By Pete Myers & Michael Reichmann
The annual spring PMA show is the largest and most important venue for the announcement of new photographic products after Photokina, which is a biennial show. Following as it does in 2007 on the heals of a Photokina there are likely not going to be a large number of major new product announcements.
Due to travel conflicts I will not be attending PMA this year. Contributor Pete Myers will be at the show, and will be filing reports here both during and after the show, reporting on this things that catch his eye. I'll be doing the same, based more on press releases, and telephone chats with industry insiders from the show floor.
Please note that this is NOT the place to come for news on the latest in digicams. You can find out more about these on any number of web sites devoted to the subject. We also will only be touching on some mainstream cameras and accessories that will be much better reported elsewhere. Our goal here is to let you know about more pro-oriented products, and the stuff that the sites which specialize in digital cameras tend to overlook.
We will also provide you with our biased, opinionated, and irreverent observations on both products and the industry in general.
Entries are dated, with the most recent
ones at the top of the page.
Entries by Pete Myers are indicated with the initials PM and Michael's with MR.
Entries for a given day added after the first posting are indicated with the word UPDATE.
Saturday, March 10, 2007 – MR
This wasn't a very exciting show, likely because of its proximity to Photokina. Still, it should have been better than it was. I received the following email yesterday from a friend who is a senior executive with a major company...
"What a lackluster show here at PMA. Not much excitement and attendance seems way down. I was able to go right up to the Canon counter yesterday and see the new camera, and that place is usually 6 deep. Stephen Johnson was talking and speakers at their booth usually have a big crowd. There were just 6 people. All booths seems to have more workers than attendees. Kind of strange".
Saturday, March 10, 2007 – PM
Oh me, oh my! Kathy and I got back to Kingman last night a few minutes before midnight local time. We had been up and running for 19 hours attending events at PMA and traveling to and fro.
As is typical for these events, the energy level is high in the morning, and there is the most news to report. As the day shifts to the long hours of the afternoon, one simply stalls out of new information and energy to write it.
Our late afternoon and evening was spent with Bill Szyper, Manager of Business Development at Mitsubishi Imaging, and his colleagues. Mitsubishi has purchased the rights to one of my favorite photo printing products---Pictorico PGHG. On January 1, 2007, they took over all Pictorico products for the Americas.
Pictorico PGHG is an extremely high-gloss polyester white film, which is coated with three layers of alumina based micro-ceramics. This is in contrast to most other micro-ceramic product on the market, which is based on silica.
The combination of ulta-smooth surface and absolute minimal dot gain of individual ink droplets creates images with an extremely high Dmax and resolution. Simply put, this material is the wave of the future for ultra high quality fine art print making. The archival aspects of getting off of a paper base is important.
It always surprises me there are any more advances possible with paper materials or even my beloved Pictorico PGHG, but they keep coming. While I cannot talk of specifics, lets just say that it will be an exciting year at Mitsubishi Imaging and that ultimately Pictorico PGHG will gain even more strength. I will make sure to file an in depth report on the subject later in the year with technical specifics.
While nothing at the show had the "wow!" factor that one dreams about, there is certainly an abundance of progress in product development that is adding up to a future tense for the photo industry. It often takes a series of steps to get from here to there, and I was seeing that occurring throughout the show. Kathy and I had a chance to provide our input to various manufacturers on key observations we have made over time in regard to their product or product class. It was refreshing that most of them LISTENED.
Kathy and I must head back to Santa Fe today, so it will be a day of long travel across the southwest. I am sure as the miles roll by we will reflect back on our many adventures at the PMA 07, and the kind people that took time out to meet with us. Its been a pleasure, and we hope that you have gained a bit of insight into the activities at PMA 07.
Pete & Kathy Myers
Friday, March 9, 2007 – MR
Adobe has announced that in addition to Photoshop CS3 to be unveiled on March 2, that they will also deliver Photoshop CS3 Extended, a completely new edition of Photoshop. Photoshop CS3 Extended includes everything in Photoshop CS3 plus a new set of capabilities for integration of 3-D and motion graphics, image measurement and analysis. Photoshop CS3 Extended also is claimed to simplify the workflow for professionals in architecture, engineering, medical and science. This software is expected to ship in Spring 2007.
More information on the DP1 Foveon chip-based digicam from Sigma has now surfaced. This could be a fascinating camera with exceptional image quality, given the size of the sensor. I'm looking forward to actually trying one of these. And, given some authoritative sounding rumours that I've been hearing, Foveon technology may end up in some non-Sigma high-end cameras that'll knock the socks off of a lot of people. (Hold onto your socks for about 6 more months though).
