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Sunday, August 30, 1998
August 30 - New Kodak camera, hints of secrets, lots more
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Sunday, August 30, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
New Kodak Camera! - You heard it here first! On Monday, Kodak will announce the 210 plus, an upgraded version of their highly successful 210. The new camera will incorporate a number of enhancements, including: A 20% increase in battery life, a 5-second faster startup time, faster time between photos, a multi-lingual LCD screen, an "About" screen that displays the number of images taken, both with and without flash, and a date stamp, with variable formats (for instance, mm/dd/yy, or dd/mm/yy). Kodak will also be bundling an AC adapter, 8 MB CompactFlash card, and version 3.0 of their Picture Easy software. A new feature also supports border templates, which users can create and upload as bitmap files. List price of the new model will be $599. An accessory kit including 16 MB memory card, PCMCIA adapter, Kodak rechargeable batteries with charger, camera bag, and lens cleaning pen will sell for $229. A Macintosh connection kit is available for $24.95. This link to Kodak's web site should be operating by sometime tomorrow.
- Other big, "secret" news coming! We'd hoped we could post another notice here from another major manufacturer, but last minute delays have prevented us from doing so. Dave will be away at the Seybold San Francisco conference all next week, but we'll try to get the update out to you as soon as we get clearance to do so. This is really a big item, and we wish we could at least drop a hint here, but if we did, we'd never get a scoop again from the company involved... Stay tuned early this week...
- 16 MB SmartMedia cards found! Reader Joel Fried wrote in to say that he'd located some 16MB SmartMedia (SSFDC) cards at on-line vendor Anmax. They're selling for $99, about twice the cost of 8 MB cards. Now, if you just have a camera that can take advantage of them... (Thanks, Joel!)
- First looks at the Agfa 1680. "Friend of the IR family" John Cowley wrote in to say that he's bought an Agfa 1680, and has some sample pics up on his site, to be followed soon by a review. John's reason for buying the 1680 may have a lot of relevance for others looking for greater exposure control: John does a lot of sports & action photography, and the 1680's aperture-priority exposure mode lets him lock-in a high shutter speed to stop the action. We confess this caught us by surprise, as this is the first time we've heard of a non-pro model digicam with separate shutter/aperture control. (Before you write to correct us, yes, we know that the Fuji DS300 has this capability as well, but it's a fair bit more expensive.) Apparently even the earlier 1280 had the feature as well, but for some reason it was never really publicized. Another brief "first look" at the 1680 can be found in John Henshall's "Chip Shop" article. (Thanks to Steve's Digicams for this item.) Neither article currently has full-sized images, but we expect John will have some up soon. (Thanks, John!)
- Epson 740 a mystery no longer! Mac Reseller Small Dog Electronics shows 22 Epson Stylus Photo 740 printers in stock, at $279. (Subscribers to their Kibbles & Bytes newsletter get an additional $10 off.) These are the upgraded units that include a USB interface. Still no official sign of the unit on Epson's web site, but Small Dog is taking orders (and shipping) right now. In related news, Epson has officially dropped prices on several of its existing inkjet printers, as follows: Stylus Color 800 - $249, Stylus Color 600 - $179, and Stylus Color 400 - $129.
- Oly 320 discount mystery solved. Our friends over at DC Resource have apparently sorted out the story with a rumored super deal on Oly D-320L's at OfficeMax: The reported $399 price was apparently a misprint. The actual price is $499 (still not a bad deal), and stores will not be honoring the previous prices.
- Sony announces new pro-grade digital camera. Sony announced thursday the DSC-D700 digital camera, with a 1.5 megapixel CCD, 5x zoom (28-140 mm equivalent focal lengths), and independent shutter speed and aperture control. Exposure modes include programmed AE, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and full manual. Shutter speeds range from four seconds to 1/2000th of a second, and apertures from f2.0 to f13.2. Power is via a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and the camera includes both a pup-up flash and hot shoe for external flash systems. Also included are a 2.5 inch color LCD, and a card slot for a ATA Type II PC card for increased storage capacity. Scheduled for availability in November at a projected price of $1,899, the camera appears to bridge the gap between flexible "pro" models of digital cameras, and consumer products that allow only limited control over the exposure process.
- Website up for Sony FD91 camera. Sony's website now has pages on it for the new FD-91 Mavica we reported on earlier. Check out the details on this interesting extension of the floppy-based Mavica line.
- Pretec ships 160MB ATA flash card. In the ever-spiralling removable-storage capacity wars, Pretec has announced a 160 MB flash memory card, in the "Type II" format. (As to be used in the new Sony DSC-D700 mentioned above. No price was set in the announcement, even though the text read "now shipping." Check Pretec's web site for more info.
