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Second Annual PMA Envy Awards

pma08.jpg By 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 ( today announces its second annual Envy Awards 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 in 2007. The award is symbolized by the aircraft-grade aluminum juice pitchers whose handles are too low to permit graceful pouring and were such a continual source of frustration to the wait staff that the things are only used for water these days (which, unlike juice, can easily be cleaned up -- or not). Elegant but impractical, that's an Envy award. But the products that win one (or two) are simply to be envied.

We are pleased this year to have engaged Merci, our waitress, as the virtual presenter, taking this award presentation business up a notch. She not only looks the part, but her name could not be more appropriate.

The Envy Award Statuette. Impractical but elegant.

The second batch of Envies, traditionally awarded only after the show (and several nights of sleep) in several vague categories, follow. For more information, read our Pasini Reports ( where we discuss them in detail.

DSLR | Back to Contents

Nikon D300. Two Envies. We shot the show with a D300, which was why people were so nice to us. Sure, we let them sit behind the wheel (it was a loaner, after all), and everyone of them drooled. Like the D200, it feels right. And the Live View modes and Active D-Lighting are life savers. Very sweet. (

Merci Presents! Our waitress Merci presents the Envy Awards this year.

Pentax K20D. One Envy. Shipping in March, the dust and weather sealed wonder with a Samsung CMOS sensor that can hit ISO 6400 has, like other Pentax dSLRs, an option to save Raws files in Adobe DNG format. Live view mode can zoom in 4x or 8x to aid manual focusing. And there are other cool things about it (and its Samsung cousin) but it just feels good in the hand. (

Canon Rebel XSi. One Envy. The IS kit lens, the DIGIC II chip and Live View make this a tempting trade-up. Toss in the SD card format and you have an even strong temptation if you add an Eye-Fi WiFi SD card. (

Nikon D60. One Envy. Same can be said for the D60. Add an Eye-Fi that is. The air flow dust control system is a very clever approach to a little discussed problem. Auto LCD rotation (like Konica Minolta used to do) is a nice touch, too. (

DIGICAM | Back to Contents

Casio EX-F1. One Envy. You can't see the EX-F1 fire its pop-up flash in burst mode and not envy it. The 1200 fps movies (even at just 336x96 pixels) are just another reason to turn green. With the 12x optical zoom and Raw support, you can make hummingbirds look lazy. (

Olympus SP-570 UltraZoom. One Envy. You can't turn around without Olympus updating their ultrazoom. Now it the optical zoom range covers 20x (up from 18x) from 26mm to 530mm (and f2.8-4.5). And a nice manual focus ring on the lens barrel. (

Kodak Z1012 IS. One Envy. Not your typical 12x zoom, the Z1012 IS can product a clean print from ISO 3200 shots, can capture HD video (and play it back with the optional HD dock that also recharges the battery) and features Kodak's new SmartCapture technology that automatically sets some Scene modes, adjusts white balance and exposure (underexposing a bit) and then uses its beefy processor to massage that data into an image you otherwise can't get in a digicam. Which is what envy is all about. (

ACCESSORY | Back to Contents

Eye-Fi. Two Envies. Everybody loves this gadget. It's a 2-GB SD card with WiFi built in. We have some questions. How fast an SD card is it and can you WiFi an image to a WiFi printer like HP's C8180? But that's what reviews are for. All we need to know to blush green is this card turns any SD-capable camera into a WiFi camera. Lose the USB cable. (

Op/Tech Adapt-Its. Two Envies. We like to swap straps on our dSLRs. Sometimes we need a shoulder strap. Most often we like to shoot with a wrist strap. What we don't like is rethreading the straps like we're Betsy Ross every time we want to change. But finding hooks that fit dSLR eyelets is one of those impossible quests that makes us feel foolish. Until Op/Tech came up with the Adapt-It. It bridges the eyelet and the hook. And no need to be envious -- four will set you back just $3 or $4. (

Delkin Universal Dual Battery Charger. One Envy. If you travel with battery powered devices, you probably resent all the charging bricks you have to haul around with you. Imagine if you could replace them all with just one brick and an adapter plate for each battery format. And it could charge two formats at the same time. Don't imagine, it's here. (

Delkin ImageRouter. One Envy. It's so cool, it gets an Envy even though we can't think of a single time we'd ever use one. You can plug four CompactFlash cards into this USB device and they'll show up on your desktop. Use the included Windows software to copy their contents simultaneously. Plug another one into this one and do it with eight of them. Ideal for schools or long vacations. (

