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The World's Oddest Digital Camera?

In our coverage of PMA 2004 last month we described the then unnamed digital rangefinder on display in Epson's booth as "oddest item on display at PMA" - a digital camera complete with a film winder!

Designed and built as a joint project with Cosina, Epson officially launched the R-D1 a week later at Photo Expo in Tokyo. Details are sketchy (there is nothing about this camera on Epson's U.S. Web site, and there is no English language information on the Japanese site. 

What we do know is it's a 6.1 megapixel digital rangefinder aimed at experienced photographers. Bucking the tide of "auto everything" digital zoom cameras, the R-D1 takes Leica L and M mount lenses (with some exceptions) with a 1.5x cropping factor. Oddly the sensor seems to be a bit off center (see image at right). Metering and white balance are TTL and the camera supports ISO settings of 200, 400, 800 and 1600 in either color or black & white modes. 

The 1x magnification viewfinder frames are set with a dial on the camera top to 28, 35 or 50 mm. Camera controls are a mix of retro dials and dial indicators mixed with the buttons and a folding LCD screen that you'd expect to see on a digital. 

The R-D1 takes SD memory cards up to 1GB. Images are captured in JPEG (3008◊2000 & 2240◊1488) or Epson Raw (3008◊2000) formats. A Photoshop plug-in is provided and direct printing is supported (Exif 2.21,  DCF 2.0, DPOF 1.1 and PIM II).

Shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/2,000th and bulb are available from the R-D1's vertical focal plane shutter. Exposure compensation of -2EV - +2EV in 1/3 stop increments is available via the top dial. Flash sync is 1/125 and both standard hot shoe and PC terminal are provided.

It appears that the "film winder" actually serves a purpose with this camera. Apparently (and we're going from some rough Japanese translations here) the winder cocks the shutter when you're shooting in manual mode. 

Given the camera's die-cast aluminum body it should have the feel of a classic rangefinder. But it's not a slave to it's rangefinder roots. Within the rangefinder style it has some interesting features. 

No word yet on price or if the camera will be available in the U.S. We hope to have more information from Epson for the next issue.

Kodak Offers Image Chip Upgrade for 14n Owners

Kodak has become the first digital camera manufacturer to offer an upgrade of the imaging chip in one of their professional digital cameras.

The upgrade brings the extended ISO range and performance of Kodak's newest DCS Pro SLR/n camera to the DCS Pro 14n (ISO 6-1600 & improved IR filtering). For customers looking for higher ISO performance in their Pro 14n. , the cost of the upgrade is an attractive alternative to a new camera. 

The imager upgrade includes: the imager assembly, installation labor, camera cleaning, new firmware, a CD of the newest version of Kodak Professional DCS Photo Desk software and return shipping. The whole process takes 5 business days to complete and the new firmware will add some additional menus to your 14n's LCD.  The Imager Upgrade will work with either 256 MB or 512 MB of memory installed in your DCS Pro 14n camera.

Kodak hasn't announced a price for the upgrade, indicating that 14n owners should contact the nearest Kodak service center for pricing - meaning there will be some variation in pricing at different locations. The upgrade is not covered under Kodak's extended warranty as it is an upgrade rather than a repair. For additional details go to the Kodak 14n Upgrade Web page by clicking here.

The GIMP version 2.0 Released

Click for: The GIMP Hits 2.0The folks at GNU have announced the release of  The GIMP version 2.0. For those of you not in the know, The GIMP is a freely distributable program for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program.

This release is the result of a three year development cycle by a group of volunteers and enthusiasts who have made this the most professional release of the GIMP ever and the first stable release that is officially supported not only on Unix-based operating systems, but also on Microsoft Windows and Macintosh OS X. 

GIMP offers many of the functions found in Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro. The difference is GIMP can be downloaded for free. This open source concept is well known in the Linux/Unix community but is new to many Windows and Mac users. 

To find out more about GIMP or to download it and try it out for free go to the GIMP website at http://www.gimp.org.