- Faster Serial Drivers? One of Steve's Digicams' readers pointed him to a Japanese web site that has high-speed serial I/O drivers for many popular UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter, in case you were wondering) chips to speed serial I/O to as fast as 921 Kbaud. Drivers can be found there for Windoze 95/98, Win NT 4.0, FreeBSD, and Linux operating systems. The only problem is that we seriously doubt faster drivers in the PC will help digicam downloads much, as the chips in the cameras are likely to be the limiting factor anyway...
- Do-it-yourself LandSat! For those of you fascinated by LandSat images, and wishing you could take pictures like that too, your waiting is over! ERIM International of Ann Arbor Michigan has announced a six-band multispectral camera with 2000x2000 resolution and built-in GPS and attitude measurement systems. Depending on altitude, resolution can be as high as 1/2 meter. Best of all, you can rent the system, strap it to your plane, and just take off. No waiting for the Cray to crunch your data, either: The full multispectral frames can be viewed within an hour of landing. No mention of rental price was made in the announcement, but it's probably safe to assume you could buy a few dozen high-end consumer digicams for what a day's rental would run you. Oh well...
- Little brother is watching! Need a little surveillance someplace, but don't feel like sitting in a stuffy van in the heat or cold? Now all you need is Pentax Technologies new VersaCam web camera, a power outlet, and a phone line, and you can surveil to your hearts content from the comfort of your computer room! While a variety of web cam solutions are already on the market, this is the first we've seen that's this "turn-key", and also the first that has been so sharply targeted at the surveillance market. The unit will be demonstrated at the International Security Conference trade show in NYC Sept 1-3. The new unit should be available by the end of the year, but no price was given in the press release.
Thursday, August 27, 1998
August 27 - Kodak interview up, good deals, lotsa news
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Thursday, August 27, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Kodak DC260 team interview is up! As noted Tuesday, we had an hour-long discussion with members of the Kodak DC260 product team, and got to address a number of questions that have been floating around the internet community about Kodak's flagship product. Check this link, for the full scoop. (All ~3,000 words of it!)
- Sony introduces "XGA" Res Mavicas! Sony has announced the introduction of two new Mavica models with 1024x768 resolution. In addition to the higher resolution, they also have the ability to capture up to 60 seconds of MPEG video and audio on a 3.5 inch disk. The MVC-FD81 includes a 3x zoom, 2.5 inch LCD, and a flash. The higher-end MVC-FD91 sports a 14x optical zoom lens, with equivalent focal lengths ranging from 37-518mm, as well as a manual focus ring(!) for more-accurate focusing. The '91s macro mode also allows shooting as close as one inch. Sony has also included a proprietary picture stabilization technology to reduce the effect of camera "shake." Availability is projected for late october, at MSRPs of $1,099 for the FD91 and $899 for the FD81. (One question: How many 800K-pixel photos fit on a floppy?) Sony has also announced a dye-sub printer capable of printing images directly from floppy disks. The FVP-1 prints photos on 5.5x3.9 inch paper, and will sell in September for $499.
- More cheap NiMH batteries: The following report just in from reader Warren J:
"I just picked up some NEXcell NiMH AA batteries rated 1300mAh from Thomas Distributing. They also just recently lowered their price. You can get them for $2.60 each, 6 or more for $2.50 each, 12 or more for $2.40 each, and 24 or more for $2.30 each. They also have a wall charger for $9.90 that will charge up to 4 batteries. Shipping is about average. I had to pay $7.95 to get them to California from Illinois." Thanks, Warren!
- CHEAP price on Oly D340L! Reader Diane Grimes wrote in with this report:
"I just ordered my Olympus 340L from TriState for $509. no tax. $18. shipping, and $49. for AC Adapter. Lowest price out there far as I can tell. Should get it within 5 days."
I asked Diane to email once she got the camera, to let us (and you) know how her experience with TriState went. We haven't dealt with them before, but are generally leery of the "back of the mag" NY camera sellers... This is certainly an exceptional price on a great camera though! Thanks, Diane!
- On again, off again D-320L discount? The DC Resource Page has reported spotty availability of Oly D-320L digicams at OfficeMax for $399, including the FlashPath adapter. A super price, but it seems one that's only available some places. (It was reported by a reader in KY.) How about it - anybody see this offer anywhere else?
- 192 MB CompactFlash cards?! Hitachi and Mitsubishi have jointly developed new 256-Mbit flash memory chips that Hitachi is building into 192-MByte CF cards. (And 640-Mbyte PCMCIA cards). The new devices are also claimed to be significantly faster than currently-available cards, with write/erase speeds of 3 Mbytes/second, and read speeds as high as 13.4 MBytes/second. The 192-meg CF cards based on the new chips will be available in sample quantities (at ~$600 apiece) by the end of 1998, and production quantities will begin shipping in the first quarter of 1999.
