OUR PICKS FOR BEST OF SHOW
The Inaugural PMA Envy AwardsBy MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
Having pioneered the Ersatz Nobel for Customer Service and the rotating Missing Oscar, the Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS) today announces the Envy Awards, a new award for exhibitors of particular merit or amusement at the Photo Marketing Association's annual trade show.
The name is borrowed from the Las Vegas restaurant where the idea took form at an editorial breakfast meeting. The award is symbolized by the aircraft-grade aluminum juice pitchers whose handles are too low to permit graceful pouring and were a continual source of frustration to the wait staff. Elegant but impractical, that's an Envy award. But the products are simply to be envied.
The inaugural batch of Envies, heretofore traditionally awarded only after the show in several vague categories, follow.
- Canon EOS-1D Mark III. Two Envies. Yes, it's fast, yes, its LCD has a live view, yes, it costs more than a used Yugo, but what really turned our head about the Mark III (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1172710795.html) was the double flash memory writes for instant backup and the 14-bit channels for improved tonal gradation.
- Olympus E-510 and E-410. One Envy each. The in-camera image stabilization tacks just $100 onto the price the 10-Mp E-510 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1173070803.html) over its sibling the 10-Mp E-410 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1173070802.html). Both of these beauties feature Live View you can focus through. Pop the flash to see an homage to the OM-10. Very reasonably priced and a bargain with the bundled lenses.
- Nikon D40x. One Envy. With 10.2-Mp and 3-fps burst mode, this beefier version (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1173153601.html) of the insanely popular D40 can be had, with lens, for $799.95.
- Pentax K10D. One Envy. Also weighing in at 10.2-Mp but adding in-camera image stabilization and the ability to save images in Adobe DNG format, it's not new but still a winner.
- Sony G1. One Envy. The G1's 6-Mp sensor and 3x optical zoom ranging from 38-114mm are standard features but its 3.5-inch LCD, 2-GB internal memory and Digital Living Network Alliance wireless connectivity take it over the top (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1173376644.html).
- Sigma DP1. One Envy. This rangefinder-like digicam (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1173400237.html) sports a large Foveon sensor that captures 2652x1768 pixel images and a hotshoe which can be fitted with an optical viewfinder.
- Nikon Coolpix P5000. One Envy. Not only is the styling retro, but this baby (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1171944059.html) can use those old Coolpix wide angle and tele converters. The hotshoe is also a welcome sight.
- Olympus SP-550 UZ. One Envy. You make an 18x zoom, you get a prize. Period. The SP-550 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SP550/SP550A.HTM) ranges from 28 to 504mm and it's pretty fast with a f2.8-4.5 aperture over that range (which requires quite a long extension). And, yes, it has hardware (and software) image stabilization.
- Sony Alpha vertical grip. One Envy. Shawn noticed the new Alpha (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1173883151.html) has a vertical grip that positions you in exactly the same relation to the lens as the horizontal grip. No, everybody doesn't do that. But they should.
- Sigview S2. One Envy. No Live View on your dSLR? No problem. For the price of a digicam, you can add this optical viewfinder attachment (http://www.argraph.com) which doubles as a remote shutter release.
- Jobo photoGPS. One Envy. Pop this (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1173138994.html) on your hotshoe and download its data with your images after a shoot to get GPS information added to your Exif headers. The hotshoe powers the unit just when you take a shot, preserving battery life for up to a year.
- Lexar UDMA 300x CompactFlash. One Envy. This Ultra Direct Memory Access card (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/1171981812.html) with a UDMA reader can write 45-MB a second. That's something we appreciate being stuck at 90 words a minute.
- M-Rock Bags. One Envy. It's the only holster (http://www.m-rock.com/) big enough for a vertical grip with a bungie cord on the bottom for stuff you can't fit inside, plus an all weather cover.
- Ultimate Light Box. One Envy. This inexpensive flash diffusion system (http://www.harbordigitaldesign.com) gives you a studio full of options in a compact collection.
- Unibind PhotoBook Creator. One Envy. This version (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07mrp/PMA07C.HTM#uni) is a bit more expensive than the stapler-dependent one in our video (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07/PMAS07VIDEO.HTML#vid39) but you can undo the binding.
- PanDigital 8-inch Digital Photo Frame. One Envy. We saw a lot of digital photo frames at the show, but this one (http://www.pandigital.net) has a unique chip and the 8-inch version has a very bright LED backlight.
- Berlebach Tripods. One Envy. Imported from Germany by HP Marketing, these wood tripods made from ash have been around for 110 years. Beautiful, solid, weathered ash, kiln dried, rigid, immune to environmental changes and vibration free. In a range of sizes from a tabletop that sits on the ground on up. A 7 lbs. tripod that rises from 20 to 64 inches goes for under $200.
- Nikon AF-S DS VR 55-200mm f4-5.6 Zoom. One Envy. But at $250, why envy it? Nikon has not only put an affordable telephoto zoom in reach of its 18-55mm kit lens owners, but it's a stabilized telephoto zoom, which actually makes it usable.
- Epson Stylus Photo 1400. One Envy. We saw it first at Macworld (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/MWSF07/mw-expo.htm#eps) but we're still thrilled about a printer that can reproduce Adobe RGB color. On big 13x19 sheets, too. For just $400.
- Kodak 5300 All-in-One Printer. One Envy. This scanner/printer (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07mrp/PMA07D.HTM#kod) does a lot of things well, including copying prints, gang scanning and keeping print costs down with an inexpensive pigment-based ink system and three tiers of instant-dry papers.
- Piezography Neutral K7 Inkset. One Envy. Despite three-ink forays into black-and-white territory, today's inkjets don't work too hard on monochrome imaging. But refit your Epson with one of Piezography's K7 inksets (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07mrp/PMA07D.HTM#pie) and let your eyes bathe in the luxury of rich grays.
- Boinx Fotomagico 2.0. Two Envies. Our favorite way to make slide shows gets one for making a free upgrade to the Express edition (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07mrp/PMA07D.HTM#fot) and another for the Pro watermarking feature.
- Phanfare Photo. One Envy. If this were a free service (http://www.phanfare.com), no one would be talking about Flickr. But you get what you pay for. Sharing done right. And the new scalable video is beyond right.
- PhotoLab. One Envy. This new Windows application (http://www.imaging-resource.com/EVENTS/PMAS07mrp/PMA07A2.HTM#pho) was exhibited at Pepcom's DigitalFocus but we're counting them in anyway. It was simply the simplest camera-to-print process we've seen, with things like red-eye reduction taken care of during image import. These guys spent as much time on the user interface as they did on image analysis -- and it shows. Some companies would just outsource that, but what's that say about them?