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Monday, November 30, 1998
November 30 - Thanksgiving Aftermath...
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Monday, November 30, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Stuffed (and Thankful)! Having brought new meaning to the phrase "stuffing the turkey," your torpid news-hound returns reluctantly to his keyboard, several pounds heavier, but none the wiser. Seriously, although generally given over to gluttony and a rampant consumer frenzy in preparation for the Christmas season, what a wise thought lies behind the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving! We hope that somewhere in the all-to-hectic pace that usually accompanies holiday preparations, all of you found at least a few moments for true, heartfelt thanks-giving -- the best of the season to all our readers!
- Light news ahead: Imaging news is likely to get a little thin between now and the end of the year, with most of the manufacturers having released all the new products they intend to for 1998. We do expect quite a bit of product-related activity at The Imaging Resource though, as we put some of the new products through their paces. Looking toward 1999, expect a flurry of further product announcements, beginning in early January, and culminating with another rush of new products around the PMA timeframe. (February 18.)
- Not digital, but we want one! OK, we're really stretching this one, since it fits solidly in the realm of conventional photography, but as Nikon shooters in the 35mm world, we can't resist: Nikon has announced their new F100 35mm SLR, a model intended to sit between their current top-end prosumer N90s model, and their high-end pro-series F5 camera. The new unit sports many goodies, (and doubtless a price tag to match), including dynamic and auto-tracking autofocus, a 10-segment 3D matrix metering system, 5 separate spot meters, 5-segment TTL flash sensor, and 3D auto balanced fill-flash.
- Accolades for Super Coolscan(r) 2000. Some clean-up from Comdex: PC Magazine bestowed its 1998 Technical Excellence Award on Nikon's Super Coolscan 2000 film/slide scanner, with its breakthrough Digital ICE technology for restoring damaged or dirty film images. We posted images from the Coolscan here a while back, and are finally about to complete our full review of the unit. (Look for it by the end of this week.) We have to concur with PC Mag - this is a truly impressive feat of technology!
- CoolPix 900 Firmware Upgrade? Here's an update from noted CoolPix enthusiast Steve Saunders, of Steve's Digicams: There's apparently a firmware upgrade in the recently-announced Nikon CoolPix 900s, and there's been some question as to whether the upgrade would be made available to existing CP 900 owners. Here's what Steve reports: "I have spoken with someone at Nikon and they have assured me that there will be a firmware upgrade for the 900. There will be a charge as this requires factory authorized servicing. What that charge will be is not yet known. Stay tuned for more..." Thanks, Steve!
- Mavica for Macs: This one from our friends at the Digital Camera Resource Page: "Mac users also have a tool for the Sony Mavica camera -- it's called Mavicadabra! It speeds up transferring files from the floppy to the Mac, can make index pictures, and more. ($20 shareware.)" Thanks, Jeff!
- IXLA Links Digicams with Web. We've been sitting on this long enough that the Yahoo/BusinessWire link has probably expired, but here's the scoop anyway: IXLA Ltd. is touting a new Digital Camera Interface(tm) Software Developer's Kit that enhances connectivity with the 'web. Details weren't at all clear in the press release, but it sounds like IXLA has a Java/HTML-based solution that will allow web servers to link directly to users' digital cameras, via the internet. Cameras from a wide range of manufacturers are supported, including Agfa, Casio, Chinon, Epson, Fuji, HP, Kodak, Konica, NEC, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh, Sanyo, and Sharp. IXLA's web site is at http://www.ixla.com/
- Simple Reads Flash. Another Comdex catch-up: Simple Technologies has announced four new readers for various flash-RAM memory formats. The new products include a CompactFlash/Parallel Port unit for $89.98, and CompactFlash/USB interface unit for $129.95, a PC Card PhotoReader with SCSI Interface for $249.95, and a SmartMedia reader with parallel-port interface for $99.95. Visit Simple's web site at http://www.simpletech.com/ for more info.
- Mac Fans Tout UMAX. (Well, almost...) US scanner market leader UMAX announced that its PowerLook 3000 professional drum-replacing scanner and Astra 1220U USB personal scanner are finalists in the runoff for the Macworld "Eddy" awards. Winners will be announced at the 14th annual Eddy Awards celebration on Monday, January 4, 1999, in conjunction with the Macworld Expo in San Francisco
- YARC Prints Dots: YARC Systems has announced a Postscript RIP (Raster Image Processor) to drive Epson's Stylus 3000 printer, with the unusual capability to duplicate the halftone dots of the conventional ink-on-paper printing process. While many inkjet manufacturers (including Epson themselves, with their amazing $10,000 model 5000 proofing system) are jumping into the "proofing" market, a significant hang-up for printing professionals has been the fact that the resulting proof don't really mirror the printing process, which uses regularly-spaced patterns of variable-sized dots to reproduce continuous-tone images. Most inkjet printers use so-called "stochastic" screening, which randomly scatters very small dots of ink across the page to give the illusion of a continuous-tone image. YARC's breakthrough RIP drives the Epson 3000 in such a way as to produce a (purportedly) accurate simulation of a conventional 133-line halftone screen. (This is the halftone pitch you most often see in magazines.) Pricing for the new RIP starts at $4995 for a single-printer configuration, and extents to a system capable of driving three printers simultaneously for $12,495. Visit YARC's web site for more information, at http://www.yarc.com/
Tuesday, November 24, 1998
November 24 - More Comdex Catch-up
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, November 24, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Quick Webs for (Windows) Mavica Owners. Our friends at the DC Resource Page turned this one up: DIGIPICS is a free software program designed for entry-level owners of Sony Mavica cameras. It's designed to help you organize your images and quickly create web pages with them. Check it out at author Justin Hall's website. (Thanks, Jeff!)