- Agfa launches USB SnapScan scanner. Following recent announcements by UMAX and Storm, Agfa has announced the SnapScan 1212u, with Universal Serial Bus (USB) compatibility. The specs are pretty impressive, at a very low price: 36-bit (12 bits per color), 600x1200 dpi, and a nice bundle of software, for $129 MSRP. Availability is slated for September. For more info, see Agfa's website.
- Agfa expands Twinplate scanner line. In a related announcement, Agfa unveiled the DuoScan T1200, with separate scanning plates for reflective images and transparencies. The 36-bit scanner offers 600x1200 dpi optical resolution, a Dmax of 3.0, and maximum transparency size of 8x10, as well as a batch slide holder for rapid FPO (for position only) scans of 35mm slides. The T1200 is price aggressively at $699, and should ship in September.
- Multi-Frame JPEG Movies: Wish you had a way to turn those multi-frame "burst" images from some digital camera into movies? (We're talking about those images where anywhere from 4 to 16 tiny frames are stored as a single image in the camera's memory.) TawbaWare just released a nifty freeware program for Windows users, called Framer. It lets you specify how many rows & columns a multi-frame image has in it, and how many images the movie extends across, and plays back the frames rapidly (the frame rate is selectable also) to make a movie. Pretty cool!
- ULTRA close-ups for cheap: On the same site, you'll also find the results of Max Lyon's experimenting with an inexpensive 8x loupe magnifier to focus down to one inch with his Epson PhotoPC600. While the results clearly aren't equal to those from high-priced dedicated-purpose macro attachments, the detail is pretty astonishing.
- Free Photoshop Fixes for Faulty Photos: Aussie Photoshop expert Mike Finn has posted some Photoshop "actions" to fix common tone/color problems with Nikon CoolPix 900 images. Check his site for before/after shots, and free downloads of his "actions" files. (Thanks to Steve's Digicams for all three of these last news items!)
- Polaroid continues on a "roll" with drivers license contracts: In continued good news for a company near to our hearts, Polaroid announced yet another contract for producting driver's licenses, this time for New Hampshire. Key to Polaroid's success is their use of new digital technologies. Despite a string of recent successes, we were surprised at just how bit the secure ID market is for Polaroid - They currently produce 300 million ID documents a year worldwide(!)<
Tuesday, August 25, 1998
August 25 - Kodak interview(!), new review, miscellaneous
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, August 25, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Kodak DC260 questions? - Email them quick!! We just learned yesterday late afternoon that an interview we've been try to arrange with senior Kodak product team members for the DC260 is now on for today, at ~3pm Eastern time. If you have any questions about the product, this is the time to get them answered! We'll check email for the last time about 2:30pm Eastern time, so don't delay with your questions. We'll publish the content of the interview by Thursday PM.
- Toshiba PDR-5 review is up! This actually went up Sunday PM, we forgot to include it in our last news update. Very slick, ULTRA portable camera, with a *reflective* LCD. (Won't wash out at all in direct sun, very low-power, but a bit hard to read indoors.) Check out the review!
- Big imaging issue of MacWorld on the stands now. We just got our copy of MacWorld, and found it chock full of reviews of imaging devices. Our major quibble: The only digital camera pictures they've shown for comparison have obviously shifting lighting that makes comparisons between the images very difficult. Worthwhile reading nonetheless.
- FlashPath for Mac updates. The same issue of MacWorld shed a little more light on the difficulties involved with developing the Mac FlashPath drivers. (Apparently, NOT due to recalcitrance on the part of Apple.) Simultaneously, MacWeek has reported online that Olympus is about to announce their Mac version of the device (16-meg capable, too) at next week's Seybold show in San Francisco. From the MacWeek description, it sounds as though it works much like the Fuji beta drivers we posted a link to a little while back.
- First glimpse of the Agfa 1680. Steve's digicams posted a link to a Japanese site with images taken by the forthcoming Agfa 1680. Tough to tell much about the shooting conditions, etc unless you read Japanese, but the images look pretty good. (Also no standard images to compare them with - hint, hint, Agfa!) Steve also posted a link to a German site with info about the forthcoming Sony MVC-FD81 megapixel Mavica. (So what are they going to do to fit those big images onto a floppy?)
