PMA 2006 FROM THE FLOOR
Three Sneak PeaksBy MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The doors don't officially open until Sunday, but there is no rest for the jet-lagged reporter assigned to cover the floor show at PMA 2006 here.
On Saturday the Photo Marketing Association held its annual Sneak Preview on the fourth floor of the Orange County Convention Center. Later in the day, Sony hosted a photo shoot at Universal Studios and in the evening Pepcom held its annual DigitalFocus event.
Estimates vary, but the size of the convention floor suggests it will be a good three hour stroll to see every exhibitor at PMA 2006. Maybe an hour on a skate board. So today's sneak peaks are a big plus for the vendors who attend. They get a head start on everybody else.
Our preliminary floor report is just a sneak preview itself. We discovered a few interesting products and companies to talk about now and explore a little more in the coming three days.
The plan is to post a story each evening after the day's events, although we'll be posting our contribution quite late.
|Orange County Convention Center
In addition to our little adventure, Imaging Resource's PMA 2006 coverage includes booth reports hosted by Phanfare (http://pma2006.phanfare.com/), news stories and press releases (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06/PMAS06.HTML), plus extensive video coverage (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS06/PMAS06VIDEO.HTML).
|Trade Show Floor
It's only been a couple of days since Logitech revealed the NuLOOQ (http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1140718423.html) navigator, an innovative device used to navigate program commands, and the NuLOOQ tooldial, customizable software that provides quick access to design tools.
We've been running the tooldial software for a couple of weeks now, so we grabbed Logitech Vice President of Business Development Pratish Shah and got the full demo. We'll have more to say about this new approach to using CS2 applications, but we were impressed with how Photoshop disappeared leaving you in control of your image using just the navigator and the tooldial. It was our first look at the navigator and we were impressed with its build. It's hefty, solid and very responsive.
Back at the bunker, we've been putting a couple of copy stands to the test. One from Zenon uses that company's unique strobe units. Another from Photoflex uses a couple of lamps and a white cube. At the Sneak Peak, we found yet another from American Recorder called Photo Studio In-A-Box. For just $99 you get a pair of 250-watt halogen lamps on stands, a tripod, a nylon diffuser screen and a travel carrier.
|Photo Studio In-A-Box
We were attracted to the sparkling output of the Roland MPX-70, not your ordinary printer. In fact, it's a USB impact printer that can imprint a photo on all sorts of jewelry up to three-quarters of an inch thick. But if you pony up the $3,000 for the printer, you get an entire business. You get enough blanks (from dog tags and charms to pendants and chains) to make $2,000 in sales, a merchandising kit (including a display case with sample output), the software to manage images and add text and borders and a business plan showing the return on your investment, just in case you have to get a loan from your bank.
Expect to hear a lot about muvee, which is sort of an iDVD Lite for your images. Grab a group of photos, throw them at muvee, select a presentation style and some music and in the blink of an eye, you've got automatic pan-and-zoom with your music and a canned style that includes special effects and transitions. It turns the ordinary slide show into an event. You can run it on your computer, of course, but Nikon has licensed a version that runs in its newest Coolpix digicams.
O'Reilly was showing some very interesting titles. We've already reviewed Peter Krogh's The DAM Book and we're about to review Window Seat, a unique title from Julieanne Kost showcasing her images taken from airplane windows. They were also hoping to show Mikkel Aaland's just published Photoshop CS2 RAW. We so much enjoyed Julieanne's book, we're going to chase her down for a little interview (assuming she's landed).
We also got a peek at the Hewlett-Packard Photosmart B9180 new 13x19 pigment printer, which features 200 year print life, according to a Wilhelm study, an HP representation told us. Why so much longer than everybody else (who hang around the 100 year mark)? Primarily the paper, which HP has invested a lot of research in. Its cartridges also have double the yield of other 13x19 printers (about 80 13x19 prints). And it has a three-level approach to color management inlcuding closed loop calibration (you print a target and scan it in the printer), print head management (smart enough to compensate for closed nozzles) and a Photoshop plug-in to simplify color management.
|The Photosmart B9180
Michael Tapes gave us a thorough demo of Pixmantec's RawShooter premium 2005, which is available in a free version (with a bit fewer features, of course). We were particularly impressed with its Vibrance command that applies saturation only where the color is not already saturated in a "scene adaptive" method. But there's a lot more to this Windows-only product.
We spent some time with Shayne Bowman who showed us all the new features of iView MediaPro 3.0. Among which, we particularly like the new Notepad feature that lets anyone who views your catalog, grab a few images, toss them into a list and add a comment they can email you. They've also implemented Adobe's XMP metadata template and added unicode support for foreign languages. There's a lot more to talk about here, too.
How about your mug on a postage stamp? Photostamps (http://photostamps.com) can print a sheet of perfectly legal stamps with either an image or a logo on it in just one day. Two sheets of 20 stamps are about $16.
We were also charmed by my life designs (http://www.mylifedesigns.com), which turns your images into jewelry that is permanently sealed in a coating the company has designed. The images are printed on an Epson printer and greatly profit from the light gathered by the bulbous coating.
Finally, we couldn't help watching a tiny Zoom Album (http://www.zoomalbum.com) being folded from one piece of paper, the adhesive removed from the back of each page in the patented process and a cover slapped on in just a few minutes. The images are all square, we complained, but software makes it easy to crop your images to the simple format. Assembly is really quite simple and the books are not expensive at under $20 a kit.
