Friday, September 21, 2018


By José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photography is living instants of great expectation after the movements implemented by Nikon and Canon, which have very recently presented their 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF Nikon Z7 and Canon EOS R cameras, while a lot of rumours on a possible also 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF camera that could be presented by Panasonic in a short time. On its turn, Fuji has just introduced its Fujifilm XT-3 mirrorless EVF camera featuring a new 26 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and a three times faster dsp, a model that means in practice a quantum leap in quality and functions (including 4K UHD video at 60 fps) in comparison to its predecesor Fujifilm XT-2.

Even perhaps there will be soon a new Leica medium format camera with digital sensor between 60 and 100 megapíxels.

All of it has brought about a climax of interest that will have its pinnacle during the next Photokina 2018, which will be held between September 26 and 29 of 2018.

November of 1935. Oscar Barnack, a 57 year old man, has been told by doctors that he will die very soon, within one or two months, and is now on the platform of Wetzlar Train Station (Germany)

Julius Huisgen (photographer at Ernst Leitz Wetzlar as well as darkroom expert who develops the black and white 24 x 36 mm 35mm format film rolls exposed by Barnack and author of his portraits) is with him.

Oscar Barnack is very weak, without stamina, constantly coughing and trudging while holding a 24 x 36 mm format Leica IIIa with a Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 lens, designed by Profesor Max Berek, between his hands.

On his turn, Julius Huisgen is grabbing a 24 x 36 mm format Zeiss Ikon Contax I rangefinder camera with a Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/1.5 lens designed by Ludwig Bertele.

Both of them are waiting for the arrival of trains to do tests shooting at different shutter speeds and check the accuracy of the shutter in both cameras, because Oscar Barnack, utterly aware of the proximity of his death, wants to improve the shutter precision of his Leica IIIa as much as possible before passing away.

The temperature is -6º C. The genius Oscar Barnack is frozen stiff, but he keeps on getting pictures. Nine months ago he has been able to create a wonderful escape horology mechanism tiny front dial for 1 s, 1/2 s, 1/4 s, 1/8 s and 1/20 s slow speeds, an amazing technological feat for the time and hugely enhancing the handheld shooting possibilities of the Leica IIIa camera.

He knows that the reliability of the shutter will be decisive for the future of Ernst Leitz Wetzlar as a firm and will make a strenuous effort to optimize its precision until the last days of his life.

Suddenly, the genius says to Julius Huisgen : " I do believe that 24 x 36 mm format will have a huge permanence in time and we shouldn´t mind if many other brands use it in future "


Next Photokina 2018 slated to be held in Cologne (Germany) between September 26 and 29 of 2018 is going to be by far the most significant one celebrated until now in the History of Digital Photography and a true milestine event, confirming the huge talent and above all the tremendous insight of a genius called Oscar Barnack, when in 1914, one hundred and five years ago, he created the Ur-Leica camera using 24 x 26 mm format film in Wetzlar, after making a lot of tests with black and white 18 x 24 mm cinematographic film, deciding to double its length up to 36 mm, giving birth to the 24 x 36 mm format with 2:3 golden proportion.

That 24 x 36 mm standard would turn within time into the most widespread film format throughout the whole XX Century, being massively adopted by the main firms of the photographic industry : Leica, Zeiss Ikon, Ihagee, Kodak, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Argus, Voigtländer, Agfa, etc.

Though each photographic format has got its pros and cons, the 24 x 36 mm one became the most versatile ever made, much more in this regard than the different previous medium format and large formats.

It´s true that it coexisted above all with particularly two remarkable photographic systems featuring formats different to 24 x 36 mm :

a) The 4 x 5 " — 10 x 12 cm—  large format, embodied by the excellent Graflex Speed Graphic cameras, very used by photojournalists and war time correspondents.

b) The 2 1/4 x 2 1 /4 Rolleiflex medium format camera (widely used in a slew of photographic genres like photojournalism, fashion, portrait, studio, street photography, landscape, war photography, etc) .

But the most revolutionary and widespread photographic format throughout XX Century was undoubtedly the 24 x 36 mm one, whose amazing versatility and capabilities to tackle a highly comprehensive range of photographic genres (photojournalism, war photography, sports photography, wildlife photography, street photography, air photography, portrait, micro photography, macro photography, wedding photography and others), made it the common choice for vast majority of brands, which churned out millions of photographic cameras and lenses coupled to them.

After the launching into market of the Leica 1 Model A in 1925 (first ever 35 mm camera available in the photographic market) during the Leipzig Fair, Ernst Leitz Wetzlar created in 1932 the Leica II (Model D), the first mirrorless system camera in history, featuring an optical viewfinder, a rangefinder and a wide assortment of primes in LTM39 screwmount which could be coupled to it.

It was a tiny and very light camera designed by Oskar Barnak and staying true to the fundamental keynote set forth by him 19 years before with the Ur Leica : Small Negatives, Great Pictures.

