The Best from Japan: Sony’s 400mm f/2.8; Olympus’ crazy concept cameras; Sigma’s “VR” lens hood service and more
posted Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 10:33 AM EDT
As the weekend crowds descend upon the CP+ expo here in Yokohama, Japan, I decided to roam the show floor to uncover some interesting tidbits, hands-on, and other news that may have gotten lost in the shuffle with this past week's bevy of announcements -- from both CP+ and WPPI!
Sony's 400mm f/2.8... exists!
First up will be of noted interest to Sony sports and wildlife photographers: the FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master lens exists! Displayed under glass at Sony's booth, this new super-telephoto lens, which was announced as in-development back in October 2017, will soon reach eager photographers sometime this summer, according to a Sony representative I spoke with.
A 400mm f/2.8 lens is a critical optic for professional sports and wildlife photographers. Eagle-eyed Sony fans recently spotted the lens being field-tested by Sony pros during the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The lens will likely undergo more real-world testing with the upcoming World Cup this summer before it goes on sale to the public. Detailed information about pricing and availability is not yet available.
According to a video playing here at Sony's booth, photographers who've used the 400mm f/2.8 point out the lightweight design of the lens -- which isn't something you typically think of regarding a full-frame 400mm f/2.8 lens! Sadly, try as I might, I wasn't able to get hands-on with the prototype lens here at the show. The Sony rep told me that they weren't even allowed to touch it!
Olympus's crazy camera concepts
At Olympus' booth, they showed off a trio of concept redesigns of various cameras and lenses, ranging from the rather outlandish to the alluringly possible. According to Olympus press materials, these content designs are being used for "re-envisioning unique Olympus characteristics in future models." As the pictures below will show, some of these concepts I have a hard time foreseeing being developed into real-world products, whereas some seem quite tempting... and dare I say, plausible?
Hmm, that wooden covering for E-M5 Mark II is quite tempting... can you say Really Retro?
Now we're talking! Admittedly, the glossy piano black and gold edge detailing is a bit on the showy side, in my opinion, but the carbon fiber version of the 300mm f/4 IS PRO lens is downright awesome looking. And it's not just a carbon fiber-appearance. Olympus' press info states that these lenses have a carbon fiber exterior "for a lighter body." The 300mm f/4 lens is already impressively small and lightweight, all things considered, but imagine having a carbon fiber version that's even lighter! (Yes, please.)
Hands-on: Tokina's FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE AF lens & Opera 50mm f/1.4 prime
Tokina showed off some new glass at this year's show, including an autofocus version of their FiRIN 20mm f/2 for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras. This utilizes the same optical formula as the manual-focus version announced back at Photokina in 2016. Though optically identical, the manual focus version is designed for more specialized applications such as astrophotography, whereas the AF version is an easier-to-use model for more general-use photography and video.
The FiRIN 20mm f/2 AF version sports a similarly sleek, matte-back design as its MF sibling but with a slightly thicker barrel to accommodate the AF motors. The AF version's design is much simpler as well, with only a single, large, unmarked focusing ring, while the MF version offered a depth-of-field scale and a manual aperture control ring.
The lens is set to go on sale in Japan in April, and in May for the rest of the world. Pricing is not yet available.
Also on display was Tokina's new 50mm f/1.4 Opera lens for Canon and Nikon full-frame DSLRs. The "Opera" line of lenses is a new premium level of lenses, and the 50mm f/1.4 Opera lens seems destined to be a competitor to the highly-acclaimed Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens. Style-wise, the 50mm f/1.4 Opera lens uses a similarly modern and understated design, much like the FiRIN 20mm f/2 AF lens. I noticed the lens also features some degree of weather sealing, with a rubberized gasket around the lens mount.
Sigma will chop off your lens hood?
Lastly, I spotted an interesting de-hooded version of Sigma's new 14-24mm f/2.8 Art zoom. Labeled "Front Conversion Service," this flat 14-24mm lens no longer sports its fixed petal-shaped lens hood. When asked about this conversion service, Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki stated that it was a special modification offered for those shooting while creating VR imagery! With such a wide lens, videographers noticed that the lens hood would interfere with other lenses or cast noticeable shadows when using the multiple camera setups required for 360-degree VR imagery. According to Sigma, some users were even resorting to DIY lens hood removal, so Sigma decided to offer a more polished, professional option. Cost, turnaround time, and service availability has yet to be announced. Find out more here.