Make no mistake about it, there are plenty of exciting new cameras here, too. We got our hands on a new Sony at the Sony shoot and a few others later at Pepcom.
We took a shuttle from the convention center to Universal Studios after Sneak Peak. But even the shuttle had to sneak into Universal. We arrived at a back gate and trudged in to the Hard Rock Orlando where we took a seat, listened to an overview of the 2006 lineup and stood in line to get a camera for a test drive.
Each camera came with a Sony Memory Stick of some sort. We ended up with a 2-GB Pro Duo, half the length of the original Memory Stick and a bit thinner, too.
|Sony Storage Options
But, almost as interesting as the cameras, is Sony's lineup of storage options. They include:
- USB Micro Vault Classic, a 256-MB to 4-GB stick itself, that includes a Virtual Expander to store up to three times more data (by compressing it, that is)
- Micro Vault Tiny, Sony's smallest USB drive, color coded to indicate capacities from 256-MB to 4-GB, and also sporting Virtual Expander technology
- Micro Vault Pro, a pocket-sized package slightly smaller than a deck of cards with a USB swivel connector that can store 8-GB of data, transfer at 12-MB/second and is preloaded with file synchronization software
- Compact Vault 2-inch hard disk drive able to transfer its 5-GB storage through a CompactFlash slot at 12-MB/second.
Also somewhat overlooked in all the hoopla over the new digicams is the new InfoLithium that increases their stamina to nearly 400 shots. But we got one to pose for us.
|The New Battery
We took the new $250 Cyber-shot W50 digicam for spin around the cafe. Its an attractive, slim package with a large,2.5-inch LCD and 32-MB internal storage. It's 6.0-Mp sensor is matched to a Carl Zeiss 3x zoom like its little brother, the W30. But the interesting thing about the W50 is its sensitivity. It can record as high as ISO 1000.
The Cafe is romantically lit, let's say, so we walked around taking pictures in the dark. Yes, at ISO 1000 you get noise. But you also get the picture. And we liked that a lot.
|The W30 Poses
That big gray digicam is a cake
In one room, Sony was showing its new SnapLab, an "on-location printer." At 25 lbs., it's something of a portable kiosk with a large flip up LCD that can not only display and select images from media loaded into its card reader, but can also make some edits like crops and red-eye reduction. It can print 3.5x5, 4x6 or 5x7 inch dye sub prints depending on which media you load. A 5x7 takes about 17 seconds to print.
Don't get too excited, though. This little box will run you about $1,700.
Revived by the Hard Rock, we caught a ride at sunset to Pepcom's DigitalFocus at the Dolphin Hotel in Disney World.
It was a theme party and the theme was Hollywood and the Oscars. A couple of giant rotating Oscars guarded the bar, an ice sculpture with framed imaged embedded in it. The stars of the show, however, were the 22 companies exhibiting.
Among them, our favorites were:
- Lensbabies (http://www.lensbabies.com) was showing its $159 Lensbaby 2.0 and Lensbaby Macro Kit, which is a strange little lens for your dSLR with a flexible extension between the camera mount and the front of the lens. As you manipulate the front element, the part of the frame that's in focus changes. Squeeze it in and more of the distant image is in focus. Twist it around and the focus spot moves, too. Interchangeable magnetic washers change the aperture and thus the size of the focus spot. Very clever and a lot of fun to play with.
- Fujifilm was showing their F30, whose claim to fame is not only its remarkably sensitive ISO of 3200 but its "intelligent" flash. Apparently, the flash takes the focus distance information into account so it can throttle down if you've got a person right in front of you. Clever, if not quite intelligent.
- Western Digital had a lineup of portable storage devices, including their popular USB 2.0, 2.5-inch WD Passport drive whose plastic overmold case won't slip off polished services.
- Maxtor showed their lineup of sophisticated storage devices, too. Shared hard drives and FireWire (both 400 and 800) drives. Amusingly both storage companies told us they were working on compact storage solutions to be announced in the near future.
- Pantone brought its $89 huey monitor calibrator along. Its thin profile attaches to your screen with small suction cups. The software simplified the calibration process, avoiding those embarrassing questions about gamma, white point and the like. Even more interesting, though, is that the USB calibrator doesn't sit in a box between calibrations. It monitors room light, adjusting the brightness of your screen through the day.
- Nikon had the mysterious D200 and the new macro VR lens (which is even heavier than its 18-200mm VR lens). But the leading cast members of this group were the just-announced Coolpix digicams. The navigator controller on the one we played with, spun around iPod style to scroll through options. We've seen that before and really like it. It also included muvee's technology, as reported above.
- Kingston had an array of card storage options, but what caught our eye were a couple of SD form factor adapters. One adapter can transform a MiniSD card (typically found in a PDA) into an SD card. The other transforms a MicroSD card (commonly found in recent cellphones) into an SD card. Both the MiniSD and MicroSD include the appropriate SD adapter, too.
|New Macro VR Lens
|The New Coolpix Digicams
|New Nav Button
We waited for the piano player to go home, then caught a lift back to the hotel where our Internet connection was out, delaying this story. Not that we're complaining. We just sat down and relived the whole sneaky day and got up early to post our first floor report from PMA and wait for maintenance to come by to reattach our door handle. As with most sneaky things, you can leave, but you can't come back.