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Sunday, September 27, 1998
Sept. 27 - More than you wanted to know about testing!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Sunday, September 27, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- More than you ever wanted to know about camera testing! We've been wanting to get this up for months, finally did so: We put a lot of time and effort into defining the test procedures we use at The Imaging Resource, and execute our tests under carefully controlled conditions. Finally, the "Test Descriptions" link on the Comparometer(tm) page has a full description of our philosophy, what we test for, and a discussion of how to use the test images to really "smoke out differences between various cameras. Check it out here, or from the "!" link on the Comparometer navigation bar.
Saturday, September 26, 1998
Sept. 26 - Fuji MX-500 official, new free album site...
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Saturday, September 26, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- While old news to Imaging Resource readers, Fuji officially announced their MX-500 camera last Thursday. (See our notes below for more info.) Apparently the Best Buy price of $499 was no fluke, as that's Fuji's official estimated street price, although the standard package will include a single 4 MB SmartMedia card, rather than the 2MB/8MB pair reader Mark Power found in his box.
- DC260 Japanese/English Limitations? Reader Andy Leung posted a note on the Q&A forum, describing a problem he had trying to upgrade a Japanese version 1.02 DC260 to the English version of the 1.04 firmware. Apparently the 1.02 English version was no problem, but no go with the later rev. Taken together with Martin Reynolds' experience with a Japanese DC210 (reported below), it sounds like Kodak is taking steps to prevent the migration of less-costly Japanese models to the US... (Thanks, Andy!)
- PhotoLoft.com Launches Free Album Site This has actually been out for a week or so, but we're only just now getting caught up enough with the news to report it. Photoloft.com has launched a website where you can create free online photo albums. Albums must be created with free software that you can download from the site, and a variety of photo novelty products may be ordered using your on-line photos. Users can also password-protect their albums, to keep some pictures private, with only select people being able to access them. Together with PhotoPoint (see the entry in the "Good Deals & Cool Stuff" box at the top of this page), this is the second free on-line album site in the last month. We haven't played with either too much, but wonder how these new developments might affect Kodak's plans for Kodak PhotoNet Online. (Neither site has a scanning service associated with them, but the on-line album opportunities appear to be the equal and then some of the PhotoNet service.)
- Battery City gets own web site. We took them out of the "Good Deals" section above, just to give others a chance to be seen there, but Battery City still has excellent deals on NiMH batteries, and now have a web site advertising their own wares. Check it out.
- New Rollei Digital Back. Another catch-up item from PhotoKina that we haven't seen reported much: Rollei fototechnic and their American distributing partner HP Marketing Corp. announced the new Rollei DSP-104 "Digital Stillpack". The new high-end camera back (for Rollei mid-format cameras) has a 2Kx2K striped sensor, which can take single-shot action photos resulting in 12 MB files. A unique twist though, is that the device can be used in a three-shot mode in the studio, in which a precise piezoelectric positioning system micro-shifts the sensor between exposures, producing true (non-striped) RGB data for each pixel. The file size in studio mode is also 12 MB, but won't have any interpolation or striping artifacts. Sorry, we don't know either price or availability. (If anyone does, please write in, and we'll post it.)
- Polaroid Struggles, Merges Units (Reuters) Polaroid announced last Wednesday that it was merging its consumer and commercial imaging divisions, but analysts still appear grim about the company's prospects. Apparently, Polaroid had a very substantial business in Russia, which has been devastated by the recent problems in that country. Last year, Polaroid shipped about $50 million to Russia, but now has suspended all shipments for the third and fourth quarters, took a $10 million writedown for receivables in June, and apparently has an additional $15 million in receivables there that will be virtually impossible to collect. Despite these problems, Polaroid remains a $2.15 billion company, and its shares were actually trending upward at the time of the announcement. (We haven't checked recently, however...)
Thursday, September 24, 1998
Sept. 24 - Hot CF Deal, Tip for Travelers, Dave Goofs...
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Thursday, September 24, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Great deal on CF cards! We weren't going to do another news update until Saturday or so, but reader Otto Curda wrote in with news of a super deal on 15 and 30MB CF cards from Surplus Direct. This is a "weekly special", so apparently only good through Monday afternoon, 9/28 - Order them quick! The deals are: Eiger 15MB CF card with PCMCIA adapter for $69.88, and Eiger 30MB CF card with PCMCIA adapter for $99.88. We have no experience with Surplus Direct, but these look like super prices. The deals are only available via their web site. Thanks, Otto!
- Cheap DC210s in Japan! Reader Martin Reynolds wrote in with this one: If you're traveling to Japan any time soon, you may want to take the opportunity to pick up the Japanese version of the DC210A. Martin reports the unis are selling there for the equivalent of only about $290 US (!) The units apparently have English body markings, but Japanese firmware (LCD menus, etc). The unit ships with version 2.0 firmware in Japanese only, but will take a "downgrade" to version 1.5, which gives you english menus. (This effectively downgrades it to a DC210.) The camera apparently stays Japanese with the version 3 firmware, lacking the language menu normal V3 would have. Martin would be very appreciative if anyone can find a workaround for this! While not practical for many of us, this sounds like a great trip for any of you out there planning a trip to Japan anytime soon! Thanks, Martin!
- Dave flubs the figures: "The responsibility was mine alone..." I badly missed the boat on at least one fact about the Epson 1520 printer we reported on earlier, and readers Louis Brazil and Pablo Valin were quick to correct my error: While the printer handles paper as wide as 17 inches, it's maximum printable width is apparently only 13.6 inches or so, so you won't be getting 16x20s out of it. (Its big brother Stylus 3000 apparently prints to 16.5 inches.) Still a great deal at $499, but not a 16x20 printer. :-( Thanks, guys for the speedy "catch!"
- Big doin's, hopefully no big bugs! We just went over virtually every page in the site, to prep them for more efficient handling of ads. We've spot-checked and everything looks OK, but we're *real* nervous, since we used a batch-mode file editor to do a lot of it. (There are about 1500 files here currently, which leaves lots of opportunity for errors!) Do us a (big) favor, and email [email protected] if you notice anything amiss. (Other than ads littering every page ;-) Cyberian Outpost is now solidly in place as a major "anchor tenant" for the site, and we hope to announce another substantial partner next week. Stay tuned for periodic "specials" from both advertisers, which we'll post here on the news page!
Wednesday, September 23, 1998
September 23 - News catch-up
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Wednesday, September 23, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- With things finally slowing down after Seybold and Photokina, we're going to take the opportunity to finally catch up on a few items that have been lingering a bit...
- CD-RW Plummets! Smart and Friendly, Inc (who could not like a name like that?) has slashed the price of CD-RW (CD-Read/Write) media to only $6.99 a disk. ($19.99 for a three-pack) They're also offering a $10 mail-in rebate with each package of media that can be applied toward the purchase of their custom CD labels for laser or ink-jet printers. CD-R has gotten real cheap recently, with drives going for as little as $300, and media as low as $0.60 each. The only problem is it's permanent - once you've "burned" a CD, you can never change it. Rewriteable drives have been around and coming down in price, but the disks have until now been pretty expensive (as high as $20). With the cost of a 650MB-capacity CD-RW disk dropping to only $6.99, this now becomes a very attractive and practical off-line storage medium for digital photographers! Visit Smart & Friendly for more details.
- Nikon 900S Rumors? Reader B Lin wrote in with a rumor of a new model CoolPix 900, the 900"S", also reported on Steve's Digicams, supposedly slated for an October 1 intro. No other details available - anyone out there have anything on this one?
- Photos from your (digital) camera: Photo Access Corp and FotoWire have teamed up with a plan to let your order true photos from your digital camera directly over the internet. Yes, that's right, directly from your camera: Photo Access is developing a camera reference platform (the Digital Camera Architecture (DCA) 2000(tm) reference platform) that will run Windows CE, and connect to the FotoWire site over the internet - just plug a phone line into the side of your DCA2000-based camera, and order photos from your camera! Sounds great for vacations, but we wonder about the user interface and practicality. We'll reserve judgement until we see the final implementation...