Pentax Drops Prices on *ist D Digital SLR

Pentax has reduced the price of the *ist D digital SLR and is offering a $200 cash rebate on the combined purchase of the *ist D digital SLR body and DA 16-45mm digital lens (click here for details). 

Pentax is also extending existing rebate on both the *ist D and other Pentax cameras including their Optio and IQZoom models.

See www.pentaxusa.com/rebates for complete details.

Pentax Announces *ist D Remote Assistant Software

Pentax announced it will distribute the Pentax Remote Assistant camera control software to users of the PENTAX *ist D digital SLR camera via the Internet. The software can be downloaded free of charge from the PENTAX Web site beginning on March 18, 2004, for Windows users and begining in mid April for Macintosh users.

The Pentax Remote Assistant is designed to expand the capabilities of the Pentax *ist D when the camera is connected via USB cable to a personal computer running the software. 

Advanced functions include:

  • Remote shutter release and interval shooting from the computer. (The interval shooting function is available only in combination with a computer).
  • Direct uploading and filing of captured images onto the computerís hard disk drive, without having to store them on the cameraís memory card.
  • Setting and adjustment of basic and auxiliary functions, including user-selectable custom functions, on the computer.

Invasion of the Megapixel Camera Phones

Whether you like them or hate them camera phone sales are exploding around the world. Even if you think they're toys, the market is worth watching for some of its innovative photo sharing ideas - which will eventually find their way into the cameras and devices used by "real photographers". 

Nokia debuted its first megapixel cameraphone, the Nokia 7610. The camera can print to a Bluetooth compatible printer or can use the embedded Kodak Pictures application on the phone to upload pictures to a virtual photo album on the web and shared online with others or ordered as prints via an online service. 

The 7610 phone offers a 65,000 color screen for viewing still images and video captured by the integrated camera and watching real-time video streaming using the built-in RealOne mobile player. The 1152-by-864 pixel camera features a "high-quality" lens, 4x digital zoom, and a self-timer and according to Nokia "allows users to capture images in low-light conditions".

Other features include MMS, e-mail, and MP3/AAC music player, Internet browser, 72MB of expandable memory, USB, Bluetooth connectivity and support for Java technology.

The tri-band model is planned to be available during the second quarter of 2004 in two variants, GSM 900/1800/1900 and GSM 850/1800/1900. It is expected to retail for approximately Euro 500. Look for the phone in U.S. markets soon afterward.

Siemens Information and Communication Mobile debuted its 1.3 megapixel integrated cell phone / video camera. The triband S65 offers a full suite of business software, a 65,000 color display and 32MB of memory. 

The S65's integrated camera has a four-step digital zoom and records at 15 frames per second. It has a 132-by-176 pixel TFT display. In other Siemens news, the company launched the C65, a mobile phone with an integrated CIF camera, a 65,536 color high resolution display, MMS and a number of personalization features. The handset has a 130-by-130 pixel screen, as well as Java, WAP and GPRS functionality. The C65 has an attachable red-eye reduction flash, and the cameraphone comes bundled with the photo application 'Photopet' - a virtual pet on your mobile phone, which is fed photos to be kept alive (weird - ed.). 

The phone will be available in Europe and Asia Pacific from June 2004, in North America and Latin America from August 2004.

dotPhoto Addresses Digital Camera Aspect Ration differences. 

dotPhoto announced the "4xD" print size, designed specifically for digital camera users, so digital photos can be printed as is, without cropping out part of the photo or reducing it and adding borders. dotPhoto's 4xD Format print size addresses the mismatch between digital cameras using a 4:3 aspect ratio and their prints, which are processed using 35mm's 3:2 aspect ratio. 

With dotPhoto's 4xD Format, the digital camera's image is now made on 4-by-5.33-inch paper without cropping. For users who still prefer to receive their prints in the 4-by-6-inch size, dotPhoto offers the option to have the photo automatically cropped or the user may choose the no-crop option with white borders to preserve the image's original aspect ratio.