Sigma also has a monster lens coming, a 200-500mm f/2.8. What a beast. But, I feel that without some form of image stabilization the usefulness of such a lens is reduced compared to competitive offerings at fixed focal lengths.
Tamron has announced their first lens with build in image stabilization. the AF28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO zoom lens. (Please remember to ask for this lens by its exact name – if you can remember it). Tamron's name for stabilization is VC (Vibration Compensation). While it appears that just about every company has now either licensed stabilization technology, or found their way around the original patents, the real problem is that we appear to have run out of good sounding names and acronyms for this capability. The only one left appears to be JE (Jiggle Elimination).
In any event, this lens covers full-frame, and will be available in both Nikon and Canon mounts.
Sandisk has announced an 8GB Ultra II SD card meeting the SDHC Class 4 speed standard of 4MB/s. Just the thing to put in you new Canon 1Ds MKIII, which now allows for automatic switching between the built-in CF and SD cards when the first one fills up. Also put an 8GB card in the CF slot and you can now shoot up to 16 Gigabytes without reloading. Let's see, at 10FPS that how long?
HP has announced a new company-wide initiative, HP DreamColor Technologies. HP DreamColor Technologies is a certified system of color technologies and sciences which make it easy to produce accurate, predictable and consistent color across a series of digital color devices. Accompanying this news, HP today announced the new 12-ink, HP Designjet Z3100ps GP Photo Printer, which is one of the first products to implement HP DreamColor Technologies. This new technology is also offered in the HP Designjet Z Photo Printer series, the HP Indigo press 5000, the HP Indigo press ws4500 and the HP Photosmart Pro B9180 Photo Printer.
The HP Designjet Z3100ps is an extended version of the HP
Designjet Z Photo Printer series announced last year at Photokina. Building
on the original technology of the Z Photo Printer series featuring the
embedded spectrophotometer, the Z3100ps features an embedded Adobe PS3/PDF
RIP (version 3017, fully Acrobat 7 compatible) and enables direct PS, PDF
1.6, TIFF and JPEG printing.
The printer is available in 24 and 44 inches (610 and 1117 mm) wide, and comes standard with the HP Advanced Profiling Solution allowing users to create customized RGB and CMYK profiles for any media as well as personalize and edit the profiles to specific needs. It is a 12-ink printer and features HP Quad-Black ink set.
HP DreamColor Technologies is a company-wide initiative that is designed to provide consistent color accross numerous printing devices. It is not a specific product, but more of a next step in color management. DreamColor ensures that devices involved in the capture, design, editing and printing process use sensor-based, closed-loop control systems for definitive color reproduction. HP plans to integrate this technology into all of its hardward from printers to PCs, and the HP Designjet Z3100ps is on of the first products to integrate this technology. For example, with HP DreamColor Technologies, imaging professionals can print color proofs that simulate offset press standards, so the artist and designer know exactly what will come back from the commercial printer, using Offset Press Emulation on the HP Designjet Z3100ps GP or HP Indigo press 5000.
Microsoft, the company that everyone loves to hate, has reannounced HD Photo, a new high-end file format designed to replace JPG.
According to Microsoft compression advancements for the format include the ability to protect the original image content and color with twice the efficiency of JPEG, resulting in superior images at half the size. With support on popular platforms such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X, HD Photo provides consumers the ability to view, modify, and share images without conversion or the use of special applications.
HD Photo offers both lossless and lossy image compression, and can retain the full dynamic range and color gamut data from a camera’s sensor. Also, because making adjustments to common color balance and exposure settings won’t discard or truncate data as other common bitmap formats typically do, it’s easier to “undo” those changes at a later time. As a result, significantly smaller files can be created while still retaining optimum picture quality.
Microsoft also announced that it intends to standardize the technology and will be submitting HD Photo to an appropriate standards organization shortly.
We'll have to see how this works out, but if it does what it says, it could be a worthwhile advancement over JPG.
Friday, March 9, 2007 – PM
Now for something really BIG...
Try BetterLight. 794MB, 48 bit file from their new 13.6K x 10.6K scanning back. $22,995.00 at the end of March. ISO 64 and up support. Staggering. But if you need to copy fine art for museum archives, its a heck of toy.
Crane & Co.
Dave Williams has released two new products for Crane. Remember last year they stunned the market with Silver Rag --- the first true gloss surface rag product. Museo Portfolio Rag (300grm) and Museo Maestro canvas. The new GLOSS Maestro canvas in 435 gm weight is simply stunning. These new canvas products are getting quite interesting, especially for large prints.
