B&H Photo News Roundup: Week of January 1, 2023

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CES 2023 is dominating headlines this week, and it certainly seems like the show is returning to its pre-pandemic highs. For us, the most relevant bits revolve around photography and imaging tech, of which there is plenty to discuss. Panasonic takes top billing with the launch of the LUMIX S5 II series—its first camera with phase-detect autofocus. Nikon also got into the mix with lens announcements. Beyond that, we have some end-of-2022 news to catch up on quickly.

There is lots of fun to kick off the new year, so let's get into it.

CES 2023: Getting Back in the Groove

Last year wasn't the return to form that the Consumer Technology Association (the group that organizes CES) hoped for, because CES 2022 suffered from last-minute, pandemic-caused headaches. This year, fortunately, was much more reminiscent of pre-pandemic times.

Conditions remained less cramped than a few years ago, but the atmosphere on the show floor signaled that people were ready and excited to be at CES again.

As for macro trends, this year focused on sustainability, the metaverse, Web 3.0, supply-chain concerns, and an expansion of health tech. This is exciting stuff, although most of it isn't something your average consumer will see or experience directly for some time. Many imaging companies, such as Canon, are diving into these new experiences with capture devices and software to manipulate and create virtual environments. Many other companies are releasing the hardware to consume all this new media.

Product releases were as numerous as before, with all the usual suspects coming to play. The highlights were computer monitors (gaming and creative-focused), a few more VR headsets, tons of TVs (although nothing from Sony just yet), and a boatload of computers. There are a few products that speak directly to content creators, demonstrating that there is still copious need and demand in this quickly growing category of creatives.

There's always too much to talk about from CES. Here's a sampling of what was announced:

  1. Roland has an audio interface/mixer for creators

  2. ASUS has tons of creative-focused laptops—one even with a glasses-free 3D screen!

  3. LG, Samsung, Hisense, and more showed off their TVs

  4. The rest of the CES news

Of course, we left out some of the good stuff so we could take a deeper dive on announcements that directly relate to photo and video tech, starting with…

Panasonic Finally Adds Phase-Detect AF with Lumix S5 II Series

Panasonic is not one of the top three names in cameras—that distinction goes to Canon, Sony, and Nikon. Despite that, the company always carved out a reliable audience, thanks to its advanced video technology and class-leading specs. But Panasonic cameras were always missing one thing: fast, reliable autofocus. This is changing with the launch of the Lumix S5 II and S5 IIX.

It was an interesting choice to release two versions of this mid-range upgrade, although I'll save the "X" version for a bit later. The standard S5 II features a new 24MP full-frame sensor and an updated processing engine with "L2 technology." The camera is great all around, thanks to this new hardware, bringing with it a 779-point phase-detect AF system that should offer reliable and fast autofocus in stills and video.

There are tweaks to the rest of the system with upgrades across the board. For video, Panasonic has unlocked things a touch more with recording up to 6K 30p and DCI 4K up to 60p—all in 10-bit. Otherwise, we have a lot of the usual: dual SD card slots, weather sealing, OLED EVF, free-angle LCD, in-body image stabilization, etc.

All this will run you just under $2,000. The S5 II is a well-rounded camera that will suit many content creators without issue. However, if you are more of a videographer/filmmaker, for an extra $200, you should consider the S5 IIX.

Panasonic Lumix S5 IIX Mirrorless Camera

You'll notice right away that it has a sleek, all-black design. While this is attractive, it is certainly not the reason to upgrade to the S5 IIX. That would be this list of awesome additional features that won't be found in the base model:

  1. Built-in support for raw video output over HDMI

  2. USB-SSD recording

  3. All-Intra and ProRes formats

  4. Wireless and wired IP streaming

  5. USB tethering to smartphones

It's amazing if you plan to shoot more video than stills with your camera. But here's the catch: while the standard S5 II is shipping in late January, the S5 IIX isn't slated to arrive until the middle of 2023. Whether the wait is worth it is up to you, but I think that is a compelling list of extra features for not too large of an investment.

More Glass on the Way from Nikon

Canon is spending CES demonstrating cool, new VR and mixed reality systems that you might be using a few years from now (Canon has a good track record of actually releasing these concept devices; just look at the PowerShot ZOOM and PowerShot PICK). But Nikon took a moment to cover its bases with the announcement that a few more lenses are in development.

Nikon Z 26mm  f/2.8 Lens
Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8 Lens
Nikon Z 26mm  f/2.8 Lens
Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8 Lens
Nikon Z 85mm f/1.2 Lens
Nikon 85mm f/1.2 Lens
Nikon 85mm f/1.2 (left) and 26mm f/2.8 (right) Lenses
Nikon 85mm f/1.2 (left) and 26mm f/2.8 (right) Lenses
Nikon 85mm f/1.2 Lens
Nikon 85mm f/1.2 Lens

Nikon has two lenses on the way:

  1. NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S

  2. NIKKOR Z 26mm f/2.8

Other than the fact that they are coming soon, there aren't many details available yet. However, the lenses appear to be great options for Z Series shooters. The 85mm f/1.2 is an S-Line optic, which makes it the premium portrait prime for the Nikon system. On the other hand, the 26mm is an ultra-slim and lightweight lens designed never to leave your bag and many aspiring shooters—or those simply looking for a compact kit—will love to acquire one.

Pentax is Developing "New Film Camera Products"

Revealed a few weeks ago, Ricoh's Pentax division is working on a new series of "film camera products." This means that new film cameras and accessories are actually on the way from a reputable brand that boasts a strong legacy in film camera production.

While there isn't much information available beyond the fact that Pentax is going ahead with this plan, I can't help but say that this is a smart decision. Film is seeing a resurgence and, even though film stocks seem to be disappearing all the time, we still have newer film releases and products. Pentax getting in the game would give more people an opportunity to get a real system that has support from a real name. Also, Pentax isn't exactly at the cutting edge of digital camera development with its newest release, the KF, being a rehash of a 7-year-old mid-range DSLR.

I'm very excited and I think everyone else should be, too.

Want to get your film fix today? As more evidence of a recent revival of film, Leica re-released the legendary M6 Rangefinder–if you have the cash. Otherwise, you can have some fun with the Kodak Ektar H35 instead.

That's all for the first week of the year. It was an exciting one, and there is still more on the calendar for January, so be sure to check back next week.

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