by Gary Stanley & Jim McGee
PMA 2004! Just your typical imaging products show, non-stop appointments, losing your voice, and the need of a new pair of feet that don't hurt so much. By the third day I looked at Jim and asked "Tell me again, exactly why are we doing this?"
While our bodies may have some trouble with the pace and size of PMA (Photo Marketing Association), our 'Kid in the Candy Store' brains have no trouble getting excited over all the new photo-related products and gadgets that we get to play with for a few short days.
Jim seems to be able to sort through much of the technical side of a show like this, and is more able to focus on how it relates to the industry as a whole and to Vivid Light Photography specifically. I, on the other hand, tend to look for new products that my own personal photography as well as my photo tour and seminar business. A show like this keeps me in touch with photo trends, so that I can share good general information with you as readers, the people that I lecture to, and to those who join me on my tours.
There were more than 29,000 photo/digital owners, executives, and managers from the U.S., Canada, and 100 other nations present, and more than 700 suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, service-support, and OEM developers exhibiting their products. Knowing that there is no way to cover it all we did the only sensible thing: divide and conquer! While we both attended press conferences and meetings and dinners, whenever possible, we split up to cover more ground. Here are some of the more interesting products we found at this year's show.
EOS 1D Mark II: Canon continues to take charge in the pro digital market with the announcement of the 8.2 megapixel Mark II capable of shooting at 8.5 frames per second, which should be more than enough speed to keep sports photographers, photojournalists and wildlife photographers very happy.
EOS ELAN 7N/7NE: Showing Canon's continued commitment to film, this all-new film camera incorporates many new features that Canon owners have asked for, including an improved 7-point, wide-area focusing system, a new backlit display, Canon's Whisper Drive technology, and enhanced E-TTL II autoflash, all in a very rugged package. I was very impressed with Canon's new i9900 desktop photo printer that I think any photo enthusiast or working photographer will appreciate as an excellent printer for making their own professional quality borderless photo prints. The 13 x 19-inch inkjet printer features new red and green ink cartridges for rich, accurate color rendition, industry leading 4800 x 2400 dpi maximum color resolution, microscopic 2 picoliter ink droplets, and USB 2.0 hi-speed and Firewire interfaces. The i9900 desktop photo printer will be available in May for a suggested list price $499.99.
FinePix S3 Pro: Most of the big players in the digital camera market had either new cameras or upgrades of similar models. Fuji, for example, had their new FinePix S3 Pro digital SLR that featured several improvements over the S2. The Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro camera is highlighted by an advanced new Super CCD SR sensor technology, the S3 Pro is built on a new generation professional grade body and felt more comfortable and user friendly when working the controls. We hope to have one available for testing soon.
FinePix S20 Pro: This digital camera provides professional features in a truly compact body. It has 6.2 megapixel (S-pixel: 3.1 million, R-pixel: 3.1 million) Super CCD SR sensor technology and 6X zoom lens.
Kodak has seen its share of controversy over the past few months. So at their PMA press conference their executives took great pains to assure everyone that the ship was in good hands and that Kodak was in a strong position. Specifically that they had a strong IP (intellectual property) portfolio and had been investing in digital research for many years (see Kodak sues Sony on the News Page for what might be the opening shot in Kodak's leveraging that portfolio).
Kodak took pains to point out that they are #1 in online processing with their Ofoto division (11 million members), #1 in U.S. photo paper sales, #1 in image kiosk sales, #1 in photo lab printers, and #1 in consumer film sales. They were also #1 in point & shoot digital camera sales during this past Christmas season.
Kodak is indeed a great company with a great history. Hopefully this is a first necessary step toward assuring photographers that this is indeed still the case.
Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n Digital Camera: At 14 megapixels, the Kodak Professional DCS Pro SLR/n Digital Camera is not only the industry's highest resolution digital SLR, it provides the industry's widest ISO range in a digital SLR. The DCS Pro SLR/n offers a full-frame 35 mm-size CMOS sensor for extremely high-resolution images (4,536 x 3,024 pixels) with no focal length magnification effect.
