Photofair @ Bangkok: The Super Highlights

Photofair @ Bangkok 2013
The Super Highlights

I couldn't sign off my coverage of the Photofair on a sad note so I've reserved what I consider to be, as Crufts would put it, Best in Show.
I have carefully thought out and argued the points over and over in my head and come to a conclusion. So I now deliver, to you, the Top Three items that I have fished out from the many hundreds of treasures of the event.
First off we have the...

Billingham Hadley Pro (limited edition)

Photographers around the world have heard or are lucky enough to own a Billingham bag. Made in Britain it has been a broadsword of camera bags.
The Hadley Pro series is based on the immensely popular Hadley Original. The Hadley Pro comes equipped with extra features; a carrying handle, a weatherproof zipped back pocket and the facility to accept AVEA pouches.
The inserts are removable so one day it can cater for your camera and one lens and on the next day can be arranged to fill an abundance of your gear.
The Hadley Pro will also accommodate a small laptop computer. I am currently using Acer Aspire, it's thin and not too bulky and it fits right in.
The rear flap can provide a safe haven for A4 sized documents or even photography magazines or equipment manuals.
The weight of your gear is not carried through canvas holes that could wear out, rather they are attached to a fibreglass stiffener and the weight is supported through that.

A pair of Billingham Hardley Pro bags. One limited edition the other a VERY limited edition.
 

Without a doubt the blue Billingham appears in the Super Highlights. I have been reserving a spot in my equipment for one of their amazing bags. It is an investment and by word of mouth alone, it's an investment that one will not regret.
One grumble other photographers and of course my other half has about this bag is of course the price. A normal Billingham bag will set you back roughly £200($300) but this being a limited edition, here at the Photofair it was an eye watering £330($450).
It is a very limited edition and subjectively I think this looks amazing. With its vibrant colours it very definitely suites my style.
Would I pay £330 for it though? No, but there's no harm in asking for it for Christmas.

Zeiss 24mm f/2 Distagon T* ZA SSM Lens

A simple bokeh test with the Zeiss.

I have tested quite a few lenses from a range of manufacturers on different cameras. I thought I'd try and name just one that stood out. The One that I just have to have. The One that gives quality without the brain blowing price tag. The One that can cater for all photographers and not just the pros.
Damn, what a tough decision. I have tried some whopping lenses from Nikon, some dazzling collection of glass at Canon, Sigma could have been top of my list, but I think I'll hand my prize to the Carl Zeiss 24mm f/2 Distagon T* ZA SSM lens.

Okay, another product related to Sony I hear you think. But just hear me out.
This Zeiss has a built-in SuperSonic Wave Motor and is employed for the autofocus, it promising fast and silent focusing, there is a side lever and that is used for enabling Direct Manual-Focus override. The test I put it through, following the multitude of people around the arena provided me with spot on results.
I tested out the Bokeh effect and was pleased with the result, nice round snowballs of joyful goo.

I have used this lens on my a77 and was impressed but I think this lens showed better result with the full frame a99. I think using this lens to its full capability is definitely the right option.
The lens handles vignetting and distortion very well and is sharp to boot.

I love the little pouch that comes with  the lens also. The inside of the pouch is lined with a soft fluffy fabric so it is impossible to scratch or dirty anything. I was using a bag from a Crown Royal bottle once, it works but this is better.

The lens at the show was priced at approximately £850 and came with an extra 5% off. In Thailand you can claim an extra 7% off which takes away the VAT. So an extra 12% off this lens.
Come on admit it, Nikon and Canon users would love to have these on their camera wouldn't they?!

Nikon Df

Front view of awesome-ness.

The Nikon Df is the brand new old camera. Nikon have designed a camera that looks, behaves and feels like a classic film camera. With the appearence of the Olympus Om-D Em1, there has become an almost small trend of designing the retro camera. I have tested the OM-D EM1 and I was super pleased by it. I then had the retro fever and went over to try the Df.
There was a bit of a crowd around, so it gave me the opportunity to pontificate and decide what the pros and cons of the Olympus were. I had a feeling one of these cameras would make it to my Super Highlights.
I spotted an opening an quickly grabbed the Nikon. Firstly, the inspection.

Mmmm nice.
Styling is pure gold. I picked up the full black edition but there is a chrome metal and black version. There is definitely not going to be a pink version of this, thank god. If you have held the Nikon Fe you will recognise the similarity in it with the Df. Alloy top with solid metal dials, actually there is metal just about everywhere. It's definitely built to withstand anything, probably even a force majeure. I am in love with all the little things about it too, for instance the real cable release socket, this feels so good that it reminds me of the days when I first started photography.
I am even impressed by the made in Japan on top of the camera.

Rear View. Nikon Df

Top View. Lots of metal dials. Excellently laid out. LCD display maybe a tad small for some.

I can't really comment fully on the image quality as there was only one lens I could try out. The Nikon Df works flawlessly on the majority of Nikon lenses since the late 1970's which is awesome if you've got a stash-full of lenses and what to experience to vintage-ness. The images produced seeing from the back of the camera are typically Nikon. I was impressed with the bracketing mode also.
The camera comes equipped with the D4's sensor. Seeing the image quality and the impressive high ISO capabilities of the D4 it could only be a good thing. Of course you're missing out on the megapixel count if you were hoping to find the D800 sensor in there but... do you really need 36.3 megapixels?

Without a doubt the Nikon Df has got heaps of people drooling over it. Me included. Olympus has made a camera which puts the photography experience to a different era, now Nikon has joined in. As a purist, anyone who is thinking of getting this and asks my opinion of it I would just say "get a Leica". If Leica was at the event I might have demoted the Df. But I give great credit to Nikon for making this though. Many photographers here do also. I wonder how long it will be before Canon have a go.
I do actually appreciate, in a odd way, that there is no capability of making video on this thing. It's an homage camera, the old Fe didn't have video so neither should this one. That's the way I feel about that. But, debating with myself, the old cameras didn't have 1/100ths of the stuff we have now. This is where I draw an enigma. What is Nikon's aim? Is it just a homage, a one off just to build nostalgia or is Nikon treating this as a step forward. If it's the latter, then the Nikon Df is certainly caught between nostalgic experience and modern day appreciation. It doesn't sit in a solid camp of anything. Who'll buy this? Is it old? Is it new?

If there were any flaws it would only be that it's really really expensive and the fact that there are far too many button on this thing. I would have personally married this camera if it had less buttons. In my mind it takes the essence away from a vintage camera experience, where all you had were shutter and aperture and a little needle telling you if its composed or not. I would have appreciated it more if there were no rear view screen. Stopping the photographer viewing pictures until he gets home, just like film cameras did.
If you make a technical mistake then its your own fault. What I find with the Df, is I get the feeling the camera will try and correct your fault. It feels like the camera is assisting me somehow. Holding my hand. The settings in the camera work brilliantly but it takes away the creativity and skill that the photographer needed to possess "back in the day".

But would I buy it? ... Yes.

That is it from my Super Highlights. This list has been very difficult for me to put together. There were so many amazing things at the show. All different kinds of media, cameras, accessories, lenses... I wish I could make a list of the Top 10 but I feel I'll be wrestling with an entirely different species of "thought monster", as making a Top 3 was tough enough.
I hope you enjoyed my coverage of the Photofair in Bangkok 2013. If you have any questions or comments just leave it below.