PMA Spring '99 Highlights
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The '99 PMA Annual Convention and Trade Show is now underway, and news will be flooding in over the next few days as the 886 exhibitors show new products and technologies, many of them for the first time! We'll be updating this page with all the latest news from PMA as we get it, plus our own unique insights from the Imaging Resource's Dave Etchells, who is at the show tracking down the stories you'll want to see. As in our news, deals and tips pages, the most recent stories will go at the top of this page, and if you don't have time to read all the PMA news, you'll find the biggest stories summarised for you on the News page.


February 23, 1999:

- A belated PMA wrap-up from Dave!

Still in recovery mode from the sensory overload of PMA & Las Vegas, Dave dragged his tired body to the keyboard today to add a few wrap-up items to our PMA reporting. Here are Dave's final words (on PMA, that is!):
(Note, too, the addition of the formerly-missing shot of the readout display on the Nikon Digital SLR mockup, below.)

 

A day of scanners:

A lot of my final day at PMA was spent running around hooking up with companies whose products are already on the site, so there's less to report here. Various interesting scanner news though:

Canon's CanoScan FS2710 film scanner:
Long-time film-based imaging giant Canon continues to move into the digital realm, with great products in their just-now-shipping PowerShot Pro70 and A5 Zoom, and the earlier PowerShot A5. At the show, they were displaying two new scanners, one of interest to our personal-use readers, and one to those of you running service bureaus, photofinishing operations, or other high-volume applications. The first product is an aggressively-priced true 36-bit film scanner, capable of handling both 35mm and APS film formats. The FS-2710 scanner claims scan times as low as 13 seconds, and should be available in April. (Note that, in common with other scanner manufacturers, the "scan time" quoted is the time for the scan itself, not setup or data transfer to the host! - YMMV!) We didn't have time to play with it much, but it looked like a solid unit, and the software seemed pretty "friendly," on the basis of a 30-second examination. Oh- the price: We'd heard (and reported) earlier that the price would be about $1100, but the booth personnel told us to expect it to "street" at more like $800, a very aggressive price for a scanner with these capabilities.

Canon's "HyperPhoto" system:
This is a very interesting system for copy shops, photofinishing outlets, etc. The heart of the "HyperPhoto" system is an interesting new printing technology. The printer deposits Latex-based pigments on the glossy paper, which are then "developed" or "fixed" by heat! The raw paper with the pigment on it looks faded and washed out, but the rep demonstrated the heat-fixing effect by waving a cigarette lighter behind the page (don't try this at home ;-), upon which the colors leapt to life! As I understand it, the printer applies a glossy laminate on the photo as part of the output process, which both fixes the pigments, and provides surface protection. Canon claims the resulting prints are very resistant to fading from UV light (a common problem with inkjet output), and I can attest to the fact that they looked great! A complete HyperPhoto system with printer, computer, and both flatbed and film scanners will sell for $17,900.

The HyperPhoto scanner:
The film scanner attached to the HyperPhoto system will be of great interest to photofinishers: It handles full rolls (36 exposures) of 35mm film, and can produce 4-base scans in only 2 seconds per frame (!), and 16-base resolution in only 4 seconds! Unfortunately, no separate pricing is available on the HyperPhoto scanner, as it initially will only be available as part of a complete HyperPhoto system. (Although PictureVision will sell it to PhotoNet licensees under their own branding. Note though, that the PhotoNet arrangement involves a "click" charge for every scan that goes through the unit, a business model that many photofinishers have expressed displeasure with.) No word of when Canon might offer the HyperScan scanner independently, but as best as we could guess from the evasive booth rep, it could be as early as this summer.

The new HP PhotoSmart Scanner:
We got a look at the new PhotoSmart scanner from HP, the S20. Outwardly, it looks pretty much identical to the unit we reviewed previously. The big differences are inside and in the software. The new model sports 12-bit digitization, vs. the original's 10-bit capabilities, and interfaces via a USB port. We predict that the USB connection in particular will be a big boost to the scanner's popularity: While the SCSI card installation required by the previous PhotoSmart unit went smoothly for us, we heard from others for whom it did not. As long as you're running Windows '98, connection just doesn't get a lot simpler than USB! Other new features include a histogram-based exposure control (we *really* like histogram controls for scanning - see our review of the Minolta Dimage Scan Speed for an example and comments), and the ability to scan panorama-exposed film. HP has also added an (apparently very effective) "autofix" capability to the software, to handle poorly-exposed originals. All in all, a very impressive upgrade to what was already a good basic unit, at only the same price as the original PhotoSmart Scanner ($499 list).

Wrap-up
As we said at the outset, a digital orientation was clearly ascendant at this year's PMA, if not yet dominant. Buyers for retail chains apparently are fully on-board with the digital revolution, placing substantial orders on every front. New digital cameras are bringing ever-more "true camera" features at the high end, and the low end is beginning to offer truly usable cameras at affordable prices. (Witness the apparently soon-to-be-forthcoming Samsung unit reported on below, at only $199 for an 800 Kpixel camera!) At the very high end, Kodak's new 620 (which we didn't report on here, but hope to be able to review soon) brought a new level of image quality and control for pro photographers, albeit at a price, and Nikon's public announcement of their intentions with an all-Nikon digital SLR bodes well for dramatic price drops in that arena as well. (As does the apparently much-closer-to-release RD-3000 camera from Minolta.)

