Photokina 2012: The Best New Gear

Couldn't make it to Cologne this year? Check out all the best gear right here

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Every two years, the Photokina trade show turns Cologne, Germany into something of a Disney World for photo nuts like ourselves. Manufacturers announce lots of new products, then bring them here to the shores of the Rhine so we can get a first look. This year, the show has extremely exciting. We've seen new cameras, bags, lighting accessories, and lenses, all of which we're pretty excited about. But, there's so much to see that it's almost impossible to keep up, even for us. So, we've put together this collection of some of the best and most interesting new products to keep an eye out for as they start to hit the market. Sony Cyber-shot RX1 It's funny that one of the biggest announcements made during this Photokina product cycle is actually one of the smallest. Sony's RX1 has the same full-frame 24.3-megapixel sensor inside as their top-level Alpha DSLR, the A99. Somehow, they managed to keep it the size of a true compact camera. The 35mm F/2 Zeiss lens on the front looks truly impressive so far and it has video-shooting capabilities that outshine many high-end DSLRs. At $2,800, it will likely be a very specific audience that actually buys the RX1, but for the rest of us, it's still encouraging to see compact cameras are still pushing on when it comes to image quality and high-end features.
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Panasonic Lumix GH3 The Panasonic GH2 was one of the most well-regarded video shooting bodies around, so they decided to embrace that multi-media camera label and give the GH3 prowess for both stills and video. This $1,300 body has a 16.05 Live MOS sensor that's capable of smooth 1080p video at 60 fps. That's on par with or beats most high-end DSLRs at the moment. It's also a tougher body, so it can take a beating. We had some hands-on time with it at the show and we're looking forward to getting it in our lab.
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Canon EOS 6D At $2,100, Canon's 6D is among the first (along with the camera on the next slide) camera to fall into the "entry-level full-frame" category. We got our first chance to handle it here at the show and it looks like a very promising body. We were especially impressed with the WiFi-based iPad app that lets you control the camera using your tablet. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until December before they make their way to store shelves.
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Nikon D600 The $2,100 D600 actually beat Canon's 6D to the punch by a few days when it comes to the entry-level full-frame category. Technical editor, Phil Ryan has actually had a D600 with him throughout the trip and it will be heading into our lab very soon. But, so far it's looking good. You can check out our sample image gallery here.
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Sigma 35mm F/1.4 Lens Sigma's new wide, fast prime has some pretty nifty technical things going on inside the barrel that help eliminate chromatic aberration, and from what we've seen so far, it looks to be very effective. It will likely make a great companion to the well-regarded 85mm F/1.4 if it can manage the same kind of sharpness in our tests.
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Lensbaby Spark At just $79, the Lensbaby Spark brings the quirky lens maker back to its roots. Just like the original, you adjust the lens by pushing and pulling on the flange around the front element. It's not as precise as their higher-end options and that's the point. They have, however, beefed it up a bit so it's more durable and a little more predictably. Look for sample images in the coming days.
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Tamron 90mm F/2.8 VC Macro USM Tamron has had the 90mm F/2.8 macro in their line-up for quite a while, but now it's getting a full-on modern makeover. It has a true 1:1 maximum magnification ratio, so you can get very close. Plus, the USM motor means quieter focusing, which is always a welcome addition to just about any lens. It even feels light when attached to the front of a camera.
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Olympus Stylus XZ-2 We liked the Olympus XZ-1 for its fast lens and solid build. Olympus kept both of those in full effect on the XZ-2 and added a handy hybrid control ring to the front as well. In digital mode, the ring clicks into place for adjusting things like aperture. In analog mode, it turns smoothly so you can use it for manual focus. During a show when big sensors were dominating the news cycle, the XZ-2 proved that true compacts can still be powerful.
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Leica M Leica threw one of the biggest parties at this year's show, but they also had one of the coolest new products. Their new M camera has upgraded to a 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor that allows it to -- gasp -- shoot video and use livemode. They even added a nice little thumb grip to make it easier to hold. Is it crazy expensive? Of course. It'll cost roughly $7,000 here in the US. But, that's what Leica does and they do it well, so who can blame them? And hey, at least it's cheaper than the new medium-format S series camera.
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Fujifilm X-E1 The little sibling of the X-Pro1 was announced a few days before show, so it got a little lost in the shuffle of news once things really got underway, but this digital rangefinder has a lot going for it. It's smaller and substantially cheaper than the X-Pro1, while offering many of its most attractive features. It even has a full-time electronic viewfinder, which some users may actually prefer. Oh, and then there's the fact that it's about $6,000 cheaper than that pretty new Leica you just saw.