- Sound Vision PR Works Overtime - Three items from Sound Vision this week: First, they've announced a microscope version of their CMOS-PRO camera, called the SV Micro. With a three-shot rotating color wheel and a high-end CMOS sensor, the camera promises exceptional image quality and resolution in a microscope camera for under $2,200. No details in the press release, but we'd guess it's somewhere around 800x1000 resolution. Lots of cool microscopy-related features, check out their site for info. Second, SV has announced a new "Album Builder" application, a simple photo organization and output application that sells for only $29.95. A demo version is available at
- Sound Vision partners with Teco - This is the third SV item, but big enough news to deserve its own headline: Sound Vision has licensed their "Clarity 2.0" digital camera technology to Teco, one of Taiwan's largest electronic distribution companies. The Clarity concept is pretty intriguing - a "plug and play" platform for manufacturers wanting to leap into the digital camera market without spending the years of R&D it would normally take to do so. Clarity lets the manufacturers mix & match camera features, choosing different sensors, LCD panels, memory solutions, etc, to very quickly configure a guaranteed working camera to their specifications. We expect this will have a major impact on the low end of the megapixel digital camera market in the near future, due to a huge reduction in the cost of entry. This is all good news for us consumers!
- Agfa announces USB Scanner. Yet another scanner maker has jumped on the USB/iMac bandwagon, with Agfa announcing their SnapScan 1212u, a 36-bit, 600x1200 dpi unit that will ship in October for $199. Software bundled with the unit includes Color-It!, Visioneer's PaperPort document-management solution, and a limited editionof Caere's OmniPage OCR package.
- DIY Stickies - HP has announced "HP Restickables", special semi-sticky labels that can be run through inkjet printers. Using 3M's "PostIt Note" adhesive, the new product promises relief for harried parents tired of scraping sticker-adhesive from fine furniture around the home. Packages of 90 stickers (10 sheets) will sell for about $10.99.
- Logitech expands QuickCam line. Logitech has announced both $129.95 QuickCam Home and $149 QuickCam Pro models of their PC video cameras. Both units connect via a USB port, and include a bundle of software. Check the Logitech site for more details.
- More 16MB SmartMedia Available. Simple Technology has announced that they are shipping 16MB SSFDC cards, for an estimated street price of $89.95 each. Given recent standards problems with the move to 16MB, the press release was careful to point out that all the specifications are now nailed down for SSFDC cards with capacities all the way to 128 MB.
- Imagek adds a Pres Imagek, the (almost) makers of the revolutionary EFS-1 digital film system for 35mm cameras today announced the addition of Robert Webber as President, CEO, and board member. With their recent executive announcements, and their manufacturing deal with SCI, reported below, we'd look for a major funding round as Imagek's next step. Stay tuned...
Tuesday, September 22, 1998
September 22 - Too many deals, news has to wait!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, September 22, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- There were so many "good deals" in our mail bag that we figured we'd leave the more prosaic new-product news go to the next update, with the few noteworthy exceptions you'll see below...
- Super Cyberian Deal on PDR-M1! Keeping pace with the incredible pricing on the Fuji MX-500 (see below), Imaging Resource advertiser Cyberian Outpost is now selling the Toshiba PDR-M1 for only $509.95, an excellent price! (Plus, mail order, so no sales taxes unless you live in Connecticut.) Click this link to get yours! (Remember, supporting our advertisers supports us - buy from them to help keep the high-density digicam information coming!)
- More on Fuji "Best Buy" - Reader Mark Power wrote in to relate his experience with purchasing a Fuji MX-500 at a Best Buy store for $499: It turns out that the unit not only carried the phenomenal $499 price, but came with an extra 8MB SmartMedia card as well! (The box contained both a 2MB and an 8MB card!) Thanks Mark!
- GREAT price on SmartMedia! Reader Debbie Richardson wrote in to tell of a great experience she had with EPC-Online. They're selling 8MB SmartMedia cards for $39.95 each, or (get this) 3-packs for $109.95. They also have 16MB cards for $89.95, and a dual-voltage (3.3/5.0) PC-card adapter for $59.95. In Debbie's words: "Fast, friendly service. Will deal with them again. A happy customer." Thanks Debbie!
- Inkjet bargain! A Deal-Mac reader from Salt Lake City, Utah has reported seeing the original Epson Stylus Photo inkjet printer in a local Office Depot for $148.99! The original Stylus Photo is being discontinued now that the Stylus Photo 700 is out, so more deals like this may surface. Let us know, we'll post them for everyone.
- More info on Mac Stylus Photo Drivers: Macintouch reader Tom Easterday reports a minor glitch in the previously-reported tip about using the Epson Stylus 700 drivers to run your original Stylus Photo. Check the post we've put on the Q&A board for full details. - This trick will probably also work for PC drivers as well!
- Epson Drops Stylus 1520 Price! Sheesh! This is starting to look like an Epson home page, but we couldn't resist this one: If you want BIG (by home-studio standards anyway) high-quality inkjet output, check out Epson's Stylus 1520. Printing 1440x720 dpi resolution at up to 17x22 inches, this is a great printer for making those 16x20 prints to hang on your wall! While only a 4-color printer (rather than a 6-color "true photo-quality" unit), the 1520's output is pretty sharp, and there's nothing in its size range that comes close at anywhere near the price. As a kicker, Epson just shaved $300 off said price, dropping it to only $499. Wow! If I hadn't just blown my piggybank on a new G3 Mac, I'd be sorely tempted!
- New "BYTEBox" for added digicam portability! - Jochen Merz wrote us with news of his company's "BYTEBox" off-line storage device for digicams. The concept is much similar to the "Digital Wallet" advertised by MGVision a few months back: It's a mass-storage device into which you can empty your smaller flash cards of various sorts when on an extended trip. Storage space isn't stated in megabytes, only that its capacity is "about 600 high-quality pictures, or 2000 medium-quality ones." The big advantage the BYTEBox brings to the table is that it can accept flash media directly via a PCMCIA slot for high-speed offloading. Also, once back at the computer, you can dump data via a high-speed parallel port, for much faster data transfers. As if all that wasn't enough, it can drive color printers (don't know which models) directly without a host computer, allowing you to "proof" your pictures while still on the road. The BYTEBox is slated to sell for about $450 US, but Jochen didn't tell us when it would be available. - Check their web site for more details.
- More Sony DSC-D700 Info: Reader Mike Tomkins wrote in with two tidbits about the Sony DSC-D700 that was shown at PhotoKina. First, he found a page for it at Supreme Video, which mentioned a $1899 suggested retail. This is the first time we've seen a US price attached to the camera. Mike also confirmed our earlier report that the DSC-D700 will accept standard PCMCIA flash cards, and won't be restricted to Sony's new "memory stick" format. Thanks, Mike!
- Minolta RD-3000 News: Steve's Digicams has posted info on the newly-announced Minolta Dimage RD-3000 high-end digicam. This will be beyond the means of most home users, but looks to be a superb unit for corporate or professional digicam work. Continuing the multi-sensor tradition of Minolta's earlier RD-175, the 2.7 million-pixel sensor array of the RD-3000 promises exceptional image sharpness. Built to use Minolta's "V" series of APS lenses, the RD-3000 has an image size nearly matching that of the APS "C" format, meaning a full range of focal lengths will be available for it, including true wide-angle. Other features provide greater camera control, including manual focus. Steve's rumor mill says the unit is slated to sell for ~$7500 when it's released in early 1999. Check this page on Minolta's European site for details.
Thursday, September 17, 1998
Sept 17 - Oly Details, Photokina, Kodak DC260 Update!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Thursday, September 17, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- More Details on new Oly Cameras! Reader Alexander Koerner from Munich, Germany sent in these links with detailed information about the new C1400XL and C900Zoom cameras from Olympus. (The 1400XL is an updated version of the D-600L sold in the US, while the C900Zoom is completely new model.) The details are enticing! Biggest news on the 1400XL is that it includes a connector for external flash, and also is capable of VERY fast shooting: It can capture 5 frames in "burst" mode at 3.3 frames per second, and apparently has little or no delay between successive images in standard mode. (The assumption here, of course, is that these are full-resolution frames, not VGA-level ones.) What most caught our eye about the C900 (basically a D-340L with a 3x zoom lens attached) was that it also supports an uncompressed TIFF mode for greatest image quality. Another hot feature on the '900 is its support for spot-metering, a very useful feature, and a frequent request among high-end digicam owners.