Equal in size to 35 mm film, the DCS Pro SLR/n Camera's focal length magnification is 1:1 so lenses work as they did with film. To me, while Nikon and Canon seem to have the biggest grip on the pro market, because Kodak's DCS Pro SLR/n has free firmware and software upgrades, you at least have confidence in knowing your system software is upgradeable so as to be able to take advantage of the latest advancements.
They also talked about new services to support camera phones. Kodak has teamed with Nikia, Cingular, AT&T Wireless & Verizon in the new Kodak Mobil Service. This is a new service allowing BlueTooth enabled phones to easily print from a new generation of Kodak Picture Maker kiosks.
Speaking of kiosks, Kodak was showing a technology originally developed by the folks at Applied Science Fiction (now part of Kodak) that allows you to drop a roll of film into the Kiosk and in just minutes you have four inch prints and scans of your images on CD. The film processing units can be added to existing Picture Maker kiosks already in stores, so expect to see this technology deployed to the field pretty quickly. These kiosks are aimed at consumers and the negatives are destroyed in the process.
They even had film! Kodak talked about the improved color saturation in its UltraColor films and the new 800 speed Portra film. Kodak again pledged their continuing support for film.
DigiLux 2. An extremely well made (of course) CCD sensor 5.0 megapixel compact camera. A fast 7 - 22.5 mm Leica DC Vario Summicron f/2 - f/2.4 aspherical zoom lens (equivalent to a 28 - 90 mm zoom lens on a 35 mm camera). Its traditional design readily identifies it as a Leica. Besides the electronic viewfinder, I was impressed by the brightness and clarity of the 2.5 inch image display and the unique pop-up flash that had a bounce position. The image quality is certainly there as the DigiLux2 won the DIMA imaging award for cameras in the $1300 - $1799 category.
We hope to be shooting one soon, but despite its quality and the cache of the Leica name I wonder how it will do against the array of 8.0 megapixel digital zoom cameras I saw at the show that will hit the street at roughly half the price.
Digital M-Series. Leica confirmed that a Digital M-Series is indeed in the works
Maxxum 7 Digital: Perhaps the most exciting news of the show came from Minolta, or should I say Konica Minolta as they are now known. They announced the development of a new digital single-lens reflex camera, the Maxxum 7 Digital.
It will accept Minolta A mount lenses and uses the very unique CCD shift-type Anti-Shake function as found in the DiMAGE A1 body. If you ever wished that all of your lenses had IS or VR stabilization, the problem is solved by putting the Anti-Shake system in the body not in the lens. The Maxxum 7 Digital should be available in the fall 2004.
Also intriguing was the fact that Konica Minolta said that some "yet to be announced" features would likely lure buyers away from competing brands.
Welcome back Minolta!
Minolta is keeping mum on whether they will introduce digital only lenses for this camera. But reading between the lines at the press conference and in our conversations with them I'd be surprised if they didn't.
The new DiMAGE A2 digital SLR: A compact camera with 8 megapixel interlace scan CCD, and an Anti-Shake function that enables the CCD to stabilize the image if the photographer's hands move when photographing, offering unrivaled stability at up to 3 shutter speeds slower than on cameras without any Anti-Shake function.
The DiMAGE A2 also features high-quality movie recording at 544 x 408 pixels with audio at 30 frames per second, a resolution that looks great when viewed on a TV screen.
Nikon D70: While this new 6.1 megapixel digital camera was announced prior to PMA, it was no less exciting. It's a very nice handling camera that, even considering the price of $999 or so, still had a solid, well-made feel with no signs of obvious manufacturing shortcuts. The LCD display was easy to read thanks to the larger menu text compared to the D100. It also features a built in remote commander for creative wireless fill flash techniques. It can shoot and capture both NEF (RAW) and compressed JPEG at the same time, and comes with the new Capture 4 software that has a unique Image Dust Off feature that maps out dust on the CCD sensor and removes the effect from the NEF images. For more on the D70, see our D70 First Look article.
