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Digital Photography News Archive!
May 1998


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Thursday, May 28, 1998

May 28
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Thursday, May 28, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)

We (finally) did it! - After an unconscionable delay, our test images from the Olympus ES-10 scanner are on-line. A neat little scanner! A warning to high-end digicam owners: Film + scanner still blows away even high-end digital cameras! Look for the full review ~6/7.
It's done! The full CoolPix 900 review is on-line! GREAT camera! Meanwhile, we're still waiting for our Kodak DC260 review unit. (It will definitely be interesting to see how these two compare!) This is holding up our schedule, meaning that the model photos for the CoolPix won't be posted for at least another week yet. :- (
Building Better Batteries: Both Eveready and Duracell have announced upgraded alkaline batteries designed for high-drain applications like digital cameras. We've had some "Duracell Ultra" units in-house, and they actually do seem to last longer than standard alkalines, although we haven't done any quantitative tests. These might make good backup batteries, but you still can't beat rechargeables for long-term cost-effectiveness. (Especially at the Battery City prices we posted below!)
Olympus users may want to update their TWAIN and Photoshop drivers. We haven't taken time to read the docs, so don't know what the improvements are (certainly will support the D-340L at least), but here's a link to Olympus' download page.
Thanks to the Digital Camera Resource Page for this interesting tidbit: "A reader pointed us in the direction of a Japanese page showing the Sony DSC-MD1, which uses Minidiscs to store photos (up to 2000 images!) and audio. (Thanks, Bill)." This sounds pretty cool, but we question the prospects for a camera using yet another storage medium. CF, SSFDC, and now MiniDisc?
We're mistrustful of one-dimensional "best of" ratings, but here's a list of the "winners" from the Spring '98 PMA show, as posted by Epicentre (by way of Steve's Digicams): "PMA 98's Digital Camera Shootout - Winners/Rankings: Below $300 - Epson PhotoPC 550, $300-599 Kodak DC-200 $600-899 Agfa ePhoto1280, $900 and above Olympus D-600."
MGVision has been getting some press lately for their "digital wallet", which contains a battery-powered 1 Gig drive and a serial port for offloading images from your digital camera without having a computer in tow. The unit will sell at a MSRP of $399, and is slated for a mid-June release. This is a great concept, but we question the implementation: a 1 Gigabyte drive with the only connection being a serial port(!?)
Is color management on the web really getting ready to happen? There's a lot stirring in color management circles, working toward true "WYSIWTS" (What you see is what they saw) color. The problem? No picture looks the same on any two monitors. The solution? Lots of them, including full support soon for Apple's ColorSync technology on the Windows platform. Meanwhile Sonnetech seems to be drawing wider support for their True Internet Color approach, announcing support from such heavyweights as on-line stock photography supplier PhotoDisc. More than 3 million copies of the Colorific color-matching software have been bundled with computer monitors in the last few years.
Extensis updates all plug-ins for Photoshop 5.0 compatibility. Extensis has updated Intellihance, Mask Pro, PhotoFrame, and PhotoTools to work with Photoshop 5.0. Updates are free for all registered owners of current versions. Download them now from the Extensis web site.
New distribution for Ricoh: Expect to find Ricoh digital cameras more widely available, particularly in computer sales channels, after a recent announcement of an agreement with distribution giant Merisel.
  • May 26 - Outstanding Deal on Batteries!
    Too many cameras, no time for news! BUT ... we had to take time to pass this one along: Battery City in Los Angeles (888-422-8248, or 213-658-7520) is passing along the results of a Toshiba pricing mistake: They're selling Toshiba 1200 maH NiMH AA batteries for (get this) $3.50 for a set of two! They also have a 10-hour charger for only $6.50. This sounds like the deal of the century for digicam owners! Stock up! (Thanks to prolific poster Diane for this hot tip!)
  • May 22 - First Nikon CoolPix 900 Shots on-line!
    We're still a 'ways from having the review done, but wanted to get the images from the Nikon CoolPix 900 on-line as soon as possible, given all the interest and requests we've been receiving. For our reader's convenience, we also have some professional shots by Moose Peterson and Jon Ortner here that were commissioned by Nikon. We hope to have the model shots up by early next week, the full review by about a week after that. The detailed data sheet and links to the Comparometer(tm) should appear about the same time as the full review.

