PASINI REPORTS: SNEAK PEEK 2008
We Sneak a Peek at Some Trade Show TreatsBy MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
LAS VEGAS -- Green with Envy, Big Purple, Appletini and the old standard Dirty Martini. Down at the hotel bar that's what they're talking about as we sit down to elaborate on our three hours navigating folding tables at the Las Vegas Convention Center during this year's Sneak Peek. Coffee at our side, in fact.
But it's not as if we need to get any more excited. As we compiled our gallery of Sneak Peek shots (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS08/MRP/gal-sneakpeek/), a veritable sneak peek at Sneak Peek, our coffee got cold. The stuff we saw was hot. Here's a sampling.
Our first stop was with one of our two video crews at the FotoNation table (http://www.fotonation.com). FotoNation is the firmware packed into two of three digital cameras (including Pentax and Samsung), according to FotoNation VP of Marketing Eric Zarakov, that handles red-eye, face detection, lens correction and other imaging issues.
At Sneak Peek, the company brought along two of its mannequins from the factory. They both have realistic skin tones, but the more glamorous one also provides guaranteed red eye. His more wired cousin Frankie can actually frown, smile, raise his eyebrows, blink and train himself on your face to emulate your expressions. Which can be rather unnerving.
Why all that? The company found Frankie useful in developing its SmileCheck software which can recognize up to 10 faces in a composition and wait for any or all of them to smile.
With a smile on our face, we slipped away to the PicMe (http://www.picme.raizlabs.com) table where Greg Raiz gave us a demo of his PicMe photo sharing service and software.
On your Windows machine (and soon your Mac, he promised), you can browse your image collection in receding stacks of images organized by folder. This makes a nice way to scroll through everything without taking the trouble to organize it any more than putting your images in folders.
But PicMe goes further in letting you share those stacks (or individual images) with anyone whose email address you know. You create a list of Friends and Family on their server and simply drag the images or stacks you want to share to the name in the list on the left hand navigation pane.
But you can also use PicMe Photo Sharing to preview and transfer images from your camera, transfer them to a photo frame and, with its plug-in architecture, transfer them to Flickr, Facebook and Picassa accounts. All with drag-and-drop simplicity.
And yes, you can add captions to the images, which are saved in the Exif header's IPTC section.
By this time, we were thirsting for a little hardware and Delkin Devices (http://www.delkin.com) delivered with several interesting products we could hold in our hands.
The first to catch our eye was their ImageRouter, a $249 powered USB hub with four CompactFlash slots. Kathleen Finlayson explained that you can pop four cards in it and in manual mode it will pop them up on your desktop as four removable devices. The included Windows software will actually let you transfer images from them in one batch, simultaneously, at about 20-MB a second.
But it's a hub, so you can daisy chain another to it, making eight simultaneous copies at just 17-MB second.
The company's Dual Universal Battery Charger also caught our eye. It uses different plates to mount various battery formats to either side of the charger. Each side is an independent charging circuit. So you can charge a lithium cell on one side and, at the same time, four AAs on the other.
It's both 110 and 220, so you just need a plug adapter to use it anywhere in the world.
The last product we drooled over was Delkin's LumiPrint illuminated photo frame. This is not an LCD frame, folks, but a backlit frame on which you slip an image printed on a translucent sheet. Just tell your inkjet to print on matte media and it will lay down the right amount of ink for the semi-transparent paper.
The unit runs on either four AAs or from an AC adapter. The AAs, at full brightness, provide about 10 hours of display time. At half power, they deliver between 35 and 40 hours, Kathleen said.
If you're going to get into hardware, you might as well spend some time with Leica's Christian Erhardt. The company has just set a new direction with its flagship M8 digital rangefinder.
"There won't be an M9 or an M10," Christian teased us. Instead, M8 owners will be able to upgrade their M8s as new technology is made available. The first two upgrade offerings, he said, will be a quieter shutter and a Saphire LCD cover that won't scratch. But future upgrades could even include new sensors.
If you as an M8 owner are interested in one of the upgrades, Leica will let you know when to send your camera back to the factory in Germany and in three or four weeks, you'll get your updated M8 back. Same serial number, new machine. And an extension of the warranty for another two years.
It's an interesting approach to the fast pace of product design, no doubt inspired by the personal relationship Leica owners have to their cameras.