-Early review of Olympus D-620L on-line. Friendly "competitor" Van Van Horn of Digital Eyes has posted a brief review of the Olympus D-620L. Bottom line: Much like the D-600L, but VERY fast, both in boot-up and between shots. Van reports that it handles much more like a film camera than a digital one. We expect to receive our test unit just after Thanksgiving, and will have a full review with the usual battery of standardized test images posted soon after. Thanks, Van!
-Alert! PDA/Digicam Owners! We'll post this on the "Tips" page also, but wanted to feature it prominently here too, as it could be such a significant problem for digital camera owners. Reader Rhyder McClure successfully diagnosed a very thorny problem with his recently-purchased Olympus D-400 Zoom (lucky guy). After quite a bit of thrashing around, not being able to transfer data over the serial connection, he discovered that the serial driver for his Palm Pilot PDA was "hogging" the serial port! The solution was as simple as right-clicking on the task-bar icon for the Palm Pilot and turning the driver off. Thanks, Rhyder!
- Photo Trade News lists Top Products Photo Trade News caters to photo retailers and retail photo processors, so their "top products" listing is interesting as an indication of what's actually selling out in the retail channel. They announced their annual awards last Wednesday, and what was surprising was the extent to which digital products dominated. Top winner was Kodak's Picture Maker self-serve digitally-based photo processing kiosk. Honorable mentions for top product overall were the Olympus and Sony lines of digital cameras. Other winners in specific categories included the Flash Phath floppy-disk adapter (Overall Top New Technology), the Olympus D-600L (top digital camera), and Adobe Photo Deluxe (in the new Consumer Photo Editing Software category). As we said, this is a pretty good indication of the impact digital imaging is beginning to have in the consumer retail channel. (We can only guess what next year's awards will look like!
-PC Computing announces "MVP" awards, too. In a similar announcement, PC Computing magazine divulged its picks for the "Most Valuable Product" awards, which included the Epson Stylus 850 color inkjet printer and the Kodak DC260 Zoom camera in the "Breakthrough Award" category.
-PictureVision and Photo Access Corp team for Digital Photos without PC. Continuing a trend we've observed to ever more-capable digital cameras, Photo Access and PictureVision have announced technology which will allow digital cameras to interface directly to the internet for image sharing and output, without the need for a PC. Photo Access has developed a camera architecture (reported on here some months back) based on Windows CD. Details in the press release were almost non-existent, but the idea seems to be to use the general-computer capabilities of Windows CE to allow digital cameras to transfer images directly to printer, email, or to archive them via the World Wide Web. (This might have interesting implications for digicam-toting vacationers, wanting to share their experience "live" from the road.)
-Scanning hits the big time(!) If we needed any further evidence that at least some people believe digital imaging has become a true consumer phenomena, Canon Computer Systems Inc. (CCSI) launched a$25 Million (!!) ad campaign on Comdex Monday promoting their CanonScan FB 320P and 620P scanners, which sell for $79 and $99 respectively. he ads will run on cable television, including The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, The Sci-Fi Channel, The History Channel, Comedy Central, MSNBC/CNBC and ZDTV. (This sounds like one of those "strategic" moves, in which a company doesn't really expect to make money on the proposition, but rather establish themselves in consumer's mind as a significant player: $25 million is a LOT of direct expense, and would be tough to earn back almost regardless of the volume, at $79 per scanner, retail...)
-A coupla megapixels, anyone? We reported on this a while back, but reader John Green called it to our attention again recently: EE Times published a story back on 10/19 about three different sensor manufacturers who are developing 2-Megapixel CCD sensors. The vendors involved are Matsushita (parent to Panasonic), Sharp, and Sony. Given that these folks are the three top suppliers of the megapixel chips in most current digicams, would anyone be surprised if their 2 megapixel chips were to show up in the same market? (Not us!) We note that all three companies projected volume production in the first quarter of 1999. We'll leave it to our readers' imaginations as to when to expect the first 2-megapixel cameras to start appearing!
Sunday, November 22, 1998
November 22 - Paltry Post-Comdex Update
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Sunday, November 22, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
-We're working on catching up, but jet lag and the need to re-connect with family have resulted in some delay. Here are a couple of recent items in more detail, we'll hopefully have others to post by tomorrow night (late):
- Specs for new Sanyo digicams: We reported on this briefly in our Comdex report, here are some more detailed specs on the new Sanyo VPC-X350 and VPC-Z400. The biggest news with these is the combination of the "Solar" LCD backlight, and their very fast cycle times, apparently thanks to some custom LSI chips they include. The quoted prices seemed very high, but Sanyo said these were "list" prices, and "street" prices would be lower. Also, as noted in the Comdex report, don't expect to see these in your local retail store anytime soon: Sanyo is distributing them only through their industrial displays division, so only projection-LCD VARs are likely to have access to them.
- 1024x768 pixels
- 3X digital zoom, 16x zoom on playback
- Up to 60 secs of sound/video recording, can add sound to photos as well.
- Proprietary image-processing chip gives 1.5 second picture-to-picture cycle time at XGA resolution (!)
- 2" LCD with 110,000 pixels.
- Ships in December for $599
- 1280x960 pixels
- 3x optical zoom (34-102mm equilvalent) with 2x digital zoom
- "Solar" backlit LCD can use ambient light to save batteries
- Up to 60 photos stored on included 4MB SmartMedia card.
- Can take up to 10 photos in series at 2 frames per second.
- Ships in December for $899.
