Highlights of the show

PHOTO: SIGMA

Trevor Tan braved the cold, pounded the show floor and queued with the crowd to check out the latest photography gear.

Sigma sd Quattro and sd Quattro H

Local pricing and availability to be confirmed

The sd Quattro and sd Quattro H are Sigma's first mirrorless cameras.

I was told by representatives that Sigma moved to mirrorless cameras as its very high-resolution Foveon X3 image sensor - which features a unique scheme of stacking the colour image sensors on top of each other - is too sensitive to be used optimally in a DSLR camera. The reason: The vibrations from DSLR cameras' mirror shutter decrease the image quality, but mirrorless cameras do not have this issue.

Both models are essentially the same camera, but with different image sensors. The sd Quattro has a Sigma Foveon X3 APS-C 39-megapixel (35mm equivalent) image sensor with a crop factor of 1.5x, while the sd Quattro H has an Sigma Foveon X3 APS-H 51-megapixel (35mm equivalent) image sensor with a crop factor of 1.3x.

Both use Sigma's SA-mount lenses and sport the same magnesium-alloy body design with a Y-shaped base. Apparently, this was intended to allow users' fingers to rest below the grip. But the shorter grip still provides a great grasp.

Button layout is logical and well thought out. I like the power switch on the lens mount of the body, as it is where your left hand rests. How come no one thought of this before? Overall, the handling of the camera is great.



PHOTO: SIGMA

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

$1,588, available next month

Back in 2013, Sigma stunned the photography world with an 18-35mm APS-C lens with a constant big aperture of f/1.8. Now, it has launched the world's first telephoto zoom lens with a constant f/1.8 aperture for APS-C DSLR cameras.

Previously, telephoto zoom lenses had a constant aperture of only f/2.8 at most.

With a 35mm equivalent of 75-150mm due to the APS-C image sensor's 1.5x crop factor, the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens would be a great addition to the lens arsenal of event, sports or wedding photographers. The big aperture would be welcome, as they often work under low-light conditions.

The lens' build is sturdy, with a premium feel to it. For a lens with such a big aperture, it feels quite lightweight at only 1.49kg.

I tried the lens with a Sigma SD1 DSLR camera and found the autofocus to be really fast when the aperture is set at f/1.8. The show hall was not particularly well lit, but it was able to lock onto a focus almost instantly throughout its zoom range. Images looked really sharp on the display of the SD1.



PHOTO: SONY

Sony a6300

Local pricing to be confirmed, available this month

Successor to the Sony a6000, the a6300 is the flagship model of Sony's APS-C mirrorless camera series.

The new camera boasts a 24.2-megapixel APS-C image sensor and Bionz X image processor, and can shoot 4K video in the Super 35mm format.

It has a new 4D Focus system that is said to be able to lock onto a focus in as fast as 0.05 of a second. In addition, it has 425 phase-detection autofocusing (AF) points and shoots up to 11 frames per second. A new high-density tracking AF technology is supposed to significantly improve subject detection and tracking performance.

The a6300 looks and handles almost like the a6000. However, its AF is much faster than its predecessor's. Using a Sony 16-70mm f/4.0 lens, the camera achieved focus lock under the bright artificial lighting of the Sony booth almost instantaneously wherever I pointed it. The AF tracking was also quite impressive. It could track the moving toy train at the booth while maintaining a fast shooting speed.



PHOTO: NIKON

Nikon DL18-50

Local pricing to be confirmed, available in June

I was actually drawn to the Nikon booth because it sported a "DL" logo that looks uncannily like the previous logo of ST Digital. But I digress.

The logo refers to Nikon's three new DL series models that debuted at the show - the DL18-50, DL24-85 and DL24-500. They represent a new line of compact prosumer cameras with a 1-inch, 20.8-megapixel image sensor and come with different zoom lenses.

As their names imply, the DL18-50 is equipped with an 18-50mm f/1.8-2.8 lens while the DL24-85 adopts a fast 24-85mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, and the DL24-500 is the bulky ultra-zoom model with 24-500mm f/2.8-5.6 lens.

I found myself liking the DL18-50 the most, as it is compact and has a wider 18mm focal length.

Looks-wise, it reminds me of the Panasonic LX100. That is a good thing, as its button layout and handling are great. On the DL18-50, there is a rear wheel dial to adjust shutter speed and a front aperture ring to change aperture in manual mode. It has a tiltable 3-inch touchscreen display that can be flipped 180 degrees for selfie-taking. In addition, there is a hotshoe to mount an optical electronic viewfinder.



PHOTO: PENTAX

Pentax K-1

Local pricing to be confirmed, available next month

Pentax has finally launched a full-frame DSLR with the K-1 for loyal Pentaxians, who can finally make the step up with their old K-mount lenses.

The K-1 is equipped with a 36.4-megapixel full-frame image sensor and offers crop mode to the APS-C size for some older K-mount lenses. Pentax said testing of some old lenses with the K-1 is still in progress.

But the K-1's build certainly needs no further improvement. It is superb and affords users a rock-solid grip of the camera.

Button layout is really thoughtful. Most high-end DSLR cameras have a front and rear command dial, but the K-1 has an extra Multi Function dial with markings like ISO and Wi-Fi, and another command dial on its top right. These two dials give you quick access to change ISO, Wi-Fi and other functions.

I had a brief hands-on with the K-1 using a variety of Pentax lens, including the Pentax DFA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6.

The autofocusing with this lens was fast enough for me to capture a speeding hawk in the sky.



PHOTO: CANON

Canon EOS 80D

Local pricing and availability to be confirmed

Initially, I thought the Canon EOS 80D was just an incremental upgrade of the EOS 70D.

The 80D has all the usual improvements, such as new 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS image sensor, Digic 6 image processor and 45-point autofocusing (AF) system.

It comes with the new EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM kit lens, which is compatible with the new Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1. And this is where things get interesting.

The PZ-E1 is an attachment to the lens for movie shooting. It allows users to control the zoom style and speed of the lens. You can change between manual and power zoom and toggle between slow and fast zoom.

I tried the 80D without the PZ-E1 first. I found the AF speed to be fast and accurate.

But when I tried it with the PZ-E1, it suddenly became a videographer's camera. Activate the power zoom and set it to slow and the PZ-E1 allows you to slowly zoom into a subject from a wide angle during video recording.

Plus, the AF during video recording is fast and accurate - probably the fastest I have seen on any Canon EOS DSLR camera.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2016, with the headline 'Highlights of the show'. Print Edition | Subscribe