The Leica II (Model D) and its very luminous lenses for the time enabled the photographers to shoot handheld with great levels of stability, lack of trepidation and guarantee of getting the pictures, with some further major advantages : the 36 exposures of each 35 mm film roll (twenty-four more than the twelve ones with a medium format 120 film roll), the very scarce vibration of its shutter mechanism and the almost inaudible noise made by the shutter release button on being pressed, which enabled to shoot from very near distances with great discretion.

It all thanks to its incredible compactness (133 x 67 x 33 mm) and very light weight (406 g) in full balance with highly luminous lenses for the time and likewise exceedingly small and light.

In comparison to large format and medium format bulky and heavy cameras that had reigned supreme before the arrival of 35 mm format, Barnack´s brainstorm and working philosophy with this landmark breed of 24 x 36 mm rangefinder mirrorless Leica screwmount cameras provided the photographers with far superior freedom of movements and reaction ability to capture the decisive moments, much more convenience of transport and use, huge handling comfort and truly unmatched levels of discretion.

Needless to say that cameras like the Leica II Model D (1932-1948), Leica III Model F (1933-1939), Leica IIIA Model G (1935-1948), Leica IIIC (1940-1951), Leica IIIF (1950-1957), Leica IIIG (1957-1960) and others, because of the very small negatives of 24 x 36 mm format film used, needed tiny and top-notch quality lenses to match the very little size of camera bodies.

But at the same time, these lenses had to deliver very high optical performance to draw the full potential of the then called " miniature format " (id est, the 35 mm one) , yielding a stunning figure of lines/mm for the time, in comparison to large format and medium format cameras which because of their very big negative surface, didn´t need to produce such a high resolving power to generate very good image quality.

To name only an example,

the uncoated Tessar 105 mm f/4.5 permanently attached to the 6 x 9 cm format Zeiss Super Ikonta C 530/2 medium format folding camera from 1934 reached between roughly 34 lines/mm in the center at full aperture, around 36 lines/mm in the center at f/5.6 and 38 lines/mm at f/8. From a theoretical viewpoint, that´s a low level of resolving power, but the very large size of negatives (almost six times larger than 24 x 36 mm format) and the reference-class centering of the optical components of the 4 elements in 3 groups lens enabled to get great quality king size enlargements.

Obviously, the best lenses for 24 x 36 mm format Leica and Contax cameras from thirties

designed by Professor Max Berek (particularly the Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5) and

Dr Ludwig Bertele (specially the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/1.5, Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/2 and Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 8,5 cm f/2) needed to yield much more resolving power than medium format and large format cameras to subsequently make big enlargements from the much smaller 24 x 36 mm format negatives.

Then, Leica launched into market the landmark Leica M3 during the Photokina Köln 1954. It was the best rangefinder 35 mm camera ever made (including both analog and digital eras) along with the Nippon Kogaku Nikon SP, but a different breed with respect the Leica screwmount 39 mm mount and flange distance of 28.8 mm.

The Leica M3, also for 24 x 36 mm format, was the first camera of the German firm which combined viewfinder and rangefinder into one window.

It featured an extraordinary optical viewfinder with 0.92x magnification and a superb rangefinder made up by more than 150 individual high precision pieces, in addition to being a very significant camera for the expansion of the 35 mm format during the second half of fifties,  until the arrival of the also excellent reflex

Nikon F camera in 1959 which definitely consolidated the massive 24 x 36 mm format worldwide expansion, along with the dominance of the photographic industry by reflex 35 mm cameras from early sixties, a steady trend which increased even more during seventies, eighties and nineties, with milestone 24 x 36 mm format reflex cameras like the Nikon F2, Canon F1, Olympus OM-1, Olympus OM-2, Nikon F3, Pentax LX, Canon New F-1, Canon T-90, Canon EOS-1, Nikon F4, Nikon F5, and the Nikon F6 that was the last 35 mm slr analogue professional camera.

But at the end of nineties, an exceedingly far-reaching fact happens : the technological electronic and digital foundations that will catalyze a new turning point with the very strong emergence of digital photography (which has arrived to stay and will greatly replace the chemical one having evolved for 150 years) are already well grounded.

There´s a very fast integral evolution of the photographic market towards digital cameras not using chemical emulsions, but digital sensors, and are fed with high capacity cards holding a quantity of shots equivalent to many film rolls.

It´s a new photographic technology boasting huge versatility, amazing speed of results, and whose obtained images can be treated by means of personal computers in symbiosis with increasingly powerful image software like Adobe Photoshop 2.5 and the subsequent versions.

It will give birth to a new concept : the digital darkroom, which on its turn will synergize with new better and better prints and will be provided with real photographic quality papers like Hahnemühle and Canson Infinity, with the significant advantage it means in terms of savings and facilities, since the direct capture of digital images with this new kind of cameras doesn´t need any kind of chemical development or expensive digitizations of negatives or slides with high end scanners.

Besides, those images can be electronically sent through internet at great speed, which hugely shortens the delivery times of pictures by professional photographers to the editorial departments of their media in the photojournalistic scope and enables pros to provide top-notch quality archives optimized to create the adequate colour separations when it comes to printing, while simultaneously new and fascinating creative possibilities are opened to amateur photographers.