- Olympus/Enroute show "Worlds Largest 360 Degree Panorama" We saw this for ourselves at Comdex - Olympus and Enroute Imaging used a new version of Enroute's powerful stitching software to make a 45-foot long panorama, constructed from 18 1280 x 960 images shot with an Olympus D-400 Zoom digital camera. The big news here is actually an indication of the direction Enroute is going with their panorama software: Based on the published specs, which state a 30% overlap, and assuming they were shooting in "portrait" mode, the overall panorama was something like 11,000 pixels long! We believe this is larger than current limits of their consumer software, and it points to the potential to scale their algorithms to support very large image sizes.
- SmartMedia USB Reader. (We missed this, Steve's Digicams caught it though - thanks, Steve!) Hagiwara Sys-Com today introduced the SmartMedia Reader/Writer USB Version, an innovative new USB-based computer peripheral that supports the transfer of data from SmartMedia directly to USB-equipped desktop and portable computers at speeds of up to 12Mbits per second. "SmartMedia Reader/Writer USB Version is an advanced, hot-swappable device that interfaces easily to any standard USB port. It features a flexible design architecture that allows it to support SmartMedia of up to 128MB in capacity, and requires no external power supply to operate. SmartMedia Reader/Writer USB Version is fully plug-and-play compatible with Windows 98 and Windows NT Version 5.0, and also works with Mac OS Version 8.1 or better. In addition, the versatile SmartMedia Reader/Writer USB Version supports both 5V and 3.3V SmartMedia, making it ideally suited for use by the rapidly growing installed base of SmartMedia-equipped digital cameras, personal digital assistants (PDA), voice recorders, bar code scanners, games and more."
Friday, November 20, 1998
November 20 - Comdex recovery mode...
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Friday, November 20, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Comdex aftermath: too much news, too many cameras, too little time! Well, we survived another Comdex, although it felt like just barely. We had excellent meetings with a range of manufacturers, and can promise that a lot of new products will be showing up here over the next few months, if only we can keep up with the onslaught! Our apologies for the sad neglect of this news page during our absence. (We'll be adding a dedicated news editor within the month, which should help dramatically with the regularity of our news updates!) We'll try to catch up with the flood of Comdex-related press releases over the next week, but in the meantime, have prepared a brief Comdex show report for your perusal, complete with pictures. (Compliments of the Casio QV-7000 camera we're currently reviewing.) Stay tuned, and thanks for your patience!
Sunday, November 15, 1998
November 15 - Canon Pro70 Review posted! Off to Comdex.
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Sunday, November 15, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- The Canon PowerShot Pro70 presentation is now on-line! At last, our much-awaited presentation on the Canon PowerShot Pro70 1536x1024 digital camera is available! Once again, we were able to work with the manufacturer to get one of only two or three units in the country for our tests! (This time though, we're quite confident that our results are representative of final production models, as the unit we tested was a full-production design, taken from a pilot run of the assembly line. Bottom line: A collection of seemingly minor features add up to a very capable and comfortable-to-use camera. The excellent support for external flash, wider-angle lens, and exceptional low-light capability combine to make a camera uniquely suited to indoor shooting -- but you won't want to limit it to that. Read the full presentation for details!
- Camera Kudos Addendum: Reader Steve Cohen took the time to write in with an update on our "Kudos for Cameras" item: Steve pointed out that the Popular Science "Best of What's New" article also recognized Kodak for their DC260, and that Consumer Reports also recommended the Olympus D-340L. Thanks, Steve!
- We're off to Vegas! As most of you are well aware, we'll be in Las Vegas all this week, at the annual Fall Comdex show. Our mission: Get even more digicams to test and present to you! Many, many thanks to all who wrote such heartfelt and compelling testimonials! We're very optimistic about our prospects for getting more manufacturers to "see the light" about the Imaging Resource! We'll try to make some news updates while we're there, but (a) aren't certain our hotel will have modem jacks (lodging during Comdex is a pretty "iffy" proposition); and (b) may be pretty short on time anyway - We have a jam-packed schedule, with back-to-back meetings all day and at least one engagement scheduled for every night we're there. This also means emails may not get answered until next Saturday(!) We'll report back if we can (but don't actually expect to see too many new cameras, since it seems most have been announced in the last month or so), but in the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for us! (And you! :-)
Saturday, November 14, 1998
November 14 - CF Grudge Match, Shopper warning
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Saturday, November 14, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Lexar 2, SanDisk 0 (Speed Matters!) Our friends at Lexar passed this tidbit along: It turns out that many of the Lexar folks came from SanDisk, the "other" manufacturer of CF cards. Yesterday, they held a grudge match on the soccer field, and Lexar won decisively, despite a much-larger SanDisk team and an imported "ringer" from Europe! Being that their claim to fame is very fast CompactFlash cards, Lexar used the event to make the point that "Speed Matters." What will be of much greater interest to IR readers though, are the event photos shot with a Sony D700! All images were shot using the D700's uncompressed mode, and both JPEG and uncompressed TIFF versions are available on Lexar's web site. (We surely hope we can convince Sony to "join the club" here with their cameras, particularly the D700. Two sources now confirm that the D700 can take a highest-quality compressed image once per second all day long, using Lexar's high-speed flash memory! Not all cameras can take proper advantage of Lexar's remarkable speed, so we're now routinely including relative cycle-time tests with Lexar and manufacturer-supplied media in all our test reports, on a going-forward basis.) Those of you hungry for D700 sample shots, here's your chance to check out some "real life" images, including uncompressed versions! Thanks, Mike! - See you at Comdex!
- C|Net looks at cheap digicams. Steve of Steve's Digicams called this one to our attention - c|net has published a review article, covering 19 low-cost (<$500) digicams. While the reviews of course don't approach our own standards (no point in being modest, eh? ;-) there's useful info here for people searching that end of the marketplace. Thanks, Steve!
- Caveat Emptor! Not to be confused with Shopper.com, the web site Shopping.com has been picking up some terrible reviews from buyers. The Digital Camera Resource Page brought to our attention an article on Deal-Mac about some of their readers (and their own) horrendous experiences there. Read the Deal-Mac article, and Buyer Beware! (My old pappy used to say "If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.) Thanks Jeff & Delane!
