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Photokina 2008

23 September, 2008

Photokina opens today with a number of exciting new product announcements. I will not be attending this year because of a timing conflict with my just-concluded Botswana safari / workshop. Instead I'll be sitting back, comfortable though jet-lagged, watching the passing parade just like everyone else.

This page contains a selection of those newly announced items which interest me, and which I expect may interest you as well. You will not find here the 625 new pocket digicams, and endless press releases from small companies that you've never heard of. Rather, today, and as the week progresses, I'll highlight those items that I think will be most significant in the year ahead. Oh yes – I'll also tell you what I think about them, rather than just report that they exist.

This page will be updated continuously (when I come across something interesting) during Photokina week, so check back here from time to time, though most major announcements are made either just prior to or in the first couple of days of the show.

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Leica S-Series

You have to give Leica an A for chutzpa. By announcing the S-System and the S2 camera this small company has done something that we have not seen from any of the big players for many years – the creation of a new format. (The last time was Olympus' and Panasonic's Four-Thirds format and its new variant Micro-Four-Thirds. Maybe the cameras and lenses will really be smaller this time.)

Leica moves in the other direction – bigger. The S-System features a 30mmx45mm sensor size, and the S2's chip will have 37 Megapixels. Of equal significance to the new format standard and camera itself is that it is the result of a strategic partnering between Leica and Phase One. The wording of the announcement is revealing, because it indicates much more than a simple technology exchange (providing Leica with access to Phase's world class digital imaging expertise), but rather is described as "..close future cooperation in the technical development and marketing of premium products for the professional photography segment. ...Close cooperation has also been decided upon for the expansion of effective service and marketing structures".

Read between the lines and you'll appreciate that there's a lot more here than meets the eye. This is therefore an industry development that bears close watching. You can be sure that the S2 and its lenses will be priced for the high-end pro and carriage trade end of the market.

M Series

Leica has announced an 50mm f/0.95 ASPH for the M series. This new lens is an exciting affirmation of the company's continuing commitment to it's M series cameras, both film-based and digital.

The M8 camera has a new sister, the M8.2. I'll have more to say about this camera in the days ahead. In the meantime, Sean Reid of Reid Reviews has a comprehensive look at the new camera. (This is a subscription site.)

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Canon G10

Canon doesn't disappoint with its replacement for the popular G9 – the G10. With a15MP sensor, Digic 4, 28mm equivalent at the wide end of its zoom range, and an ergonomic grip, this looks to be a head-on competitor to Nikon's recently announced P6000. I expect to have a head-to-head test of these two raw capable pocket cameras as soon as both are available.

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Canon 5D MKII

In addition to my own early test of the Canon 5D MKII's video capability, published earlier today, Vince Laforet has shot with one as well, and now has both a blog entry and an online video of his testing. Like it or not, the amazing video capabilities of the 5D MKII confirms that the photographic world is about to charge in a big way, with stills / video convergence coming at us faster than anyone thought.

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Adobe Creative Suite 4

Adobe has formally announced their Creative Suite 4, including Photoshop CS4. This consists of thirteen new programs packaged in what appears to be 79 different configurations (just kidding). Here's more information. If you can figure out which is best for you – good luck. I'll have the Happy Meal, thanks.

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Seeing RED

The dark horse of the stills / video convergence drama is RED, the makers of the high-end RED-ONE and upcoming Scarlet, two revolutionary cameras which shoot raw video.

The company's founder Jim Jannard recently discussed their DSMC (Digital Still & Motion Camera) initiative on the company's on-line forum. Stay tuned.

"I won't comment on any specifics until the 1st of the year.
But "revolution" applies more to this than the RED ONE did to cinema.
"


– Jim Jannard

and more recently...

"We have changed everything about Scarlet
because the market has changed
and we have discovered a lot of things in the process.
We have a new vision."

"Wipe you minds of the past announced Scarlet.
Forget the design and forget the price. It is all different now.
We think you will be surprised. Glad we didn't take any deposits... :-)"

– Jim Jannard

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Zeiss Lenses in Canon EF Mount

Carl Zeiss is expanding its line of SLR lenses with the introduction of the Zeiss ZE Lenses with EF bayonet for all analog and digital EOS camera models. The new ZE lenses will transfer all information via electronic contacts. This is great news for Canon owners. The first lenses to be available will be the Planar T* f/1.4 50 ZE and the Planar T* f/1.4 85 ZE, both due in the last quarter of this year.