The company was also showing off its 28mm f2.0 lens and 75mm f2.0 lens with a floating element for improved close focus (2.5 feet), sharpness and color.
Geotate (http://www.geotate.com) showed two implementations of its geotagging system. The Yuma is its embedded system, which is a very small chip design that can be built into even an ultra-compact digicam. The Hopi is an accessory that mounts on a dSLR's hot shoe. It includes a rechargeable battery (which only needs recharging once a year) and a USB connection to transfer data it collects from GPS satellites to your computer.
Both systems are a bit different from their competition in that they defer GPS data processing, according to Johan Peeters, VP of business development and product marketing. Only the radio frequency data is recorded at the time of capture and stored in a sidecar-like file for later processing on the computer.
That processing not only decodes the GPS data but it incorporates it into the Exif header of the images themselves.
It's an interesting approach to what has been a power-intensive feature. The company has licensed it to two manufacturers already and the dSLR accessory has a life of its own.
Another intriguing offering was the unique guarantee made by Tribeca Labs for its Swiss Picture Bank (http://www.swisspicturebank.com). Upload an image to the Swiss Picture Bank and the company guarantees its preservation for 30 years at data centers operated by Swisscom IT Services or it will pay 30 times your money back.
Photos uploaded to a Swiss Picture Bank account are duplicated, encrypted and secured on redundant data centers throughout Switzerland. The not-for-profit Picture Guaranteee Foundation ensures the long-term continuity of your images, independently of the Swiss Picture Bank.
Your JPEG photos can be preserved for three cents each for 30 years or six cents for 99 years. You can access your archive from any Internet connection at any time. The Swiss Picture Bank's servers are housed in buildings built to withstand the cold war and powered by energy supplies that are 98 percent carbon free (two-thirds hydro-electric and one-third nuclear), according to Markus Schneider of Tribeca Labs.
We got a closer look at the new HP 13x19 printer we first saw at Macworld Expo. What, we asked, distinguishes it from the B9180?
Several features have been jettisoned including Ethernet (it's USB 2.0), software RIPs, the ability to handle thick and stiff media (although it does handle specialty media like canvas). There's also no LCD display and no 16-bit color support. All that reduces the cost $150.
Not a bad deal.
We took a quick look at some monoblock lights from LumaHawk (http://www.lumahawk.com) that seemed particularly well made and not very expensive.
They come in two flights, a lower capacity line and a higher one. And they come in two configurations. As just the heads and as kits of two with stands and umbrellas.
Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) announced a new implementation of its U Point technology featured in Nikon's Capture NX and several Nik Software Photoshop plug-ins. The new Viveza plug-in provides color and light controls.
To make adjustments to an image, users simply place U Point powered Color Control Points directly on colors or objects in an image (such as sky, skin, grass, etc.) then adjust easy-to-use sliders for brightness, contrast, color and more. Viveza automatically selects objects and creates masks based on where the user places a Color Control Point.
The buzz at the Peek was about Firefly (http://www.nrdfirefly.com), a new approach to sensor cleaning. No wet swabs, no compressed air, no static brushes. Instead, Firefly uses a Giotto Rocket air blower bulb (which, it found, never emits any debris as it ages, unlike competing blowers) and ionizing technology powered by a single nine-volt battery to direct a burst of anti-static air onto the sensor cover.
When the dirt and dust particles lose their electrostatic charge, the theory goes, they simply fall off the sensor.
It uses a $20 replaceable air filter so it doesn't shoot anything into the camera and lists for $199.95 itself. But it can be taken on airplanes and comes apart in two pieces for more convenient packing.
Charged particles aren't the only debris that can take up residence on your sensor, so we wonder just how effective this expensive device would be in actual use. It's no help with lubricants that splatter on the sensor cover, of course. But it is an interesting approach, one that is apparently being developed for at least one dSLR manufacturer, we were told.
We managed to make it to the bar before the last call. "Is that a digital camera?" the bartender asked us. "Sure, it's the law now," we explained. He confided he was an old black-and-white guy. Used to develop his own film and print his own pictures. "They had more emotion," he said, reflecting on the difficulty of even finding film these days.
Just then Kodak Marketing Manager Jerry Magee came over to see what we found interesting. The bartender, we told him. He can't find Kodak film any more. Hey, Jerry told him, we just came out with a new Tri-X. Made the guy's day.
On that note, we'll conclude our first report, promising to illustrate it when there's a break in the action.