Macworld Expo: We Hit the Floor (UPDATED)|
Mike Pasini, The Imaging Resource
(Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 17:34 EST)
We've updated our report after two days of lugging our portable publishing studio up and down the aisles of the Expo hall.
SAN FRANCISCO -- This year's show occupies only the South Hall exhibit area, but it's full. Expo PR Manager Mike Sponseller pointed out the 280 exhibitors include 20 more than last year. They've just been put in one hall instead of two.
"Many attendees have said to us that this year's show is more energetic and they bump into things they might not otherwise see," he said. "Exhibitors are especially pleased about the change because of the increased traffic."
A number of vendors who have had booths in the past have scaled down into smaller booths along the back of the main hall. That's where you'll find Open Door Networks, authors of Envision, and Boinx Software, creators of FotoMagico.
Camera and printer manufacturers, however, set up large booths, among the largest at the show this year. Canon, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Nikon and Olympus are not hard to find.
Other companies seem to be swimming pretty hard to catch the digital photo wave, too. We were surprised to see FileMaker make overtures to creatives, even featuring Rick Smollen today for one presentation.
And, of course, there are the peripherals. Hard drives, card readers, you name it. You might even call the iPod Shuttle a peripheral.
Following are some of the more notable attractions. We updated the list over two days as we wandered around.
We spotted Nikon's just announced D2x at the busy Nikon booth, divided into sDSLR, Coolpix and scanner counters. As reported earlier, the $4999.95 digital camera will ship Feb. 25 with all 12.4 megapixels firing at 5 fps or 8 fps in cropped mode (6.8-Mp images), indicated by LEDs in the viewfinder.
|D2x Front View|
|D2x Top View|
|D2x Back View|
Nikon's Raw format (NEF), uncompressed TIFF-RGB and compressed JPEG image formats are supported, but not Adobe's DNG. The D2x features Nikon's new generation system LSI produces "smoother gradations with consistent and smooth transitions, all with exceptionally pure color rendition," the company said. It also employs improved 3D-Color Matrix Metering II uinsg a 1,005-pixel RGB exposure/color matric metering sensor to "better determine the position and size of shadow or highlight areas."
Along with small printers, another trend that was hard to miss was the proliferation of slide show software.
We were mesmerized at the Open Door Networks booth where President Alan Oppenheimer showed off Envision (which we reviewed in beta). He had wired up a digital photo frame, an iPod and a large television display to display shows Envision had created by downloading images from the Web.
Boinx Software, just a few booths away, were showing the $79 FotoMagico, which takes the Ken Burns effect of panning and zooming stills to new heights. The interface was very clean, showing a start and end image with controls for cropping and alignment. Text was easily added and panned or zoomed, too. The transitions were basic but we're not sure that's a bad thing. If there's a bad thing it's the system requirements. This demanding application won't run on every Mac. It requires a fairly recent video card.
But don't despair. Riding to the rescue was Photo to Movie, a $50 equivalent with a less polished interface but more transitions and the same panning and zooming effects.
Both applications let you add music to your slide show and output to DVD or as a QuickTime video.
FILEMAKER & PANORAMA
At the FileMaker booth Rick Smolen, creator of America 24/7, explained how his staff tracks millions of project images using custom FileMaker applications. His current project, the America 24/7 State Book Project, tracks photos for each state's collection of images.
FileMaker is making a CD of 10 applications available at the show. And downloads of even the demo earn a set of five starter applications aimed at creative professionals. They include applications to manage contact details for clients and vendors; track job status from proposal through delivery; create digital libraries that store images, sounds, and video clips; and print invoices, labels, reports and more.
The Filemaker presentations we viewed over two days were all a bit too brief to do the new version justice but we didn't have that problem at the ProVue booth. ProVue's Panorama is a vintage Mac database application, too, with a number of efficiencies.
Foremost among them, as Scott August demonstrated for us, is data loaded entirely into RAM. For small, non-image databases, that makes operations so quick the program doesn't have to build indexes to sort data. Other efficiencies include built-in FedEx tracking and Web access, recordable actions and Clairvoyance, which finishes typing for you in fields where it's enabled.
August is a musician, not a programmer, who's been using Panorama to manage music sales for several years. We asked if he had ever suddenly thought of some new feature he'd like to add but never found the time to implement it. Only initially, he said. The learning curve is very short and the program very efficient, he added, so if he wants Panorama to do something for him, it only takes a few seconds to set it up. He demonstrated by recording an action to perform a quarterly sales analysis as we watched.
Encouraging words. We'll discuss how database software like FileMaker or Panormama can complement image organizing software like iView MediaPro, Canto Cumulus and Extensis Portfolio in an upcoming newsletter.
SMALL PHOTO PRINTERS
The 4x6 print has become the standard print size for the home user. That's what we got at the drugstore and that's what we want at home. There are a number of small, even portable, printers, some enhanced with a PictBridge connection to print dye-sub or inkjet 4x6s. It's a movement. And the vangard is here at the show.
Dye sub and PictBridge
Olympus is showing their P-10 digital photo printer. Its PictBridge connector means you can print 4x6 dye subs directly from a PictBridge digicam. Or use the USB cable to connect to your computer. The special ribbon and paper is sold together in 40 or 100 print boxes.
Canon also makes a couple of 4x6 dye sub printers, as does Hi-Touch (whose inexpensive standalone units we've previously reviewed). Hewlett-Packard's 4x6 Photosensor 325 and 375 are both inkjets, however.
Hewlett-Packard has updated the 7960 we reviewed with the 8450. The new model adds Ethernet and PictBridge to the formerly USB-only printer and updates the editing options for images read from the built-in card reader. The $249 printer is also available with a smaller buffer and no Ethernet as the 8150 for $199.