Thinking back on the show, the single word we find to characterize the profile of digital products is "inevitability." At past PMAs, digital products constituted an interesting side-show, but didn't even appear on the figurative radar of the conventional film-based world. We may be biased by our own position in the industry, but we felt at this PMA that the industry has begun a fundamental shift from "digital's interesting, but not serious" to "of course, we're doing digital."

This comment of course touches on the ongoing internet flame war regarding whether digital photography will ever "replace" film. For our part, we're hesitant to declare film dead, but do believe that digital imaging will become the dominant form over the next 10 years or so.

Ten years? - That's forever in "internet years!" Many predict the crossover happening sooner, but we respect the tremendous inertia of consumer behavior, and the enormous market force of the film-based photo industry. It's interesting to note that futurists routinely overestimate how quickly various over-the-horizon technologies will take hold, yet at the same time underestimate the magnitude of their eventual impact. Our prediction is that (all of the other ;-) pundits are committing this very error with digital photography: It will take a considerable length of time for digital to overtake conventional photography in absolute market dollars, but along the way, it will impact the way we use and relate to pictures in ways we currently can't even imagine. Hang on, it's going to be a wild ride!

- Dave

 



February 20, 1999:

- The PMA Day Two report is in!

PMA Day Two: The day of the Many Cameras

 Looking back over the day's photos and meeting notes, it seems my day on the show floor today was dominated entirely by new digicam models. We thought we had a "scoop" when we stumbled across Konica's 2 megapixel design on the show floor, only to discover later that Mike was there ahead of us, having already posted news of the unit on the web. We did get a picture of the svelte unit though, which is Konica's own design, and we're told will hit the market sometime in April (about the same time all the other 2 megapixel cameras seem to be coming down the pike).


 We also got a look at some previously unannounced units from Samsung, both of which could be ready to ship as soon as April. Samsung are taking the digital camera market very seriously, and are currently planning their entry strategy - and with this in mind they were only showing their upcoming cameras to key accounts for a reaction, rather than on the show floor itself. The Samsung Digimax 80 (on the left) is an 800K pixel unit, designed to be at the entry level and hence carry as low a price as possible. This has been achieved in part by the absence of an LCD screen, with the camera instead having only a traditional viewfinder, and an extremely low target price of $199. The Samsung Digimax 150 (on the right) is a 1.5 megapixel unit with a similarly aggressive target price of $399, and both cameras use SmartMedia for storage. These prices are however very speculative, as Samsung's plans have not yet been finalised.

 



Nikon SLR fact, speculation, and completely unconfirmed rumors...
We also sat down with Nikon, and got a "hands on" look at the new SLR that's been widely reported on recently. We can confirm some things, correct others, and speculate a little more intelligently on yet more, but the info Nikon was letting out (even under non-disclosure) was extremely vague. It appears that many of the detailed specifications of the unit aren't nailed-down yet, so Nikon is being very careful about what details they divulge. Nikon had a sample out on the floor, displayed with an F5 and F100 in a locked glass case, and the model we saw was a non-working prototype. We were told that this mock-up should be cosmetically pretty close to the final unit, and were allowed to take a number of pictures of it, which we share here. (These are pretty poor, given the lighting conditions we had to work with: Very glaring on-camera flash, or very dim room lighting, leading to blurry pictures. They should give some idea of what the unit looks like, and therefore what functions it might support.) We're comfortable sharing this info despite the NDA, given that the mockup displayed publicly appeared identical... Also, because Nikon was so tight-lipped about specifics, we're more free to pass along some juicy rumors we heard on the floor.

 This front view of the camera shows the strong family resemblance to the high-end Nikon conventional SLRs, to the point that its easy to see how people could get the impression that it's based on the F100 body, as has been widely reported. We can say though, that this is not true, the new SLR being a completely new body design. The family resemblance simply reflects the fact that Nikon's long experience has led them to certain successful solutions to various ergonomic challenges, which are now also being applied to this design as well.

The mockup's top is a good indication of some of the features that will be present in the forthcoming model, based on the information shown in the display readout. (Eg, wide exposure compensation in fine steps, multi-mode exposure, slow/rear-curtain flash sync, auto bracketing, etc.) Likewise, the control buttons to the left of center reveal spot, center-weighted, and matrix exposure modes, and a multi-contact hot shoe to support Nikon's family of sophisticated speedlights. (This is a slightly closer shot than our original, showing more detail of the display readout, but not including the hot shoe configuration.)


 The shot of the back is less revealing of specifics, other than autoexposure and autofocus locks. Finally, the detail shot of the camera's front shows an external PC-style flash contact, and the multipin remote familiar from the F5 and F100.


(Hopefully) Intelligent speculation: Readers have written in to ask whether the new SLR will have various specific features, such as color matrix metering, etc. Nikon deliberately avoided any mention of specific features, but the overall thrust was clear: This will be a no-excuses, nothing-left-out professional SLR that happens to be digital. Therefore, it's reasonable to expect that Nikon will apply all of their sophisticated technology that's present in their current high-end film camera designs. Our bet; When it comes to focus and exposure functionality, if it's on the F100 or F5, it'll very likely be on the new digital unit.