    Thursday, May 21, 1998

    May 21 - Lotsa' News!
    By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
    (Thursday, May 21, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)

    Well, it's official: Perhaps due to Steve's Digicams' breaking their story, Kodak has jumped their announcement date for the 220 and 260, and published an official press release! We're still officially under non-disclosure until June1, but frankly, it's going to take us that long to get the cameras reviewed anyway. (Our 220 is due in later today, the 260 by the end of the week.) There's a LOT to talk about on these cameras! (The reviewer shudders in mixed anticipation and dread! :-)
    dcresource reported on Sony's forthcoming ImageStation service, based on the PhotoNet system. This will allow users to upload digital images for photo-quality output, and on-line sharing. To our knowledge, this is the first PhotoNet service that allows upload of images. We'll see how pricing works out, but this could turn out to be the best way to get quantities of your photos printed out. Want 100 copies of a photo Christmas card printed from one of your digital images? You *could* print them on your inkjet, but nothing (still) beats good old silver halide prints for cost and quality. (OK, we know we'll get some arguments on the quality aspect, but the cost aspect holds firm, as long as Sony's pricing is in line with typical silver-halide printing, and assuming that they're not using dye-sub for their output...)
    The REALLY BIG news in this area though, is the joint Kodak/AOL announcement: "You've got Pictures." By the end of the year, Kodak and AOL will have integrated Kodak's PhotoNet service (they bought PhotoNet developer PictureVision back in February of this year) with AOL's on-line service. This is potentially a HUGE announcement: While they've sometimes had a rocky road, nobody can argue with AOL's success at delivering a smoothly integrated on-line experience for non-technical users. (AOL's automated "flashsessions" could do a lot to cure the problem of users having to wait an hour or two for their images to download - just let the computer fetch them overnight!) Combine AOL's 12 million users with over 30,000 Kodak film-processing locations, at least 10,000 Kodak "Image Magic" electronic printing stations, Kodak's recent partnership with Intel, and Kodak's existing enormous (but largely unknown) back-end server capacity for handling digital photo traffic, and you've got an industry juggernaut!
    Minolta has launched itself into serious contention in the film scanner arena, with the announcement of two new scanners: The QuickScan 35 a couple of weeks ago, and the recent announcement of the Dimage Scan Multi, which scans both 35mm and medium-format (2 1/4 in, 6x7cm, etc). This is a significant announcement, because it's the first time a medium-format film scanner with these specs has been available for under $2,500. A lot of professional photographers will take notice! The specs:
    Dimage Scan Multi: One-pass scanning at 2820 dpi optical (2688 x 4032 for 35mm 1920 x 3328 for Advanced Photo System and 2496 x 3712 for medium format up to 6 x 9),12-bit per channel A/D, normal 24-bit output and optional 48-bit output (does it have 4 color channels? - we don't know yet), dynamic range of 3.4D, 35mm and APS scans at 2820 dpi in less than 60 seconds, and at 1128 dpi for medium format and electron microscope(!) film. Price quoted at "Less than $2,500."
    QuickScan 35: One-pass scans at 2,820 optical resolultion, for 2688x4032 scans, Mac PhotoShop plug-in support, 3.0 density range, 30 bit color depth, 60 second full-scan at 2800 dpi. Price quoted at "less than $2,000."
    Kopin continues to make headway with their micro-sized CyberDisplay. Their partnership with Fuji has borne fruit in the form of a dedicated chipset to drive the unit. This means camera manufactures can start designing the display into their products! When will we see them? Beats us, but we wouldn't be surprised to see product announcements by the end of the year. How significant is this? When you consider that a full-color CyberDisplay only takes ~80 milliwatts, a set of 4 NiMH AA batteries could drive one for something like 70 hours! (The display by itself, not a whole camera, but you can expect at least a doubling or quadrupling of battery life for cameras using this technology!)
    Yeah, we know: This page is getting kinda big. In and around testing the no less than 4 new cameras now in-house, we'll try to split the news page and "archive" older articles to help it load faster.