This way, XX Century ends with the launching into market by Nikon in June of 1999 (after a three year design stage) of its Nikon D1 Professional reflex camera with a 23.7 x 15.6 mm and 2,7 megapixel CCD, which at that moment was a true revolution.

Two years later, in November of 2001, Canon introduced its new professional reflex camera Canon EOS-1D featuring a 4 megapixels CCD featuring a size of 28,7 x 19,1 mm and a 1,3x cropping factor.

From then until now, digital technology has experienced a tremendous development, with the main firms of photographic industry introducing a number of different digital cameras, particularly in three formats : APS-C, Micro Four Thirds and 24 x 36 mm.

But however incredible it may seem, the world market of digital cameras and lenses, specially in the advanced amateur and professional domains, has experienced a steady and progressive path mainly towards the spreading of Barnack´s 24 x 36 mm format.

The search for full frame professional digital cameras was mainly carried out by three firms : Canon, Nikon and Leica.

The two Japanese firms began with reflex professional digital cameras featuring APS-C format sensors like the 2.7 megapixels

Nikon D1H introduced in February 2001 and the 5.3 megapixels

Nikon D1x, the Canon 1D in 2001,

the Canon 1D Mark II in 2004, and others.

In 2002 Canon pioneered the 24 x 36 mm format digital cameras realm with its 11.4 megapixels

Canon EOS-1 Ds introduced in December of 2002, a very important milestone of Digital Photography Era.

Nikon kept on with more profesional APS-C format digital reflex cameras like the Nikon D2H, D2X, D2HS, D2XS, D200, D300 and D300s.

But in July 2008, Nikon launched into market its first reflex full frame camera :

the Nikon D3 in August 2007, being followed by the

Nikon D700 in July 2008, the Nikon D3X in December 2008, the Nikon D3S in October 2009, the Nikon D4 in January 2012,

the Nikon D800 in February 2012, the Nikon D800E in April 2012, the Nikon D600 in September 2012, the Nikon D610 in October 2013,

the Nikon Df in November 2013, the Nikon D4S in February 2014, the Nikon D810 in June 2014, the Nikon D750 in September 2014, the Nikon D810A in February 2015, the Nikon D5 in January 2016, the Nikon D810A in February 2015 and

the Nikon D850 in July 2017.

On its turn, Canon has also launched into market many full frame reflex digital cameras like

1Ds Mk II in 2004, 1Ds Mk III in 2007, 1D X in 2012, 1D C in 2012, 1D X Mk II in 2016,

5D in 2005, 5D Mk II in 2008, 5D Mk III in 2012,

5D Mk IV in 2016, 5Ds in 2015, 5Ds R in 2015, 6D in 2012, 6D Mk II in 2017, etc, without forgetting its excellent APS-C format 7D in 2009 and 7D Mk II in 2014.

Meanwhile, a new lineage of photographic tool was born in 2008, featuring a smaller than 24 x 36 mm format : the mirrorless digital camera with electronic viewfinder, pioneered by Panasonic with its Micro Four Thirds Format

Lumix G1 released in Japan in October 2008 and followed by Olympus in June 2009 with

the Olympus Pen E-P1, its first Micro Four Third camera.

From a technological viewpoint, this very small Micro Four Thirds Format with an image sensor of 18 mm x 13.5 mm and a diagonal of 22.5 mm with 4:3 aspect ratio, was highly innovative and enabled to design and manufacture very small and light cameras with very little lenses specifically created for their digital sensor and boasting a comprehensive assortment of really advanced electronic functions and top-notch quality video, both Full HD and 4K UHD.

This way, between 2008 and 2018 a number of Micro Four Thirds cameras have appeared in the photographic market, having been specially relevant hitherto

the 10 megapixels Panasonic Lumix GH5 (first camera recording 4K video) released in January 2017,

the 20.3 megapixels Panasonic G9 (recording 4K UHD video at 60 fps and boasting a stunning continuous AF reaching 20 fps, along with a highly efficient 5-axis image stabilizer in body and a weather sealed body ) released in December 2017,

the 16 megapixel Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II launched into market in February 2015,

the 20 megapixel Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II (reaching 18 fps in continuous AF, a 5 axis in body image stabilizer, 4K UHD Video and weather sealed body) introduced in 2016 and the 20 megapixels Pen-F released in 2016.

If all of this digital maelstrom weren´t enough, four further amazing movements took place within the professional digital photography environment:

a) The digital renaissance of the legendary Leica M lineage of rangefinder cameras, thanks to the uncommon insight, courage and entrepreneurial talent of a visionary man : Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, who after fighting tooth and nail to become main shareholder of Leica Camera AG and Chairman of the Board and Owner, saved the German photographic firm in 2005.

Dr. Andreas Kaufmann strove upon achieving a dream come true: a 24 x 36 mm format digital rangefinder Leica M camera delivering exceptional image quality and having a wide range of top quality lenses to be coupled to it, while simultaneously preserving the values inherent to this mythical camera breed that had been attained during the halcyon days of analogue photography in XX Century.

Achieving this was one of the most difficult technical tour de forces ever tackled in the realm of photographic cameras, and it was necessary to begin from scratch in 2006 with the Leica M8 featuring a 1.3x cropping factor sensor and the Leica M8.2 in 2008.