Totally unconfirmed rumor department: As a news organization, we're a little uncomfortable with promulgating wild rumors and speculation. We pass this one along though, as it seems fairly plausible: While we were ogling the model in the locked case out on the floor, a couple of guys came up wearing badges from a US government agency. One said the to the other "Well, my intel (intelligence information) says the following: They told us to expect a price around $5-6,000, and the numbers we heard were a LOT more than 2 megapixels." The individual went on to relate that the agency was pressing Nikon for a summer delivery, but Nikon was holding out for late summer for the first units. - (Nikon is officially quoting only "Autumn 99.") If this rumor is true, the price point would be extremely aggressive relative to other units on the market with similar capabilities, particularly if the comment about sensor size were also true.

OK, end of rumor, back to idle speculation... ;-) Current SLR-based digicams sell at hugely inflated prices relative to even the priciest professional film-based SLRs. Why is this? We think for two reasons: The development and manufacturing costs are high, because the manufacturers are taking existing designs and essentially hacking them around internally to accommodate the sensors and electronics, and to make the combination work together smoothly. Also, these high costs have to be amortized over a pretty small production volume, thanks to the high selling prices. (Kind of a chicken & egg vicious cycle, with high prices holding down the market size, which in turn holds up the prices.) With the new SLR, Nikon is clearly aiming at a universal SLR for a mass market, which means dramatically higher sales volumes to amortize the development costs over. Also, if they're able to pack in "a lot more than" two megapixels (as rumored above), this would contribute to a much longer product life-cycle, giving even a much larger production run to amortize costs over. Finally, starting with a "clean sheet of paper," Nikon engineers can hold down production costs by not needing to tear apart an existing model and rearrange its innards. This should all translate into a dramatic cost reduction, and could very realistically result in a selling price in the $5-6K range that the unnamed government source described above.

Reading our own news: The new HP scanner
We hadn't made it over to the HP pavilion yet, so the news of the new HP PhotoSmart scanner model was a bit of a surprise. (It was a little uncanny, having Mike knowing more about what was going on out on the show floor than I did, being here!) Just a brief note on this: This is a really significant product announcement, because the USB connection of the new unit overcomes a huge hurdle experienced by many with the prior design, that of needing to insert a card into your computer to get it to work. With a USB connection, you'll get nearly as fast data transfer as with the previous SCSI card, but with an order of magnitude less potential hassle in the initial connection process. We'll try to get a unit for eval, but if it's at all equal to the previous PhotoSmart scanner, this will be an excellent unit for home and amateur use, at an affordable price point.

The Toshiba PDR-M4.
We now have our own picture of Toshiba's new PDR-M4 digital camera, as seen on the PC Watch website in Japan, and can confirm something we've not seen mentioned as yet - the camera on show at PMA was a non-functional mockup, as Toshiba are not quite ready to show a working unit yet...


Rollei previews a new SLR digital camera
Rollei showed their new SLR digital camera, a 1.4 megapixel model, which they promoted as having better image quality due to the fact that the camera can save images without compression. The camera won't be out until late summer, and with a price tag of $2500 in the midst of the newly arriving 2 megapixel models, it will be interesting to see how it fits into the marketplace.


 Ricoh RDC-5000
We first mentioned Ricoh's new RDC-5000 digital camera a little over a week ago now, and Ricoh are showing the 2.3 megapixel unit for the first time (seen on the left) at PMA. Brief specifications are:
- 2.3 megapixel CCD
- Glass lens assembly (9 elements in 6 groups).
- 2.3x zoom equivalent to 38-86mm on a 35mm camera.
- 2.5x digital zoom
- Focus down to as little as 4 centimetres away
- 1792 x 1200 pixel resolution.
- 8MB of internal RAM allows up to 28 shots at 1 second intervals.
- SmartMedia storage (in sizes up to the new 32MB cards).


Day two of PMA certainly didn't have as many new products and press releases flying around, but this does leave a little more room for us to fill in some gaps and mistakes from previous coverage. One particularly interesting comment overheard during PMA is that writeable CD drives now have a larger install base than ZIP drives...

More on MetaFlash
We can also now correct our previous article about MetaCreations' MetaFlash technology (as used by Minolta). Unfortunately, the booth staff simply weren't very familiar with this new technology, and so on the first attempt we were somewhat misinformed. It actually takes 5 photos to form one 3-dimensional MetaFlash image, and the way the technology works is by using a "striped" flash, for want of a better description, which "paints" lines on the surface of the object being photographed. MetaCreations' software can then analyse the curves in these lines to determine the shape of the object, from which a wireframe is built. Photos of the object can then be analysed for the textures to overlay on this wireframe, providing you with a final, 3-dimensional image of the object itself. Simple, but unquestionably very clever!

Shipping Dates and Prices
On the subject of Minolta, we can also now give you a more accurate idea of pricing for the flash adaptor we highlighted yesterday for Minolta's expandable EX-1500 digicam. Booth staff have told us that this adapter should retail for approximately $89-$99. Sony advise that their DSC-F55 digital camera should be shipping in April for about $899, and Fuji have now provided us with estimated release dates for their trio of new digicams. The Fuji MX-600 should be shipping in March, the DX-10 should follow in April, with the MX-2700 the last to ship around May of this year.