- Photokina update: We've frankly been surprised by how little that's genuinely new is appearing at Photokina. New high-end digicams from several manufacturers are appearing "in the flesh," but there's not a lot that hasn't already broken as rumors or actual reports from overseas web sites. People are now getting to see actual working samples of several hot new cameras, including the Canon PowerShot Pro 70, and the Sony DSC-D700. Here's a brief sampling of news items (much of this info comes from reports Dirk Ellenbeck filed with both the DCRP and Steve's Digicams - check the links for his actual reports, including pictures of the camers - Steve's seems to be more complete, with a few more pictures posted):
- -Rollei is showing a new high-end digicam that sports a host of desireable features, including SLR optics, a 35-105mm optical zoom lens, a 2/3" CCD giving 1280x1024, 30-bit color, an integrated flash and support for an external one via a hot shoe, support for SmartMedia, CompactFlash, or PC-Cards (!), and can connect to PC or Mac through serial, SCSI, or parallel ports. This all comes at a steep price though, with a cost of $1700-$2300 projected for Germany.
- Fuji has announced a couple of new models, some looking pretty speculative. There's a waterproof camera that looks like an MX-700 in a waterproof housing, a clever idea. The "speculative" model is a unit the size of a small book that includes a dye-sub printer, somewhat in the vein of a "digital Polaroid(tm)". A clever concept, but we wonder how practical? - A lot will depend on the price, and what the media costs are...
- - The new Sony DSC-D700 gets high marks, but looks to be very expensive. Key features (most reported here previously) are a 1/2", 1.5 megapixel CCD, 28-140mm zoom, SLR optics, shutter speed from 4 seconds to 1/2000. Nicest feature is probably the ability to control most settings manally. Worst feature is the new, proprietary "memory stick" storage media. (Although we've heard conflicting rumors that the camera will actually accept a standard ATA PC card.) Price in Germany is projected to be $2300, release scheduled for November.
- - The Canon Pro70 gets high marks in every department except its inability to work with any flashes other than a couple of high-end Canon units.
- See Steve's Digicams and the DCRP for more details and pictures!
- Kodak DC260/220 Firmware Update! Reader D. Elliot Sheldon emailed us with the note that Steve Haenichen had posted a link to a Japanese Kodak page with the much-anticipated 1.0.4 firmware update on it. This prompted us to check Kodak's main US support page for the DC260/220 this morning, and lo & behold, there it was! Follow this link to the DC260/220 support page to get your copy! Uploaders for both Mac and Windows are available. (Later in the day, Elliot himself emailed back with the the US site, as well as readers Jay Rolls and Louis Brazil. Thanks to all!)
- Great Stylus Photo Tip for Mac! This tidbit is from Macintouch reader J.P. Adams: "There hasn't been an update to the (Mac) Epson Stylus Photo driver recently so I downloaded the Stylus Photo 700 driver update and tried it. It works great on my Epson Stylus Photo printer and adds many new features such as fit to page, 2 up and 4 up printing. I thought this might be of interest to your readers that aren't aware of this capability." Thanks, J.P.!
- Great way to share sample images! David Rowley of PhotoPoint and I have been corresponding back and forth for a little while now. PhotoPoint.com is a neat free service for uploading images to make on-line albums. No strings attached! After seeing some sample files from digital cameras that people had uploaded, it struck me that this would be a great way for all of us to share sample images from various digicams! To support that, we've featured PhotoPoint in our "cool stuff" section above. Have some images (especially from a more obscure digicam)? Post them for everyone to see!
- Kodak's Keegan: Digitization to boost photo industry. In an address at Photokina, Kodak's president of Consumer Imaging Robert J. Keegan projected that "digitization" of photos would result in a doubling or tripling of "pictures in use" over the next three years, boosting the global photo industry from $80 billion to $100 billion over that time frame. I guess this is no surprise to us, since just from personal experience, our photographic activity has increased manyfold due to digital. The interesting statistic (which we also believe) is that only 2-3% of all consumer images ever go anywhere but the shoebox!
- UMAX Posts Mac/USB drivers. More good Mac stuff: UMAX has posted MacOS drivers on their website for their Astra 1220U scanner. These may not be the final version, as they're called "Final Release Candidate". It's a BIG download though, at 13.8 Meg, so you may just want to leave your computer on overnight while it drifts onto your hard drive... (This also looks like it's coming from overseas (UK?), so it might take even longer!)
- CF and SSFDC get together! Pretec has announced a "CompactSSFDC" Adapter card. The new device will adapt SSFDC memory cards to work in CompactFlash card slots. This could be an interesting gadget for owners of more than one digicam, with units that support both SSFDC and CF cards. Theoretically, the simpler SSFDC cards should be significantly cheaper than their more-complex CF cousins, but to date there hasn't been a dramatic difference in pricing. (If anything, the more broadly-available CF format has been cheaper.) If the SSFDC cards ever do fulfill their promise of lower prices, the Pretec adapter could turn out to be a way to get quantities of cards for less money. Until then, we suspect it will find most use in "dual-camera families." In the same press release, Pretec also announced the development of a CF to PC card adapter for the new 5mm-thick CF+ format. Availability for both items was described as "sampling in October '98", but no price was given for either.
- Sony announces new storage devices: Steve's Digicams has some info posted on new storage devices by Sony, including a $349 (!) 4x/24x EIDE CD-R drive kit, and their new High Capacity Floppy Disk System (HiFD). This is one of the best (list) prices we've seen for a CD-R unit, particularly a 4x one. We expect CD-R prices to continue their downward slide, making them great, affordable tools for digital photographers to use for archiving their photos. With a media cost of less than a dollar for 650 megs of storage, it's hard to beat! As to the HiFD drive, this is Sony's hope for the replacement to the standard floppy. Backward-compatible, it can read standard 1.44 meg disks, but can store up to 200 MB on special high-capacity floppies. Read/write performance on the special disks is impressive too, at 3.6/1.2 meg/second, read/write. The HiFD is probably where Sony is looking to go with their very successful floppy-based Mavica cameras, as they move to resolutions above a megapixel, but the big issue will be getting PC manufacturers to sign onto the standard by offering the new drives in PCs instead of floppies. We wish them well, but aren't holding our breath...
- Polaroid announces new photo printer. (I think we covered this previously, but the USB interface sounds new.) As part of its Photokina festivities, Polaroid has announced a new USB-connected true photo printer, rendering digital images onto special Polaroid ColorShot film or Polaroid Image film in as little as 25 seconds. No mention of price, projected availability, or print size.
- Imagek signs with manufacturer for "Electronic Film" Imagek appears to be continuing to make progress bringing their EFS-1 35mm digital cartridge to market. They've just announced signing a letter of intent with respected contract manufacturer SCI of Huntsville, Alabama, for SCI to manufacture the revolutionary product. SCI brings a great deal of expertise to the relationship, not only in manufacturing, but in product design and packaging as well. Stay tuned...
- Encad Ink Won't Fade Away. Large-format printer manufacturer Encad announced a new ink/media system said to combine the fade-resistance of pigment-based inks with the brilliance and extended color gamut of dye-based formulations. The new Encad GX system has been tested to be fade-resistant for up to 5 years in indoor direct sunlight(!).
Tuesday, September 15, 1998
September 15 - Update: Two great prices!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, September 15, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Fuji MX-500 price confirmed! We missed this in our update earlier today, wanted to get it out to folks: Reader Dave Burgess wrote in to confirm that Best Buy is selling the Fuji MX-500 for $499. (He went ahead and bought one!) He posted a mini-review on rec.photo.digital 9/12, titled "Just purchased a Fuji MX-500". (Go to Deja News, search on the title (use the "power search" option to search by subject), and check it out.) Thanks Dave!
- Low-priced Oly 320L saga continues! Two items here: First, reader Ken Kapson wrote in to relate a happy tale: He was on his way to OfficeMax to buy a $399 Oly D-320L, and stopped into a Wolf Camera store (in Chicago) to buy a tripod for it. He mentioned he was on his way to OfficeMax to buy a '320, and the Wolf salesman told him they have a policy of matching advertised prices. Turns out OfficeMax had probably pulled the stock so they wouldn't have to sell at the (erroneously) advertised price, but they did confirm the advertised price when the Wolf rep called. Bottom line, Ken got the Oly from Wolf at the OfficeMax price! (Thanks, Ken!)
- Don't feel like hassling around to get a great price on a '320? Here's a great deal from (and a shameless plug for) new advertiser Cyberian Outpost: Not quite $399, but the lowest price we've heard of other than an ad typo! Follow this link to get yours now! (And yes, it does include the free FlashPath adapter!) (NOTE: Per our notice at the top of the page, the FlashPath is "included" in this bundle by way of a mail-in coupon to Oly - It is NOT in the box! Thanks to reader Rick Seeger for calling our attention to this, and apologies to anyone inconvenienced by not finding the adapter in the box!) We're happy to add Cyberian Outpost to our "family," and hope you'll be seeing more links from them throughout the site soon. In the often vituperative world of the internet news groups, we've yet to hear anything negative about Cyberian, and they supported some very worthy internet publications (such as the excellent Mac news & tips site at www.tidbits.com) long before it was "fashionable."
