New Products at Photo Plus Expo 2003
|I seem to remember that prior
to 9-11 Photo Plus Expo was crammed into every inch of two exhibit halls and part of a
third at New York's Jacob Javits convention center. This year the show
filled one hall and it seemed most exhibitors had smaller booths than they've
had in years past. Despite some exciting new products this years Photo
Plus Expo simply lacked the "buzz" of years past.
Notably absent were Minolta and Sigma - both of whom had just made major product announcements - a bevy of new digital cameras for Minolta, and the introduction of Sigma's Foveon based 10 megapixel SD10. The event promoter announced a record crowd. But from the perspective of the show floor it seemed the crowd was actually smaller than years past.
One scribe suggested PhotoPlus Expo has become less relevant for manufacturers who now concentrate their efforts on PMA and Photokina. Was it that or simply a sign of the times, ever tightening marketing budgets and a questionable economy?
On the ferry leaving New York I found myself pondering the coming year and the future of our industry as much as I was pondering new products. Kodak is moving away from film, digital prices are dropping, and megapixel rates are rising. Increasingly caught in the middle are retailers who are struggling with a reduction in film processing revenues. They are struggling to compete against increasing camera sales by "big box" stores like Walmart and online camera discounters. That means both a reduction in sales and a reduction in the margins they make on those sales.
I feel comfortable saying that our industry will look very different three years from now as all this shakes out. But I find my crystal ball is getting increasingly murky...
Adobe was showing their new version of Photoshop, Photoshop CS, which will be more tightly integrated with Adobe's other applications and to the Web. To this end Flash SWF support and improved HTML export features have been added.
In addition to the integration features the new version will extend 16 bit support to most tools and features, direct import for popular RAW camera formats, an improved file browser, a new filter gallery, new crop and straighten tools, simultaneous histogram viewing and more.
The talk in the Canon booth was all about the new 6.3 megapixel EOS Digital Rebel. The Digital Rebel is the first "affordable" digital SLR - depending on the health of your wallet. It is at least the first digital SLR to break the $1,000 barrier.
The Digital Rebel uses Canon's DIGIC chip technology, the same sensor found in the EOS 10D digital. It also uses the 10D's 7-point AF sensor allowing the Rebel to analyze where a subject is--even when it is off-center--and bring it into focus. It can also analyze subject movement and automatically select locking or tracking AF modes as appropriate. The Digital Rebel works with existing EOS Rebel lenses, and several new lenses have been designed specifically for the Digital Rebel (including the EF 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens shipping only in a bundle with a new Digital Rebel).
The big news in the Epson booth was the new Stylus Pro 4000 capable of creating 17" wide prints using Epson's long lived 7-color Ultrachrome inks.
Sharing the spotlight were the new Stylus Photo R300 & R300M designed for digital camera owners and the Stylus Photo R800 archival photo printer.
The R300 & R300M allow direct printing from memory cards and can print directly onto CDs and DVDs as well as onto paper. The 300M includes a 2.5 inch color preview monitor.
The R800 allows you to print with Epson's Ultrachrome inks in an 8.5 x 11 inch format.
Jasc Paint Shop Pro
Jasc was demonstrating Paint Shop Pro version 8. With the addition of innovative new tools and its availability as part of a Paint Shop Pro Power Suite Photo Edition ($149) prospective PhotoShop buyers should be taking a hard look.
Paint Shop Pro now offers more bang for the buck than PhotoShop Elements - especially if you're putting your images on the Web. The Power suite includes: Paint Shop Pro 8, Photo Album v4 which automates most digital camera functions for novices, Animation Shop for creating animated GIFs for the Web, and Paint Shop Xtras 1 & 2 which include clip art, masks, picture frames, and patterns.
From a workflow standpoint we've found Paint Shop Pro to be faster for many production tasks than PhotoShop. We use both products for image editing, but Paint Shop is our choice for the production tasks to get the magazine out each month. Its worth a look no matter your budget.
Kodak was talking up its new ProShots Studio Software Suite v6.2. The software is designed to improve workflow for professional photographers shooting digital or scanning from film. But the real news is the series of announcements that have been flowing out of Kodak over the last few weeks. See Major News Out of Kodak in the current issue.
Kodak has announced a change in emphasis from film to digital products. As part of this new direction they've announced a discontinuation of all slide projector lines, and a cooperative venture with Lucky Film in China to produce film for the Asian market. This has led to speculation that Kodak will eventually move all film production to China where production costs are significantly lower. It has also led to nervous investors who are raising serious questions about the move with Kodak's management.
On the retail front Kodak continues a hard push of its Perfect Touch Processing that brings out details in over or underexposed images utilizing Applied Science Fiction's technology (Kodak purchased Applied Science Fiction).
Hasselblad USA, Inc.
Hasselblad is showing off its new XPan II panoramic camera, the successor to the XPan. The XPan II adds a range of new features to make the system easier to use and better suited for professional photography. Camera settings, including ISO, are now made through a simple programming function on a rear panel LCD. Other improvements include an improved viewfinder LCD display, improved camera LCD display, multiple exposure support, increased B-time, self-timer, flash sync, IR film compatibility, shutter release cord and a new lens shade.
Ilford has announced the addition of three new media products to the Studio System. Studio Matt Canvas, Textured Fine Art Paper and Heavyweight Matt Fine Art provide more output options for the studio photographer. The Studio system is a complete digital output system consisting of a full range of media in sheets and rolls, an Epson UltraChrome -color pigment ink set, a 24- or 44-inch Epson Stylus Pro Printer, and Studio Ripstar.