A final note that will be of interest to many digicam owners is that Quest have apparently managed to push the capacity limits of NiMH batteries still further, as they will soon be releasing new 1500mAh AA-sized NiMH batteries, which from what we've heard are actually closer to providing 1600mAh. This is more than you'd likely get out of a NiCAD C-cell battery...

Today (February 20) is likely to be quite a bit slower, as we've now seen essentially all the new cameras. We're still planning to get by the Canon booth again to see their new high-speed film scanner, and see if it fits at all into our readers' price range, and visit HP to check out the new PhotoSmart Scanner. Other than that, the show will wind down a lot today, and we don't expect too much in the nature of new product releases. It has to be said however that while these new product releases are great news for consumers, they're not so good for the retailers. With so many new products coming out in April and May, the next month is likely to be a pretty slow one for sales whilst everybody holds off to buy that new 2-megapixel model... I'll have a wrap-up update on Sunday or Monday, as I get back into the office, hopefully bringing a bit more perspective to the show as a whole. -- Dave




February 19, 1999:

- Konica releases 2.11 megapixel digital camera!
Konica has announced the release of a new 2.11 megapixel digital camera, the Konica Q-M200 Digital Still Camera. The Q-M200 sports a maximum resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels, CompactFlash storage, a Hexanon 38mm equivalent lens, and an aluminum alloy case weighing only 9.5 ounces. It can autofocus down to 4 inches, shutter speeds 1/8th to 1/1000th of a second, built-in flash with red-eye reduction, digital 2x zoom (4x for playback only), 1.8-inch LCD, RS-232 and NTSC/PAL outputs and 3 AA alkaline batteries as the power source. A continuous shooting mode allows the camera to take four photos with one press of the shutter release, and the camera can also take black & white photos when in "Text mode". No pictures are available on Konica's website, however the excellent PC Watch website in Japan has five photos of the new camera in a report on PMA day one.

- New pictures of Toshiba PDR-M4 online!
The PC Watch website also has three new pictures of the Toshiba PDR-M4 digital camera online on the same page as mentioned in the previous item, as well as pictures of Nikon's unnamed professional SLR digital camera, and Kodak's DCS620 professional SLR digital camera.

- HP announces PhotoSmart S20 photo scanner!
HP has announced their new PhotoSmart S20 photo scanner, a 2400-dpi 36-bit scanner which can accept 35mm positive, negative and slide film, as well as processed photos. The scanner can also scan either single frames from film or up to five frames at a time to form panoramas, and is expected to sell at a street price of $499. No release date is given.

- Canon CEO receives "Person of the Year" award!
Fujio Mitarai, President and Chief Executive Officer of Canon, Inc. has received an award from the Photographic Manufacturers and Distributors Association as "Man of the Year" for 1999. The award was presented at a banquet last night in the Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas. Mr. Mitarai joined Canon Camera Company, Inc. in 1961, after graduating from Chuo University. In 1966, he was transferred to the newly formed Canon U.S.A., as one of only 7 employees - and it was here he remained until returning to Japan in 1989, at which time he had been President and CEO of Canon U.S.A. for the previous 10 years.

- Dave's first PMA report comes in!

Without further ado, here's Dave:

PMA Spring '99 - Day One (2/18/99)

Well, there's NO way I'm going to manage to fit in all that I saw today, given the late hour, fatigued brain, and overloaded senses. Not to mention, of course, the vast oversupply of things digital taking place here.

For now, we'll need to concentrate on some of the highlights - tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday we'll hopefully be able to catch up with some of the volume of new products, announcements, and general happenings.

EVERYTHING'S DIGITAL
At least, that's the way it seemed! At this show last year, digital was certainly very much in evidence, but had nowhere near the ubiquity that was apparent this year: Digital offerings were clearly a major part of the manufacturers' strategies and presentation, rather than just "put our hat in the ring" items. This is really the big story of Spring PMA 1999: Everybody is piling on the digital imaging bandwagon in a big way. Digital products have become key parts of the product strategy for virtually every major player in the marketplace. More importantly, the *buyers* at the show are viewing them as major elements of the overall retail product mix. Sales reps from several companies we spoke with were beaming ear to ear, reporting that retailers are jumping in with both feet and placing large orders at every turn. For our readers, this has to be good news: Not only will the new models (eventually) be widely available, but the large volume of product in the sales channel will almost certainly exercise additional downward pressure on selling prices.

 The absolute, most far-out, coolest thing we've ever seen!

Well, that *may* be a little hyperbolic, but it certainly had more "gee whiz" impact than anything we can recall seeing in a LONG time! - We're talking about a technology from Enroute Technologies that takes "virtual reality" to a WHOLE new level! (This is really more multimedia than the stuff that's the main focus of this site, but was just way too cool to pass over.) What the new Enroute stuff does is combine virtual reality with full-motion video. Say huh? Here's how the demo went that we saw: Presenter goes into an app on a PC screen, and starts up a pretty standard-looking movie file shot from a car cruising down a picturesque small-town street. Pretty ordinary stuff. Then he grabs the mouse, and proceeds to pan the point-of-view of the camera in the car in the movie, turning it to the side, then to the rear of the car, then back to the front again! WHAT?! The "movie" showing on the screen was actually a full-motion-video VR (virtual reality) "bubble" centered about a location in the car's interior. (It was a convertible, so you could look up at the sky and the tops of the buildings you were "driving" by.) Not satisfied with that, he also worked the controls to effectively zoom the lens of the virtual camera, again also while the video continued to play live, at about 15 frames per second. Still not enough? He finally zoomed the point of view *outside* the "bubble", looking in on a 3-D projection of the walls of the bubble as the video continued to play.