September 15 - New Ricoh Camera, QV-7000 photos, much more!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, September 15, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Ricoh 4200 drops megapixel cost even more. This just came in late last night: Ricoh has announced their new RDC-4200 megapixel digicam. It appears to be a slightly down-scaled version of their recently price-reduced RDC-4300. The 4200 features 1280 x 960 resolution, a 3x optical plus 2x digital zoom capability (up to 6x zoom at true VGA resolution), a slightly smaller 1.8 inch LCD, macro focus to 3 inches, a 190 degree-rotating lens, and an option for saving images as uncompressed TIFFs. No mention of what size SmartMedia card the unit comes with, but it supports the new 16 MB standard. It looks like they left off the sound recording capability of the RDC-4300, and possibly the video output (at least the press release didn't mention it), but these typically aren't must-have requirements anyway. The great thing with the new camera is that it sells for only $499(!), a new low for a megapixel digicam with optical zoom!
- Pictures from the QV-7000! Reader Sidney Leung wrote in with a great URL for pictures from the new Casio QV-7000SX. The page is in Japanese, but you can still pretty well figure out what's going on just by looking at the pictures themselves. Particularly impressive is the night shot of a city scene, taken by available light! Thanks, Sidney!
- New Leica (mini) Digicam: Reader Jan Smit wrote to inquire about the new Leica mini digicam. We saw this recently at the Seybold show - basically a repackaged Fuji MX-700, but it definitely has that "je ne sais quois" that smacks of the Leica brand: A rippled leather-grain (rubber) hand grip accenting the front, and the Leica logo on it. If you're thinking of a MX-700, check out the Leica too. It's an attractive package! Thanks, Jan!
- Canon EOS D6000. Several sites have reported on the Canon EOS D6000 high-end digicam recently. We just wanted to go on record that this is NOT a US model: The US version is almost certainly Kodak's recently-announced DCS-560.
- Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000 out. Moving more toward the business market, capitalizing on the ubiquity of their "Office" suite, Microsoft has announced PhotoDraw 2000, a package that combines photo manipulation with vector-based drawing. The new package includes over 20,000 graphics and 300 professionally designed templates. It claims to hide the complexity of different file formats from the user, promoting a very easy point & click operation, without regard to where the files came from. Availability is slated for "this fall", with an estimated street price of $149.
- Epson announces Perfection 636 Scanner. Epson is moving their mid-range 636 scanner toward the consumer end of the price range, with the "Perfection 636" version, priced to sell at $299. The new unit has an optical resolution of 600 dpi, but supports "real" scan resolutions of up to 600x2400 dpi, using half- and quarter-stepping of the scanning head. Like other 636 models, the Perfection has 12 bit A/D for 36-bit color, and a 3.0 dynamic range. Available accessories include a $99 4x5 inch transparency unit and a $199 document feeder.
- Cheap Print Server! With many home users now having more than one computer, printer sharing becomes a bigger issue. Axis Communications and Epson have announced the AXIS 1440, a low-cost ($159) print server that lets most Epson Stylus printers be connected to a network. (The press release didn't say, but we assume they mean Ethernet.) The new unit is being distributed through Epson's dealer network, and support will be provided via the EPSON Connection technical assistance line.
- Polaroid Digital Photo System for Malls & Events. Polaroid has announced the "Make a Memory Digital Photographic System", oriented to high-throughput "event imaging" (pictures with Santa, etc). The system includes a high-resolution digital camera, a 333 MHz Pentium processor, touch-screen processor, two Polaroid PicturePro 5x7 dye-sub printers, and a professional lighting kit. The system comes with two independent removable hard drives, which in combination with the two printers allow continuous capture and printing. The printers can crank out over 100 prints per hour (can you say "money machine?"), and the entire system is pre-wired and packed in travel cases, permitting it to be set up in less than 10 minutes. The new system is available immediately for $19,500 through Polaroid's Seasonal Photographer Network, or by calling Polaroid at 703-641-8490.
- Even cheaper CMOS sensors? ShellCase Ltd and Tower Semiconductor have developed a unique "chip scale package" for use with CMOS sensors. It sounds like the idea is to construct the packaging for CMOS sensor chips at the same time as the silicon wafers are being fabbed, right on the semiconductor production line. The result promises to be even cheaper CMOS imagers, which will eventually mean even cheaper cameras for you and me. See the website http://www.shellcase.co.il/ for more details.
Sunday, September 13, 1998
September 13 - PhotoSmart Scanner review is up!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Sunday, September 13, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Cool little scanner! In between server hassles, we actually have been (slowly) getting some work done. We just posted the review and sample images for the HP PhotoSmart scanner, a neat little device for Windows users that scans slides, negatives, and prints up to 5x7 inches. The best part is it's only $299 after a $100 mail-in rebate!
Great deal on Kodak DC200! The DC200 is the non-zoom version of the popular DC210 by Kodak, which we reviewed some time back. Now, "Penser" posted a notice on rec.photo.digital, alerting everyone that NECX has dropped the DC200 price from $450 to $350(!) This is a GREAT price for a very nice, about-a-megapixel digicam! Thanks, Penser!
Friday, September 11, 1998
September 11 - The Server is Back! News Flood Continues!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Friday, September 11, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- First the DNS problem, then the server move! After a *15 hour* outage Wednesday, our server was back up and running yesterday, and (we think) all our files are now restored. (If anyone sees anything out of whack, please email [email protected] with the news.) Saying we're VERY frustrated would be an understatement, but we're assured that our box is now housed in a highly secure facility, with deisel backup generators, dual redundant155 Mbps lines, etc, etc. Profuse apologies for everyone who had to go without their IR "fix" for a couple of days there... Meanwhile, the flood of news shows no sign of abating, and will likely only get stronger with Photokina right around the corner. (We know of at least 2 new models to be announced there that we're still sworn to silence on.)
- Active Buyers Guide: Check it out & let us know! As of today, we're introducing a new service on the site, called the Active Buyers Guide. This is a joint effort between The Imaging Resource and Active Research. As you'd expect, the Buyers Guide is a tool to help you select digital cameras that meet your needs and interests. What's different about it is that it uses "fuzzy logic" and artifical intelligence to help refine the options. Other database-driven guide typically only give you exactly what you've asked for, whereas the Active Buyers Guide will provide a range of "close" matches. We've provided some data to Active Research, and they'll eventually be linking into our reviews. In the meantime, check out this interesting tool. (There's ample space on every page to give feedback, and Active Research will be "actively" monitoring all comments to improve the service.) Check it out!
- CoolPix 900 & ePhoto 1680 "uncanny" IR Digicam buddy John Cowley is now the proud owner of both an Agfa ePhoto 1680 and Nikon CoolPix 900. In the true spirit of Imaging Resource-type fair-minded comparison, John lugged both cameras around recently, and shot pictures with both under as near as possible to identical conditions. In John's words, the results were "uncanny:" The images are so close to identical that you'd almost wonder if the two devices actually have the same guts - Very minor differences in exposure and tone, to my eye, but overall so close you really can't tell the results apart, at least on first inspection. John noted though that he found the Agfa seemed a bit more sure-footed in its autofocus. John has posted a page with his comparison images taken with the two cameras. Great piece of work, John!
- Oly 320 discount worked! Reader Richard Dabney wrote in to let us know that he actually managed to pick up an Oly 320 for the advertised price of $399 at an Office Max. The unit rang up on the register for $499, but when Richard showed him the ad, the manager honored the $399 price. (Cool!) I don't know the law on this, but it seems to me if they advertise a price, they have to honor it if the product is in stock. Any consumer-law types out there?
- What's the deal on Stylus Photo EX? We posted a news item on 9/2 saying that Epson had dropped the price of the Stylus Photo EX to $499. Reader John Schaefer wrote in though, observing that so far nobody had dropped prices on it - in fact, only two on-line reselers had held their prior $425 price, while others had boosted the cost at least $10. Anybody out there seeing lower prices on this unit yet?