- New Epson printers coming? We're a bit late with this, and if the rumors are true, the info may be up on Epson's website soon. Macintouch posted a note on 8/19 that said an Epson reseller reports new models 440, 640, and 740. Apparently the new models include parallel, AppleTalk, and USB conectors on them. Prices are slightly higher than those they replace, and all the new models will only have a 1-year warranty, as compared to the 2-year warranty the 600 (and 800) previously carried.
Sunday, August 23, 1998
August 23 - Adapter rings, new software, cheap media, etc.
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Sunday, August 23, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- New metal adapter rings for Nikon CP 900. Tom Malzacher's company CKC Power is now shipping their metal adapter rings for the CoolPix 900. The rings are black-anodized aluminum, and step up the filter threads to 37mm size, so the camera can accept common adapter lenses sold to fit camcorders. Tom's high-quality adapters are selling for $22.95 + $4 shipping.
- New CompuPic on the Mac! PhotoDex Corp's CompuPic file-viewer program has long been our favorite Windows tool for quickly checking the hundreds of JPEGs we capture in a typical camera evaluation. Our pleasure at learning a new version was available for the Mac was matched only by our chagrin in learning that the prior version has actually been available since last December(!) Both versions have a free trial period, and downloads for both Mac and Windows can be found at PhotoDex's site.
- Super-cheap SmartMedia? We confess to (a) not having followed the market that closely, and (b) having *no* experience with the reseller involved, but... We were perusing a catalog from Midwest Micro (800-413-9855) recently, and noticed they were advertising 8MB, 3v SmartMedia cards (Item #014444) for only $32. Most of the prices we've seen for that size card have been hovering around the $50 level. If any of you order these, email us and let us know what your experience was like, we'll pass it along.
- IXLA Announces "Digital Camera Direct" (DCD) camera-interface plug-in. Following their recent announcement of a digital camera software development kit (see our August 4 news posting), IXLA Limited has announced their DCD plug-in to provide a direct connection between over 70 popular digital cameras and software applications supporting the Adobe Photoshop "acquire" plug-in standard. Supported cameras include models from Agfa, Casio, Chinon, Epson, Fuji, HP, Kodak, Konica, NEC, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh, Sanyo, and Sharp. Supported software packages include windows versions of Adobe Photoshop, JASC PaintShop Pro, Corel PhotoPaing, Ulead PhotoImpact and others. DCD can be ordered from IXLA's web site for $49.95.
- Ulead updates PhotoImpact. Speaking of PhotoImpact, Ulead has just announced an update of the popular Windows application to version 4.2. The new version features "certified Windows 98 compatibility," enhanced web capabilities, and support for system-level color management under Win'98 and NT5.0, and 48- and 36-bit direct RGB support. The update can be downloaded for free by registered PhotoImpact users, from the Ulead website at www.ulead.com.
- Philips digicams offical,web site up: We reported a while back on Philips determination to re-enter the digital camera market in strength. This re-entry is now official with the ESP60 (640x480), and the ESP80 (1280x960) cameras. The two models are slated to retail for $399.94 and $799.99. Check the web site dedicated to their digital cameras for more details.
- HUGE PC-card hard drives soon? A press release from Amercian Custom Components spills the beans on a new PC-card hard drive being developed by Calluna Technology Limited. The new drive will not only be smaller than previous models (fitting a skinny Type II rather than a Type III slot), but have a gigantic capacity of 1040 MB! (This is in a package barely 5mm thick!) Pros relying on hard-drive cards in their high-end digicams will rejoice, but no indication was given of when such rejoicing could begin, as no ship date was projected.
- $10,000 US prize for clever display concept! Kopin Corporation (creator of the Kopin Cyberdisplay) and Motorola Inc have announced a design contest seeking clever ideas for ultra-portable products using the Kopin Cyberdisplay. It sounds like this contest can be entered by anybody (not just engineers), since the entry is only a "write-up on how the virtual display can be applied to an end product and on how the applied market can benefit from this latest display technology." No wires or solder needed! The Grand Prize is $10,000 US, while first, second, and thrid prize winners will receive $5K, $2K, and $1K respectively. Contest deadline is October 30, so get working! Details can be found at http://sps.motorola.com/vv_contest/
Monday, August 17, 1998
August 17 - X-Ray Vision, Camera Rumors, a Deal, etc.
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Monday, August 17, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Visit the Imaging Resource, save five bucks! Imaging Resource advertiser d-store is offering our readers an additional $5 off their already low prices for 32-meg Compact Flash cards. Mention offer code IMR when calling them, and the normally $169 card can be yours for $164.