Words really can't begin to describe the experience this gave of "being there" in the moving car. This was literally the first time I thought the term "virtual reality" was anything more than an oxymoron. Since any attempt to capture the sense of this experience with a 2-D still image would fail miserably, I've contented myself with a simple screenshot showing the "bubble" being viewed from the outside.

How's it done? - Besides a LOT of invisible, completely transparent-to-the-user mathematical magic of the sort Enroute has applied so well in their panorama-stitching software, there's a unique piece of hardware, in the form of a spherical 14-camera video rig looking somewhat like a faceted bowling ball with eyes. - Paul Cha of Enroute asked me to refrain from a screenshot of the picture of this device until he could email me a better-quality JPEG of it. (Stay tuned.) No word on when this technology would make it into an actual product, as the demo at the show was very much an "alpha" level technology demonstration.

On more conventional fronts, Enroute announced the professional version of their QuickStitch panorama-stitching software, with many enhancements to improve control and increase accuracy, and (most of all) allow you to create stitched panoramas of virtually unlimited size. Maximum size depends solely on available hard-drive swap space, processor speed, and your own patience. - Paul said that they'd stitched images as large as 50 megapixels in their labs, and expected that real-world photographers would routinely go higher. Oh yeah: Make sure you have a full gigabyte or so of free, unfragmented disk space before trying this at home. The new program will be out in another month or so, selling for a few hundred dollars (rather than the under-$100 pricing of the current QuickStitch products.)

Double-Megapixels Everywhere
We've already reported on all the 2-megapixel cameras that were at the show, but will have more coverage and pictures of most of them later in this series. The sudden ubiquity of double-megapixel cameras was pretty startling though, given that a month ago, none of them were more than rumors.

Fuji's New Spring Lineup
Of the various digicam makers, the award for most new products in the shortest time clearly goes to Fuji. Working samples of the MX-600, MX-2700, and DX-10 were all present and accounted for in their booth. Again, we've reported specs on these units elsewhere already, so I'll just concentrate on gut impressions here. (First gut impression: They all look good, and we'll bet will sell well.) Fuji has also committed to getting us eval units of all three products, so you'll eventually be seeing standard, more-than-you-ever-wanted-to-know Imaging Resource reviews of all of them, too.

MX-2700

 The new 2.3 megapixel wonder. Two things struck us about this camera: First and foremost, how compact it is. It has a very similar form-factor to the earlier MX-700, but is actually even (slightly) smaller(!), and a bit lighter as well. Some of the size and weight savings come from a smaller LiIon battery (an NP-80, vs NP-100). It remains to be seen how battery life fares with the smaller battery. The net result though, is a camera that by no means stretches the definition of "pocket sized." - This camera would actually be *comfortable* to carry in a shirt pocket! The second observation about the '2700 is that the Fuji engineers have been listening to user feedback, and applied what they heard to the user interface and ergonomics of the design. While the MX-700 user controls weren't bad, the '2700 clearly takes it to the next level, with numerous minor but important enhancemnts. (Last but not least, there's even an auto-retracting lens cap). Definitely a contender!


MX-600
Essentially a zoom model of their earlier non-zoom MX-500, for a hundred dollars more at suggested list. ($699) Looks like a solid mid-range performer.

DX-10

Very compact 800K-pixel camera, aimed at the low end of the market, with a price point of $299. Just a moment to reflect; A year ago, $299 would have been a very aggressive price for a 640x480 camera, let lone a 1024x768 one! Further signs of digital imaging starting to truly hit the mass market: Sears(!) has apparently bought up a huge amount of the DX-10 production, to the extent that the camera may be scarce in other channels for a while.


Minolta's incredible expandable camera fulfills its promise.
We were impressed with the modular design of the Minolta EX-1500 when we tested the Zoom version of it a little while back. We referred to it as "possibly the first obsolescence-proof digital camera." "Obsolosence-proof" may be a little strong, but there's clearly a level of upgradeability here that is completely unique in the marketplace. At PMA, we saw two products that strongly emphasized this.

First, there was a flash adapter for the EX-1500, shown in the picture on the right. This simply plugs in between the camera body and lens unit, and gives you a hot shoe flash-mount on top and a standard PC-contact sync connector in the front. Voila! External-flash compatibility on a camera that previously lacked it! Booth personnel didn't know the price point for the product (shame on them), but said it should run somewhere between $100 and $200. Also unknown was how the flash's output is regulated to work with the camera (or the camera's aperture regulated to work with the flash). Booth staff said they'd heard that the two could work cooperatively, but didn't know how that would be accomplished, given that the hot shoe was of the plain-vanilla single-contact variety. (Eg, no additional contacts to carry TTL exposure signals.)

 The second product (on the left) was one we've mentioned previously, but the press release we received set a whole new standard for vagueness, simply stating that a special flash head and some MetaCreations software technology would allow the creation of 3-D objects. What MetaFlash actually does is a little bit more impressive. Just two photographs (corrected 02/20/98 - it actually takes five photographs) of an object taken with the Minolta/MetaFlash combination is enough for MetaCreations' technology to build a full 3-dimensional, texture-mapped wireframe of an object.


