There’s only one place to be at the cutting edge of an industry that’s as cutting edge as photography, and that’s Photokina.

Some 200,000 people (including CameraPro’s managing director) flocked to Cologne in Germany last week for the world’s largest imaging trade fair to discover the latest photographic products and innovations. A tech lover’s dream, the now annual expo is the ultimate opportunity to try out new gear as well as glimpse what’s on the horizon.

Here are a few highlights from the four intense, colourful days that were Photokina, and what it spells for buyers in and leading up to 2019.

The Age of Full Frame Mirrorless

Canon EOS R

At the start of this year there were only two brands making mirrorless cameras with full frame sensors: Sony and Leica. Now there are five.

Nikon and Canon announced their impressive, long anticipated models (the Nikon Z6 and Z7 and Canon EOS R) in August and September. Then, in a surprise move that arguably stole the show at Photokina, Panasonic—long faithful to micro four-thirds format—unveiled the Lumix S1 and S1R, due for release early next year.

So what does this mean for 2019?

More competition often translates to more competitive pricing…eventually, at least. It also inspires innovation. While entry-level demand is mostly sated by smartphones, enthusiast appetite for more capable cameras is greater than ever. Manufacturers have responded by pushing the boundaries of low light tolerance, dynamic range and focusing speed/accuracy with each new release, which is great news for consumers. And while the era of DSLRs is certainly not over, the age of mirrorless cameras has well and truly begun.

Revolutionary New Lens Designs

Nikon Z6 Z7

All these new mirrorless cameras feature new lens mounts, which have prompted new lenses that photography fans are anticipating with equal enthusiasm. It’s exciting to see that lens makers have taken the opportunity to not just adapt, but also innovate. The design of Nikon’s Z-mount lenses boosts both their light-gathering capabilities and focusing speed. Canon has produced the RF 28-70 mm f/2 L lens, which gains a full stop of exposure over lenses of a similar focal length. Meanwhile Panasonic, Leica and Sigma have joined forces to pave the way for a formidable triad of interchangeable cameras and lenses.

Another lens we’re eagerly awaiting is the Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master lens, expected at the end of this month. Weighing only 450g it’s the smallest, lightest AF lens of its class for full frame cameras. As well as two extreme aspherical elements designed to crisply capture point light sources such as stars (note to astro buffs), it features Sony’s new DDSSM (Direct Drive SSM) focusing system for quick, precise and quiet AF, and direct controls for adjusting the aperture: f-stop as well as clicking vs stepless mode (note to video shooters).

Among the lenses Fujifilm roadmapped at Photokina, the XF 33mm f/1 R (50 mm equivalent) was an obvious standout. This prime will feature an incredible f/1 maximum aperture as well as autofocus – a combination not yet seen in a mirrorless camera lens.

Sigma turned heads during the expo with its incredible (yet manageable) 60-600mm f/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM Sports superzoom, for which action and wildlife shooters will no doubt be lining up when it hits stores in November/December. Even more impressive (if not quite as wieldy) was Sigma’s 200-500mm f/2.8 behemoth (price and availability TBC).

Cameoing at the opposite end of the spectrum was the record-breaking new Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5 (due for release early 2019), which promises good things for full frame Canon/Nikon DSLR shooters. Touted as the world’s widest lens, this surprisingly compact 10mm prime is no fisheye, as you’d probably expect it to be. Instead it produces a full-field, rectilinear image that landscape and astro enthusiasts are bound to relish. Availability TBC.

Greater Hybridity

Video is another arena that’s seen a sharp spike in advancement. While hybrid cameras are nothing new, recent and upcoming cameras are swiftly becoming as fit for movies as they are for stills. Major brands are evolving everything from body layout and mic/headphone port availability to the sound of lens motors and smoothness of aperture blades. In a first for full frame mirrorless cameras, Panasonic’s S1R and S1 will be capable of filming 4K at 60p/50p and boast in-camera and -lens image stabilisation. Even the Mavic 2 Pro is setting new standards for drone footage, with 10-bit colour, a more advanced codec and fast, remote live streaming in HD.


Digital Medium Format: The Next Frontier?

Photokina previewed what Fujifilm has in store in this growing niche: the new, rangefinder-inspired GFX 50R (coming in November) and a flagship concept model (scheduled for next year) boasting a staggering 100 megapixels, built-in image stabilisation, 4K video and 100% phase detection coverage.

It will be interesting to see whether any of these specs will eventually trickle down to more consumer-level cameras, as sometimes happens with conceptual models. And with digital medium format cameras shrinking in size and price while full frame mirrorless cameras surge in popularity, we can’t help but wonder whether more photographers will embrace medium format as a point of difference and/or the next frontier in image quality.

The Future  

These examples from Photokina 2018 offer just a taste of what’s in the pipeline, product-wise. Next year’s event in May is sure to offer yet more surprises. (Olympus turns 100 in 2019, so we’re very keen to see what the company has lined up.) Whatever the future brings, one thing’s for sure: with greater than ever choice and sophistication in photography gear, the ‘perfect shot’ has never been easier to attain.