Thursday, November 12, 1998
November 12 - Dimage 1500EX!, Camera Kudos, etc...
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Thursday, November 12, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Minolta Dimage Zoom EX 1500 User Review on-line! To date, we haven't been in the business of publishing user reviews of digital cameras, but reader Bill Garrett changed our mind, at least in the case of the Minolta Dimage 1500EX! We're slated to get an evaluation unit from Minolta sometime after Comdex, but in the meantime, Bill went ahead and bought a 1500EX himself, wrote a (very nice) "First Look" review along with sample images, and presented the whole thing to us in HTML format tied with a bow! Bill's comments are very coherent and to-the-point, and the sample pictures he included reveal excellent image quality. Click here to check out his review!
- Kudos for Cameras. Somehow, both Olympus and Nikon have won Popular Science's "Best of What's New" awards Monday. Olympus won (for the second year in a row) for the D-400 Zoom "filmless digital camera". Nikon was recognized for the CoolPix 900s digital camera, and their Pronea S APS-format film SLR. We've also heard that Nikon has won the much-coveted, but impossible-to-publicize "best buy" award from Consumer Reports, although we haven't yet seen the CR issue containing the digital camera reviews ourselves.
- Dell Sells Kodak (Cameras). In a marriage of titans, Dell Computer and Eastman Kodak have announced that Dell will begin selling Kodak digital cameras in conjunction with their PCs. Dell will be offering the Kodak DC210 digital zoom camera with its Dimension computers, for an additional $499. (Independent retailers doubtless breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the pricing, which is basically the SRP for the product. Nonetheless, the financing arrangements and bundling will make it easier for many business users to "sneak" a digital camera into their capital budgets!
- Olympus earnings, production both up.Apparently, Olympus' success in the digital camera realm is having an impact on the corporate bottom line: Olympus has announced that they are increasing their digital still camera production by 70% relative to a year earlier, and will produce a total of 270,000 units in the period from Octgober to December, 1998. In a related announcement, Olympus Optical Co Ltd. is expected to post a 22 billion yen operating profit for 1998/99, up 14 percent from last year. The improved performance is attributed to gains in the medical and digital arenas.
- Digitella Supports Minolta EX 1500 Digitella offers a "no programming required" script-creation product for the Digita camera operating system, called ScriptGenerator. The product now supports the new Minolta Dimage EX 1500 digial camera. For more info, visit www.digitella.com/demo.htm
- CF winning memory format wars. IDC has announced the results of a study, showing that CompactFlash cards are strongly leading the market for removable flash memory, with a 59% market share in 1997, and projected to increase to 79% over the next 4 years. While the competing SmartMedia wins high marks for compactness, CF has kept pace on the price front, and offers much higher capacities. This latter is doubtless what persuaded Minolta to defect to the CF camp with the Dimage Zoom EX 1500 camera, and may be a factor in Olympus recently joining the CF association. (No announced plans for Olympus to include CF in any cameras, and Oly representatives gave us the spin that this was just part of Oly's expected behavior as an "industry leader, being involved in all important forums," but we have to wonder if they aren't thinking about the much-higher capacity available in CF cards. (OTOH, the current 16MB SmartMedia is pretty big, and 32MB units are supposedly right around the corner early next year. While pros clearly need huge memory cards, we question whether average users really care about memory sizes much beyond 32 meg...)
- Silver: Not dead yet! Remember the paperless office? How many reams a day of copier paper does your office use? The same may be true of silver-based photography: Despite the rapid and dramatic expansion of digital imaging, conventional photography continues to grow. A recent report by the Washington DC-based Silver Institute (is it just me, or is there an institute for everything these days?) projected that worldwide use of silver by the photo industry will rise by 10% over the net 5 years. The bottom line is that professional and graphic arts applications will use less conventional film, but amateurs will more than make up for this by clicking more pictures than ever before. The contention is that digital cameras still cost too much, are too complicated, and dont take good enough pictures to seriously challenge silver. ... Yes but: Does anyone seriously think that this will continue to be the case five years from now? We dont!
- Philips & Sanyo join CCD forces. Philips and Sanyo have announced a pact to jointly develop, manufacture, and market CCDs for digital still cameras. In the first phase, Sanyo will handle wafer production for megapixel CCDs, while Philips will built CCDs with two million pixels. Sanyo will package and test chips made by both companies. Philips anticipates quickly moving to mass production of 4-million-pixel units(!) The new CCDs will use so-called Frame Transfer (FT) technology for improved light sensitivity and efficiency. Bottom line for you and me? Bigger CCDs in cheaper cameras! (We think this is significant news: We've heard that Philips is the manufacturer of the 6 megapixel CCDs in several high-end studio-oriented digital camera backs that are winning rave reviews from users. There are definitely 2-megapixel cameras coming next Spring, and we won't be surprised to see "prosumer" 4-megapixel devices by a year from now. Progress marches on, great news for all of us!)