- Way-cheap photo-quality printers? Otakar Curda (yes, I spelled that right, he's aparently Czech) emailed us the following link for Alps MD-2010 photo quality printers for $135.99 (!). The Alps have a reputation for being very slow, but producing good quality photo prints. (The site in question seems to change prices and stock rapidly, so we don't know how long this will last - the actual URL Otakar emailed us was a bit different, and the price was $1.11 lower, but we found the printer at the URL above.)
- Casio announces QV-7000SX. (You heard it here first!) Casio has just announced their QV-7000SX: Think in terms of an upgraded QV-5000SX, only with a 2x optical zoom in addition to the 4x digital, a swiveling lens, mini-movie mode extended to 12.8 seconds, and the usual panoply of Casio features, including panorama guide mode, 4-mode flash, IR data transfer, etc, etc. Resolution is 1.32 megapixel, at 1280x960. As typical with Casio, we don't have an ISO rating for the unit, but all the Casios we've played with in the past were very fast. This one has interesting-sounding "sports" and "night" modes, apparently shifting the shutter program to faster and slower shutter speeds, respectively. The unit is autofocus, but also supports manual focus (hooray), and macro modes. It will ship with an 8 meg CompactFlash card and can accept units up to at least 48 meg. (At least that was the largest size mentioned in the documentation.) We've got an email out to Casio as you read this, hoping to get one of the first units to review. Our contact said the first eval units should ship in early October. Selling price is pegged at $699. - This sounds like a very interesting upgrade to Casio's line, putting them squarely in competition with many of the high-end digicams.
- Fuji MX-500 special deal? Reports have been floating around the internet about the Fuji MX500, but our intelligence had been that it probably wouldn't make it into this country. (It's a 1280x1024 model that we understand has the same chip and lens as the diminutive MX-700.) Now though, IR Reader "Toon Bot" emailed to report he actually played with one of these at a Memphis, TN-area Best Buy store! The story he heard was that Best Buy had cut a special deal with Fuji to carry the camera. Most startling was that the price he was quoted was only $499(!!) We called the store (901-373-8787), to try to confirm the price, but gave up after repeated attempts ending up on hold. If true, this is an astonishing price for a camera with great capabilities. (We hope to review the MX-500 very soon...)
- New Olys sighted, which will make it here? Steve's Digicams has posted some specs and pictures of new Oly digicams on their site. Three models are shown, a D-830L, D-900Z, and D-600XL. The 830L looks a lot like the current US-labeled D-340L, while the 900Z has similar resolution and body shape, but a 3x zoom lens. From other reports, the D-600XL has more buffer memory for faster burst speed and is 16-meg compatible out of the box. I dunno, my guess would be that the 830L won't make it to the US, unless it already has as the 340L. The 900Z looks like a good bet, and the 600XL is a logical, fairly minor tweak to the 600L. Given the 16 meg issue and Oly's fix for it, it would make sense that they'd change the shipping version of the camera to handle 16 meg cards, and the increased buffer memory is pretty much a no-brainer, what with ever-declining memory costs. The big news that we haven't heard yet though, is any detailed info on Oly's rumored 2 megapixel model... Steve also has links posted to pages showing other new cameras, including some interesting new Fuji models, including the MX-500 mentioned above, the 1024x768 Clip-It 80, and the FinePix 600Z, with megapixel resolution, zoom lens, and USB connector. (We'd lay odds that Fuji will be announcing some of these at Photokina, and will further bet that at least the FinePix 600z eventually makes it to the US - it fills an important gap in Fuji's product line here, for an optical zoom-equipped megapixel unit.)
- Epson cuts prices of 850, 700. Not huge reductions, but still good news: Epson announced a new price point for its fastest ink jet printer, the EPSON Stylus Color 850, from $379 to $349, and their top six-color, 1440 dpi ink jet printer, the EPSON Stylus Photo 700, from $279 to $249.
- IBM builds TINY drive! IBM has announced tiny hard drives built around 1 inch disks. The new units will store 170 or 340 megabytes, and are estimated to initially sell for about $1 per megabyte, although prices should tumble quickly as volume ramps up. Most exciting for (future) digicam owners is that the drives are small enough to fit into a CompactFlash form factor - almost! It turns out that a new variation of the CF standard (CF Type II) has been developed, with a card thickness of 5mm vs the 3.5mm of standard cards. Thus, the new cards won't fit current cameras, but it will be easy for mfrs to adapt their designs to handle the IBM drives in the future. Another difference is that the power limits on CF cards have been bumped up to 500mA, again to handle the current drain of the drive. Yikes! Another 500 mA in my digicam? IBM touts special power-saving circuitry, but their data sheets don't list any power consumption numbers as yet. The new drives will be shown at Photokina next week. Don't hold your breath though: IBM projects only "limited availability by mid-1999." Check out IBM's microdrive web site for more details.
- Read ATA, CF, and SM all at once! (Huh?) That's a mouthful of acronyms, but ActionTec has announced CameraConnect Pro(tm), a parallel-port device that can read all three popular image-card formats, including ATA PCMCIA cards, CompactFlash, and SmartMedia (including the new 16MB format). The new unit will support Windows 95, 98, and NT. No ship date or price was given in the press release though. (Who writes these things anyway? What use is it to announce a product with no indication of when it might be available or what it might cost? - Of course, I just did the same thing! ;-)
- Another CF reader for NT. In related news, SanDisk has announced that their ImageMate CF card reader now supports Windows NT version 4.0, with support for hot-swapping the cards (tricky). If you already own an ImageMate, you can download the NT drivers for free from http://www.sandisk.com/cons/tech_support.htm.
- Visioneer called "Vexatious and Desperate" by UMAX (I love that word "vexatious" - describes a few people I know.) Visioneer is suing UMAX, claiming that UMAX has misrepresented their Astra 1220 scanner's capabilities, claiming that it is actually a 30 bit unit, not 36-bit as advertised. For their part, UMAX claims that their "Bit Enhancement Technology" or "BET" (tm) provides "36-bit color quality." It sounds like there's actually a 10-bit A/D chip in the 1220, maybe with some analog circuitry to stretch its dynamic range creatively. UMAX's spin on the tussle is that Visioneer had been pushing hard for UMAX to either bundle some of their software, or purchase some of the company's assets (!-sounds desperate to me), and threatened to sue if they didn't. When UMAX declined, Visioneer sued. (Nice guys.) Interested parties can check out the UMAX press release this info came from. I'm sure we'll be hearing more in the future, although perhaps not, since no interns or blue dresses appear to be involved...
- Flatbed and Video in one. Storm Technologies has announced their ImageStudio VF flatbed scanner, extending the technology of their ImageStudio VS sheet-fed model we reported on back in June. The new unit combines a flatbed scanner with a video digitizer. The scanner side is a 600x600 dpi, 36-bit letter-size unit, while the video piece will capture snapshots from any NTSC video source (camcorder, VCR, DVD, etc.) The unit can also function as a digitizer for video conferencing. Interface to the computer can be via either USB or parallel port. Price will be $199 after a $50 mail-in rebate.
- QuickCam VC for iMac(tm). As it did with the SCSI standard, Apple appears to once again be providing important market fuel for the new USB standard. Until the iMac came out, you heard 'nary a word about USB, now hardly a day goes by without another product announcement. The latest is that Logitech has announced the QuickCam(r) VC for the iMac. The new videoconferencing unit will sell for $99 after a $30 rebate.
- Microsoft announces Picture It! '99. Microsoft has announced the third upgrade of their popular Picture It! imaging software. The new version now includes two full CDs of templates, projects, and clip-art, and has several enhanced manipulation and retouching tools.
- SPCH hires sales heavyweight. We reported recently on the ultra-cheap digicam bundle from Software Publishing Corporation Holdings, Inc. This week, the company has announced the appointment of Joseph Drop as its VP of Sales. Mr. Drop was a former Sales Director at Merisel, a distribution giant recently struggling against even-gianter Ingram Micro.
- BTW, Diane got her camera OK... Almost forgot, after she was kind enough to email back in! We reported a really super price reader Diane Grimes found on the Oly D-340L at, at TriState in NYC. ($509, no tax, $18 shipping, $49 for AC adapter.) We're happy to report she did in fact receive the unit as advertised, ~5 days after she ordered it. She also mentioned that Frank was her salesman - another guy quoted a price $12 higher at first. Thanks, Diane!
Tuesday, September 8, 1998
September 8 - Flash! ANOTHER Ricoh Price Drop!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, September 8, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Ricoh drops price of RDC-4300 to $599! Whoa! - Two price drops in one week? (I wonder what it'll be going for next week? ;-) Just after I'd (finally) posted today's news update, I found a fresh message waiting in my email that Ricoh had chopped another $100 off the price of the RDC-4300. At $899, this camera was clearly overpriced (IMHO), but at $599, it's an incredible steal! Visit Ricoh's web site for more info on this megapixel-plus beauty!