This wireframe can then be streamed in real-time over the Internet (it really has to be seen to be understood, but the 3D image loads in gradually, somewhat like a progressive JPEG or interlaced GIF) using MetaCreations' MetaStream - which is to be shipped by Microsoft in Windows98 and Windows2000. This is one upcoming technology that is very likely to succeed!

Sony's new 2.1 megapixel Digicam.
 The Sony DSC-F55K may already be old news in that it has been quite some time now since it was first announced, but one thing may not be so apparent - just how small it really is! I had seen quite a few pictures of the camera beforehand, but hadn't really realised the size of the unit from what I had seen. The photo on the right demonstrates this quite well.


Polaroid shows new camera, and push their existing model too.
 Polaroid's new PhotoMAX PDC700 digital camera (left, mentioned briefly yesterday) is reminiscent of the Fuji MX-700 in shape, although slightly larger. The unit has a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels from an 800k pixel CCD, and will list at about $349.99

Meanwhile, the 640 x 480 pixel PDC640 (shown here on the right) will be given a new software bundle and will ship at approximately the same price of $349.


 Also showing is the Polaroid SprintScan 4000, a 4000dpi 35mm/APS film scanner due to ship around March 15th. The new unit will have a list price of $2495, giving a street price nearer $1995, and has a slider control that very cleverly solves the difficulty in adjusting the film at the correct angle down below the last degree. Watch out for one of our in-depth reviews on this scanner in the future, as we're very likely going to be writing one!  


Minolta readies RD-3000 2.7 megapixel professional digital camera
 It has been rumored for some time, but Minolta have now shown their new RD-3000 professional digital camera. The new unit has a very high 2.7 megapixel resolution, achieved using two of the same 1.5 megapixel CCDs from their EX1500 digital camera.


Creative juices have been flowing for accessories, too
With all the news and pictures of digital cameras coming out of PMA, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was all anybody had been making, but there's certainly been plenty of time and effort spent on creating accessories for both new and existing cameras... Two of the most impressive thus far are from FlashPoint, creators of the Digita OS used in many digital cameras, and tripod manufacturer Velbon.

Email from your Camera!:FlashPoint has managed to come up with an excellent idea that should be shipping within the next month or two. Digita Post (on the right) allows you to send and receive email (yes, seriously!) from your digital camera, and with the addition of a wireless modem such as the Roadrunner could give you the capability to send those pictures straight back to the office without even needing a PC!

Also on the way a little sooner will be ScriptFX, an image-editing tool that will let you perform color adjustments etc. on your digital images, again using only your digital camera hardware - no PC!


New, versatile tripod head for panorama shooting: Finally for today, Velbon has created a new tripod attachment that solves the problem of keeping the perspective correct when moving your camera to take a panoramic image. It really defies description, but the photo on the left should give you an idea of how it fits together...

See you tomorrow with more news from PMA '99!

February 18, 1999:

- Toshiba PDR-M4 and Minolta RD-3000 pictures online!
You heard it here first! No sample images online yet, but the PC Watch website in Japan now has pictures of Toshiba's PDR-M4 digital camera online. If you scroll down to the very bottom of this page, you'll find our original news article on the release of the PDR-M4. Also on the same page are two pictures of the new Minolta RD-3000 SLR camera we mentioned previously, as well as a picture of a Minolta Dimage EX modified with the MetaFlash technology from MetaCreations which we broke the story on last month. MetaFlash lets this camera take a 3-dimensional picture in one shot! Lastly, the page also has a picture of Agfa's new CL30 digital camera.

- More on Sony's Digital Photo Frame and Photo Printer!

The PC Watch website in Japan also has photos online of Sony's 5.1" LCD Digital Photo Frame, and DPP-MS300 Digital Photo Printer, plus news that Sony intends to have 128MB MemorySticks in 2000, and 256MB MemorySticks (the largest currently planned) in 2001.

- Lexar introduces 32MB SmartMedia, 128MB CompactFlash, and 320MB PC Cards!
Lexar Media has today announced the release of three new products. 32MB SmartMedia and 128MB CompactFlash cards will begin shipping in Q2 1999, and the Lexar Pro Series 320MB type-II PC Card will be available in March. The 320MB PC Card will have a suggested list price of $1,199.00, and pricing is not mentioned for the other two cards. In a related press release, The Associated Press has selected Lexar Pro media for use by Associated Press staff worldwide.

- Kaidan announces panoramic tripod head for CoolPix 900S.
Kaidan Inc. of Feasterville, PA, has announced a new tripod head for the Nikon CoolPix 900 and 900S digital cameras. They state that ``For well under $1000, the consumer can now put together a complete solution that includes the purchase of a Coolpix 900/900S, a KiWi 900 tripod head, panoramic software and tripod. And, unlike other solutions that charge a ''per-click`` fee, all our KiWi 900 software bundles come with unlimited use licensing.'' Only one question - where do they propose to get any new CoolPix 900s?