The recent inclusion of the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display monitor calibration device has made the Studio System even easier to use and maintain.
Ilford has also released new 24-, 36- and 44-inch rolls to the Ilford Galerie professional inkjet media. The new roll formats are available in the two Galerie Smooth RC surfaces. Galerie Smooth wide rolls were designed specifically with the Epson Stylus PRO 7600 and 9600 printers in mind. A perfect combination with Epson UltraChrome inks, Galerie Smooth papers offer superb image quality and permanence.
The Leaf Valeo 22, is a 22-megapixel digital camera back for studio and "portable" photography. Powered by a new CCD that provides a 4056x5356 resolution from a 48 x 36mm sensor. The new Leaf back produces a 126 MB 16 bit image Leaf HDR raw file, which is stored on a removable 5 GB or 10 GB Leaf Digital Magazine. The full frame sensor provides complete lens coverage on 6 x 4.5 lenses.
An HP iPAQ Pocket PC functions as a removable image viewer. Used in the
studio, the Valeo 22 features live video viewing and electronic shutter
control. Focus and composition can be performed with the aid of a large
computer monitor. Untethered the camera shoots a burst eight frames before
filling its 512 MB internal buffer.
Lee Filters' new Soft Focus glass filter adds a medium amount of softness to portraits without losing focus. A useful filter for reducing both sharpness and contrast.
Lowepro's latest bag for the growing digital imaging market is an
all-in-one camera / laptop backpack called the CompuTrekker AW.
Mamiya is calling their new Leaf Mamiya ProDigital 22 "the world's first fully-integrated digital medium-format camera." With its large 22 megapixel sensor, the new ProDigital 22 captures a 126 MB image in 16-bit color.
The system is comprised of a Mamiya 645D body and the Leaf Valeo 22 digital camera back and accepts any of the 10 Mamiya 645 AF lenses with no conversion factor, and works with the Leaf Portable Power Solution. The Leaf Digital Magazine offers up to 10GB of storage space for more than 200 images in 16-bit uncompressed Leaf HDR RAW format. FireWire connections allow speedy iamge transfer with write speeds 3X faster than a CF or MicroDrive.
The Leaf DP-67 works as a "digital proof" offering a 6x7 cm image preview on a tethered Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC, which can be detached from the camera. The camera works with the full line of Mamiya 645 AF accessories, including 120/220 film backs - allowing you to shoot film as well as digital.
Mamiya also announced they have been selected as distributors of Monaco's extensive line of digital imaging and color management solutions.
The new D2H was the center of attention in Nikon's booth. The camera is targeted to action-sports photographers and photojournalists who need the fast digital image capture and high quality images. The 4.1-megapixel D2H shoots 8 frames per second up to 40 frames (JPEG or RAW), has a new autofocus and exposure system that exploits the increased number of available focus points and can talk directly to a WiFi network with a new adaptor from Nikon.
In conjunction with the D2H Nikon was showing its new wireless TTL speedlight, the SB-800, which uses wireless technology to control a master light, plus three groups of additional speedlights. Each of the three groups can contain any number of speedlights allowing photographers to quickly set up a mini studio using nothing but lightweight portable flash heads.
Nikon was also showing two new DX (digital only) lenses: the new AF DX 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Fisheye-Nikkor offers an impressive 180-degree angle of view and focuses down to 5.5 inches for extreme close-up shots. Even more impressive is the ability to open that fisheye image up to a 180 degree rectilinear view using Nikon software.
The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED provides a 3.2x zoom range with a constant f/2.8 across the zoom and will likely become a standard lens for many Nikon digital shooters. The fast focusing, large aperture lens offers a field of view equivalent to 25.5-82.5mm in 35mm format.
Nikon was also showing the new AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-E, just the kind of fast constant aperture tele-VR lens that many pros have been asking for.
Olympus America, Inc.
The E1 is the new flagship of the Olympus digital lineup. It's an all
new all digital design with no components carried over from the world of
film cameras (though we're not sure why the use of proven components would
be a bad thing).
A complete line of Zuiko lenses was announced with the 5 megapixel E-1 providing coverage equivalent to 22mm to 400mm in 35mm format. A 1.4x teleconverter and dedicated flash are also part of the lineup.
The recently introduced Olympus C-5000 Zoom digital camera sports a 5- megapixel sensor and an Olympus 3x Optical Zoom lens equivalent to a 38-114mm f/2.8-8.0 in 35mm), and is the successor to the company's successful C-4000 Zoom. The new camera is 20 percent smaller than the C-4000, and sports a flash-shoe for additional strobes. The programmable Custom Button allows users to assign one button on the back of the camera for Auto Exposure Lock, variable drive settings, different ISO ratings and remote-control operation. The Custom Button allows users to have immediate access to these specialized functions, and the C-5000 Zoom's Noise Reduction mode enables noise-free photos during long exposures.
The new Phase One H25 is a 22-megapixel CCD-based camera back designed for the high-end, high-volume commercial photographer, allowing photographers to shoot anything from fashion to still life with the same equipment. Phase One was also showing its new Capture One DSLR software version 1.3, which provides high-end conversion of RAW formats from a variety of professional camera manufacturers.
Polaroid's Type 80 Series medium-format film includes both black-and-white and color pack films for proofing. The films can be used with any medium-format professional camera back on the market.