From the ground up, it was apparent that a 24 x 36 mm digital Leica M was the goal to acccomplish something extremely difficult, since the Leica M cameras feature a very compact design and the rays of incoming light at the edges of the image reach the sensor surface in an oblique way, so it was virtually impossible to capture them with a sensor using conventional micro lenses.

Therefore, a new sensor architecture had to be created with specially designed microlenses boasting a low refractive index in symbiosis with a lateral displacement of the microlenses located at the edges of the sensor to accurately match the features of Leica M lenses, which resulted in a praiseworthy image brightness across the whole image field, as well as avoiding any vignetting at the borders and corners of the image, and after three years of strenuous work by Jesko von Oeynhausen (Product Manager of the Leica M9, Leica Monochrom and Leica M10 for Leica Camera A.G), Stefan Daniel (Director of Product Management for Leica Camera A.G) and others in synergy with the M lenses specifically created for it by Peter Karbe, Leica managed to create

the Leica M9, first ever 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder camera, launched into market in 2009 and becoming an instant sensation.

And throughout the nine years elapsed between 2009 and 2018, Leica has been able to steadily improve its amazing digital line of M System cameras until reaching its evolutive pinnacle : the Leica M10, much slimmer than the previous Leica M9, M9-P, M Monochrom, M-E, M-P Typ 240, M Typ 262 and M-D Typ 262.

This 33.74 mm thickness masterpiece has been a true optomechanical and technological feat, to such an extent that during the two years elapsed between January 2017 (when it was introduced) and now,

the Leica M10 has become an outstanding sales success, crowning the far-sighted project accomplished by Dr. Andreas Kaufmann and placing Leica as one of the leading firms of the digital photographic market, with the added benefit of getting increasing and meaningful high revenue year after year, which has substantially strengthened its position.

b) The introduction by Fuji of its amazing line of Fujifilm X-Series of mirrorless EVF cameras featuring X-Trans CMOS APS-C format sensor with

the Fujifilm X100 in March 2011, which has been followed from then to nowadays by many more cameras, among which stand out:

the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 in March 2012, the Fujifilm X100S in January 2013, the Fujifilm X-T1 in January 2014,

the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 in January 2016,

the Fujifilm XT-2 in July 2016 and

the Fujifilm XT-3 in September of 2018.

These cameras are very small and light, delivering great image quality, and the Fuji lenses for this photographic system are truly top quality, in addition to matching the camera size thanks to their very little size and low weight.

c) The introduction by Sony in October 2013 of its

24.3 megapixel Sony A7 and

36.4 megapixel A7R (first ever full frame mirrorless EVF full frame mirrorless cameras), which attained great success and enabled Sony to increase its presence in the photographic market, well grounded on its huge economical potential with cash-flow to spare, constant investment in R & D and its tremendous electronic expertise, in addition to being by far the reference-class firm in the production of  24 x 36 mm digital sensors.

Throughout six years between 2014 and 2018, Sony has launched into market a wide array of more cameras belonging to this landmark series like the Sony A7S, A7II, A7RII, A7SII, A7III and

A7RIII, the qualitative apex of them all, with its 42.4 megapixel excellent sensor.

Within time, more and more native lenses have been available for the Sony E Mount 24 x 36 mm Mirrorless Photographic System, but most times primes and zooms were big or very big with respect to the very small dimensions and weight of the camera.

It has had an incredible effect, unthinkable only ten years ago : roughly a 25% of the total figure of Sony A7 series cameras sold hitherto, were acquired by professional and advanced photographers craving for coupling them through adapters to first class manual focusing lenses they had,

like the Leica M objectives, the Super Takumar lenses from seventies, the Canon FD lenses from seventies and eighties, the Leica R lenses and others.

Any of these manual focusing lenses connected to the Sony A7RIII enables to properly match the size and weight of the objectives to the very small dimensions and weight of the camera, creating a much more balanced gear to shoot handheld, without trepidation, at the slowest ISOS and shutter speeds.

c)) The creation by Leica of an amazing mirrorless full frame EVF camera in 2015 : the formidable Leica SL boasting the best electronic viewfinder in the world, impressive build, one of the best and fastest AF in the market and the benchmark photographic lenses for 24 x 36 mm format made in the world till now : the vast array of Leica SL lenses designed by Peter Karbe (Head of Optics at Leica Camera A.G), which meant the beginning of a new optical era in 2015, confirmed by the recent movements made by Nikon with the release of its Nikon Z7 mirrorles full frame EVF camera and Canon with its Canon EOS R mirrorless 24 x 36 mm camera, both of them with very large mounts, exceedingly short flange distances and better objectives than their previous F mount and EOS mount lenses in terms of image quality and mechanical construction.

If we add to this that Leica released its 37.5 megapixel medium format S2 camera in 2008, featuring a 30 x 45 mm CCD, state of the art lenses created by Peter Karbe (the best optical designer in the world) and the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the 24 x 36 mm format, as well as delivering an image quality comparable to 4 x 5 (10 x 12 cm) large format. albeit with different image aesthetics and bokeh, it seems clear that Leica has turned into one of the most important actors in the digital photographic industry.