    Tuesday, May 19, 1998

    May 19
    By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
    (Tuesday, May 19, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)

    Now it can be told! Accurate info on the Kodak DC260/DC220 has finally made it onto the web! (thanks to Steve's Digicams)
    An explanation of our own previous lack of coverage: In order to bring you the full story as early as possible, we operate under non-disclosure with many manufacturers: Consequently, we often can't tell you what we know, much though we'd love to. Once someone else has let the cat out of the bag though, we feel no compunctions about repeating it. (To our readers: If you see a juicy rumor elsewhere on the web, please email us - We may already know about the product, but knowing about the posting will let us report it everyone who visits here.) Now for some specs (the links below for the cameras will take you to pages on the Kodak site, unless Kodak pulls them...):
    Kodak DC260 - 1.6 Megapixel(!) 1536x1024 sensor. 3 image sizes, 3 compression levels. ISO 100, autofocus 38mm-115mm equivalent optical zoom, with 2x "digital assist" to produce up to 6x zoom with some loss of sharpness. f3.0/4.7 (wide/tele) - f14/22 aperture, focusing to 12 inches, 1/4 to 1/400 shutter. "Burst" capture of 2 frames high & medium res, 8 pictures standard res, frame rate from 0.1 to 3 fps. Time-lapse mode & audio record & playback. Video out. Flash sync for external flash units (hooray!). Uses "Digita" operating system and text-based scripting language for camera automation, also has in-camera albums for organizing images that transfer directly to PictureEasy 3.0 host software. Ships with 8MB CF card standard. Serial, IrDA, USB, PC Card interfaces; ships w/AC Adapter. A hefty handful at 1.2 lb (525 g) w/o batteries. (This is definitely a ground-breaking product!)
    Kodak DC220 - Many of the same features as the DC260, but the sensor and optics are more similar to the DC210. Image resolution is 1152x864, w/3 compression levels. Lens is "focus free" 29mm-58mm equivalent zoom w/macro mode, plus 2x digital assist. Focus range 19/39 in (0.5/1.0 m) (wide/tele) to infinity, macro fixed at 8 in. Expect excellent low-light performance: ISO of 140, shutter speed range 1/2 to 1/360 seconds. Aperture f4/4.7 -f13.5/16 (wide/tele). Built-in flash only. Time lapse and burst modes and scripting, but no in-camera albums.
    Reflecting market realities, both cameras support Macs only via third-party PC-card readers and CF card adapters. (A move we're sorry to see as long-time Mac fans, but one that's easy to understand from viewing our 'web logs...)
    More we can't say, but check back June 1 or 2! ;-)

    Friday, May 15, 1998

    May 15
    By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
    (Friday, May 15, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)

    - FINALLY! - The full Canon PowerShot A5 Review is on-line! A very neat little camera - check it out! (All of the A5's images are now stitched into the Comparometer pages as well, so you can easily compare them with those from other cameras.)

    Thursday, May 14, 1998

    May 14 - A slower news week...
    By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
    (Thursday, May 14, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)