John Pannozzo at ColorByte Software has done it again with ImagePrint 7, available later this month. I keep thinking that John could not possibly come up with any more improvements on what is already a great product in ImagePrint. But here it comes in a refinement of the user interface that is exciting to see, even for a long time user. It's fast, slick and gets the work done in record time. Borders can be added to images in a non-destructive mode. Images can fill the page in seconds. It's a true production tool and ImagePrint users will not be disappointed.
John continues to work with HP on the HP Z3100. The support of ColorByte towards HP's hardware has greatly cut down on the time towards success of the product. The HP Z3100 and ColorByte ImagePrint 7 are likely to be the gold standard in print production hardware for the next few years. Amazing. Sign me up!
Mike Wong at onOne Software says that they will ship genuine Fractals 5 mid-April. As a beta tester of this product (monochrome 16 bit mode) I must say that you should hold on to your hats for this one. GF 4 was a dog. It never really worked right. I did not use it, rolling back to 3.5. GF 5 took a clean slate approach and it works amazingly well. While resolution cannot be made, certainly GF 5 will help equalize the performance of say a Leica M8 10 Meg file and something from a much bigger camera. Again, it cannot generate resolution that is not there, but it sure fools the eye into believing that the file is much bigger than actually comes out of the camera.
GF 5 supports all file types---from layers, to LAB, 16 bit monochrome, and truly anything you can throw at it.
GF 5 will be $159.95, with upgrade for current users for $69.95. It's well worth a try before buying a higher resolution camera body. Image quality (Ala Leica M8) is likely to become as important as image size with this equalization tool. Did I mention that the interface allows the fractaling to be adjusted by the end user depending on image type---from really smooth for portraits, to digging for landscape work. The edge adjustment of those fractals can be set as well. And heck, there are a few other goodies to play with that I will leave as a surprise.
Carl Zeiss gets the nod for truly exciting product in the continuation of their new lens series---for M mount, Nikon mount and Hasselblad. While no new lenses were announced at this show, there are more in the pipe. Zeiss's concern is making sure that product quality, support and sales support are well supported---and meet the quality standards of the products they are shipping.
Looking over their display counter, I could not help to be impressed with the superb build quality of their lenses. If Santa Claus wanted to drop the entire lot under my Christmas tree, it would be the Christmas of a lifetime. Just planning ahead for nine months...
For me, the excitement factor is high for what Zeiss is trying to do---bring back into focus ultra high quality, manual focus lenses, and a reasonable cost point. The new ZV series for Hasselblad V will be introduced late in the year. At this time it is unclear whether Zeiss will distribute the product or Hasselblad. If I could wave my magic wand, I would like to see Zeiss BUY the rights to the Hasselblad V series, and bring it under Zeiss's Ikon camera group. I am not sure that Hasselblad really has interest in support this camera body any more, and Zeiss certainly has the horsepower to make it happen and make it a jewel.
Below is a cluster of Zeiss ZV lenses in full glory.
Leica has one of the sweetest "must have" toys of the show---the new C-LUX 2. It is a shirt pocket sized camera, with 28-100mm equivalent zoom at f2.8, optical image stabalization, a big 2.5" display---with a bright button for use out of doors. 7.2 Megs. $499.00
Panasonic shares the build of the camera above and introduces the DMC-FX30 at $349.00.
We had a chance to sit down with Stefan Daniel, the new project manager for M-System at Leica, and Christian Erhardt, Marketing Manager, Leica USA. It was a fine moment to catch up on all things M. As you can imagine, the house is on fire with the production of the Leica M8 and related M lenses. They simply cannot make enough product, fast enough to keep up with market demand. The Leica house is humming at full capacity. So get your order in if you intend to shoot an M8 this summer.
Of news is the release of the Leica Universal Viewfinder. It allows one to use all the wide lenses, including the wide tri-elmar, with parallax compensation and spirit level. Its a neat piece of engineering the further expands the M product capability.
Of great surprise is the news that both the Leica MP and M7 film camera sales have also risen in response to the release of the M8. They are once again solid selling products for Leica, and there are no plans to walk away from their flagship film products. As a Leica MP photographer, I found this bit of news to be terrific. The dirt word---FILM---still makes sense for some of us.
We had a view of the Pentax 645 Digital Camera prototype---well under glass and far from being real. It would be nice to see it working and as an actual product.
Nikon and Canon
Nikon and Canon really did not show anything of significance that was new, with exception of the Canon EOS 1D MK3. Nice displays, great support in getting information, but you all ready know the tune. In general, this can be said wide-scale for this show. As Michael put it, "this was a Photokina year." Most of the major product was already announced last September in Germany. But it was surprising that Canon did not re-fresh the 1Ds MK2 with new product. I guess we are in a new phase of product development, and it will take a lot longer between cycles now.