If you're like us, Canon's new printer line-up has confused you. From the i-line (i960 and i9660, for example), they've switched to PIXMA iP's (like the iP8500). What's going on?
For one thing, eight-color printing. The PIXMA iP8500 adds a Red and Green cartridge to the usual 6-ink set (which adds a Light Cyan and Light Magenta to the usual CMYK set), much like the Epson R800. With its large (6,144 nozzles) and precise (2 picoliters) print heads, it can spit out a 4x6 in 21 seconds. Yep, PictBridge with USB 2.0, too. It also sports a dual paper path so you can put one kind of paper in the back and another underneath, making paper switching a thing of the past. And ou can also print on both sides of the sheet. All this for about $350.
The printer lineup may be confusing, but the attraction of Canon's easel scanning (also offered by Hewlett-Packard's Scanjet 4670) is no mystery. With a small, fold out support on the bottom, you can stand the scanner up and save a lot of desk space.
We finally got a look at Keyspan's USB Server. Connect it to your router (if it enables Ethernet bridging, as most modern routers do) or your server if you don't have a router and you can plug up to four USB devices into it.
|The Keyspan USB Server|
Each of them can be shared with anyone on your network who has installed the product's driver [MW], which lets a user connect to any available device. USB printers can be shared automatically but other devices (like a card reader or scanner) are shared one user at a time, according to the USB protocol.
A full 500mA is supplied to each port but at USB 1.0 speeds only. The firmware is flash upgradable and the company is offering a show special of $89. The company expects to ship a USB 2.0 box in July.
One trend hard to miss in the photo peripheral department is the move to larger LCDs. Epson showed its 5-Mp L-500V digicam with a 2.5-inch LCD and its $2,999.99 R-D1 rangefinder. But the show stealer was its $499.99 P-2000 whose 3.8-inch LCD redefines "gorgeous." A 40-GB hard drive and built-in card reader makes it easy to copy images from your camera. A USB 2.0 interface also makes it efficient to get them off the P-2000 and onto your hard disk. Meanwhile, you can connect the P-2000 to a TV with a third party cable. Too bad you can't duplicate your image files, too.
Sadly, Wacom didn't make much of a splash with its new Intuous graphic tablet. We saw only two of them, nearly hidden away. A pity. It's the one peripheral worth every penny.
|Wacom: Child's Play|
Two noteworthy services were on display at the show.
Printroom.com was waiving its $99 signup fee, which leaves only its 13 percent commission per print on its online storefront service for photographers. Marketing Manager Robert Bardin gave us a tour of the service.
With printing centers in Emeryville, Calif. and Atlanta, the company provides a complete business solution including image hosting of up to 7,500 thumbnails, online print ordering and order fulfillment plus custom image enhancement. The template-based storefront designs organize your images into galleries that visitors can browse and order from. And the company provides customer service for returns or products damaged in transit.
Standard image enhancement services at 99 cents an image include adjustments to exposure (dynamic range, brightness, contrast, backlight compensation, dodge/burn), color (color balance and saturation) and red-eye removal. Premium enhancement at $1.99 includes the above plus facial retouching (skin tones, teeth, eyes, shadows on face) and sharpness.
Images are uploaded to the company's servers using proprietary software, recently enhanced for OS X.
AtomixTech introduced JetPhoto at the show, for mere mortals to organize and publish their digital images.
"JetPhoto gives every photographer, amateur or professional, an efficient way to organize his or her photos and prepare picture theme Web sites to share visual experiences with family, friends and business associates," said AtomixTech President Robin Zhang.
You use JetPhoto Studio on your Mac to organize an album of images that can be sent with one click to synchronize it to the online JetPhoto Server. Among its more unusual features, JetPhoto couples with GPS technology to link images to geographical maps and matches GPS tracklogs with image timestamps. YOu can also search for photos based on location or using a calendar.
Ever grab your card reader only to discover you don't have a free USB port? We found a couple of $39 combination hub/readers to save the day.
Macally's $39 USB 2.0 Hub and 8-in-1 Reader puts a four-slot reader on one long side to read CompactFlash I/II, IBM Microdrives, Smart Media, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and MMC/SD cards. On the other long side are three four USB ports (one to connect to your host USB port, three additional)
Macalley (l) and IOGear
The IOGear USB 2.0 Hub & Card Reader combines six USB 2.0 ports with a 12-in-4 card reader. It supports CompactFlash I/II, CompactFlash USB, CompactFlash Ultra, Microdrives, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Switch, Memory Stick Pro, Magic Gatge Memory Stick, Magic Gate Memory Stick Duo, MMC/SD and Smart Media.
B&H Photo had a booth at the show, offering a number of show specials on Apple merchandise, peripherals, cameras, scanners and more.
And Wiebetch offered special show pricing on their robust external storage solutions, too. Just use the code "M1W2S1S5" to order.
We were also intrigued by MacWireless.com, which offers a number of wireless products including cards, antennas, boosters, PowerOverEthernet devices and more for the wireless network. Very knowledgeable staff, too.
A USER CONFERENCE
We snuck off to a corner of the complex not much traveled to take a bit of a nap only to find some 150 and more digital photographers cramming into our hideaway to listen to Derrick Story divulge one or another digital photo hack.
Derrick has the sort of mild mannered presentation employed by other super heroes, so we didn't much mind. He covered night shooting with a tripod (and the self-timer), gizmos like the LensPen and fool-proof 4x6 dye sub printing before we started to get more hungry than we were sleeping.
He also did a turn or two at the O'Reilly booth.
No cure for that at Moscone. We hopped on a streetcar and went home to dine in style. Yes, pizza, so we could wrap up this report with no further delay!
Read our Keynote Coverage.