Wednesday, November 11, 1998
November 11 - Epson 750Z, Big Fast Flash from Lexar!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Wednesday, November 11, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Epson Announces PhotoPC 750Z Epson has at last joined the ranks of manufacturers offering optical-zoom cameras. The new 750Z is based on a 1.25 megapixel CCD sensor, with 1280x960 basic resolution. It has a 3x optical zoom lens, ranging from 34 to 102mm, plus a 2x "digital zoom" capability. It also implements Epson's new "Hypict" technology, supporting interpolation up to 1600x1200 or 1.92 million pixels. Like previous Epson cameras, it carries on-board memory, this time with a capacity of 4 megabytes, which is added to by the included 8 MB Lexar removable CF card, boosting total flash-memory storage to a generous 12 megabytes. Following the recent trend of increased buffer memory pioneered by the Kodak DC260, Olympus D-620L, and Minolta 1500EX, the new 750Z also includes an undisclosed but presumably large buffer memory and fast processing circuitry, allowing a full-resolution cycle time of only 3 seconds, and up to 16 640x480 images to be captured in "burst" mode at up to 2 frames per second. See Epson's web site for more details, although there was no information on the new unit posted as of today. Here are its specs:
- 1.25 Megapixel CCD, 1280 x 960 pixel resolution
- Interpolated resolution up to 1600x1200 pixels
- 3x zoom lens, 34-102mm equivalent focal lengths, f2.8/f8 aspheric
- Autofocus from 0.8m-infinity, Macro 0.2m-0.8m
- Variable ISO equivalent speeds of 90/180/360(!)
- Large buffer memory for full resolution cycle time of 3 seconds
- Shutter speeds 1/2 to 1/750 seconds (1/30 max with flash)
- Built-in flash, 8" to 8' (0.2 - 2.4m)
- 2" low-temp polysilicion TFT LCD (SOLAR-powered in direct sun!)
- 4 NiMH batteries and charger included!
- Dual-platform support: Mac/PC (Requires PowerPC on Mac)
- Lexar builds BIG, FAST Flash cards! IR Sponsor Lexar Media has announced a new High Performance Digital Film (tm) product, with the Lexar Pro series of standard-size PCMCIA Type II cards. The new cards support an "8x" speed, transferring data at a top speed of 1.2 MB per second (That's FAST!). The new cards come in sizes ranging from 96 MB for $499 to 160MB for $799. These look like a great alternative to the rotating hard-drive based type III cards used by many pro digicams, and provide amazing speed in the forthcoming Sony D700 prosumer model. (We spoke with one individual, company not to be named, who reported shot to shot cycle times of as little as 1 second in high-resolution compressed mode on the D700 with these cards. We have it on good authority that Lexar will have a demo unit or two of the D700 at Comdex to show off the capabilities of the new media.
Tuesday, November 10, 1998
November 10 - CF Action, Free Jaz, Scanning Appliance
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, November 10, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Simple CF reader for iMac. Simple technology has announced a USB reader for CompactFlash cards for the iMac. The unit supports data transfer up to 12 Mbits/second, but is a bit pricy, at an MSRP of $199.95.
- SanDisk doubles CF density, builds fat cards II. In two related releases, SanDisk has announced products based on new 128 Mbit flash chips, boosting their largest CompactFlash cards from 48 to 96 MB(!), as well as the first CompactFlash Type II cards. These latter represent a new standard for CF cards, with a 5mm thickness, and offering higher capacities than standard Type I CF cards. SanDisks first Type II cards will have a capacity of 160MB. No word on when the 96 MB CF cards will appear, but the 160MBs are slated to begin shipping in March
- Free Jaz drive with scanner!? Yup, you heard right, but not just with any scanner: UMAX is offering a free Jaz 2 Gig removable drive with the purchase of any of three of their professional (big ticket) scanners. These units are intended to replace conventional drum scans for high-end color work. The PowerLook 3000 scans to 3048 dpi, with 42-bit color quality and Dmax of 3.6, selling for $7,295. The PowerLook III has a hardware resolution of 1200 dpi, 42-bit color, and a Dmax of 3.4, selling for $3,095. The large-format (A3 size) Mirage II scans 700x1400dpi across the full bed, or 1400x2800 dpi on a reduced area, with 36 bit color, and 3.3 Dmax, selling for $6,495. The free Jaz promotion runs through December 31, 1998. Youll find UMAX on the web at www.UMAX.com.
- Microtek announces Scanning Appliance. This is an interesting one: Microtek is combining their X6 600dpi scanner with a built-in processor and a Zip drive. The result is a computer free Scanning Appliance. The new device is intended to be used in much the same way as an office copier, with people bringing scans back to their desks on a Zip disk cartridge. Personally, we like to tweak our scans more while were making them, but this is an intriguing concept. The new devices should be available by the end of 1998, for under $500
- Polaroid moves further into software distribution. Polaroid has extended their PhotoMax software brand to include the PhotoMax Family Pack, which combines the Polaroid Active Image technology with four Broderbund software titles. The pack includes Print Shop(r) Premier Edition 5.0, The Print Shop(r) Press Writer 1.0, Family Tree Maker(r), and the Print Shop(r) Photo Organizer. The new package will retail for $49.95, an incredible price considering the wide range of capabilities it provides.
Saturday, November 7, 1998
November 7 - Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Saturday, November 7, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- We're overwhelmed! (Many) dozens of readers emailed us testimonials in response to our appeal below! Some were quite long and eloquent, others brief and matter-of-fact. All were heartfelt and enthusiastic in support of The Imaging Resource! This will definitely be powerful leverage in our quest to obtain the participation of more camera/scanner manufacturers in the site: There can be no doubt that people are reading the product information here, and using it to make intelligent, informed buying decisions! Beyond the immediate goal of getting more manufacturers to "join the club" though, the response was tremendously uplifting and heartwarming for us personally. We had no idea so many people so appreciated what we're doing, to the point of taking significant amounts of time to tell us so! Your letters were definitely the number-one "feel good" experience of the year!! Many, many thanks to all who wrote!