Nikon CoolPix 8700: This is another compact pro caliber SLR that features an 8.0 effective megapixel CCD - producing a 23MB files for prints as large as 20" x 30". A lightweight magnesium alloy body - rugged, durable lightweight construction fits perfectly in your hands. It features a 35-280mm 8x optical zoom with Nikkor ED glass lens. Price $999
Nikon Coolwalker: A new 30GB portable storage album for off loading your images from your CF card. I was surprised to see Nikon offer a device like this as opposed to aftermarket manufacturers. It has a 2.5 inch color LCD, or you can use it to view images on your TV as well. This unit was very compact and will be priced competitively.
The big news for E-1 shooters is the new 150mm f2.0 Zuiko Digital lens (equivalent to 300mm in 35mm format). This is a big heavy piece of glass with a price that won't be for the faint of heart. Incorporating Super ED glass elements and a minimum focus distance of 1.2 meters it should find its way into the camera bags of many professionals shooting in the E-1 system.
On another note for professionals, Olympus announced its new Global Support Program (GPS). Olympus GPS will offer registered Olympus pros expedited repairs, toll free technical support, loaner equipment for testing and special assignments, and warranty service in any country.
DMC-LC1 digital camera: It won't take long to see the similarities between this camera and the Leica. A Lumix® 5 Megapixel Digital Camera with Leica DC Vario-Summicron lens (or all of the above). Why buy the Panasonic when you could buy the Leica? My guess, price and service, with Panasonic probably lower and quicker. If you are a diehard Leica loyalist, it won't matter.
was showing a new line of high resolution, portable digital camera backs for medium format systems. The P25 at 22 megapixels and the super-fast P20 at 16 megapixels.
Both allow you to work connected directly to a computer or untethered by writing images to an onboard memory card up to 1GB (CF II). Phase One’s new P-series is available for Mamiya 645 AFD, Hasselblad H/V and Contax 645 and will begin shipping in May.
The folks at Sigma were showing several new lenses. The 17-35mm f/2.8-4 EX DG Aspherical HSM zoom is available now and offers a lens with SLD glass and a hypersonic motor for super fast focusing.
The 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 EX OS APO is Sigma's first lens to utilize OS (Optical Stabilizer) technology; Sigma's answer to IS & VR. The 80-400mm is about the same size as the Nikon 80-400mm VR and is available for Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax, and SD mounts. The APO lens features SLD glass, rear focusing and is compatible with Sigma's 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.
The fast 24-60mm F2.8 EX DG is Sigma's is designed for use with digital cameras where it's coverage would be in the range of 35-90mm depending on the camera body.
Tamron was showing it's new Di (digitally integrated) wide angle zoom. Like digital only lenses from Nikon the Tamron Di lenses are designed for cameras that have APS sized image sensors. The 17-35mm f2.8-4 zoom will be available for a variety of digital lens mounts.
Tokina had a new line of add-on lenses for digital cameras in its booth. These Sakar lenses included 0.5x and 0.45x wide angle with macro adapters and a 2x telephoto.
Memory & Archival Storage
Sandisk announced their new 4.0GB compact flash cards that have a unique feature - they're switchable between FAT16 & FAT32. Older digital cameras that use the FAT16 file system to write to memory cards can't use cards larger than 2GB. The new card from Sandisk has a switch on the left side of the card that allows users to treat the card as a single 4.0GB card or to divide it into two separate 2.0GB volumes. That means that your D30 can now take a 4.0GB card!
Sandisk was also announcing the shipment of the first 1.0GB SD card.