- Sony introduces (and discontinues) "X-ray vision!" As reported by Reuters, Sony was recently embarassed by reports that their new "Night Shot" camcorders can apparently see through many clothing items. The IR (infrared)-sensitive cameras were intended for things like parents filming sleeping children, or possibly taking pictures of nocturnal animals. Users recently discovered though, that enabling the IR "Night Shot" capability in daylight produced pictures in which people's external clothing didn't show up, but what was underneath did(!) After shipping a reported 870,000 of the original cameras, Sony has announced that they are now shipping only modified units in which the "night shot" feature won't work in daylight. In a move that will doubtless produce a surge of near-term sales, the company rep stated that Sony was not asking stores to remove the original version from the shelves...
- Casio rumored to release new megapixel camera. As reported by CNet, Casio is rumored to be about to release a new megapixel camera model, the QV-7000SX. The specs read virtually identically to those of the QV-5000SX already announced (see the Imaging Resource review for more details), but the new model is rumored to possibly include removable storage, rather than the 8MB of fixed internal memory of theQV-5000. Digital camera analyst Carl Holec of ARS spotted the new device in an Office Max catalog (and you apparently can, too). "I've run across [unannounced] products in their catalog before, because they only do their catalog once a quarter," Holec explained. - If he's right about the removable media, it would be a welcome addition to a very versatile digicam.
- ArcSoft announces PhotoBase 2.0. Continuing to expand their modular "Building Blocks of Digital Imaging" product line, ArcSoft has announced PhotoBase, a combination of drag & drop multimedia manager and presentation tool that can create albums of images, audio, video, HTML (web) and text files. The Windows-based software package can create slide shows, "video postcards," and photo web pages. It includes an optical character recognizer that lets users scan printed pages directly into computer text, and an image editor to crop, rotate, sharpen and color-adjust images. The $49.95 program is due to begin shipping today. (August 17). Arcsoft has promised a free trial version soon, on their website.
- SoundVision announces Clarity 2.0 "digital imaging platform". Extending the range of options for manufacturers wishing to enter the digicam marketplace, Framingham, MA - based Sound Vision has announced a comprehensive combination of hardware, software, and services for fast-cycle digital camera product development. Built around a custom ASIC chip, the Clarity platform supports a multitude of high-demand digital camera features, including LCD, SmartMedia OR CompactFlash, USB, RS232, NTSC or PAL video out, a range of on-board memory options, and the Kopin CyberDisplay. (We previously reported on the micro-sized Kopin display.) The Clarity platform can also support either CCD or CMOS sensors, at resolutions ranging from VGA-level to "the highest megapixel capacities available." Sound Vision's Clarity offerings also include firmware and software for image acquisition and enhancement, and an on-camera user interface. Basically, this sounds like a nearly turn-key solution for developing digital cameras. The Sound Vision team has been involved with digital imaging from the early days, Chairman Bob Caspe having been the developer of the wildly successful high-end (4 megapixel) Leaf Digital Camera Back. Bottom line for end users: More cameras, faster, and cheaper!
- Al Shugart joins Sierra Imaging board. Software/firmware company Sierra Imaging has announced the appointment of silicion valley heavyweight Alan Shugart to its board of directors. Shugart co-founded hard drive manufacturer Seagate in 1979, and knows all about fast-moving, volatile, high-tech businesses selling to mass markets. (Sound anything like digicams?) With Imagek's earlier announcement of the appointment of former National Semiconductor Chairman Peter J. Sprague, this marks the second time in a month that a major Silicon Valley heavyweight has signed on with an imaging firm. This all sounds like good news for end users, as it means the "big money" guys are looking seriously at the digicam market. Big money in = cheap, powerful products out. (Or at least, so we hope...)
Tuesday, August 11, 1998
August 11 - Toshiba, Canon Ship, IR Spammed!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, August 11, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
-You heard it here first! Our sources at Toshiba tell us that today marks the first shipments of both the PDR-M1 (see review elsewhere on this site) and the ultraportable PDR-5 (review coming soon). Expect to see these cameras in major retail outlets by the end of the week! The PDR-M1 is a particularly good deal, at a list price of only $599 for a 1.5 megapixel camera (!)
- Canon ships too! Canon has announced the official shipment of the first A5 cameras, and reports rave reviews from the "conventional" press. Shucks, we could've told them it was a cool camera! We really liked the A5, as you can see from our review. It's compact, sexy, and takes great pictures.
- SPAM ATTACK! Is nothing sacred? The Imaging Resource (bastion of netiquette rectitude) has been hit by a particularly obnoxious "spam" attack. Somehow our "hotnews" and "web" email addresses got onto a spammer's list, causing no end of communication trouble for us. The problem is that the rougue email in question has a 100K+ "cc:" list of addresses in it that crashed our email software on 4 separate occasions(!). We now have filters running that seem to be circumventing the problem, but we know we lost at least some messages. (If you emailed either "hotnews" or "web" and didn't get a reply, that's probably what happened. -- Would whoever sent the email about Epson ink prices please re-transmit it? Thanks!) To save others who might be affected by this, here are some strings from the "cc:" list that you can use to filter out the noxious mail: "007", "classicalaskacharters", "fboehnisch", "jcbf716", "mathews10184584455". (Note that these are names of other victims, not the perpetrators, and we didn't list their full email addresses, to respect their privacy.)