Geotate Hopi. Two Envies. There are a lot of geotagging devices out there. But what we like about the Hopi is that its rechargeable battery lasts forever, it syncs to your camera via the hot shoe (so it only records something for each exposure) and it downloads that little data via USB for merging (with the included software) in the Exif header of your images. No need to cable connect the device to your camera with some expensive proprietary cable. And not a lot of maintenance recharging the battery (the USB port will do it for you). (

PRINTER | Back to Contents

HP B8850. One Envy. HP stripped its B9180 13x19 pro pigment printer down to enthusiast size with the B8850. You get the same great inks (including three blacks) and all the specialty papers (like canvas) if not the very thick ones. And the same maintenance routines too. Your black and white prints will make your friends turn green with envy. (

Epson R1900. One Envy. Not to be outdone by HP, Epson has fitted a roll printer to its enthusiast 13x19 printer so your panoramas will turn your friends green with envy. And at these prices, everybody can be an enthusiast, enjoying 13x19 prints.

SOFTWARE | Back to Contents

HP Light Fade Simulator. One Envy. When Tom Brown showed us this we looked down at our shoes. Were they sparkly red? Were we in Oz? What's behind that curtain, Tom! Well, a lot of work evaluating print fade for a number of paper and ink combinations. The company actually used Wilhelm Research's methodology in calibrating the degree of fade each year, building a different ICC profile for each year. Windows only or it would have gotten two envies. (

Nik Software Viveza Photoshop plug-in. One Envy. We happen to like U Point technology. Click on the part of your picture you want to improve and use sliders associated with that point to improve it. Simple. No menus, no layers, no masks, no arcane commands, no Scott Kelby. And now U Point comes to any image editing software that can run a Photoshop plug-in. Hurray! (

iNova Actions! eBook. One Envy. We also like Peter iNova's eBooks. But unless you bought one of the cameras he writes about, you probably haven't enjoyed any of the 600 or so special effects he gives away with each eBook. Well, Peter had an idea. What if he did an eBook about the special effects and rewrote them so they work for any six to 12 megapixel image. From any camera (even a digicam). So he did. But he also distributes it on thumbdrive, saving some installation time from a CD. Bravo! (

MONITOR | Back to Contents

Eizo ColorEdge CG222W. One Envy. It's hard to believe you can work in front of this gorgeous monitor and feel the least bit stressed out. Its relaxingly bright and even light massages your eyes. And it just about has the sRGB and Adobe colorspace covered, too. Really the nicest monitor we've seen. And unlike other Eizo monitors, it's nearly affordable. (

SCANNER | Back to Contents

Microtek Artixscan M1. One Envy. You know we like Microtek's dual bed design for scanning film without looking through glass, too. And with the M1, the company has built an autofocus scanner so you can get as sharp a capture as possible. Brilliant idea. (

Kodak Rapid Print Scanner. One Envy. But for those batch jobs where the whole shoebox has to be scanned, you want some professional help. Usually that meant parting with your treasures, which is always risky. But Kodak has built a kiosk with a 30-print per minute scanner (various sizes are fine) that writes 300-dpi scans to disc. So you can take your treasures to one of these kiosks (soon) and do a roll of film a minute to disc. Compare that to about an hour a roll for a flatbed in the comfort of your home. (

SERVICES | Back to Contents

Swiss Picture Bank. One Envy. Why not archive your images in Switzerland along with your retirement fund? Three cents each for 30 years storage or six cents for 99 (hard to check on them, though, unless you really take care of yourself). We took over 500 shots during PMA, so that would run us $30.00 for 99 years. Or $15 for just the ones we published. Pretty reasonable. (

PicMe Photo Sharing. One Envy. PicMe uses a very simple interface that shows folders of images as stacks of pictures and lets you share simply by dragging an image or stack of them to a name in the list it displays on the left side of the screen. You already know how to do this. Very nice. (

Film Rescue. One Envy. Got old film? That's not developed? Or a Kodak disc you want scanned. Call these people. Everyone who sees your images when they send them back will think you're a magician. And they won't tell, either. They won't even charge you if they can't help. (

CHIP | Back to Contents

Kodak 5-Mp TrueSense KAC-05020. Two Envies. It's only for camphones, but it gives them high ISO (helpful since they don't have a flash) and a lot more resolution than you typically find in a camphone. But that high ISO with little noise (thanks to the extra "clear" pixel in the RGB layout) can be built for any format, you know. So already we're envious, even though the first phones with the chip won't be available until 2009. (