September 8 - Severe Server hassles, TONS of news...
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, September 8, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- Server Problems! Our network ISP (who we're now calling Not-So-Clever Computers) managed to trash the main DNS entry for our server over the Labor Day weekend, causing a wave of bad addresses for imaging-resource.com to roll across the 'net as all the name servers updated. Unfortunately, our dial-up ISP's server didn't reflect the error until early Monday, meaning that the problem had gone on for quite a while before we found out. The problem is now fixed, but it could take as much as another day for the corrected information to make its way back out to all the affected DNS servers. Please accept our apologies for any of you affected by this outage! (Late note: To compound matters, OTHER network problems affected our server today, further delaying this post. Not enough, you say? How about a move of the entire server to a different data center, now scheduled for tomorrow morning?! Hang in there, they promise us everything will be flawless after Wednesday afternoon!)
- New drivers for the Kodak DC210! We reported below on the upgraded model of Kodak's DC210, the DC210 Plus. Now, all current DC210 owners can get a (free) update to all of the firmware features of the 210 Plus, by visiting this link on Kodak's web site. There you'll find software and instructions for downloading the new firmware to your camera. Features include: faster shutter response time, 20% improved battery life, multi-language user interface, faster start-up time, date stamp option, exposure lock option (for panorama shooting), and video-out slide show capability. This upgrade once again demonstrates the advantages of the downloadable-firmware capability of the Kodak cameras. (Late note: Users seem to be reporting varied experiences with this upgrade: Some notice clear improvements, others are distinctly unimpressed. Also, it appears that the 20% power savings referred to is the same 20% the last firmware upgrade provided.)
- New USB drivers for Epson Stylus 740! Epson has released an update to their software drivers for the Stylus 740 printer, correcting problems some Apple iMac owners were experiencing. The new drivers can be found on the Epson support site. NOTE: Be sure to download and apply the Apple iMac Update 1.0 patch before loading the new Epson drivers!
-Ricoh cuts RDC-4300 price to $699. Pushing the price/performance race another notch, Ricoh has cut the price of their RDC-4300 digital camera to $699, $200 down from its previous $899(!) This is a pretty aggressive price for a 1280x960 digicam with a swiveling, 3x zoom lens, an *included* rechargeable NiMH battery pack and charger, and a bundle of 6 different software packages. The RDC-4300 also sports an optional uncompressed image file mode, for those situations when you need the maximum quality possible. Check Ricoh's web site for more info on the 4300.
- News is starting to leak out on another new Sony digicam, which will most likely be formally announced to the world at the upcoming Photokina show in Germany. The Sony DSC-D700 sports resolution as high as 1344x1024 pixels, three levels of JPEG compression, as well as uncompressed TIFF storage, a 1/2 inch CCD and a 5x macro zoom lens with focal lengths equivalent to 28-140 mm on a 35mm camera. A big plus is user-selectable ISO speeds of 100, 200, or 400. (Thanks to Steve's Digicams for this tip - see his site for a picture of the new beast, as well as a link to the Sony Japan site with further specs.)
- Oly rumor central: We have it on good authority (sorry, definitely can't say who!) that the Oly Camedia 900 3x zoom model will be coming to the US. No word on time frame, but we'd guess there'll be an announcement around PhotoKina. Also, rumor has it that the 600XL we mentioned a few days back may sport a 2 megapixel sensor(?). This last sounds more tentative than the '900, but Oly clearly needs to respond to the ever-increasing pixel counts among its competitors. Stay tuned...
- Nikon Bundles IPIX, fisheye coming soon! Interactive Pictures' IPIX application has long held the title of the quickest 3-D viritual reality solution on the planet: Snap 2 fisheye shots and you're done! With the imminent advent of Nikon's fisheye adapter (still no price set fisheye, but promised to be less than $300), Nikon has announced that they will be bundling the IPIX imaging kit with every CoolPix 900 camera. IPIX works a little differently than any other VR software we've seen, not so much in terms of the software (although it really is very cool), as in the sales model: Rather than buying the application, you get the app for free, and pay for "keys" to save each assembled VR image. Coming from the professional VR world, the keys have so far been fairly expensive, at $50 each. With this move toward the consumer realms though, expect the price to come down dramatically. When the Nikon fisheye ships later this month, it will come with a certificate for 3 free IPIX keys. Interactive Pictures will also be selling bundles of IPIX software, CoolPix 900 camera, tripod, tripod rotator head, and a certificate for 12 keys directly from their web site.
- Leaf announces 2Kx3K studio camera back. Extending the range of studio-camera resolution, Scitex Corporation has announced the Leaf Volare(tm), a high-end digital camera back for professional medium- and large-format cameras. The Volare captures 6 million true (full RGB) pixels, at 14 bits per channel, producing uninterpolated 36 megabyte images. To hold electronic noise in the sensor to an absolute minimum, the Volare uses active cooling of the sensor. For more info, visit the Scitex web site.
- Future Image and IDC predict $5.4 billion digital camera market by 2002. A new study by Future Image and International Data Corporation takes note of recent advances in system-chip and CMOS manufacturing technology, and predicts a 68% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through the year 2002. What's more, by that time, megapixel units will account for 95% of the total camera market. The new report covers the time frame from 1996-2002, and presents detailed analysis of five digital camera market segments. To purchase the report, contact Renata Fried at Future Image, at 650-579-0493, or at [email protected]. For more info, see the Future Image web site.
- Epson launches on-line store for accessories, supplies, and refurbs. Epson has entered the retail market directly, selling supplies, accessories, and refurbished printers through an on-line web site. Many software companies combine direct sales with sales through dealers, but Epson is the first printer hardware manufacturer we're aware of to try both channels. Initially limited to supplies and refurbs, we wouldn't be surprised to see the site expand to printers themselves in the future if it is successful. It will be interesting to see how resellers react to this move, as it can't be good news for them.
- Arcsoft announces new Imaging Suite package. Bundling together some of their previous software packages, as well as a third-party OCR program, ArcSoft has announced the "ArcSoft Imaging Suite (tm)". The package includs ArcSoft's PhotoStudio 2.0 for image enhancement, PhotoBase 2.0 for managing and presenting photo, video, sound, and text files, PhotoPrinter for framing and printing multiple images on a single sheet of paper, and Xerox' TextBridge Classic® for converting scanned documents to text. The combined package will ship in September for an MSRP of $99.95.
- Agfa announces new scanners. Continuing the desktop scanner wars, Agfa has announced their new 1236 SnapScan scanners, available in two bundles, the SnapScan 1236s and the 1236s "Artline". (The Artline version includes a beefier software bundle for graphic-arts types. Both units are 36-bit, 600x1200 resolution models with 8.5 x 11.7 scan areas. The standard version will sell for $249, and the Artline model for $299. A sheet feeder and transparency adapter are also available. In a related announcement 2 days later, Agfa unveiled the SnapScan 1212p, a parallel-port model with similar specifications, slated to sell for only $99. All three new SnapScan models should be available later this month.
- Agfa to bundle Corel PhotoPaint with scanners. (Expect to see more of this.) Doubtless driven by recent changes in Adobe's licensing structure for "bundles"of PhotoShop with scanners and other devices, Agfa has announced they will begin bundling a hybrid CD-ROM with both Mac and PC versions of Corel PhotoPaint with all DuoScan T1200 scanners sold. PhotoPaint has long been a distant second to Adobe's Photoshop, although it has many powerful features and a much lower selling price. Perhaps this and other bundling deals will give it the broader recognition it deserves.
- 1440dpi Monster Ink Jet! True HiFi color comes to wide format! We've been somewhat selective in our coverage of wide-format inkjet printers, but new units displayed at Seybold by Roland completely blew our socks off! The new devices print at 1440x720 dpi, use either of two 6-color ink systems, or conventional CMYK 4-color ink, and print up to 50 inches wide. The printers use either a CMYK plus light cyan and magenta (like most desktop "photo" printers), or a Hexachrome (tm) ink system, which adds green and orange for a wide color gamut. Having seen the results first-hand, we have to say we were outright astonished: Imagine color quality better than the best desktop "photo" printers, printed 50 inches wide! The new printers sell for less than $18,000 for the 50 inch model, less yet for the 40 inch one. If you're in the service bureau business, you really need to take a look at these!