- Logitech buys QuickCam: Scanner and computer peripherals manufacturer Logitech purchased the QuickCam unit from California-based Connectix for $25MM cash. The QuickCam group is responsible for the "computer eye" digital video cameras of the same name. Connectix had been expected to spin off the QuickCam business unit, to focus more on their software and on-line activities. The move puts Logitech back in the digital camera business, if only at the computer-eye level, after an absence of several years. Logitech projects growth in the "computer eye" segment to average 60% per year through 2002.
- NEC announces Superscript 650C Inkjet Printer: Longtime printer manufacturer NEC has announced a new five-color inkjet printer, with 1200x600 resolution, for an estimated street price of $139 after a $30 mail-in rebate. The 5-color concept is unusual: In normal operation, TWO black inks are used to improve both text and pictures - "Graphic black" is used for pictures, while "midnight black" ink gives sharper text. The press release spoke of included "photo inks", but it wasn't clear whether they were talking about a different color cartridge, or just the normal CMY colors.<
Monday, August 10, 1998
August 10 - Kodak Correction, HP Rumors, Light News (finally!)...
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Monday, August 10, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- New DC260 Images Posted! We've FINALLY completed our re-shoot of the DC260 test images! Our original unit had a bad sensor, producing excessive amounts of noise. The new unit created much "cleaner" images, which you can see on the 260 Pictures page.
- Minor correction for Kodak DC260 firmware update: The DC260 firmware update we mentioned below reduces boot time BY about 2-3 seconds, not TO 2-3 seconds! Oh, well...
- HP Rumor Control: There's been a lot of buzz lately on rec.photo.digital about HP discontinuing the excellent PhotoSmart printer(?!). To clear up the confusion, we spoke with one of our contacts, a marketing manager in the HP division responsible for the PhotoSmart line. According to our source, the PhotoSmart printer "will remain available in the channel for the foreseeable future." (In computer years, that has to mean at least 6 months or so.) Shifts in distribution apparently have led some dealers to claim they can't order it, but according to HP, the printer is "amply available." Some have cited HP's recent $100 rebate on the unit as evidence of a "clearance sale." Au contraire - It's no secret that inkjet prices have plummeted, and HP needed to respond quickly. The best way to do this was a rebate coupon, so dealers wouldn't be stuck with high-priced inventory, and so the price change would become effective immediately for consumers. Bottom line: no need for panic-buying of PhotoSmarts, although at the current $199 net, it's hard to resist. (We heard of at least one individual who liked his so much that he bought a second one in case they became unavailable, just to be sure he'd always have!) As evidence of HPs continued commitment to the product, you'll be seeing a review of it posted here in the next few weeks. (We've only played with it a little bit, but it truly is an amazing device, producing images virtually indistinguishable from conventional photos.)
- The Digital Camera Resource Page reported on another service for having digital images turned into true-blue silver-halide photo prints, at www.PrintMyPicture.com. (This service sounds very similar to the one provided by Signature Color that we reported on a little while back. Prices range from $1.99 for a 4x6 to $8.99 for an 8x10. Steve, of Steve's Digicams reports that the same folks run AfterHoursDigital, through which you can order multiple forms of digital output, including HUGE format photographic prints. (This is a bit pricey though, at $175 for a 30x40 print.) These prices aren't too out of line with conventional film enlargements, and the services look like an interesting option for people without a "photo" printer (like the HP PhotoSmart we just mentioned above). Even compared to printing your own, the price isn't out of reach, by the time you figure in glossy photo paper and ink costs. We'll try both of these services (in our "spare" time, ha ha), and report on what we find.
- Disk Trend announces report on Removable Storage. Disk Trend is an industry analysis company (founded by Jim Porter) that tracks data-storage technology. They've just announced a new report on removable media technology, and (surprise), there's a lot of competing "standards" out there! If you're interested, the full report can be had for only $7,616 (what's the $16 for?), by contacting Disk Trend at www.disktrend.com. If you're too cheap for that, here's a quickie digest: Standard floppies still rule, at 100 million drives/year, but little growth is forecast. High-density floppies such as the Iomega Zip, 120 Meg "SuperDisk", and Sony's rumored 200 meg HiFD will grow, but are plagued by multiple competing standards. Expect 33.4 million drives by 2001. Of greatest interest to us digicam folks are "flash" card shipments, projected to grow from 4.5 million units in 1997, to 19.6 million in 2001. No info in the press release though, as to how they expect the competing flash card formats to fare. ('Guess you have to pony up your $7,616 to find that out.)