By Kathy Myers
I know I'm supposed to be seen and not heard today, yet I couldn't help but do a little digging on my own. Often doing gear packing and hauling in the field, I thought I'd drop by Tamrac to see what they might have to offer. I've come up with 3 interesting little tidbits. Late this spring they will start shipping a modified version of their wheeled soft cases. They have modified their wheel setup to pull the wheels in closer to the pack while providing a bit more room in the case. (Neither the Rep I spoke to nor I figured out how to do that, but that's what they did.) The smaller two versions will not have any problem passing the airline carry-on size limit. Tamrac has also modified their lens holder compartment dividers to allow for larger circumference lenses. And finally from a ladies point of view, their cases are looking a lot more stylish. They have added a new color or two for 2007 and the lines are looking very sleek!
I also visited Vanguard. They have a line of hard cases which rival Pelican for performance but at a bit lower price for a deeper case. They also have a line of light weight carbon fiber tripods (very nice!). Again, for those of us who value style, they have a new line of camera bags which sport leather appointments with a nice khaki canvas, all double stitched.
Thursday, March 8, 2007 – MR
Panasonic has announced two new lenses for the Four Thirds system, a Leica D Summilux 25mm f/1.4 and the Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-150mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S (whew). Since these are 4/3 format lenses you need to multiply their focal lengths by 2X to get their 35mm full-frame equivelents. This makes the zoom a 28-300mm equivalent, and both lenses are likely to become a popular choice for Olympus, Panasonic and Leica 4/3 format camera owners.
The Moab paper division of Legion Paper has announced their first entry in the F surface inkjet paper race. It is called Colorado Fiber and comes in two surfaces, Gloss and Satine (sic) and is claimed to be the brightest F type paper available. Both papers are 245 gsm weight and will be available in both sheets and rolls. I'm told that samples will be on their way to me for testing next week, and I look forward to comparing this paper to Fibaprint Gloss Ultra Smooth and Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl and Fine Art Pearl.
Nik has introduced Dfine 2.0, reportedly offering enhanced noise reduction, superior image quality, and a new user interface.
Delkin has introduced a new Cardbus reader (PCMCIA). It supports UDMA and claims transfer speeds up to 40 MB/s with supported cards. They have also introduced two card readers for the Cardbus standard (New Macs and some PCs); a 54mm Expresscard reader and a 34mm 6-in-1 adapter.
Thursday, March 7, 2007 : Kingman, Arizona – PM
Pete's pre-show report – Dispatch #1
Twenty-four hours to PMA 07 and I have to wonder what I have gotten myself into! We will try our best to dispatch a few words from the floor of the show, with impressions of the event and equipment before us.
Kathy (my bride of 18 years) and I headed out from our home in Santa Fe, NM last Saturday (March 3). When we left, it was a spirited -4C. We made our way quickly across two States and have been 'base camping' out of Kingman, AZ. Kingman is about a two hour drive from Las Vegas, NV, the site of the PMA 07. On the eastern side of the Colorado River, we wind our way north for more then an hour, transition across the great Hoover Dam, then wind into metro Las Vegas.
Kingman has allowed us to have a nice, quiet place to base our operations. We have an apartment-like motel suite, with kitchenette and room to spread out --- at a fraction of the price of staying in LV.
Kingman is one of the crossroads of the southwest, and basing our operations out of here has made it possible for me to have a few days in the field photographing. This is a transition time of the year, between hard winter and spring, and the weather is anything but predictable. We have been fortunate with a couple of nice days for photography and temperatures heading in the 25C to 30C range. While wind is always a factor here, it has not been excessive.
On Sunday, we were up on the eastern side of the Colorado river, about 30KM south of the Hoover Dam. It took about 15km of 4X4 driving in our Jeep Rubicon to wind our way down the alien world canyon and to the water's edge. It was spectacular on the river, and a long hike around the point yielded some amazing photo opportunities.
Monday was RECON day. Kathy and I took a break from the field work to drive into LV and find PMA at the LV Convention Center. The drive in was fun, as the Hoover Dam is under a massive construction project to create one of the largest free-span bypass bridges across the canyon and in front of the dam face. The construction effort is sheer madness.
We were happy to scout the location of PMA before the event. The south hall, where PMA will be hosted, is so large it is a city block in length. It looks like the Space Shuttle Vehicle Assembly building in sheer size. Totally intimidating when one thinks of the walking needed to even make a dent in reviewing the show.
