PMA 2001 Show
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Epson's logo. Click here to visit the Epson web site! Epson announces new technology, industry support!
By Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Monday, February 12, 2001 - 11:02 EST)

At a well-attended press event Epson announces new PRINT Image Matching technology, along with industry support from six Japanese digicam manufacturers...

Epson America Inc. last night unveiled its latest printer technology to the press at the BET Soundstage in Downtown Disney, just outside Orlando. Officially announced this morning PRINT Image Matching, Epson claims, will offer a wider color space, particularly in the blues and greens, as well as the possibility of better color rendition overall.

The technology starts in the firmware of a digital camera supporting PRINT Image Matching. Here, the camera encodes information into the EXIF header of a JPEG file such as color space, gamma, contrast, sharpness, brightness, shadow point, highlight point, chroma and color balance. As we understand it from speaking to Epson reps, color information captured by the camera but outside of the range able to be stored in the limited bit-depth of the JPEG file is also stored as well...

Once on the PC, the information in the EXIF headers is decoded to recreate the original color gamut, and the image is then spooled to the printer. Currently this stage will be done by an image layout/printing program provided by Epson, however the company revealed that it is currently in discussions with software manufacturers to add PRINT Image Matching to the popular editing and printing applications.

Epson made the analogy that PRINT Image Matching technology is in some ways reminiscent of the well-known Dolby audio encoding technologies, in that if you're not using Dolby-compatible equipment at every step (recording, copying, playback, etc.) then you're not going to get the full results. The same applies to PRINT Image Matching - the camera, software and print drivers need to support the technology for it to do its work. For example, if your image is edited and resaved in a non-compliant program currently, then this resaved image likely will have lost the necessary EXIF headers and will no longer have the advantage of the technology. Epson expects this to change quickly as software companies sign on and issue updates to support their new standard.

Perhaps the most impressive thing we noted at the event was that Epson has already gotten quite a few noteable camera manufacturers on board, fulfilling the first step - the PRINT Image Matching-enabled camera. Casio Computer Co. Ltd., Konica Corp., Kyocera Corp., Minolta Co. Ltd., Olympus Optical Co. Ltd., Ricoh Co. Ltd., Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. have all signed on and will be producing compatible cameras - in fact, some of those already announced at the show will now be unveiled as ready for the technology!

Another point that we found interesting from our discussions with Epson is that the company is not only licensing the technology to camera and software manufacturers, but is also looking to license it to other manufacturers of print devices such as photo printers and 'film lab'-type equipment that might be used by the local photo lab or an online photofinisher to provide your prints. Also, they are considering the possibility of a logo campaign, that in the same way as for example the 'Intel Inside' or 'USB' logos on many computer products will let consumers know that a camera, software package or printer will support PRINT Image Matching.

The names signed on are impressive, and the results we've seen in the press kits distributed by Epson are equally so. Obviously we don't know how exactly these have been processed, and so we will be looking forward to testing this ourselves and seeing the results first-hand, but we can certainly say that both Epson and its partner digicam manufacturers were extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities.

Our own take is that anything which improves print quality without adding complication for the consumer is a good thing, and in this light PRINT Image Matching looks like it could shine. If Epson can do as good a job of signing on software and printer companies as they've done with digicam companies for their launch, there will likely be enough momentum to ensure a place for their technology. This would seem a good thing as it will allow the consumer who doesn't want to know how their camera works or how to tweak good results out of it to get better quality prints without needing to intervene...

Source: Yahoo Finance / BusinessWire

Original Source Press Release:

Epson Partners With Leading Camera Manufacturers to Introduce Print Image Matching, a Breakthrough in Consumer Digital Photography

New Technology Linking Digital Cameras and Photo Printers to Deliver Unsurpassed Image Quality and Ease of Use

ORLANDO, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 12, 2001-- Epson America Inc. today unveiled its revolutionary PRINT Image Matching technology that ensures digital cameras and printers work together perfectly to produce photographs that print truer-to-life than ever before.

