The 10 best and würst things we saw at Photokina 2018

Photokina 2018 has brought some weird and wonderful sights and more than the usual number of surprises, including the fact that Panasonic’s brand new full-frame mirrorless camera was a non-working prototype we could only gawp at. But if we have to pick ten of the most interesting things at this year’s show, it’s these:

1. Fujifilm GFX 50R

Admittedly, we kind of knew the GFX 50R was coming, but to see it in the flesh and to find out the price tag was very exciting. Even more exciting was the news that Fujifilm has a 100 megapixel GFX 100S in the pipeline. This won’t be cheap, unfortunately, but it won’t stop us wanting one.

2. Zeiss ZX1

This was a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a riddle, largely because Zeiss didn’t tell us it was coming or invite us to the launch. No, we couldn’t believe it either. But essentially the ZX1 appears to be full-frame 37-megapixel fixed lens camera with Lightroom CC mobile built in and a big touch-screen display. Zeiss hasn’t told us the price, but we suspect it’s more Wall Street than Walmart.

3. Sigma 60-600mm lens

You could very easily pass this lens by because Sigma makes loads of supertelephoto lenses and already has two well-regarded 150-600mm options. But look again. The minimum focal length of this one is 60mm, not 150mm. It’s a 10x superzoom that goes all the way from a roughly standard focal length up to supertelephoto on a full frame camera. The 60-600mm f/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM | Sports is pretty big, it is moderately heavy, but it’s also perfectly manageable.

4. Samyang 10mm ultra-wideangle

At the other end of the focal range is this new Samyang 10mm rectilinear (non-fisheye) full-frame wide-angle lens available in Canon and Nikon DSLR mounts. It’s the widest wide-angle lens you can get for your full frame DSLR and it’s not massively big or massively expensive either. But that huge, reflective front element is so beautiful we could just sit and look at it for hours. Which is what we had to do because this is a pre-production version we couldn’t shoot with.

5. Canon RF 28-70mm f/2

The Canon EOS R is dividing opinion somewhat in the TechRadar campus, but Canon also had a selection of new RF lenses at the show, and we managed to grab some time with the new 28-70mm f/2. F/2! It’s a full f-stop faster than rival lenses and looks like it could be a real stunner. It is big, it is expensive, but it is definitely something to write home about (as we just did).

6. Zenith M

This was distinctly weird. It started out as a story that Leica and Zenith would collaborate on a camera that nobody could possible believe. Leica has a reputation for producing the world’s most exclusive and exquisite cameras while Zenith is renowned for making mid-1970s cameras out of glue and old tractor parts. We picked up a couple of clues on the Leica stand and followed the trail to an obscure little kiosk at the back of a hall on the floor below were we found – gasp – the Zenith M.

7. Zenitar 35mm f/1.0

Our Zenith discovery brought another show highlight. The Zenith M will apparently be made by Leica at its Wetzlar factory, but it will come with a Russian-designed 35mm f/1.0. Very quietly, the company has developed and launched one of the world’s fastest full frame lenses. And it is definitely not made of old tractor parts because it actually feels rather well made.

8. Excire Search

Being serious for a minute, this actually looks very interesting. The trouble with being a photographer is that you collect a lot of pictures which could probably do with keywording. You can do it manually (no), use a machine-learning cloud-based tool like Google Photos or Lightroom CC (meh) or this new Lightroom plug in that automatically tags your images on your own desktop. Currently available as a Lightroom plug-in it will be available next year as a standalone image browsing, culling and keywording tool and that sounds very interesting indeed.

9. The L-Mount alliance

It was perfectly choreographed. Leica held a press conference announcing its collaboration with Panasonic and Sigma and the common Leica-designed lens mount the would share even as the assembled journalists were frenziedly tapping out the story on their laptops. Soon, this techie triumvirate would be battling Sony, Nikon and Canon for a slice of the full-frame mirrorless market.

10. Phase One IQ4

You can only afford one of these if you routinely jet off to the Bahamas with a crew stylists for a fashion shoot, but the Phase One team generously let us pull it to bits to find out what made it tick (before we pulled it to bits). It’s a fully modular system with central DSLR-style camera body you can look straight through. The business end is Phase One’s new 150-megapixel sensor which is scarily exposed when you take the back off the camera and looks like the most expensive bit of technological real estate we’ve ever seen.

Photokina is the world's biggest photography show, and TechRadar is reporting live from Cologne to bring you all the big announcements, plus hands-on reviews of new cameras and kit. Keep up with all the news here.

Rod Lawton is Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography magazines, including Digital Camera, N-Photo, PhotoPlus, Professional Photography, Photography Week and Practical Photoshop.