

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One of the spoils that the Russians received for helping to defeat Germany in World War II was the blueprints to Leica and Zeiss products. Unbeknownst to much of the world for many decades, Leica knockoffs were being produced in mass in the Soviet Union. One brand of Leica clones was Zenit, which also used the name Zorky. I have at home a Zenit-E 35mm SLR with a Helios 44-2 lens attached to it. Currently the Zenit camera brand is being revived, and (appropriately) it is using a Leica design. The camera will be a slightly modified Leica M Typ 240, which is a six-year-old full-frame camera that costs roughly $6,000 for the body. Supposedly the new Zenit camera will cost less, but my guess is that it will still be too expensive. I think it would have been more fun if the camera came with an M42 screw mount, but I suppose that one can always use adapters. I find this to be a fascinating story, and I wish Zenit luck, as they’ll most certainly need it.

Another interesting upcoming camera that was announced is a full-frame Sigma Foveon. I absolutely love and completely hate Foveon. With the right conditions and some post-processing work, Sigma cameras are able to produce breathtaking image quality that exceeds what most other cameras are capable of. But there are some serious challenges that make using Foveon cameras a frustrating experience. I would love to own one again for occasional use, and, in fact, I attempted to do just that not long ago but it didn’t work out. I’m sure I’ll never own this upcoming release, but it rekindles the desire to have a Sigma camera.

Zeiss is making their camera debut with a full-frame fixed-lens camera. I like this one a lot, but I’m sure it will be pricey. My Fujifilm X100F does a fine job, so I certainly don’t need it. What’s unique about the upcoming Zeiss camera is that it comes with Lightroom software built-in plus a ton of internal storage so you don’t need SD cards. I think it’s a great concept and I appreciate the minimalist design, but it will most certainly exceed my budget by a good margin. I wish, instead of Lightroom, that it had Alien Skin Exposure software included.

Panasonic is also soon entering the full-frame market. I think if they really focus on making an exceptional video camera, perhaps there might be enough of a shtick there for Panasonic to be successful. Otherwise people are going to buy Sony or Canon or Nikon instead because those names are more recognized and established in that highly saturated market. Personally, I think Panasonic should have made an APS-C camera with a Micro Four Thirds mount instead of going full-frame. I know that some M43 lenses would be compatible and some would not, so perhaps they would introduce a couple of new lenses that would be compatible. This way they are still promoting their system while also offering something with more capabilities. The move into full-frame will either prove to be brilliant for Panasonic or the beginning of the end.

Speaking of Canon and Nikon, the big news that everyone seems to be talking about are the new mirrorless cameras by these two companies. Honestly, it’s about time that they saw the writing on the wall for the traditional DSLR and got serious about mirrorless. Time will tell if it’s too little too late or if this will solve declining camera sales. I wonder how long before Pentax follows suit, or do they plan to ride the DSLR to the bitter end?

There’s one more camera that was announced: the Ricoh GR III. It sounds like it will be exactly the same as the GR II except with a 24-megapixel sensor. I’m sure it will be perceived as a more serious, higher-end camera than the Fujifilm XF10, but the XF10 shouldn’t be overlooked as it offers a lot for the price. I’m curious how these two cameras will compete head-to-head, and I’m sure we will hear all about it in the coming months.

With so many different drool inducing cameras coming out, it’s easy to get camera envy and want them all. It’s hard to be content with gear that’s a couple of years old. It’s difficult to not be jealous of what others have. Just remember that the cameras you currently own are more than capable of capturing great pictures. Don’t get caught up in the trap of always having the best or most recent of anything. It’s always more about the person using the camera than the camera itself. Use what you have to the best of your abilities, and you’ll surprise yourself with the images that you’ll create.

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