- Canon introduces CanoScan FS2710 film scanner!
Canon has introduced the CanoScan FS2710 film scanner, with a maximum speed of 13 seconds per frame, 2,720 dots per inch optical resolution, and the ability to accept black and white or color slides/negatives in either 35mm or APS formats. The scanner provides 36-bit color depth, and uses a SCSI-II interface. Availability is scheduled for April at a price of $1,100 (list) including cables and PCI SCSI-II card.

- Kodak announces DCS620 digital camera!

Kodak have today announced their new DCS620 professional digital camera at PMA '99. At the same time, they have placed information including the specifications on their website. With a 2-megapixel CCD, 1728 x 1152 pixel output, 3.5 frames per second burst mode for up to 12 frames, it's very nice - but on the negative side, it is very big and heavy (3.49 pounds without a lens or battery!). Let's face it, if you're a professional, it'll probably be worth it to you to put up with the weight and size, and if you're not, you're pretty unlikely to ever see one in person anyway! ;)

- Minolta announces Dimage RD-3000 Digital SLR!

The Digital Eyes news-page is currently carrying an article regarding a new camera from Minolta, the Dimage RD-3000 Digital SLR. To say this camera sounds very nice is to put it mildly, but unfortunately although price isn't mentioned, it's pretty unlikely to be within the reaches of any of us save for the very rich, or those of us with very patient employers! The RD-3000 features an SLR design with interchangeable Minolta V mount lenses, 2.7 megapixel resolution (interestingly provided by 2 half-inch 1.5 megapixel CCDs), a final image size of up to 1984 x 1360 pixels, exposures from 1/2000 to 30 seconds, TTL phase-detection autofocusing, and a whole lot more! Pop by Digital Eyes for the full specs (no pictures or sample images as yet)...Thanks, Digital Eyes!

- 64MB MemoryStick on the way - Sony pushes its media, announces compatible products!

Sony Corporation today put out two press releases regarding their Memory Stick storage media and compatible products. The first mentions an upcoming 64MB MemoryStick (to be available in April), and also mentions an LCD Digital Photo Frame (PHD-A55) to allow users to view images on a MemoryStick card, and a Digital Photo Printer (DPP-MS300) which can print photos directly from the MemoryStick card without the need for a PC. The second release details the introduction at PMA of the Sony CyberShot DSC-F55 digital camera (to be available in May at $999 MSRP), the Digital Photo Frame (also a $999 MSRP with May availability), the new VAIO SlimTop LCD computers (available in March with MemoryStick capabilities built-in), the Digital Photo Printer (May availability, MSRP $699), and the Digital HandyCam Camcorder (May availability, $1799 MSRP).
The Digital Photo Frame can display digital images and MPEG digital video from a MemoryStick on its 5.1" LCD screen, and can be turned on by its motion sensor with a wave of the hand. It has a sleep-timer and a "futuristic decorative frame".
The Digital Photo Printer can accept MemoryStick, SmartMedia, CompactFlash or PC cards (using a PC-card adapter for the first three), or can be connected to a VCR, camcorder, or other NTSC-video, S-video or composite source. It can also be connected to a Windows PC via the parallel port. No mention is made of resolution, but the printer reads JPEG images only off the above cards.
The Digital HandyCam Camcorder (DSC-TRV10) has a 1/4" CCD with 680K pixels, iLink DV interface, and comes with a 4MB MemoryStick for still-image storage.

- Canon PowerShot Pro70 and A5 Zoom about to ship!
Canon USA Inc. has announced at the PMA '99 show that their PowerShot Pro70 and A5 zoom cameras will ship imminently. Both the PowerShot Pro70 and the A5 Zoom will begin shipping in March, with prices estimated at $1,199 and $399 respectively.

- PhotoHighway.com appoints Joe Byrd as Chief Operating Officer.
Photohighway.com has announced the appointment of Joe Byrd as their new Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Byrd is the Vice President of Marketing and Distribution for IXLA Ltd., PhotoHighway.com's parent company. He has previously directed development, sales and marketing of numerous products and services for companies such as Softbank Content Services, Borland International, and Digital Research. Photohighway.com will be shown for the first time during the PMA '99 show.

- Digital Imaging Group announces white paper!

The Digital Imaging Group (DIG) has announced the release of a new white paper entitled "Digital Imaging Comes of Age in Mainstream Productivity-Boosting Applications'', which they distributed following the DigitalFocus event at PMA. The white paper is now available on their website, so drop by and grab yourself a copy to find out where the industry is headed...

- Ulead and SignatureColor announce deal!
Ulead Systems has today announced a deal with photo-processor SignatureColor, whereby SignatureColor will offer Ulead's Photo Express 2.0 image editor from SignatureColor's website. Photo Express 2.0 allows users to edit their images, apply special-effects, add ready-made objects, and use ready-made templates for items such as calendars etc.

- Peripheral SNAPZ announces 64MB CompactFlash and 32MB SmartMedia.
Peripheral Enhancements Corporation today announced at PMA '99 that they will shortly be shipping two new products expanding their SNAPZ line of digital film. The 64MB CompactFlash card is available immediately, whilst the new 32MB SmartMedia will begin shipping in mid-March. No mention is made of pricing.

- Sony announces Vaio C1 PictureBook!