- Howtek launches premium "mirrorless" flat-bed scanner. As part of the continuing wave of products aimed at displacing conventional drum scanners in high-end prepress settings, Howtek has announced two new devices, the HiDemand 400 and HiDemand 200 scanners. The 400 scans an area up to 12 x 18 inches, with 48-bit color, a 4.0 Dmax, and resolutions as high as 4000 dpi. The 400 is advertised as a "mirror free" optical design, improving image quality. The 200 is limited to reflective scans of 8.5 x 12 inches, or transparencies to 4x5, but scans up to 5,600 dpi, at a maximum density of 4.1. The 400 will sell for $28,995, and the 200 for $16,995. Both units are sheduled to ship in September.
- The camera IS the computer! PhotoAccess Corporation is preparing to launch a line of new devices, combining digital camera technology with Microsoft(R) Windows(R) CE. The new Photo Access Digital Camera Architecture (DCA) 2000(TM) reference platform promises to result in "standalone" digital cameras with a new range of features.) The press release was a bit vague here, the most concrete example offered being a self-contained webcam that can plug directly into a network. (Frankly, while this sounds great, we don't see how Windows CE is going to materially help people who are primarily interested in better-quality pictures at a lower price...)
- Imation developing color matching module for ColorSync. Imation (a 3M spinoff) has a long history of excellent color-management technology, beginning with their "Rainbow" dye-sub prepress proof-printer. Now they will be applying this color-matching expertise to a color matching module (CMM), expected to be available simultaneous with release 8.5 of the Macintosh OS. CMM technology is an important and generally unseen portion of the color management puzzle, in which colors are transformed from one color space into the closest possible approximation in another. (For instance, from monitor RGB to the CYMK space used by printers.) Based on our prior experience with the Rainbow proofer in the prepress world, Imation's CMM technology appears to be some of the best.
- Yet another Slide Show Maker. Vorton Technologies has begun shipping ShowOff, a new Windows-based multimedia slide-show program selling for US $39.95. One unusual twist is that ShowOff includes file encryption capability, allowing you to attach a password to packaged slide shows to prevent unauthorized viewing.
- Sarnoff announces 640x480 "Infrared Engine." Who needs Night Shot? Sarnoff Corp has announced a new "Infrared Engine," providing VGA-level resolution and instantaneous image capture for the first time in an infrared imager. No price was given, nor was any comment offered as to its ability to see through clothing(?), like early models of Sony's "Night Shot" camcorder. ;-)
- Imagek elects Kodak veteran as director. Continuing to flesh-out their board of directors, Imagek (soon to be (?) creators of the EFS-1 drop-in 35mm imaging cartridge) have appointed Thomas M. Kelly, Ph.D. to their board. Dr. Kelly was General Manager of Kodak's Digital Camera Products during the introuction of the DC50, DC20, DC25, and many other products. Late-breaking note: Look for Imagek at Photokina, where they're supposed to show a functioning prototype of their 35mm digital film cartridge.<
Thursday, September 3, 1998
September 3 - News catch-up (still on the road):
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Thursday, September 3, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- We're still on the road, still digging-out from under the incredible flood of new announcements. Here's most of them, check back Saturday or thereabouts for even more...
- Epson 740 clarification: We reported earlier on the Epson Stylus 740, incorrectly referring to it as the "Stylus Photo 740." It turns out that the 740 is NOT a "photo" printer, but rather intended as a somewhat enhanced replacement for the 800. (They are in fact in stock at Small Dog Electronics for $279 though, as noted below.) In a recent release, Epson announced their Fall printer lineup, including the 740 ($279), 640 ($199), and 440 ($149). As we've previously reported, the 740 has native USB support, while the other models can connect to USB via a $49 USB/parallel converter. In a related announcement, Epson dropped prices on their older models as follows: 800 ($249), 500 ($179), and 400 ($129).
- HP announces their cheapest photo-quality printers yet. HP has announced two new inkjet models, both claiming photo-quality, although using different approaches to achieve it. The $249 HP DeskJet 710C/712C claims to use proprietary ink-drop blending technology to achieve a wider color range, while the $179 695C/697C uses an optional $39.95 photo ink cartridge to get similar results. HP has also launched a website dedicated to their inkjet printers, at www.deskjet.com.
- Olympus drops prices! Oly has dropped prices on a number of products, leading-off with the D-600L, which is now selling at a "street" price of $899, giving Kodak and Nikon tougher competition at the high end. The other price change is a reduction on the ES-10 scanner, with both SCSI and parallel versions selling for $399. Expect to see special product SKUs for Oly's excellent high-end accessory lenses (Tele, Wide-angle, Macro) for the D-500 & D-600. The new SKUs will include a 43-55mm adapter ring to mate the lenses to the cameras. (These lenses were developed for the Oly IS-series film cameras. We'd reported on their use with the 500 & 600, but Oly hadn't created specific bundles. It turns out that the demand for these lenses from digital owners had completely swamped their production. Now that their production is catching up with demand, they'll be packaging the lenses specifically for use with the digital products.
- "Official" Mac FlashPath drivers coming soon! In related news, Olympus is apparently about to release the Mac drivers for their FlashPath floppy-disk adapters for SmartMedia memory cards. We've previously found beta drivers on a Fuji web site, but these will be the real thing, and freely available on the Oly web site once released. (Thanks, Oly!) We'll keep our eyes peeled, let you know when they show up.
- Agfa drops price on ePhoto 1280. Effective Tuesday, Agfa has dropped the price on their 1280 camera to $599, an excellent price for a camera that captures 1280x960 images, and includes a 3x zoom lens.
- Agfa 1680 review page under construction. "Friend of the Family" John Cowley has his under-construction review page for the Agfa ePhoto 1680 camera up on his site now.
- Kodak announces new HIGH end digicam. Kodak announced Tuesday their new DCS 560 professional digital camera, the follow-on version of the DCS 460. This is a truly amazing device (if you have the money), providing a glimpse of where digital camera technology will be for the rest of us in a few years. A 6 megapixel sensor produces 18 megabyte (!) images, capturing at a maximum burst rate of 1 frame per second for up to 3 frames, with a variable ISO ranging from 80 to 200. The camera captures 12 bits per color channel, and includes a unique histogram-based exposure display, allowing the photographer to verify that all relevant tonal detail in an image has been captured properly. The DCS 560 will be available in October, at a price of $28,500. (You didn't really want that new car anyway, did you?) For more info, go to Kodak's Professional Products web area, at http://www.kodak.com/go/professional.
- New Oly models coming!? Steve's digicams has posted some (sketchy) info on two new Olympus camera models. One is the Camedia 900, which looks like a D-340L with a 3x zoom lens tacked onto it. Reported specs are 1.3 megapixel, 35-105mm equivalent zoom. Also mentioned is the C-1400XL (aka D-600XL), an update of the popular 600L. New features apparently include built-in support for 16MB SmartMedia cards, four times the internal RAM for burst mode exposures, and an external flash sync connector. (A note though: These models may or may not make it to the US -- There's some precedent for European models not being picked up by the US operation...)
- FlashPoint announces Digita Developer Alliance. Great news for all you budding camera programmers out there! FlashPoint (the developers of the Digita scripting language built into the Kodak DC220 and DC260, as well as the newly-announced Minolta EX ZOOM 1500 cameras) has announced a formal developers alliance. Interested parties can sign up on the FlashPoint web page at no charge. Once registered, you can access frequently-asked questions files and other technical information about the language and programming in it, and also get your technical questions answered via email, within two working days. The concept of extending camera capabilities via scripting is a powerful one, and we expect to see many useful things come of this.
- Sleek new Canon flatbeds drive prices even lower. Canon has announced two new flatbed scanners aimed at the small office/home market. New sensor and LED illumination technology allows fewer moving parts (cheaper to make), and smaller profile. The new scanners measure 10.1 x14.7 inches, and are only 2.5 inches high. The 300dpi FB320P will sell for $79, and the 600dpi FB620P for $99 when they ship later in September.
- Extensis enhances Intellihance. Extensis has announced a substantial upgrade to their Intellihance "intelligent image enhancer." The product works within Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe ImageReady, or Corel PhotoPaint to enhance many aspects of images automatically. (We've played with the earlier versions, and can report that it really does a surprisingly good job with practically no human intervention: Just the thing if you have to rapidly process large numbers of images and don't want to spend days doing it.) The upgrade involves too many details to go into here: Check the Extensis web site for more info.