    AOL Update: The same reader reporting the obviously lower-resolution image in the Comparometer has determined that the problem was in the AOL browser. - When he switched to Netscape, via the same AOL connection, the images looked fine! We haven't had time to research this ourselves yet, but AOL users may want to try using Netscape instead of their default browser, to insure full image quality. (Another reader noted that Netscape 4.04 has problems properly refreshing the pages - a bug fixed in version 4.05)
    We pass on the following note about the rumored Kodak DC260 from dcresource without comment, other than to say that you may want to check back here at The Imaging Resource on June 1... "HOT KODAK 220/260 INFO.... I talked to a guy who has been testing it for Kodak -- he said zoom was 8-1, 1.6 megapixels, under $1000 & GREAT quality though he has also tried new Sony about to be released -- 12-zoom, 1.6 megapixel, incredible macrofocus -- might sell for more like $2000. Take this for what it's worth, but sounds really good if accurate."
    Good News! Our review unit of Nikon's hot new model 900 camera! is finally due to arrive tomorrow! We'll try to get some initial pictures from this much-awaited camera up on the site by next week. (Along with all the other things that are waiting to get posted as well...)
    Agfa has announced price reductions on their entire line of digital cameras, and their low end SnapScan EZ flatbed scanner. The prices are: ePhoto 1280 - $799; ePhoto 780 - $399; ePhoto 307 - $249. The parallel-port based SnapScan EZ, will now be priced at $149, a very low price indeed.
    Steve's Digicams reports the following: "JVC's new GC_S1U digital camera $69910:1 optical zoom with auto focus F1.6 lens IrTran-P for wireless data transfer. Holds 30 (fine mode), 50 (standard mode), or 100 (economy mode) digital still photos in 4MB internal memory 640 x 480 VGA images. Built-in flash. Compact flash card slot. 350,000-Pixel CCD. 1.8" LCD monitor 4 x AA battery operation (alkaline or Ni-Cd) Video output. Speed View Mode for moving objects and zooming." Not terribly gripping, but the 10x zoom sounds nice... See Steve's site for a picture.
    As part of the ongoing buzz over the Kodak/Intel partnership we reported on earlier, Wired News has an article with a lot of good analysis. So far, it's all very abstract, but keep you eyes on the "Image Magic" print station in your local camera store/drug supermart, or wherever! We expect you'll also begin seeing greatly expanded scan-your-film-for-you services as early as this summer.
    Few of you have likely heard of Kopin, maker of the "CyberDisplay," but expect to see more of their micro-displays soon: They'll be exhibiting a number of tie-in products from manufacturers such as Sierra Designs (a "back-end" digital design company working in digital imaging), SoundVision, and Fujifilm Microdevices at Society for Information Displays (SID) conference May 19-21, in Anaheim, California. The Kopin display fixes the brightness & power-consumption problems of standard LCD displays by micro-miniaturizing them for use in look-through-a-lens type viewfinders. Pretty cool stuff, but we don't expect to see it in "live" products until the end of the year at the earliest.
    As we said in the headline, no big news this week, and probably not much for the next two. Be ready for a *flood* of stuff around PC Expo time, in mid-June. Also, as mentioned above, be sure to check back here on June 1 for an exciting review of a much-rumored new product! ('Nuff said!)

    Thursday, May 7, 1998

    May 7 - Brief update, AOL Cache Alert!
    By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
    (Thursday, May 7, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)

    A reader connecting via AOL just notified us that he was seeing an image in the "Comparometer(tm)" that was obviously too small for the camera involved. We suspect a caching problem with AOL may be the cause. When we first built the Comparometer pages, we used some small "placeholder" files to assemble the pages with, which were later swapped out. We suspect AOL's cache may have grabbed the placeholder, and hasn't updated it with the real thing. Two things: 1) We're going to clearly label any "placeholder" images as such in the future, to prevent any confusion. 2) We're working on a more comprehensive "fix" to the problem of ISP caching. 3) We need your help to determine the scope of the problem: As you use the Comparometer and connect via a major ISP (AOL, Mindspring, @Home, etc), could you take a moment to hit the "refresh" button on your browser to force a reload of the image? If you notice any obvious change in the image, please email us so we can address the issue with the ISP involved. Thanks!
    In a move that may mean greatly improved color quality for CMOS-based digital cameras, Polaroid has licensed their color filter & microlens technology to VLSI Vision, a major producer of CMOS image sensors. Polaroid's color technology is some of the best in the business, and the microlens technique can do much to increase the effective light sensitivity of sensors. The combination could be a big boost to CMOS cameras, but don't expect to see the fruits of this until a minimum of 6-12 months from now.
    Agfa has announced that Ritz camera centers will be carrying their ePhoto 1280 digital camera. This is another sign of the strides Agfa is making in building a more-effective retail channel for their products, which also now includes CompUSA, Fry's, and Micro Center.
    We previously noted the Kodak/Intel partnership announcement. Here's an article with a bit more analysis on what it potentially means.
    We missed this one earlier (thanks, dcresource!) - Kodak DC210 owners will want to get the DC210 Firmware Upgrade from the Kodak website. It features improved power management, resulting in a claimed 20% increase in battery life.

