SATURDAY AT PHOTOKINA
Mopping Up the Aisles
By MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
COLOGNE, Germany -- While the show runs on until Sunday, today is our last report because we've run out of the nifty blue Imaging Resource shirts we wear around the hall. But we gave our last shirt a real workout today as we ran through the exhibit halls one last time looking for curiosities of one type or another.
And we found a few, too. Let's run through them.
"Air, water and heat are the three basic elements in old Greek culture, which form the universe," according to Olympus (and it should know, although it might rephrase that a bit, say "ancient" of "old"). Olympus was waxing poetic because it has devised a new "construction technology" that builds electronic products out of natural products like wood.
It's an environmentally friendly approach because wood is a renewable resource and the wood Olympus harvests is actually "from parts of trees that cannot be used for any other purpose."
It's a four-step process, which starts by trimming out the wood panels on a 3D cutting machine based on Olympus technology used for forming aspherical lenses. Step two uses high pressure, heat and water to compress the wood. With higher density it becomes stronger and more durable. The next step is to again treat the form with heat to get the special tone and surface quality, and to glaze the surface. Finally holes are punched for the buttons, lenses, microphones and displays.
The tiny model we saw (merely a prototype and not in production) relied on a metal skeleton to hold the electronics together. But it was a very attractive product.
We asked the fraulein showing it what the reaction had been. People love it, she said. It isn't just that it's made out of wood, but that each one is unique. We offered to put her picture on the Web if she would "lose it" in our camera bag, but she didn't realize we weren't kidding. It really is pretty.
Environmental issues in the industry have been a big topic since a European commission decreed that electronic products using lead-containing solder could no longer be sold here. These clever autofocusing, optically stabilized and just plain ordinary photo lenses all have soldered circuits in them. And leaded solder is preferred because it is flexible. Lead-free solder is brittle and brittle is bad for electrical connections.
We can't name the particular international ambassador who explained all this to us, but he pointed out the commission's decision wasn't particularly concerned with the consequences, just the safety issue. And no appeal was possible. He expected the situation would resolve itself in another year to year and a half, as companies bring to market new lenses using lead-free solder.
So if you're having trouble finding your photo gear in Europe, you know why.
Tamron (http://www.tamron.com) has stretched its new zoom from a wide 18mm to 250mm, a new record with a ratio of 13.9 times. The best you can get otherwise is 11.1 times with an 18-200mm lens. Designed specifically for APS-C sized sensors, the f3.5-6.3 aspherical macro lens is surprisingly lightweight and compact. And it's a macro, focusing as close as 18 inches.
We got our hands on it and it is indeed lightweight. At full telephoto it extends quite a bit, as you might imagine, but not quite as far out as Tamron's 200-500mm zoom.
Here's a list of its main features:
- 13.9x zoom covering the 35mm equivalent of 28mm to 388mm
- Optical design provides compactness and high power
- Minimum focusing distance of 17.7" (0.45m) throughout the entire zoom range for a 1:3.5 macro capability
- Optical design dedicated for digital SLR photography by optimizing the angle of incidence of light rays reaching the image sensor
- Outstanding resolution
- Internal surface coating to reduce ghosting and flare
- Ultra high zoom power, yet lightweight and compact design thanks to new mechanical devices
- Zoom lock prevents unwanted barrel extension
- Flower-shaped lens hood standard
- New sophisticated external design
What? Don't like compact? And need more power than a mere 200mm? OK, Carl Zeiss has just what you need.
It's the Apo Sonnar T* 4/1700, world's largest telephoto lens. Built for a wildlife photographer (apparently with a fear of the outdoors), the "4/1700" indicates its f4 speed and 1700mm focal length with 15 optical elements in 13 groups.
Because it tips the scales at 564 lbs. Carl Zeiss developed a new focusing mechanism, including servo controlled aiming and focusing systems like the one's used in large telescopes and astronomical instruments.
The customer who ordered this wonder attached it to a Hasselblad 203FE 6x6cm medium format camera. Anyone care to figure out the equivalent focal length for an APS-C sized sensor?
We didn't get our hands on it, but we did admire it from below. It would look great mounted on the hood of a '57 Chevy.
Senior Editor Shawn Barnett has been tortured all week after seeing the Leica M8 digital rangefinder. The focus is so smooth, the viewfinder so bright, the design so clean, he isn't sure how to hide the $4,000 price tag from his tiny heirs.
We took it upon ourselves to relieve him of this curse by pointing out that it saves its Raw files in Adobe's Digital Negative Format. Only. Shawn's not a fan of DNG and that ruined the whole thing for him. He was last seen hanging around the Voigtlander booth.
We did that at considerable personal expense, because long ago we vowed to buy the first high-end digital camera that used DNG as its Raw format. We're currently flipping through our past promises to see if we specifically mentioned it had to be a dSLR or not and if we meant buy "new" or "eventually."
Buy NiMH rechargeable batteries, we always say. Skip the one-time use ones advertised for photo gear. They cost a fortune and don't outperform the rechargeables.
But in one of those typical press encampment confusions, our nightly recharge was interrupted. We didn't discover it until we were four kilometers away on the show floor and our LCD went blank. Low batteries. And we'd only taken six shots.
Fortunately, Panasonic is so proud of their new and improved Oxyride batteries, they were giving them out on the show floor. The company was gracious enough to give us enough cells to repower our digicam. And they fit well, not oversized like some rechargeables.
And they're still ticking a day and a half later. Pretty impressive in a pinch. We usually rely on very expensive lithiums. But we've got no complaints about these. To put them in perspective, we asked how they compared to lithiums but nobody knew. The comparison they did make was to NiMH rechargeables. These 1.5 volt cells are comparable, delivering 1.5 volts longer than Alkaline cells and dropping off suddenly.
The new Oxyride is made with nickel oxyhydroxide and manganese dioxide with improved zinc and a new anode additive. It delivers a shorter startup time and brighter LCD, the company said.
We don't recommend Oxyrides because you can't recharge them. But Panasonic does make a NiMH rechargeable. The Recharge Accu is available in 1600, 2100 and 2600 mAh versions. One of the problems with NiMH rechargeables is that they lose power when not in use. It's best to leave them in a trickle charger until you need them. But Panasonic makes a 1.2 volt, 2100 mAh NiMH rechargeable that retains 80 percent of its charge after six months to one year of storage. It's called the Infinium and sounds like just the ticket for digicam users who take pictures only on special occasions.
We've got just enough rubber sole left on our shoes for a little tour of the town tomorrow before flying out early Monday morning. We'd like to post some outtakes of the show, but if you missed our small Web galleries during the week, here's a little souvenir for you:
- The Angels of Cologne: http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA06mrp/angels/
- The Kars of Koln: http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA06mrp/kars/
- The Dom in Darkness: http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PKNA06mrp/dom/