- And now, back to the news. We did hear a common thread throughout the emails though, that people would really like more frequent news updates! All we can say is "we'll try." The problem with news (and life in general around here) is that it takes time away from other things (like camera/scanner presentations) that are truly central to what we're all about. Not that we mind the news: In fact, Dave (who does essentially all the writing on the site) really enjoys it. - It's just that there aren't nearly enough hours in the day, and it's much more efficient to let news items pile up and deal with them in one fell swoop. Nonetheless, we'll try to provide more-frequent postings of smaller size, to provide more of a steady diet for our frequent visitors. One future thought: If advertising revenue continues to grow at its current pace, we may be able to afford an ouside "news editor" to maintain this feed. Any volunteers? Even at its best, it wouldn't pay much, but if you love this stuff anyway and write well, it could be a way to pay for a few of the digi-photo gadgets that one perpetually seems to need more of. If you're interested, and have writing experience, email us, and we'll see where life leads...
- Fuji chops price! This is embarassingly old! (5 days) Fuji cut it's price on their flagship MX-700 mega-pixel model by $200(!), to a current estimated street price of $599. This is a great price for an ultra-compact, sexy digicam that (we think) takes good pictures. Even though they're one of the "holdouts" among the major digicam vendors in joining the IR site, we'll state that we've always had good luck with Fuji products over the years. It's definitely shaping up to be a great digicam Christmas!
- Canon: Scant details on Hyperphoto. At last year's Comdex, Canon unveiled a tabloid-format (11x17 inches) 1200x1200 dpi "7-color" inkjet printer code-named "Aspen", along with some truly amazing photo prints made on it. Squinting as hard as I could sans-glasses (I'm *very* nearsighted), I couldn't see a hint of a dot anywhere on the prints. After Comdex though, ... nothing! Now, it appears this printing technology is about to come to light, at first in the form of the Canon "Hyperphoto." This is to be an imaging system for the "print-for-pay" (eg, Kinkos et. al.) market, intended to produce everything from photo print enlargements to calendars, business cards, etc. We've seen virtually no public data yet, but have heard that the output is every bit as stunning as the prototype "Aspen," and that materials costs are quite low. (On the order of a dollar a page for "typical" output, whatever that is.) We'll keep our eyes peeled at Comdex, and let you know what we find.
- Minolta 1500EX pics on-line. A DCRP reader found this Japanese site, with some of the first sample pictures of the Minolta 1500EX camera. (Minolta has committed to getting us a 1500EX sometime after Comdex (hopefully soon after) to test. With any luck, we should have a full battery of pictures on-line by early December, in time for last-minute Christmas purchases!
- CompuPic goes 4.0 Photodex Corporation has released CompuPic 4.0 on the Windows 95/98 platform. A free trial version is available from their website. (Along with an earlier version of the program for the Mac and Windows 3.1 platforms.) We use CompuPic quite a bit here for quickly scanning through the literally hundreds of photos we take when evaluating a new camera. It builds thumbnails of your images for you, to let you quickly see what's where, and is very fast at opening JPEG files on either Mac or PC. (This has saved us literally hours compared to viewing image files in Photoshop, as we did previously.) The new version has lots of added features including cropping, color correction, text overlay, and many more. Check it out! (Oh, almost forgot - you get a 15-day free trial, after which it will cost you $39.95 to keep all the features unlocked. Well worth it, in our opinion.)
- It ain't fair! We knew digicam prices in Japan were quite a bit lower than the US, but didn't realize just HOW low! Reader Tim King (currently residing in Japan) wrote with some startling prices: He found a Sony Mavica 71A selling at a "regular" price of only $320 US. Think that's low? Try these sale prices: Kodak DC210, $242 US, Sony MVC-FD7 $248 US, Minolta Dimage V $107 US(!!). One of Tim's industrial clients blamed the US/Japan price differential on "American protectionist tax policies," but we find it a bit of a stretch to account for all of these huge differences solely due to US tax policies, particularly given how liberal US import laws generally are. (It may be though, that "anti-dumping" laws prevent Japanese companies from offering below-manufacturing-cost "fire sales" here to clear out inventory on old models.) Thanks, Tim! - Keep us posted!
- Slaving over a hot CRT! We're pressing hard to get the Canon Pro70 presentation put together before Comdex, so are rationing our news-update time. We've got a stack more items though, that we'll post over the next few days, so stay tuned!
Thursday, November 5, 1998
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Thursday, November 5, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
Is this important to you? We need testimonials!
- We need your help! Has the Imaging Resource been useful to you in purchasing a camera or scanner? Do you plan to buy one in the near future and consider the type of information here important? Let us know! (And many thanks to those of you who have already!) We've generally enjoyed very good support from the manufacturers, but as is obvious, not every device out there is "in here." Despite our nearly 300,000 page views in October(!!), there are still some out there in the manufacturer community who for whatever reason don't "get it" about the Imaging Resource, what we're trying to do, and how valuable it is to people actually buying cameras and scanners. Note the emphasis on "actually buying" - This is the bottom line of what motivates the manufacturers: People buying their products. Sorry if we're a little sensitive, but one exec speculated that our readership was "probably a lot of geek tire-kickers"(really!) We'll be meeting with many of the "holdouts" at Comdex starting 10 days hence, and it would sure be helpful to have a handful or two of spirited emails proclaiming the absolutely essential nature of Imaging Resource reviews to the buying process! We know from our email discussions with some of you that folks out there really are using The Imaging Resource as the decision-making tool we intended it to be, but much of that correspondence contains personal information that wouldn't be appropriate to share with others. If we've helped you, would you consider helping us by writing a testimonial saying how important our information was to your purchase? (Or, how important it will be to your future purchases?) If a just a few of you could take a few minutes to do this, it would be a huge "leg up" for us in our discussions, and a very real assist in getting even more great products and "scoops" in the future. - Don't assume someone else will do it, write yourself! Thanks! Send the cards and letters to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Wednesday, November 4, 1998
November 4 - Hot tip on Toshiba PDR-M1!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Wednesday, November 4, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Prices will rise, SOON! This belongs on the "deals" page (where it will also go), but I wanted to make sure everyone possible heard it quickly: We've had confirmation from two independent sources today that the ~$380-390 price for the Toshiba PDR-M1 (1.5 megapixel, superb image quality) is an "aberration" due to a distribution foul-up! There are only a very limited number of units in the sales channel at this price, and once they're exhausted, the prices will jump by as much as $100! (Much to the relief of Kodak, Fuji, Oly, et. al.) If you're even remotely thinking about buying one of these, don't wait another minute! (About-to-become IR advertiser State Street Direct had 21 units left at the end of the day today, get 'em while they're there!)