- Polaroid in the Driver's (License) Seat. Polaroid just announced the award of a contract to produce driver's licenses for the state of Maine. (This the second state that's gone to the Polaroid system in the last month or two.) The cool part of this is that mug shots will be stored digitally, so you won't have to re-visit the DMV if you lose your license: They'll just make a new one from the digital archive! In unrelated news, Polaroid announced that their executive stock-purchase plan resulted in Polaroid brass buying about $3.4 million in stock, well beyond the $2.5 MM target. We take all of this as good news for a company that many have viewed with concern as photography enters the digital era.
- In another DCRP note, a reader there wrote in about an OS/2 program that interfaces with multiple digital cameras. The Digital Camera Image Transfer Utility (DCITU to its friends) talks to various cameras from Agfa, Epson, Kodak, Olympus, Sanyo, Sierra, and Toshiba. Check this link for more info.
Tuesday, August 4, 1998
August 4 - Ads, new firmware, cheap ink and scanners...
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, August 4, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- The ads are coming, the ads are coming! With our monthly page volume running reliably at ~200K views/month (and growing), and bandwidth costs becoming a real concern, the time has come for us to look at on-site advertising. We'll be experimenting with ads from various providers the next month or two, and very much want to hear any feedback our readers might have. We're committed to bringing you the sort of detailed and objective information that's made us a valued resource for digicam owners and buyers, and are resolute that on-site advertising not detract in any way from our reader's experience. Please favor us with your comments (postive or negative) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kodak Announces Forthcoming DC260 Firmware Patch! Thanks to Steve Haenichen for posting this note on his excellent FAQ for the Kodak DC260: Kodak's Matt Bernius posted a note on rec.photo.digital, responding to numerous requests and suggestions from DC260 camera owners. It appears that Kodak will release a firmware upgrade for the DC260 very soon, which will include the following:
- Greatly improved power-up time (down to 2-3 seconds)
- Immediate lens retraction on power off, even if the camera is still processing.
- The lens won't automatically extend when powering up in review mode.
- Improved USB connections.
- Enhancements to burst capture mode
- Enhancements to Long Time Exposure Mode.
- Randy Glass of the Feather River Canyon News has put up a nice digicam page, with particular focus on the Nikon CP900, but including general info for anyone interested in digital cameraas as well. He's also hosting a download link for the unique Came camera-tool program for Win95 users. The new version he has up now includes a battery-level monitor. Came works with theAgfa ePhoto line of cameras; Epson PhotoPC, PhotoPC 500, PhotoPC 550, PhotoPC 600; Olympus digital cameras; Sanyo VPC-G200/G200EX, DSC-X300; and Nikon CoolPix 900.
- Cheap ink! Steve of Steve's Digicams reports that prices on Epson "Photo" ink for the Stylus Photo, 700, and Photo EX has decreased drastically in the last week or two. Color cartridges can now be found at Buycomp and CMPExpress for only a little over $7 apiece!
- Big UMAX Price Drops! UMAX has announced a dramatic price drop for their high-end PowerLook III. They've not only dropped the price from $3995 to $3495, but are throwing in a $500 mail-in rebate through October 31, for a net price of $2995, and a net savings of $1,000! They are simultaneously offering a $200 mail-in rebate on their PowerLook II scanner, bringing its price as low as $1095, and a $50 mail-in rebate through December 31 on the Astra 1200S home-office unit, dropping its effective price to $199. These are some pretty significant savings, particularly on the higher-end units. The PowerLook III has a resolution of 1200x2400, and a Dmax rating of 3.4, with 42-bit color depth, while the PowerLook II captures 36 bit color at 600x1200, and a Dmax of 3.3. These high-end units boast enough bit depth and resolution to make excellent medium- and large-format film scanners. (We hope to be able to review one or both of these, or their new PowerLook 3000 soon.)
- Epson drops scanner prices. Not letting any grass grow under their feet either, Epson today announced price drops of up to 25% for their popular Expression 636 scanner as well. Effective immediately, the estimated street price for the Epson Expression 636 Executive, version 2 model, moves to $599 from $799; the Epson Expression 636 Artist, version 2, moves to $699 from $899; and the Epson Expression 636 Professional, version 2, moves to $1,099 from $1,299. The Expression 636 features single pass color CCD scanning with an optical resolution of 600 dpi, 36-bit color and 3.0 dynamic range.