Kodak dropped from Dow Jones Index

Dow Jones & Co. has changed the components of its widely known Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), dropping mainstays Eastman Kodak and International Paper and AT&T to make room for American International Group Inc., Pfizer  and Verizon Communications. The changes will be effective with the opening of trading on April 8, 2004. These changes are the first in the 107-year-old stock index since Nov. 1, 1999, when four stocks out of 30 were replaced.

"We believe the transformation occurring at Kodak is representative of broader changes occurring in the economy as more and more industries adapt to digital technology," said Kodak spokesperson Gerard Meuchner.

"It's not our place to comment on the composition of the Dow. "And, as we said in January, our strategies are working. Kodak has strengthened its position in commercial printing through the acquisition of Kodak Versamark as well as NexPress and Heidelberg Digital, extended its lead in medical imaging through the acquisition of PracticeWorks and other investments, and gained share in the market for consumer digital cameras as the EasyShare system enjoyed the No. 1 position during the U.S. holiday selling season, rising to No. 2 for all of 2003."

"None of these changes was triggered by an event such as an imminent merger, which was the case in the past three instances of changes dating back to the early 1990s," said Paul E. Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. By tradition, the Journal's top news editor oversees the makeup of "The Dow," which Charles H. Dow created as a 12-stock index in May 1896.   "Rather, they recognize trends within the U.S. stock market, including the continued growth of the financial and health care sectors and the diminishing relative weight of basic materials stocks," he said.

John Prestbo, editor of Dow Jones Indexes, said all 30 stocks were reviewed in the course of arriving at the decision to replace three. "There are no pre-determined criteria for a stock to be added or deleted, though we intend that all components be established U.S. companies that are leaders in their industries," he said. For the sake of continuity, composition changes are rare by intention, Prestbo said. 

The changes won't cause any disruption in the level of the index. The divisor used to calculate The Dow from its components' prices on their respective home markets will be changed prior to the opening on April 8. This procedure prevents any distortion in The Dow's reflection of the U.S. stock market.

This can't be considered good news by Kodak's CEO Dan Carp who's roadmap for Kodak's future  has criticized by both the media and stockholders.  

Nikon Names New President and CEO

Nikon has appointed Toshiyuki Masai president and CEO of the company. Mr. Masai has been with Nikon for almost 25 years overseeing photo and instrument business activities in over 40 countries. He has a diversified background having  held top management positions in multiple Nikon subsidiaries in a variety of markets and product divisions. 

Most recently, Masai has been based in Tokyo, Japan, as general manager of Corporate Communications.

Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album 5.0 Beta Available for Download.

Jasc announced the public beta version of Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album 5. 

Photo Album 5 has a completely redesigned interface geared toward the digital camera user's workflow with more options for viewing and organizing photos. Users can view by file tree, favorite folders, calendar view, or keywords. 

Photo Album gives users the ability to switch quickly and easily between views. The public beta of Paint Shop Photo Album 5 is available for download from the Jasc Web site.

Creo's Leaf Valeo Goes Wireless

Click for: Creo Leaf Valeo Goes WirelessCreo announced that their digital camera back system - the Leaf Valeo - is now wireless. This next generation Leaf Valeo is being introduced with a wireless display on two models: the Leaf Valeo 22Wi and the new Leaf Valeo 17Wi, with resolutions of 22 and 17 million pixels respectively. 

The new Leaf Valeo Wi family uses Bluetooth to accomplish two-way communication between the camera and the Leaf DP-67 (based on an HP iPAQ). 

Special offers are available from Creo for the purchase of the Leaf Valeo 22Wi and Leaf Valeo 17Wi systems.

Ikelite Introduces D70 Underwater Housing

Ikelite Underwater Systems has announced a clear underwater housing for the Nikon D70 capable of operating at depths to 200 feet. 

This camera, like the Canon Digital Rebel fits nicely in Ikelite's new smaller form factor housing which allows the use of all of the D70's controls and ports and the use of most wide-angle and zoom lenses. Ikelite says the housing's size and weight provide neutral buoyancy for better underwater camera handling.

MSRP is $1,200 and the housing will be available starting in May. For more photos and information on the housing click here.

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