LV is like any other large city --- noisy, choking in smog and not a lot of fun. We were happy to leave.
Tuesday was taken up by a three hour drive out to Joshua Tree National Park in California. We started the day in heavy overcast and slight drizzle, but it kindly cleared up for us by the time we arrived. True southern California desert skies, with lenticular clouds shining high.
We made two nice hikes in the park, with full gear. It was a clear reminder pre-PMA that out in the real world there are more variables in photography besides just the equipment. Getting to location, making the shot, and getting home have a huge bearing on the success of the day. What works in the study is likely not what will work in the field. I certainly will keep this in mind as we make our way though the show tomorrow.
Below is a point and squirt shot from Joshua Tree that certainly hints at the complex beauty in the Park -- -a must see when in the southwest -- -but during the cool months of fall, winter and early spring.
Kathy and I have opted out of the Sneak Peak Press event at PMA this afternoon, and will arrive early tomorrow to get underway. It will be a full day, with meetings along with our reports. Hopefully the WiFi technology will work as predicted and it will allow us to dispatch reports throughout the day. The real news will be reported from PMA by many, so our goal is to seek out what is of interest unique to Luminous Landscape readers.
The calm before the storm!
Wednesday, March 7, 2007 – MR
The show doesn't start for another day, but the press releases and announcements have started to flow in ernest. First out of the block was Canon with its 1D MKIII. This appears to be a killer new camera aimed squarely at sports, reportage and wildlife photographers. Though it looks like the previous generation cameras it is a major redesign, with a new battery system, larger screen, and much more. 10FPS is the big news, as is a 30 frame raw buffer. There's a lot more, and you can read all of the gory details in a new white paper published by canon USA and hosted on the Galbraith site. I expect to have a hands-on field report as soon as sample cameras become available. (My God, it even appears to have a dedicated mirror lock-up button. The millennium has finally arrived).
The E-400 camera which Olympus has been selling everywhere in the world except North America for the past 6 months or so has finally surfaced here as the E-410. Since it's probably been Olympus' most interesting consumer camera to date, it's delay in the US has been mysterious, but it's nice to see it finally released. Simultaneously a higher end model, the E-510 with built our in Image Stabilization and a new body design has also been released.
To no ones surprise Olympus finally showed a mock-up of their E-1 replacement, named the P1. Since it's only a mock-up at this time, availability is anyone's guess, and mine would be that we'll be unlikely to see it shipping in calendar 2007. Will this be too little too late for Olympus in the pro / semi-pro market? My guess is that that particular train left the station long ago, but we'll see when further details on the P1 surface.
Innova Digital Art has announced a new paper; Fibaprint Ultra Smooth Gloss. No, this isn't F-Type Fibaprint Gloss Ultra Smooth (reviewed here previously), so don't get the new paper and the old paper confused. What the new paper is though, to my eyes at least, is the finest inkjet photographic paper yet when it comes to having the appearance of a traditional F surface fiber-based paper. It's so close to Ilford Multigrade FB that it's uncanny.
I have been printing with this new paper for the past week, in both B&W and colour, on both the Canon iPF5000 and the HP Z3100, and the results are exceptional in their dMax and colour depth. While I have always printed my exhibition prints on fine art rag papers I now feel that this new generation of papers has reached the point that gallery quality prints are possible, not only because of their optical features but because they feel like real paper, not plastic.
I will have a full review of Innova's Fibaprint Ultra Smooth Gloss in the weeks ahead once I have had the opportunity to use it more extensively.
Rodenstock has announced a new line of HR (high resolution) filters. To quote from the press release... The new filters feature extremely hard, digital multi-coating with five coats, the last which is water shedding and causes water to literally run off the filter like water on a waxed car. The filters also have edge coating, which reduces internal reflection and won’t delaminate. The use of thinner optical glass provides less aberrations and better light transmission, as well as permitting the use of thinner filter mounts. Quality design and construction is reflected in unique brass rings, which help ensure optical alignment of the filter to the lens and safety features, such as a sufficient amount of threads to ensure lens cap attachment, and a thin filter ring for full frame shooting without vignetting when using wide angle lenses.
Horseman is showing the SW-DII Pro, a specialized camera designed exclusively for use with medium format digital backs in Hasselblad, Mamiya and Contax mounts. It features up to 17mm in rise, fall and shift, which may be used for image control or stitching. Three wide angle digital lenses will be available in helical mount; the Schneider Apo-Digitar XL24, and Rodenstock Apo-Sironar digital lenses of 35, 45 and 55mm focal lengths.
more to come...