I have just returned from a couple of days at the 4th edition of the Photography Show held at Birmingham’s NEC.

All the big names in the business were present with huge stands from Canon (celebrating 30 years of the EOS range), Nikon, FujiFilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Pentax, notable absentees were Leica and Samyang.

Large sales stands from CameraWorld, London Camera Exchange and Calumet (about to be merged with Wex) looked to be doing brisk business although the show prices were not as keen as previous years and in most cases did not match the best deals available from online retailers. Some better deals did emerge on the final day of the show however.

I was especially keen to get my hands on the FujiFilm GFX 50S (£6199) and Hasselblad X1D-50C (£7788) 50 megapixel medium format digital cameras for the first time and I was able to test both cameras with my own memory cards. The GFX was immediately familiar with a similar layout of the buttons and menus to the X-T2, one huge problem for me was the position of the playback button up on top of the rear screen, difficult to access with my thumb when hand holding the camera and would be even harder on a tripod. Also it is not a handsome camera with the rear tilting screen looking akin to an add-on digital back on a film camera. It does handle superbly though with a large grip and just felt right with the 3 lenses I was able to try, the GF 63mm F2.8 R WR, GF 32-64mm F4 R LM WR and GF 120MM f4 Macro R LM OIS WR. The X1D on the other hand is a beautiful piece of crafted engineering, think Rolex or Aston Martin. It looks fantastic and once the minimalist controls and touchscreen display are mastered it is an easy camera to use. The camera I tried did have some quirks though, especially the white balance that always seemed to err towards a very blue tungsten type setting, the NEC has always been a nightmare to shoot in with it’s mixed lighting though. I was only able to use the 45mm f3.5 XCD lens, and have processed the images in Adobe Lightroom rather than Hasselblad’s own Phocus software, but it does seem to exhibit a fair degree of chromatic aberration – mostly green fringing, Phocus claims to correct this automatically. The X1D is not a fast camera to use either with a myriad of clicks from the leaf shutter in the lens before the exposure is made followed by what seems like a lifetime of viewfinder blackout, I did not however feel that the electronic viewfinder was that ‘laggy’ as reported elsewhere.
Both cameras make amazing images with that almost 3D ‘medium format look’ from the Sony sourced 43.8mm x 32.9mm CMOS sensor. As a long exposure landscape shooter I love that the native shutter speeds of both cameras extend to a full 60 minutes, the new firmware update for my FujiFilm X-Pro 2 features a maximum (minimum?!) shutter speed of 15 minutes so this really is the end of the road for the cable release (the X1D does not have any kind of cable release socket in any case).
Which one would I buy? As much as I love the ethos, style and simple gorgeousness of the Hasselblad X1D I think I would be reticent to take it out in case it picked up any marks plus I feel it is a few firmware updates away from being the finished article yet. On the other hand the FujiFilm GFX feels like an X-T2 on steroids and a camera system I would be more than happy to own and use right now…..how much do kidneys go for these days?

I managed to get to a few talks at the show, Charlie Waite was excellent in the Behind the Lens theatre and also appeared later at Hasselblad and Fotospeed. It was interesting to see images that influenced Charlie, some over 100 years old, from true masters of the art including Edward Weston, Bill Brandt, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson etc. that had striking vision, clarity and depth making me think that technical advances have simply made photography easier rather than better. Andy Rouse was his normal ebullient self with a turbocharged ‘Red Bull-esque’ delivery on the Canon Live Stage to accompany his fantastic wildlife images (mostly tigers this time) as well as a selection of his recent air to air aviation work and even a couple of steam trains. On the FujiFilm stand Ben Cherry extolled the virtues of the X-T2 as a multimedia tool documenting the migration of Bewick’s Swans from Northern Russia to the UK while Paul Sanders maintained that it was ‘not about the camera’ as he described his meditative state of mind while making a series of wonderful toned monochrome ultra-long exposure landscapes including some from Venice made with the GFX.

Overall an excellent 2 days at the show and it was great to see the latest tech as well as catch up with old colleagues and acquaintances from my time working at Contax.

Here is a selection of images from The Photography Show 2017 (click the thumbnails for larger images);