Is the world ready for - or does it even want - a standard digital SLR camera system?
Sigma's 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 EXOS is the first image-stabilization lens by an independent lens manufacturer.
This isn't the only optical battle shaping up among lens makers. Many lensmakers are now claiming their lenses are specially computed for use on digital cameras. A lot have digital-capable identification markings (Olympus has Di on such lenses, and Sigma's are marked "DG"). Other manufacturers say that special digital-capable lenses aren't needed at all. Film-capable lenses will do just fine, thank you.
But we haven't yet finished with Olympus's proposal for a digital camera standard. Other camera makers might readily accept using a common sensor size, back-focus distance, and lensmount. But they may have grave reservations about a standardized interface between camera bodies and lenses. Wouldn't this mean that designers would be prevented from adding their own unique operating systems and software, thus differentiating one camera and lens system from another? Why buy one brand of camera or lens over another? It should be an interesting Forum if it ever gets off the ground.
But without other lensmakers adopting the new lensmount and electronics, Olympus might find itself with an insufficient variety of lenses for its SLRs. And it is doubtful if independent lensmakers would produce lenses for one unique camera maker's lensmount. Would Olympus go ahead with plans for their interchangeable lens digital SLR based on the 4/3 system if no one else does?
What will Olympus's camera look like? Top secret! In my October column I showed a drawing of what it might look like, floating amorphously, in a fortune teller's crystal ball. Now we have something better than that. Well, maybe. Stating that it was just a mockup and probably bearing no resemblance to the real thing, Olympus unveiled what appeared to be a wooden block, not too cleverly disguised as a camera-and a big camera at that. It remained out of reach in an inviolable display case in the Olympus booth at Photokina.
What do you think about Olympus's proposed 4/3 lens standard? And why designate it by an improper fraction? Discuss at www.POPPHOTO.com > Forums > Respond to Pop Photo.
More lenses than we expected
Also on display at Photokina (turn to page 34 for our full show report) was a plethora of lenses. Why were so many new 35mm camera lenses introduced at Photokina? All the better to serve digital as well as 35mm SLRs. Not so, however, with the 90mm f/2 ASPH Leica APO Summicron R, which won't fit on any digital camera we know of. Contax showed a newly designed 85mm f/1.4 Planar T and 400mm f/4 Carl Zeiss Tele-Apotessar T for the Contax N. Tamron had five new lenses: a 17-35mm f/2.8-4 AF Di, a 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di Macro focusing to 13 inches (a hair less than 1:4), a 70-200mm f/2.8 Di with a unique Filter Effect Control that allows polarizing filters to be rotated easily without removing an attached lenshood, a 180mm f/3.5 SP AF Di, remarkably focusing to 1:1, and a 200-500mm f/5-6.3 SP AF Di also with Filter Effect Control, but as an accessory (the "Di" stands for "digital"). Tokina's new lens is a 28-70mm f/2.8 AF AT-X PRO SV.
An indie stabilization lens!
Certainly the highlight of the Sigma lens collection was the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 EX OS. "OS" stands for Optical Stabilizer, Sigma being the only lensmaker, aside from Canon and Nikon, to offer this feature. Mode 1 handles camera shake in vertical and horizontal panning. Mode 2 detects vertical camera shake of the camera itself, such as when you are standing on a shaky support. Both 1.4X and 2X converters can be added to the lens. Sigma showed a 28-70mm f/2.8-4, a 300-800mm f/5.6 EX IF HSM, and a 120-300mm f/2.8 APO EX IF HSM lens.