    Tuesday, May 5, 1998

    May 5 - Lotsa News!
    By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
    (Tuesday, May 5, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)

    Reader James Fillmore emailed us with news of a new Fuji "Heavy Duty" digital camera, the DS-250. Looks like it's only for Japan for now, but very intriguing. "Industrial-duty," waterproof housing, 1.5 megapixels, price in Yen translates to ~$1300 US. Here's a picture of it. Thanks, James!
    Upgrade via memory card: Kodak Japan has announced two "upgrade" cards for the DC210: The 10 and 15MB models come pre-programmed with firmware, letting DC210 users upgrade their camera to DC210A functionality. (Date stamping, image combination w/templates, different grapic user interface, and 20% improved battery life.) Costs are Y24,800 (US$216) for the 10MB model, and Y32,000 (US$278) for the 15MB model. Sorry, Japan-only for now.
    "What will they think of next?" department: Not really camera or scanner news, but too cool not to include: Olympus Optical in Japan announced development of their "Face-Mount Display" (FMD) unit, the Eye Trek FMD011F. (No joke). Described by Japan Camera Trade News as an "eye-glasses type display", the image quality is reported to be comparable to a 62-inch CRT. The unit was developed to be used on JAL (Japan Air Lines), presumably for in-flight movies. Cost is projected at Y56,000 (US$487).
    More on Olympus D-340L availability, apparently a hot topic with readers. We've received a number of emails about this, references on Harmony Computers (mentioned below), other places to find the camera. (It sounds like the 340s are starting to trickle out.) Rather than continuing to update posts here in the News section, we've created a thread in the Forum section specifically for "where to buy the D-340L". There's also now a "Where to buy" category, so readers can start threads of their own like this in the future.
    Steve's Digicams reports that Kodak is offering a free $199 accessory kit through July 31 to purchasers of the DC-120 camera. The kit includes an AC adapter, 10MB Picture card, flash sync cable, and camera bag. Here are links to Kodak's web site describing the kit, and for a coupon to get your free kit.
    Epson announced their new PhotoPC 700 yesterday. It has a number of intriguing features, including 1280x960 resolution frm a 1.25 million pixel sensor, 2x digital zoom ('wish we'd see more optical zooms, but they do add to the price), macro and panorama modes, a standard-equipment adapter from Tiffen allowing use of 37mm accessory lenses and filters, and included NiMH batteries. The press release also mentions an interesting-sounding "crop on the fly" mode to save image storage, but no details were given. The price is projected at $699, for June availability.
    Finally, Kodak and Intel have announced broad agreements, including patent cross-licensing, co-marketing, and major equipment upgrades for Kodak's Qualex photofinishing labs. Perhaps most interesting for consumers, it looks like Kodak will be really pushing the Picture CD format as part of its photofinishing services. Our guess is that this will bring the cost of film scanning down dramatically. In particular, they mentioned that their digital photo kiosks in retail outlets will accept the Picture CD. This will give "non-wired" consumers a direct entry path to digital imaging.

    Friday, May 1, 1998

    May 1
    By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
    (Friday, May 1, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)

    Again, just a couple of quick notes - we've been busy testing the Canon PowerShot A5. - We don't have the review done yet, but have posted a detailed datasheet, and all our test images! A sweet little camera! - Super compact, nice image quality, very sensitive CCD!
    From the "If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't" department: Readers have reported back that Harmony Computers (mentioned earlier) in fact doesn't appear to have stock on the Olympus D-340L. If you've actually seen these anyplace, let us know, and we'll post the info here.
    More breaking news for The Imaging Resource: Nikon has committed to getting us a review unit of their hot new model 900 camera! We should have our hands on it within a week, and the review posted here a week later! We should also have a model 600 to test as soon as the first production units hit the country. (We're told probably toward the end of this month.)
    Lots of news to catch up on, but it will have to wait another day or two: We have to get back to everything we dropped in order to bring you the A5 test results this quickly. (Canon could only let us have a unit for ~2 1/2 days, so we had to drop everything to get all the test images shot...) Check back in a day or two for a fresh news update!



    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 you, Lynn!