And last but not least, there have been two more utterly decisive gambles very recently made by Nikon and Canon, which have definitely oriented the photographic market of cameras and lenses towards Barnack´s 24 x 36 mm format.

Nikon has introduced in late August 2018 the 45.7 megapixel Nikon Z7, its first mirrorless full frame digital professional camera with electronic viewfinder.

And in early September 2018, Canon has presented the 30.3 megapixel Canon EOS R, likewise its first mirrorless full frame digital professional camera with electronic viewfinder.

The Nikon Z7 features a new very large lens mount with a diameter of nothing less than 55 mm (much bigger than the previous F mount) and an exceedingly short flange distance of 16 mm enabling that the maximum feasible quantity of light enter through the Nikkor S lenses and reach the 24 x 36 mm sensor with great purity, without forgetting its 11 contacts greatly enhancing the communication between camera and coupled lenses.

Therefore, the light will arrive at the sensor in more quantity, with more intensity and with far superior luminic homogeneity between center and borders of the frame.

Besides, this camera features a superb electronic viewfinder in which Nikon has made a strenuous effort to get commendable sharpness and very comfortable viewing for photographers. It is a great EVF, only second to the one sported by the Leica SL mirrorless EVF 24 x 36 mm camera.

In addition, it has a very good ergonomics, thanks to the big grip making possible to comfortably use highly luminous lenses and teleobjectives to shoot handheld.

On its turn, the Canon EOS R also features a new very large lens mount, with a diameter of 54 mm and a very short flange distance of 20 mm.

It likewise has a top-notch viewfinder and pretty good ergonomics by means of a big grip for best feasible handling with large aperture lenses, medium and long teleobjectives.

Anyway, in my opinion, the most relevant aspect of the Nikon Z7 and Canon EOS R are not the camera bodies, their AF and their electronic capabilities, but the introduced photographic systems, with new kinds of mounts being much bigger than their predecessor Nikon F and Canon EOS ones, in addition to a new much shorter flange distance and

superb electronic viewfinders that have hugely reduced the distances with respect to the viewing quality of the best optical viewfinders featured by the current flagship reflex cameras like the Nikon D850, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Pentax K-1 Mark II, etc, and photographers using either the EVF Nikon Z7 or Canon EOS R camera won´t have any problem, since their electronic viewfinders are splendid.

Nikon and Canon have followed the path set up by Leica with its 24 x 36 mm format SL mirrorless EVF camera, whose lenses designed by Peter Karbe will keep on being the benchmark for many years and deliver a stratospheric image quality, having gone beyond the extraordinary optomechanic levels of the Leica M lenses.

A new era in the History of Photographic Optics began in October 2015 with those stratospheric Leica SL lenses like the Summilux-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH, the Apo-Summicron-SL 75 mm f/2, the zoom Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90 mm f/2.8-4 ASPH, etc.

The extraordinary image qualities obtained wit these 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF cameras from Leica, Nikon and Canon are comparable to the 6 x 9 cm analogue medium format digitized with Hasselblad Imacon Flextight X1 or X5 virtual scanner.

But inevitably, all of it is at the expense of a big size and weight of lenses in comparison to the camera bodies and increasing more the operative fatigue than using cameras featuring smaller formats and lenses with more reduced dimensions.

It isn´t less true that from a viewpoint of global image quality, the 24 x 36 mm format (called " miniature " during the second half of twenties and thirties with screwmount mirrorless Leica cameras) usually beats the smaller formats in superior dynamic range, many more possibilities of huge enlargement without image degradation, superior performance at high and very high ISOS and a better adaptation to photographic genres like fashion, portrait and action sports in which the ability to generate selective focus and highlight the persons or subjects photographed is often pivotal.

Both Canon and Nikon have decided to enter the market of mirrorless EVF full frame cameras going on with their 24 x 36 mm format in their Nikon Z7 and Canon EOS R, but to all intents and purposes, following the route of telecentrism to a greater or lesser extent, creating

new much larger mounts with a much shorter flange distance, so lenses need doses of telecentrism to be able to draw the maximum qualitative potential of both factors in relation to the previous EOS and F mounts being smaller and with a longer flange distance.

That´s to say, Nikon and Canon have decided to embrace the telecentric course adopted by Olympus in 2002 with its E-1 camera in synergy with top quality lenses like the formidable 13 elements in 11 groups Zuiko Digital ED 300 mm f/2.8 lens.

It´s also the best route for the most state of the art lenses ever made for 24 x 36 mm format, because the potential of this photographic era started by Leica with its lenses for the Leica SL in October 2015 has now been backed up by Nikon and Canon, and it seems that Panasonic will probably join this strong full frame mirrorless EVF cameras trend.

On its turn, Sony, taking advantage of its huge wherewithal, will try to recover ground as soon as possible in the optical sphere, something that won´t be easy, because the ultraluminous and highly luminous lenses for Nikon Z and Canon EOS R systems are within the present optical scream of the crop, particularly

the Noct Nikkor 58 mm f/0.95 S and

the Canon 28-70 mm f/2.