Regular Imaging Resource readers may remember that several months ago, we showed you Sony's Vaio PCG-C1 micronotebook computer from Japan. The notebook featured an Intel Pentium 266MMX processor, 4.3GB of storage, 64MB of RAM, and a built-in 270K pixel digital still/video camera in a tiny 2.5lb, 1.5" thick case. Sony has today announced (twice) the debut of this machine in the USA, as the Sony Vaio C1 PictureBook. The Vaio C1 will be available in March at an estimated price of $2299.99.

- SanDisk to supply JVC with MultiMedia cards for world's smallest digital camcorder.
SanDisk Corporation has announced at the PMA '99 Show that they will be supplying JVC with postage-stamp sized MultiMedia Cards for the new JVC GR-DV70U digital video camera. The new camera is currently the world's smallest, and will be available in April at an MSRP of $1,699. To provide for still-image capabilities, it will be bundled with a 4MB MultiMedia Card. An 8MB card will be offered as an optional accessory.

- Nikon brings top photographers to PMA booth!
Nikon have put out a press release noting that they will have four renowned photographers on the Nikon booth (J137) at PMA '99. All four photographers will be signing and giving away posters of their work.
Pete Turner has been published in Esquire, Life, American Photographer, and Photo, and has works in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
John Biever is a staff photographer at Sports Illustrated, and has taken over 60 SI cover photos, including nine of Michael Jordan.
Jim Brandenburg was named Magazine Photographer of the Year in 1981 and 1983 by the National Press Photographers Association, and was named Kodak Wildlife Photographer of the year in 1998 by the Natural History Museum in London and BBC Wildlife Magazine. He also received the 1991 World Achievement Award from the United Natrions Environmental Programme for "using nature photography to raise public awareness for the environment." Jim has worked with National Geographic magazine for over 20 years.
Jody Dole created the 1991 worldwide advertising campaign for Smirnoff Vodka, and has received awards from Advertising Photographers of America, and American Photography, amongst many others. The New York Times called Jody's images "masterpieces of photography, design and printing", and he has been profiled in American Photo, Foto magazine/Moscow, Nikon World, Camera and Darkroom, and many more!

- Adobe CEO receives lifetime acheivement award!
John Warnock, Adobe's Chief Executive Officer, has received a lifetime achievement award at the Digital Imaging Manufacturers Association show, part of the PMA '99 show, according to an Adobe press release.

- Simple Technology announces 128MB CompactFlash!

Simple Technology today announced it's new 128MB CompactFlash card at PMA '99. The card is available in 3.3 and 5-volt versions, and uses 256Mbit flash components. Shipping will begin next month, with an estimated street price of $399.

- NewSoft announce Mr. Photo Gold Edition 2.0
Newsoft America today announced their new Mr. Photo Gold Edition 2.0 software suite, which provides users with photo-editing tools, as well as the ability to create animated GIF slide-shows, HTML catalogs and photo thumbnails for displaying digital images on their own website. The software also allows you to order items such as T-shirts and mugs made from your won photos. The software contains four parts, Mr. Photo for managing, sharing and printing photos, PhotoAlbum for creating electronic scrapbooks, PhotoComposer for combining photos (such as overlaying the foreground of one photo on another photo's background), and PhotoDesigner for editing and retouching photos.

- Polaroid to unveil PDC-700 digital camera!

In a press release, Polaroid has announced that they will be showing their new PDC 700 digital camera. Details are sketchy, with the press release simply stating that the camera has a higher resolution that its predecessors the PDC300 and PDC640 digital cameras, and "features built-in memory, Compact Flash acceptability, a compact design and is packaged with the latest 2.40 version of PhotoMAX ``photo fun with your computer'' software."

- Kodak preview PMA showcase.
Kodak has announced in a press release today their plans for the PMA '99 show. Amongst others, they intend to display the new Kodak Professional DCS-620 digital camera, the new Kodak Professional RFS 3570 Plus film scanner, Kodak Portraits & More software, the Kodak Professional Digital Multiprinter Production System and the Kodak Professional LED II Production system.

- LivePicture unveil LivePix kiosk!

LivePicture Inc. today announced their new LivePix Kiosk. The kiosk allows customers to turn their photos into personalised cards, calendars, business materials, and more - along with providing branded collections like Looney Tunes and Felix the Cat. The kiosk has been designed for non-computer users, and features a fast touch-screen interface. A digital camera can be installed in the kiosk to take photos on-the-spot, and photos can be imported from CDs, floppy disks, HiFD, LS-120 Super Discs, JAZ, ZIP, any removeable drives, scanners, APS, 35mm scanners, digital camera, smart media and more...

- Toshiba launches new PDR-M4 digital camera!
Toshiba have today announced the release of a new 2.14 megapixel digital camera, the Toshiba PDR-M4. The new camera offers resolutions up to 1600 x 1200 pixels, USB connectivity, 16MB of internal RAM and SmartMedia storage up to the just-announced 32MB cards. The camera also has a new DSP chip which allows for 2-second intervals between shots, bursts of 4 shots at 0.5 second intervals at full resolution, and extended battery life.
The new camera also features a 1.8-inch backlit LCD display and a 35mm-equivalent all-glass lens with macro capability. 2x digital zoom is offered, plus the ability to view captured images at 4x digital zoom allowing you to view your pictures more closely without a PC. The camera also features NTSC video-out, a self-timer and tripod mounting socket. No images are currently available of the camera itself, nor have sample images from the camera yet been released. The camera is planned to be available in May, and no price has yet been set.











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