Several leading digital camera manufacturers -- Casio Computer Co. Ltd., Konica Corp., Kyocera Corp., Minolta Co. Ltd., Olympus Optical Co. Ltd., Ricoh Co. Ltd., Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. -- have partnered with Epson to incorporate PRINT Image Matching technology in their upcoming digital camera models. Epson will include PRINT Image Matching in all future photo printers.

Until now, it has been challenging to get the most accurate prints on a consistent basis when printing the same digital camera image from different software programs. This has occurred because software programs set their own unique print commands. Furthermore, while digital cameras can capture images in a wider color space, printers haven't been able to access the data because the digital camera image files were optimized for the limited computer monitor color space. Now, PRINT Image Matching-compatible printers seamlessly utilize the precise print quality instructions and color space embedded in the digital camera file, resulting in a printed image that accurately reflects the image captured through the camera lens.

``PRINT Image Matching will undoubtedly revolutionize the consumer photographic market by making it more enticing for average households to use digital as an alternative to traditional film,'' said Keith Kratzberg, director of photo imaging, Epson. ``This technology makes it easier to get consistent digital photographic prints of incredible quality. Because the technology works by putting more control of the photographic process in the camera than ever before, PRINT Image Matching creates new opportunities for both digital camera developers and photographers.''

With a growing number of people printing out their digital photos from their home printers, there is a greater demand for an easy way to optimize digital camera prints. PRINT Image Matching technology allows digital camera customers to easily and consistently produce the best quality prints. It provides a new level of control for the photographer, from the moment an image is captured to the final print. PRINT Image Matching-enabled digital cameras can control the printing conditions to ensure that the printers accurately deliver the image captured.

``PRINT Image Matching technology provides a printing solution between digital cameras and printers, providing customers with optimum image output results,'' said Michelle Lampmann, market research analyst, InfoTrends Research Group, Boston. ``InfoTrends' digital camera user studies show that image quality and print quality are the two most important digital camera features. With the photographers intentions being captured correctly in the printed image, Epson's technology will contribute to meeting customers' expectations for quality digital photo printing.''

About PRINT Image Matching

With PRINT Image Matching technology, the digital camera manufacturer can set critical image specific parameters for printing, such as gamma level, color space, contrast, sharpness, brightness, saturation, shadow point, highlight point and color balance, to ensure optimum results for each digital camera model. The camera saves this ideal print information in each image data file. PRINT Image Matching-compatible printers then use this information when printing the image to ensure that they most accurately reproduce the image created by the camera.

Utilizing a PRINT Image Matching-enabled digital camera, the photographer simply points and shoots in automatic mode or selects an image type, like portrait, landscape, macro, scenery or sport, and snaps a picture. The print commands for photos taken in macro mode may emphasize sharpness and clarity, for example, while those taken in portrait mode could highlight soft focusing and subtle flesh tones. Additionally, the gamma setting data will reflect the original brightness of the image, while the wider color space setting of the digital camera will provide access to previously unavailable color data resulting in truer colors overall. The photographer's original intentions are automatically reflected in the printed image.

PRINT Image Matching will deliver new levels of image consistency and produce unsurpassed photo quality.

Availability

PRINT Image Matching-enabled digital cameras and EPSON Stylus Photo printers will be available by Spring 2001.

About Epson

Epson offers an extensive array of award-winning image capture and image output products for the consumer, business and graphic arts markets. The company is also a leading supplier of value-added point-of-sale (POS) solutions for the retail market. Founded in 1975, Epson America Inc. is the U.S. affiliate of Japan-based Seiko Epson Corp., a global manufacturer and supplier of high-quality technology products that meet customer demands for increased functionality, compactness, systems integration and energy efficiency. Epson America Inc. has headquarters in Long Beach, Calif.

Note: Epson and EPSON Stylus are registered trademarks of Seiko Epson Corp. Third party brand or product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.

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