Some voices are proclaiming that these two lenses are very heavy and expensive, which is obviously true.

But, always understanding that of course each one is able to express his/ her opinion, no way could they be small, light and cheap in the current state of science.

Reference-class lenses featuring that huge aperture, are extremely difficult to design and manufacture, with an exceedingly high percentage of out of tolerances optical elements (specially the best ground and polished aspherical ones made with very expensive exotic glasses), so their series production cost barely makes possible to have good profit with their sale.

This type of flagship lenses are a niche product in themselves, above all a question of prestige with which firms show their optical prowess and expertise, and because of their hefty price tag and impressive optomechanical performance, they ´re usually only at the reach of fairly wealthy professional photographers, photographic agencies or fashion and advertisement firms able to pay off the investment.

Both the Noct Nikkor f/0.95 S and the Canon 28-70 mm f/2 will attain their best performance, id est, the stratospheric one, being on a monopod or tripod, which doesn´t mean that they can´t be used handheld with very good results thanks to the impressive abilities of 24 x 36 mm format digital cameras at high and very high ISOS, sides in which they clearly outperform the professional APS-C and Micro Four Thirds professional cameras.

The key factor for the success of Nikon S and Canon EOS R systems (far behind Panasonic, Olympus and Fuji in terms of electronic advancements, image stabilization, continuous AF and video) will be above all in the image quality delivered by their f/1.4 and f/1.8 (and to a lesser degree the f/1.2) primes, along with their professional 24-70 mm f/2.8 and 70-200 mm f/2.8 zooms, which will be expensive, but much cheaper than the f/0.95, f/1.2 and the 28-70 mm f/2, becoming a very interesting choice for professional photographers and the benchmark image quality available today, only beaten by the Leica SL highly luminous fixed lenses and zooms.

But though ergonomics of the Nikon Z and Canon EOS R grip are really superb,

Nikon S and

Canon R lenses, which will reduce distances regarding Leica SL ones in optical performance, are very big objectives in comparison to Nikon Z and Canon EOS R camera bodies, significantly breaking the philosophy of compact system mirrorless cameras with lenses featuring balanced size and weight with respect to the small dimensions and light weight of camera body.

Every photographic system has got its pros and cons.

It seems apparent that the photographic market has predominantly opted for 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF cameras featuring very large mounts and exceedingly short flange distances , with a top priority above everything ; to get a superlative image quality roughly equivalent to the 6 x 9 cm analogue medium format with 32 ISO Fuji Velvia slide.

Obviously, that huge image quality is a commendable and desirable goal for any lover of photography.

But one thing is the potential of a photographic gear and another one what the profesional or advanced amateur photographer is able to draw from it, particularly when shooting handheld.

Nowadays, both 24 x 36 mm digital cameras (whether reflex with optical viewfinders or mirrorless EVF) from Sony, Leica, Nikon and Canon, or mirrorless EVF ones from Fuji (APS-C format), Leica (APS-C), Panasonic (Micro Four Thirds format) and Olympus (Micro Four Thirds Format) yield an utterly professional image quality.

The aptitude of the photographic outfit will depend on the kind of assignment to do and many other factors.

In my opinion, it would be highly desirable the coexistence in the photographic market of the mirrorless EVF full frame cameras and the mirrorless EVF Micro Four Thirds and APS-C format made by Panasonic, Olympus, Leica and Fuji, irrespective of trends.

The just introduced Nikon Z7 and Canoen EOS R cameras are still to mature products in which the truly significant aspect, more than camera bodies, is the huge future potential of both systems, above all from an optical viewpoint.

But it isn´t less true that prices of camera bodies and lenses for those 24 x 36 mm mirrorless EVF photographic systems are very high, approximately double or even more than the best profesional APS-C mirrorless EVF models from Fuji and the flagship Micro Four Thirds mirrorless EVF ones from Panasonic and Olympus, whose balance between size and weight of camera and lenses is far better and more comfortable to use for photographers.

During the analogue times in XX Century it wasn´t necessary to offer huge image qualities obtained with large format cameras in most photographic works for the attained results to be considered professional, because resolution, contrast and dynamic range, though obviously very important, are not everything in photography. There are also acutance or visual perception of sharpness, qualities and directions of light, colour accuracy, image aestheticscomfort of camera and lenses on being used and many others, of which the photographer´s eye, experience and ability to see the picture will keep on being the decisive factors.

Yousuf Karsh used above all a large format 8 x 10" (20 x 25 cm) Calumet large format camera to do his mythical black and white portraits with orthochromatic film, but throughout the whole XX Century, sports and wildlife photography was mostly made with 24 x 36 mm format cameras, while studio photography was made above all with 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format Rolleiflex and Hasselblads, along with the Pentax 6 x 7 cm medium format camera, while for landscapes the best choice was large format, with foremost specialists like Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and others.

Evidently, the new 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF cameras just introduced by Nikon and Canon corroborate a new optomechanical era in the History of Digital Photography pioneered by Leica in 2015 (with its also 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF SL camera and its lenses, which are presently the state of the art), resulting in a significant increase of the digital 24 x 36 format regarding 24 x36mm format poitential regarding image quality, and it all will reach its climax during the next Photokina Köln between September 26 and 29 of 2018.