Tuesday, November 3, 1998
November 3 - News catch-up day (Finally!)
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, November 3, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
- Olympus web pages up: We reported on the new Olympus D-400Z and D-620L cameras below, now the official web pages for them are up for all to see. Check them out: If our experience with the D-400Z is any indication, these will be real winners! If you haven't already, check out our extensive review of the D-400Z! http://www.olympusamerica.com/digital/products/400Z/400Z.html
- Kodak Cuts Prices. Athough the timing might make it seem a reaction to Olympus' announcements of the '400Z ad 620L, we doubt Kodak had any specific information about the new Olympus models to base their pricing decisions on. But then, they hardly needed it - It's no secret that megapixel prices have been plummeting lately! It's sure shaping up to be a great Christmas for digicam fanciers! Here's Kodak's new price lineup:
- DC120 (zoom) $499
- DC200 (fixed focal length) $399
- DC210 Plus (zoom) $499
- DC220 (zoom, Digita OS) $699
- DC260 (zoom, Digital OS) $899
- We'll post the notice on our deals page with appropriate credit to those who wrote, but we've heard from a couple of people that the Best Buys stores are selling the HP C20 PhotoSmart digital camera in a bundle with a free 15MB CompactFlash card for only $299. This is undoubtedly a clearance move before HP introduces their forthcoming zoom-equipped C30 model, but this is an extraordinary deal! This is a true megapixel digicam, and was already one of the better buys on the market. With the free 15 meg card, it's an absolute steal. Check out our review of the C20, and compare its images to those of other cameras in the Comparometer(tm)!
- New digicam e-zine. We saw this on rec.photo.digital last night, and Steve's Digicams has reported on it in more detail: megapixel.net has the second issue of their attractively-designed, easy-to-navigate magazine on-line now, at www.megapixel.net. Steve was pretty impressed with them, and we like their general layout and content, but take issue with their testing methodology a bit: Their shots don't lend themselves well to careful lighting control, which will make it difficult to use them to compare camera performance. Nonetheless, a worthy addition to the spectrum of on-line digital camera info, and we salute their generation of real content, an all-too-scarce commodity in a world of links to links...
- More Sony D-700 info. Reader Mike Tomkins (who is clearly harboring a D-700 fetish, based on the amount of info he's sending us ;-) wrote in with another link to new information on the forthcoming high-end Sony. We translated some of the text, to find that most of it was talking in general terms about the benefits of independent control of both shutter and aperture (the D-700 apparently has complete manual control over shutter and aperture), and the value of strong manual white-balance control. We don't have the time to provide translations for all the captions, but the pictures page that accompanies the article provides some interesting examples of the camera's capabilities. There's a sunset shot that used the manual white balance control to preserve the colors in the sunset, as well as a moody shot of a (rock?) in swirling water that used an incandescent-equivalent white balance to produce an intensely blue hue in the water. There are also shots showing greater or lesser depth of field, thanks to the aperture control, and a street scene taken with a small lens opening and long exposure that's interesting. All in all, looks like a very impressive camera. (Hope we can get our hands on one - hint, hint!)
- Ricoh 4200/4300 Reviews Posted. Our friends Jeff and Delane at the DCRP got their hands on the Ricoh 4200 & 4300 digicams recently, and wrote brief reviews of each, with sample pictures. These are the first reviews of these digicams we've seen on the web. Follow the links off their home page to see the reviews.
- Cameraid v1.1 released. Steve's Digicams also alerted us to the availability of the latest version of Juri Munkki's exceptionally capable universal digicam-interface and support program for the Macintosh. Cameraid v1.1.1 now includes lossless JPEG rotation, among a host of other useful features.
- USB CF reader. Sandisk has announced a USB version of their popular ImageMate CompactFlash reader. The new unit will support the new Apple iMac, as well as USB-equipped windows machines. (The USB connection should be quite a bit faster than the prior parallel-port one.)
- ColorShot Connects Direct! Polaroid has announced a "Direct Connect" adapter for their ColorShot digital photo printer first launched in July. (The $299 ColorShot produces true photo prints from digital images, on special Polaroid film.) The $99 Direct Connect unit lets the ColorShot connect to and print from digital cameras from Olympus, Agfa, Polaroid, Epson, Casio, Kodak, Ricoh "and others." Several manufacturers have developed proprietary links between their cameras and printers (Olympus and Epson both come to mind), but the Polaroid product is the first we've seen that creates a more or less universal connection between digicam and printer. On the computer side, the ColorShot is a Windows-only device at present, but will interface via either printer or USB ports.
- What's a Digital Print Order Format? This sounds a bit obscure, but it could have a big impact for digicam owners. Kodak, Canon, Fuji, and Matsushita have announced the joint development of a universal Digital Print Order Format (DPOF). Say huh? - The DPOF is simply a standardized way of indicating on the media (CF, SmartMedia, Floppy, etc) how many prints of what size you want of eacch image from a digital camera. The idea is that cards with their images marked using the DPOF could then be plugged directly into reader-equipped printers or retail printing kiosks to have the requested images cranked out immediately. This is interesting, because the players are all big enough on both the digicam and printing sides to make this stick as a standard format. (The need for a digicam user to even be a computer owner begins a slow fade into the distance, and Intel begins hating life even more...)