SimpleTech was also showcasing new compact flash cards with super fast 10MB/sec write speeds up to 8.0 GB
Not to be outdone Lexar was showcasing their own 8.0GB 40X card capable of sustained write speeds of 6MB/sec. They were also showing new 80X cards capable of a blistering sustained write speed of 12MB/sec.
The 80X cards will be available in sizes from 256KB to 4MB.
On the SD front Lexar was also showing a 1.0GB SD card.
The folks at Print File were showing a line of new digital storage products aimed at offering archival storage solutions for CDs and DVDs.
Camera phones were a hot topic of discussion Today's phones use low res chips to capture images that are best printed as wallet sized or used on the Web. But a new generation of camera phones is on the horizon that will provide higher resolutions if not photo quality images. Because of size and cost restrictions camera phones aren't likely to compete for the hearts and minds of serious photographers. But in Asia and Europe sales of camera phones are already increasing dramatically. That means the industry will develop solutions that make it easy for users to get prints from their phones. These technologies, such as wireless Bluetooth, that would allow users to easily move images off their phones could then migrate back into digital cameras providing new ways to share images quickly and easily.
My best recommendation to you is: if you are interested in editing software whether it's JASC, ArcSoft, Photodex, Kodak or Adobe, go online, download a trial version, if available, and see for yourself if this is the software for you.
The Epson P-1000 Photo Viewer is a new portable photo viewing and storage device with a large 3.8 inch LCD panel and 10 GB of storage. It accepts all popular memory card formats. Has a USB drive for output to your computer, an external hard drive or an external CD-R/RW drive. You can even connect the P-1000 to a television or projector for presentations (NTSC or PAL). It even has a printer interface that supports PIM II and Exif 2.2.
List is $599 (list expect street prices to be lower) and it's available now.
If there was an award for oddest item on display at PMA it would have to be the unnamed digital rangefinder on display under glass in the Epson booth.
Built in cooperation with Cosina and looking an awful lot like a Bessa R (including a film winder?!?) the camera take Leica M lenses.
There is no real information on this camera yet but it is intriguing if rangefinders are your thing. This should have 'em talking in the rangefinder forums.
If you've been serious about photo quality printers these past few years it's been all about Epson (though Canon has it's devotees). But we were downright impressed with the new HP Designjet 130 13x19" printer. Tones and detail, especially in shadow areas were the equal of anything we've seen. It even calibrates itself using a densitometer so that an images printed at the beginning and end of an ink cartridge are identical. The dye ink has a 70 year life when used with HP papers (they're increasing the number of photo papers they produce). One feature we really like is the print heads are capped when the printer is not in use so clogged print heads, according to HP, simply don't happen. Look for the 130, and its smaller sibling the model 30, to ship in late spring.
Software for the Digital Darkroom
As exciting as all the digital hoopla is, it would all be useless without the software technology that allows us to sort through all those new digital images, the editing, organizing, creating, and then finally seeing those images in printed form or projected on a screen. Everyone will no doubt have his or her own particular way of working in the digital darkroom. Some will want every software option available, others will want to keep it as simple as possible.
Fortunately, PMA offered something for everybody. While most of us are already familiar with the newest features of Photoshop CS, I sat through demonstrations by Adobe, and picked out some great tips on working with CS. But the big news about CS was the expanded support for RAW files that allow you to read most RAW formats directly into CS now.
I saw simple workflow solutions from the folks at ACD systems with their ACDSee 6.0 PowerPack designed to help the photographer manage large volumes of images. New features included the ability to rate images, burn to a CD and quickly view and locate photos from different folders and categories with the Easy Select and Selective Browsing features.
The People at JASC demonstrated why they felt their Paint Shop Pro 8.0 software was a simpler less expensive solution for editing images when compared to Photoshop CS. Their newest features are worthy of an article all by themselves…or better yet, a real side-by-side comparison between Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop CS which we will be doing very soon here at Vivid Light Photography. But for now you can go to the JASC website for a complete list of features.
In the coming months we'll be trying out many of these new products so stay tuned!