But it isn´t less true that such a context is going to highly probably catalyze a great effort by Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus to improve their APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors to the utmost.

Throughout the last six years between 2012 and 2018 Fuji has gained an amazing optical proficiency, proved by very small and light lenses boasting great optical performance like the 13 elements in 11 groups Fujifilm XF 16 mm f/1.4 R WR (equivalent to a 24 mm f/1.4), the 17 elements in 12 groups Fujinon XF 16-55 mm f/2.8 R LM WR or the 10 elements in 6 groups Fujinon 23 mm f/2 R WR.

All of them offer a praiseworthy quality / price ratio, specially the Fujinon 23 mm f/2 R WR, undoubtedly one of the best lenses in history as to this side.

Within a very short period of time, in full digital era, Fuji has managed to approach to the level that placed it as one of the most important manufacturers of photographic lenses during the analogue times of XX century, in which it made first-class lenses already excelling at their stunning compactness and lightness, like the Super-EBC Fujinon 60 mm f/4 for the Fuji GA645 AF rangefinder camera, the large format lens for portraiture Fujinon 240 A attachable to LF 4 x 5 " (10 x 12 cm) cameras and whose weight was only 245 g, as well as featuring a remarkable versatility, since it could be used as a standard lens with 5 x 7 " (13 x 18 cm) cameras and as a wideangle lens in 8 x 10 " (contact of 20 x 25 cm) cameras.

This is a global change of paradigm, because from now on, the 24 x 36 mm format professional digital cameras will deliver medium format quality similar to the one yielded by the Fuji 690 III rangefinder analogue camera on a tripod, and the Micro Four Thirds and APS-C format professional digital cameras will produce an image quality similar to the one produced by the analogue 127 roll film format and will highly probably approach to 6 x 4.5 medium format quality in early 2020, as hinted by the new 26.1 megapixel Fujifilm X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and the new quad-core CPU three times faster than the present X series cameras.

However incredible it may seem, digital photography is attaining a tremendous expansion of Oscar Barnack´s two favourite formats (the 24 x 36 mm and the 18 x 24 mm, the latter being represented by Fuji´s similar in size X-Trans APS-C 15.6 mm x 23.6 mm) in terms of image quality.

And the same happens to the Micro Four Thirds format with a 18 mm x 13.5 mm size sensor featuring 4:3 aspect ratio.

The current Panasonic, Olympus and Fuji mirrorless EVF cameras are superb, with a formidable quality/price ratio, and sincerely, I do believe that the image quality they offer is professional to spare, obviously not reaching the levels of the 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF cameras like the Sony A7RIII, Leica SL, Nikon Z, Canon EOS R, etc, but their optical performance is highly commendable, bearing in mind their very small sensor sizes, with enough image quality for most photographic assignments and above all, their camera bodies are much smaller and lighter, with amazingly advanced electronic capabilities as to AF, video, 5 axis image stabilization, more comfortable to handle, and their little lenses are better balanced with respect to camera size and dimensions.

Even, Leica has made some excellent lenses for Micro Four Third Formats, like the fabulous Leica DG Elmarit 200 mm f/2.8 (equivalent to a 400 mm f/2.8 in 35 mm format) for the Panasonic G9, a breathtaking combination delivering top-notch image quality and unique opportunities of photographing wildlife and sports from far distances shooting handheld, very comfortably and without any trepidation.

Such is the optical performance of this lens that when coupled to the 1.4x DMW-TC14 converter turning it into a 560 mm f/4, the image quality yielded is still amazing and slightly inferior to the superb Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 300 mm f/4 IS Pro.

In spite of the economical crisis and that it is far from having the incredibly high figure of participating firms and volume of visitors of its golden times during eighties and nineties, next Photokina Köln 2018 will be the most important event ever held in the History of Digital Photography.

This is truly fascinating and has been mostly brought about by the recent introduction of the Nikon Z and Canon EOS R new photographic systems and the overall optical turning point in the photographic industry that is ahead.

But even more enthralling and awesome is the preservation to a great extent well within XXI Century of 
Oscar Barnack´s fundamental keynotes in four different breeds of digital photographic cameras.

a) The highly evolved 24 x 36 mm reflex cameras with optical viewfinder like

the Nikon D850,

Canon EOS D5 Mark IV and

Pentax K-1 Mark II.

Sincerely, I don´think that these formidable professional cameras still used by many professional photographers are going to disappear soon as some voices are foreseeing.

They are highly mature and tested stuff with which specially Canon and Nikon have taken advantage of the feedback conveyed by very experienced photographers, who have daily used them in the most different environments, and they go on being by far the most widespread cameras in highest level events like Olympic Games, Athletics World Championships, Football World Cups, etc.

Chances are that they will be in the market for many years, even with some more reflex 24 x 36 mm models with optical viewfinder being introduced, though evidently, the photographic market trend towards mirrorless full frame EVF cameras will highly probably prevail in the medium and long term.

b) The 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless full frame EVF cameras. They seem to be in a very clear way the predominant route of the photographic market with Sony, Canon, Nikon and Leica having already adopted Barnack´s 24 x 36 mm format in their digital sensors, and Panasonic will probably introduce soon a full format mirrorless EVF camera of this kind that could be something really spectacular if they have used the know-how of its extraodinary G9 mirrorless EVF Micro Four Thirds format upscaling concepts and maybe with great lenses made by Leica.