- Digital cameras hit new lows! $149 kit includes camera, software. Software Publishing Corporation Holdings, Inc., the publisher of Harvard Graphics 98, has announced a "bundle" including a 640x480 digital camera (the Relisys Dimera 2000) and a collection of software titles for a projected retail price of only $149. (They're actually test-marketing the package at prices as low as $129!) You can order the Go Digital Photo Pak direct for $149.00 with a 30-day money-back guarantee by calling SPCH's subsidiary Serif Inc. direct at 888-566-5640. For more information about the Go Digital Photo Pack and other SPCH products, visit the SPCH Internet Outlet Store at http://www.spco.com or the Serif web site at http://www.serif.com. (Can anyone make money at these prices? Apparently SPCH thinks so! Look for more bargain-basement VGA-level cameras in the near future. FWIW, we project that megapixel designs will follow a similar trend, with some units selling for under $400 by the first quarter of '99.)
- Registration open for Kodak Solutions Pavilion at Comdex. Got a great solution built around a Kodak digital camera? Want to tell the world? Kodak has announced open registration for their "Kodak Solutions Pavilion" at the Fall Comdex show in Las Vegas. For $6900 (a very cheap price), developers can gain exposure in this important forum, by appearing in a Kodak-hosted pavilion. Space is limited to 50 participants, so early registration ensures space availability and helps exhibitors to get the most benefit from their participation in the Pavilion. Inside the Pavilion, participants are provided with a custom demonstration area (3x4 feet) as well as the necessary infrastructure, including a dedicated Pavilion Internet connection. Interested companies can find Pavilion registration and exhibit information online at http://secure.valdez.com/kspc98 or by contacting Michele Heyman at (650) 697-6561 x25 or [email protected].
- SiliconTech announces 224 Meg FlashCard. In the continuing war for higher-capacity storage, SiliconTech has announced a Type I format ATA flash card with an industry-topping capacity of 224 megabytes. No ship date was given, but price was quoted at "$600 in 10,000 quantities" (Stock up! :-) More information on SiliconTech, Inc. is available at www.sti-oem.com.
- Believe it or not, there's even more news to report on! Check back this weekend, and we should have another update posted.<
Wednesday, September 2, 1998
September 2 - NEWS FLASH! BIG News for Oly Owners!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Wednesday, September 2, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- 16 MB SmartMedia Upgrades for Oly Owners!! This is the "secret" news item we alluded to below, but couldn't tell you about until we got clearance. In a dramatic move, bound to silence the naysayers and cause rejoicing among owners of the D-320L, D-500L, and D-600L, Olympus has announced an upgrade program to retrofit their prior generation of cameras to full compatibility for the new 16MB SmartMedia memory cards! (Being D-600L owners ourselves, this is good news indeed.) As we reported earlier, a change in the specifications for the 16MB SmartMedia memory cards resulted in compatibility problems with most cameras built before the new standard was established. Alone among manufacturers of such cameras, Olympus has announced a program whereby their earlier models can be upgraded to the new standard via a "depot service" program. (Eg, you send your camera to them, they upgrade it, and send it back.) The latest word from Oly is that the upgrade will cost $49.95 for D-320L models, and $69.95 for D-500L and D-600L units. (The SLR models are apparently much more involved to upgrade.) Additionally, Oly will give purchasers of their new 16MB memory card a $20 credit toward the upgrade price, if the purchase and upgrade are done at the same time. Olympus is aiming to turn around upgrades in 1 week, but we wouldn't be surprised if the get swamped the first week or two: Some of you may want to wait a week or two after the upgrade becomes available in October, before sending in your cameras. Now, before everyone runs out and gets in line to get their cameras upgraded, take note of a couple of facts: 1) 8 MB cards are really a reasonable amount of image storage, holding ~20-24 images in the D-600L's "High Quality" mode. 2) 8 MB cards are pretty cheap, at about $40-50 apiece. 3) 16MB cards cost about twice what an 8MB card does. Thus, while the upgrade is nice, for many users, the money would be better spent just buying a couple of new 8 MB cards and pocketing the cost of the upgrade. As we see it, the biggest news in this is the extent to which Olympus is standing behind their products in the face of "standards" problems not of their making. Rather than leaving their users stranded by the new standard, they've created an upgrade program at no small effort or expense. Thus, even if you've no need or intention of taking Oly up on their offer, the mere fact it exists should give you (and new buyers) confidence that you'll be taken care of well after the sale. (If all this seems a bit effusive, we just think Oly deserves some credit in a world of product lives measured in months, and a "you bought it, you own it" attitude evinced by some manufacturers: "Backward" compatibility is taken as a given, but when was the last time you heard of a manufacturer supporting "forward compatibility," modifying earlier products to support changing standards?) This upgrade may end up being good news for some other digicam owners as well, as the move by Oly puts pressure on other manufacturers to rise to the challenge. On the other hand, we suspect few will have the level of dedication demonstrated by Olympus... The Upgrade Service offer is available by calling (888) 55-DIGITAL or (888) 553-4448 through the web at http://www.olympus.com/digital/16MB.
September 2 - Whoa! WAY too much news!
By Michael Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Wednesday, September 2, 1998 - 0:00 EDT)
- For some reason, there's been an absolute flood of imaging news the last two days, only some of it related to the Seybold show. (Wouldn't you know it would happen while I'm out of town, frantically trying to keep up with things from a cramped hotel room, in between trade-show meetings and scrounging food at company soirees.) There's so much here that we're going to have to digest it in chunks over the next few days. Bear with us...
- Epson drops Stylus Photo EX price to $499. As of yesterday, Epson has dropped the price of their large-format (11x17) Stylus Photo EX to $499, and excellent price for a true photo-quality printer that can make prints this large. If you've been holding out for a larger-format photo printer at a good price, this could be what you've been waiting for.
- Minolta announces Dimage EX Zoom camera. Minolta has considerably upped the ante for megapixel digicam features, with their just-announced Dimage EX Zoom camera. The camera breaks new ground for Minolta in several areas, including the use of the Digita scripting language (the same used in the Kodak DC220 and DC260), megapixel-plus resolution (1.5 million pixels, arranged as 1,344 x 1,008), CompactFlash memory storage (4 MB included), and the promise of possible CCD upgrades in the future. The new camera sports a 3x zoom lens with a zoom ratio of 7-21mm, equivalent to 38-115mm in the 35mm format. It also has a macro capability allowing full-frame pictures of business card-size objects. One of the most intriguing aspects of this camera is the degree of expandability it appears to offer: The press release mentions both "lighting adapters" (flash shoe, etc?) and interchangeable lenses, advertising a forthcoming "wide and bright" lens unit. The biggest news though, is the promise of upgraded CCD units in the future: The EX has a detachable lens/sensor unit like the earlier Dimage V, along with an optional 5 foot cable for remote shooting. Our guess is that the camera electronics will support higher-resolution CCD modules, which can just be plugged onto the main-body unit in the future. Very intriguing, indeed! The camera also incorporates 16 meg (!) of RAM, allowing "burst" exposure rates of up to 3.5 frames per second. Unfortunately, our enthusiasm over the product is dampened somewhat by the lack of any price or availability information in the release. (Will it sell for $400 or $4000? Will it ship next week or next year? C'mon guys!)
- Soundvision wins Seybold "Hot Pick" award for CMOS PRO. Sound Vision's neat little CMOS PRO studio camera won a Seybold Editors' "hot pick" award for its combination of high resolution, excellent color, and low cost in the digital studio camera arena. We've been talking to Sound Vision, and hope to bring our readers a review of this interesting device in the near future. For $1,995, it could be the answer many have been seeking for a low-cost studio camera for product photography.
- Nikon enhances scanner software. New version supports batch scans of film strips and APS cartridges. Nikon has announced an upgrade to their scanner software, used in their LS-2000 and LS-III "CoolScan" film scanners. The new version supports ICC color profiles for color management, and allows batch scans of 6-frame 35mm film strips, or full APS film cartridges. Current users can download the software for free from Nikon's tech support website, at http://www.nikon-euro.com/support.
- There's so much more news to cover, it isn't funny! (Like, about 25 more articles.) I have to take off to the Seybold show floor now, but will try to wade through a bunch more of these tomorrow AM, West Coast time. Look for another post by the end of the day tomorrow. (Not to mention, keep your eyes peeled for the previously-mentioned "scoop." We expect to get the go-ahead on that by tonight sometime at the latest.)
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