- Flash memory competition heats up, consumers win. (We'll duplicate this onto our Deals page also, as it deserves ongoing notice.) New Imaging Resource sponsor Lexar media has a BUNCH of interesting promotions going on for their CompactFlash memory cards. I think the hottest deal is two 24-meg cards for only $179. Running a very close second though, is a mail-in offer for a free Lexar CompactFlash Digital Film Reader whenever you buy a 32MB "starter" kit, through any of their sales channels. Even as we become jaded by ever-falling memory prices, this is a great deal, and well worth considering if you're about to become a digicam owner. (Or if you are already one, and need more memory!)
- ImageResults from Polaroid. We have to hand it to Polaroid, they're continuing to innovate their way through a difficult transitional time for the company. They've now announced a unique service, ImageResults, with the goal of helping users of Polaroid digital imaging technology make the most of their equipment and software. ImageResults is a subscription service providing three levels of service, at $199, $269, and $449 per year. The top level includes up to three one-on-one sessions with a Polaroid imaging specialist, who will evaluate your digital images and make specific recommendations on how best to improve their quality. At the lower levels of the service, you gain access to Polaroid's extensive on-line "Knowledge Base" on a wide variety of topics. Check out the new service by clicking on their "demo" button when you get to their site.
- HP pushes the inkjet envelope. Inkjet printers have traditionally been the solution of choice for individual users, but their slow speed has kept them out of office environments. Now, Hewlett Packard is pushing the paradigm, with their new 2500C/CM printers. The new units are networkable, and can print on a wide variety of media up to 13 x 19 inches. Print speed for mixed text and color graphics is claimed at 7 pages per minute, and the units support a 12,000 page-per-month duty cycle. (That's a LOT of paper and ink!) The "C" version uses standard printer protocols, while the "CM" unit includes the Adobe Postscript 3 language. The 2500C will sell for $1,249 US, and the CM for $1,649.
Monday, November 2, 1998
November 2 - Olympus D-400Z & D-620L: Now it can be told!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Monday, November 2, 1998 - 0:00 EST)
Olympus announces D-400 Zoom At last, at least part of the reason for our anemic news updates the last week or so can come to light! Working under non-disclosure terms with Olympus, we were able to subject their brand-new D-400 Zoom camera (a US version of the European D-900Z) to our full battery of tests. Today, as part of the official product rollout, we're very pleased to be able to present a full review, complete with test pictures of the new unit. We have to say we were extremely impressed with the new camera: It packs all the desireable features into one package, for a projected street price of $799. Here's a set of specs for it:
- 1.3 Megapixel CCD, 1280 x 960 pixel resolution
- 3x Zoom lens, 35-105mm equivalent focal lengths, f2.8-4.4 aspheric
- 2x Digital Telephoto at any focal length
- 2-position quick focus: 8 feet and infinity (8 ft runs 5.6-15ft in tele mode, 2.5ft - infinity in wide, infinity preset runs 16.4 ft to infinity in tele mode, 303ft to infinity in wide.)
- Optional uncompressed storage format(!)
- Both center-weighted and spot metering
- Burst mode, up to 10 frames of 640x480 at 2 fps
- 4-mode flash
- Auto plus 5-step manual white balance control
- 1/2 - 1/1,000 mechanical shutter, ISO 60/120 (Good down to ~EV6)
- +/- 2 stop EV adjust, in 1/2 stop increments
- 8 MB SmartMedia included, with FlashPath included in the box!
Olympus Announces D-620L Although they weren't able to get us one in time to test and post a review for the product announcement, Olympus is also announcing today the D-620L camera, the US version of the C-1400XL seen at Photokina. The D-620L is expected to sell for $1199. We'll have a full review as soon as we can get our hands on one, but given current backlog, that probably won't be until after Comdex/Thanksgiving. This is basically an update of the D-600L, but the enhancements are major, particularly the super-fast cycle time due to the huge buffer, and the availability of an external flash sync. Here are its specs:
- 1.4 Megapixel CCD, 1280 x 1024 pixel resolution
- 3x zoom lens, 36-110mm equivalent focal lengths, f2.8-5.6 aspheric
- 43mm threaded lens barrel for a FULL line of accessories, now including Olympus-made wide angle lens, telephoto lens, macro lens, and various filters
- 16 Megabyte buffer memory for full resolution bursts up to 5 images at 3 fps!
- 6 step manual white balance color, from 3000-6500 degree K
- 3-Position quick-focus settings, 1.3 ft, 8 ft, infinity
- Rapid-fire in normal shooting, even with flash on
- 6-mode pop-up flash system
- External flash sync/PC flash connector for thyristor auto flashes
- 1/4 - 1/10,000 electronic shutter
- +/- 3 stop EV adjust in 1 stop increments
- NiMH rechargeable batteries and charger included in the box
Major news catch-up tomorrow night/Tuesday AM (we promise) - Meanwhile, go check out the D-400 Zoom review & pictures!<
AOL Alert: Several readers connecting
via AOL have complained of poor image quality when using the AOL web browser.
This is caused by a setting called "compress images" in the browser
that causes it to completely mangle images in the interest of faster transmission.
You should turn this setting OFF before viewing any of the comparison images
on this site.
- FLASH: Thanks to reader Lynn Mannan, here's an explanation of how to
make the correct settings adjustments (at least in AOL 4.0 for PCs):
- I opened the "My AOL" preferences screen
in the toolbar across the top. Then I clicked on WWW icon and selected
the "web graphics" tab where I unchecked the "compressed
graphics" choice and clicked on the Apply button at the bottom. Now
the scanner test pictures are gorgeous. The pictures take a long time to
load. But they are worth waiting for. Thank