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Canon SX50 HS With its 50x zoom lens, Canon's SX50 HS has a full-frame equivalent focal range of 24-1200. That's a lot of mm. We got to mess with it a bit at their event and the range really is impressive. Sure, it falls into some of the common superzoom pitfalls -- handholding it when zoomed all the way in all but impossible -- but the sheer absurdity of the thing makes it fascinating. Plus, turn on the surprisingly-not-that-horrible enhanced digital zoom mode and you can take detailed shots of the moon without a telescope. Next stop, 100x.
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Broncolor Move 1200L Flash Power Pack This battery-powered flash pack sits firmly in the for-pros-only category with a retial price of well over $5,000, but it has some excellent features. For one, it'll get 160 full power pops on a single charge. Then, it takes just 90 minutes to recharge. The whole thing is light and, at least compared to other packs, small, so it's definitely lottery fantasy wish-list territory.
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Pentax K-5 Mark II The new Pentax mid-level DSLR got a little lost in the whole entry-level full-frame ruckus, but the new version of an already great camera looks promising. It's even tougher than before and now comes in a Mark IIs version that leaves out the AA filter, much like the Nikon D800e. Hard to complain about improving something that was already good. How much it has been improved, though, we'll find out in our full test.
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F-Stop Loka Camera Bag Part of F-Stop's Mountain Series, this burly bag has a built-in frame and a hydration system that lets you drink from a pouch in the pack through a tube running up the shoulder strap. It has a simple, but effecitve rain cover to keep gear extra protected, but it doesn't prevent you from getting at your gear through the back flap.
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Novoflex Ballpro 1 TS Bellows Both ends of this compact bellows setup can be fitted with just about any kind of mount, so it will essentially adapt most lenses to work with most bodies, regardless of their make or model. If you're using it with a Canon EOS mount, it even maintains communication with the body. And you can even use medium format lenses. But the cool thing here is that it enables full tilt/shift movements. It costs around $1,000, but opens up a crazy amount of options when it comes to both gear selection and composition. Here's the official press release, but we hope to get one to tinker with very soon.
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Acme Made Montgomery Street Camera Backpack Many of the new bags at this year's show were big and meant for adventure shooting. This understated grey bag is the opposite, opting for piles of style instead of bright colors and tons of pockets. It has ample padding for protecting gear and an elegant flap for getting your camera out. It's as stylish a bag as we've seen in a while. Plus, it's a backpack which is nice for style-conscious shooters who aren't into the messenger look.
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Profoto Pro B4 1000 Air With flash durations down to 1/25,000th of a second, this 1000 watt pack can do an amazing job when it comes to stopping action. Plus, it's capable of 30 pops per second, which, in theory, would be enough to light a video with a set of strobes if you could get the timing just right. You likely never would, but it sure is a cool concept.
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Lowepro RoverPro Adventure Camera Bags The outer shell is built from tough, water-resistant material and there's a frame inside to keep your gear safe and your back from hurting. Plus, there's a brillian pieces of stretchy webbing along the back of the bag to keep you from sweating while you're out on the trail or wherever you go that requires a serious trekking bag like this one. The color is also bright enough to be visible without being crazy over the top neon like some other outdoor bags.
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Olympus 15mm F/8 Body Cap Lens The biggest glass usually get all the attention, but this is the little lens is incredibly fun. It has just two focus settings and one aperture, making it a lot like a lomo camera. But, it has three elements and real glass inside to give it true sharpness. Plus, it's absolutely tiny so attach it to an ILC and it'll likely fit right in your pocket.
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BobLBee Megalopolis Aero Motorcyclists will find this hard-case's shape extremely familiar as it's meant for traveling on two wheels. The hard exterior case provides extra protection whehter you're on a motorcyle or just a regular bike. Plus, the weight stays up high on your back so it doesn't compromise your riding position, even on long trips. It looks really cool, too, so you could probably pull it off even if your days of tearing up the roadways ended when your mom ditched your Big Wheel.
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Samsung Galaxy Camera This curious beast appeared in real life for the first time here on the show floor and we were actually pretty impressed. While we still don't have extremely high hopes on its pure imaging potential -- this thing didn't need that much optical zoom at all -- the beautiful screen and snappy interfact make it really fun to use. Plus, built-in Instagram is bound to make some people immediately love/hate it.
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ThinkTank Photo Airport Navigator Rolling Pilot's Case ThinkTank is constantly refining their Aiport series bags, but the latest one is the first roller to let you get at your gear from both the top and the front side. There's a safety latch on the front panel to keep it from dropping your gear all over the ground even if you forget to zip it. And, if you have a lot of gear, it'll attach easily to other ThinkTank rolling cases using a cool split strap that improves balance while saving your back.
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