- HP introduces "Smarter" scanning. In other scanner news, HP has announced new additions to their line of scanners, with new hardware/software integration that comprises HP's "Intelligent Scanning Technology". Said to "automatically optimize text, graphics, and line art simultaneously," the aim of Intelligent Scanning is to get users to a successful scan much faster. The new 4100C series will sell for $199, the 6200C for $399, and the ADF (auto document feeder)-equipped 6250C for $499. The 6200 and 6250 will also include a 35mm slide adapter, but the press release mentioned no specs (dpi, bit depth, etc - c'mon guys!) for any of the scanners. Availability is expected Aug 17 for the 6200s, and "early fall" for the 4100.
- New Epson Printers Coming! The aforementioned indefatigable Steve also reports on updated versions of several of Epson's printers. No new "Photo" units in the rumored lineup, but improvements on the 400 and 600. A new 740 supposedly will use variable droplet sizes, ranging from 6 (!) to 19 picoliters. Although the 740 will only use standard CMY-colored inks, the variable droplet sizes could achieve much the same effect as a 6-color printer, without the hassle of another ink cartridge. Improved drivers for the new printers will use the sRGB monitor-color standard, and offer improved monitor-to-paper color matching.
- Updated iView for Mac Users. This item is courtesy the Digital Camera Resource Page: The Mac-only iView multimedia software package has been updated to version 3.2, adding PageMaker, Painter, and LivePicture file formats to the long list it can catalog. The DCRP gives it high marks for Mac users.
- Zydeco announces Picture Perfect Suite for creating customized digital photo albums. The $39.95 suite includes Zydeco's own EZ Album software, a version of InMedia's Slides & Sound Xpress, JASC's (excellent) Paint Shop Pro, and offers for discounted image digitizing and novelty-output (coffee mugs, etc) services.
- Memory Madness! In two totally unrelated releases, Sony has announced plans for yet another memory format for digital cameras, the "Memory Stick", available in 4- and 8-megabyte sizes, and Peripheral Enhancements Corp has introduced its version of the 16Mb SmartMedia cards. Another source for 16Mb SmartMedia will doubtless be welcome news to those (few?) who's cameras will support the larger media size, but it's hard to understand what Sony's thinking in introducing *another* digicam memory format! We generally view Sony as a pretty savvy company, but can't think of any scenario in which a new, incompatible memory standard will hold any benefit either for the company or consumers!
- New PhotoDeluxe Home Edition version 3.0. Adobe has announced a new "Home Edition" of PhotoDeluxe, further differentiating that product into two lines aimed at home and business separately. The new version's enhancements appear to include improved color management, simplified image import, panorama support, and standard outputs that now include web pages, multimedia shows, and email attachments.
- Developers take note: IXLA announces SDK for easy digicam access! Letting others take advantage of their hard work in developing a (very) broad range of digital camera driver interfaces, IXLA Limited has released its ixla Digital Camera Interface(tm) (DCI) Software Developer's Kit (SDK) version 1.0. The kit gives developers a way to rapidly include support in their Win95 applications for cameras from Agfa, Casio, Chinon, Epson, Fuji, HP, Kodak, Konica, NEC, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh, Sanyo, and Sharp. License fees range from $2,000 to $100,000.(!)
- Imaging for WinCE for free! (On a trial basis.) Owners of Windows CE-based handheld PCs can now acquire images from digital cameras, create and display albums and slide shows, rotate, display, and zoom in on images, and send images via e-mail or IrDA. Sierra Imaging, makers of the popular Windows/Mac dual-platform Image Expert program have announced a public beta version of Image Expert CE. The final shipping version is scheduled for release at the end of August, at a SRP of $49.95.<
Saturday, August 1, 1998
August 1 - Quick update on batteries
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Saturday, August 1, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Long-term Imaging Resource readers know of the long-running mutual admiration society between Imaging Resource and Battery City (see the "Good Deals" note above). We're sad to report that, like all other good things, the extraordinary Battery City AA NiMH pricing has come to an end. The good news though, is that the pricing has become merely exceptional, with the price for a pair of 1200 mAh Toshiba NiMH AA cells now being $4.95. That's still MUCH better than you'll find most places. What happened was a large reseller gave them an offer that was "too good to refuse," and took most of their remaining stock. Joanne did say though, that she'd still honor the old 2 for $3.50 price for previous customers, until her existing Toshiba stock is depleted! Thus, if you've ordered from Battery City in the past, and have any thought of needing more NiMH batteries in the future, now's the time to order. (The rest of you will just have to suffer, paying $2.50 each for batteries most place charge $5 for...) See the box above for their phone number.
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