The Nikon Z7 and Canon EOS R 24 x 36 mm cameras will deliver along with the Leica SL new benchmark levels of image quality, thanks to the oustanding optical expertise and knowledge of the three firms, in synergy with top-notch full frame sensors, the new very big mounts and the exceedingly short flange distances.

But as aforementioned, lenses for these full frame mirrorles EVF cameras are very large and heavy, so balance with respect to camera body is far in this regard from the Leica M 24 x 36 mm System, Fujifilm X-Trans APS-C System, Leica CL APS-C System and Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds Systems

c)  The 24 x 36 mm format Leica M, currently embodied by the Leica M10, Leica Monochrom and Leica M10-P.

d) The mirrorless EVF Fujifilm Series X cameras and Leica CL camera featuring APS-C format. These are nowadays along with the Leica M digital cameras and lenses, the most related photographic systems with Oscar Barnack´s fundamental tenets, whose core was the symbiosis between very small and light cameras and tiny lenses matching the camera body size, an approach utterly followed by Fuji with its very compact X Series of cameras and lenses and Leica with its CL camera.

As a matter of fact, Barnack tried to create an Ur Leica with 18 x 24 cinematographic black and white film in 2013, but it wasn´t possible to make enlargements on photographic paper beyond 13 x 18 cm with acceptable image quality, so he had to double its length up to 36 mm, giving birth to 24 x 36 mm format with 2:3 golden proportion.

Oscar Barnack loved both the 24 x 36 mm format and the 18 x 24 mm format, and three years before the 24 x 36 mm format Ur Leica, he had designed and made a 18 x 24 mm aluminium movie camera in Wetzlar, shooting films to test the projectors made by his friend Emil Mechau.

e) The Micro Four Thirds format Panasonic and Olympus cameras, featuring a tiny size of 18 mm x 13.5 mm.

The Leica M System of cameras and lenses is the most related to Oscar Barnack philosophy, with 24 x 36 mm format, very small and light camera body and little and highly luminous lenses, everything in remarkable balance and using comfort.

Curiously, though they don´t use Barnack´s 24 x 36 mm format, d) and e) cameras, that´s to say, the Fuji ones featuring APS-C format and the Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four Thirds format are even more related to Oscar Barnack than full frame mirrorless EVF ones, because in addition to the 24 x 36 mm standard, a further fundamental aspect of his photographic camera philosophy was to obtain the smallest possible size and weight of camera body and lenses, to fully strengthen the compactness and balance of camera and attached objectives, its stability shooting handheld without any trepidation, its handling ease and convenience, its use throughout many working hours with the least feasible fatigue, etc, a concept which was born with the Leica II (Model D) mirrorless with optical rangefinder camera from 1932, the conceptual forefather of all mirrorless EVF compact system cameras with interchangeable lenses of XXI Century.

As a matter of fact,



and Fuji are more mature brands than Sony, Canon, Nikon and Leica in the scope of mirrorless EVF cameras with interchangeable lenses, specially regarding innovative technology, because the two first began their activity in this sphere in 2008, while Fuji did it in 2012.

Panasonic, Olympus and Fuji were the firms that pioneered these highly sophisticated cameras being second to none in terms of electronic breakthroughs, 5 axis image stabilizers, continuous AF fps, UK UHD 60 fps video and many more things, so they must receive full accolades in this respect.

On the other hand, I do believe that from an optical viewpoint,

the Canon 28-70 mm f/2 zoom lens is by far the most relevant objective to appear during the next historical and hugely riveting Photokina Köln.

Nobody had made until now a professional standard zoom lens featuring a maximum f/2 aperture.

The Canon 28-70 mm f/2 zoom lens is beyond doubt a milestone in the History of Photographic Optics and everything suggests that its image quality, even at full aperture, will be stratospheric on a monopod or tripod and very good shooting handheld.

In the times of analogue photography, its potential would have been much more reduced, because its dimensions and weight would have made really difficult to use it with under ISO 800 films shooting handheld, so image quality would have degraded, but the great capabilities of the Canon EOS R digital EVF full frame at high and very high ISOS will significantly foster the potential of this lens photographing hand and wrist.

Needless to say that a lens like this should be a stellar performer in photographic genres like fashion and portrait, where its widest f/2 aperture can make a difference to beget selective focus.

This lens is probably the greatest optical tour de force made during the last five years along with the Canon EF 11-24 mm f/4L USM, the Summilux-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH, the Leica DG Elmarit 200 mm f/2.8 and the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 300 mm f/4 IS Pro.

Instants of towering significance for the worldwide future of digital photography are approaching, and it is going to hugely boost the market, since the present context makes that every brand of photographic cameras and lenses in different formats will have to do a strenuous effort to offer first-class products delivering exceptional image quality, something that will be pretty beneficial for users.

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