A word of advise to Zeiss – give us wide lenses before longer focal lengths. This is the area where Canon is weakest and we can use some better glass.

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HP Z3200

HP has announced the Z3200 printer, replacing the Z3100. The new printer is said to feature a new Chromatic Red ink and feature an enhanced colour center. The information on how this stacks up against its predecessor is as yet scanty.

I have been using the Z3100 since it first came out with very satisfying results. My only real complaint has been the rear roll paper loading which is a complete pain. This does not appear to have been changed in the new model.

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Ikonoskop A-Cam dII

A small Swedish company called Ikonoskop has announced an HD video camera that shoots uncompressed raw video in DNG format at 240MB/second to a proprietary 80GB memory cartridge, providing 15 minutes of recording per cartridge. Seems like a weird and wonderful device. I'll be keeping my eye on this.

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24 September, 2008

Kodachrome RIP?

Is Kodachrome dying? There is now only one lab left in the the world that still processes it, and there's also no indication that Kodak plans another production run of film stock. With current packages having a 2009 expiry date, is this the end? Will Mama take your Kodachrome away?

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Epson USA has announced its Print Academy for 2008 / 2009. Visiting 15 cities in the US and Canada between Nov, '08 and May '09 this popular lecture series is taught by some of of the industry's leading photographic instructors and printing experts.

Though I won't be teaching any of the seminars in person (I will be attending the Toronto session on March 21st though), each of the Print Acadamy days will feature two videos in which...

"Michael Reichmann of The Luminous Landscape shares with Jeff Schewe how he handles, mounts and frames his fine art prints at his gallery in Toronto. Michael then interviews Henry Wilhelm of Wilhelm Imaging Research about papers, inks and print permanence".

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Micro Four Thirds

Honey – I shrunk the camera

When it was announced recently the new Micro Four Thirds format barely registered on me. Here we go again – I thought.

But, Panasonic's just introduced Lumix G1 may be just the ticket. At least it shows thinking outside the box, similar to Leica with its new S Series format, offering an alternative to what I call film-think.

What the new format does is eliminate the prism housing and mirror box of the traditional SLR. This allows for a considerable reduction in the size and weight of the camera body as well as lenses, since the flange to sensor distance has been reduced as well.

In its stead is a high resolution Live-View electronic viewfinder, along with a Live View articulated rear LCD, of course. Panasonic uses what it calls LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology for the EVF, which apparently allows each of the red, blue, and green elements to be seen at a 60 Hz refresh rate so that individual pixels remain invisible. I've been told by those that have seen it that it's quite impressive.

I'll look forward to seeing how this works in practice and also whether the consumer marketplace is ready for a hybrid of this sort – an interchangable lens DSLR with an electronic viewfinder.

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Nikon D3x?

No – it hasn't been announced, under this or any other name. But the question that more people write to me with than any other is – when is it coming? Frankly, I have no inside information other than that an announcement some time in November is most likely.

Flagship cameras need to remain current for longer than consumer gear, and so it's my guess that Nikon is taking its time so as to add features such as sensor shake dust reduction and – dare we hope – 1080P HD video capability.

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26 September, 2008

Hasselblad

Hasselblad has not only introduced a number of new backs and lenses at Photokina but also took the opportunity this week to announce some significant price reductions. These range between 30% and 40% and reduce the prices of some camera combinations by as much as US $10,000 over what they were last week.

While this is, of course, highly appealing to potential customers, it begs some questions. Foremost among these is – what are the implications for the rest of the industry as well as for Hasselblad themselves. The ostensible reason given for the reductions is "Over time, increased volume and improved production techniques eventually allow lower prices and more accessible products. This is now happening in our industry. We can now produce our cameras at a lower cost and we can pass the savings on to photographers". Sounds reasonable, except that the volumes in the medium format industry are so small as to make cost reductions of this sort difficult to accomplish.

Secondly, since last Photokina the drop of the US dollar against the Euro has been some 20%. Combine this with the just-announced 30-40% price reduction on Hasselblad and this means that revenue to Hasselblad on new camera and back sales will now be some 50% lower than it was two years ago.

One can only guess as to the reasons for this fire sale, and I'll leave the more financially knowledgeable among readers to fathom it out for themselves. Overall though it seems to me to be an unhealthy trend for the MF industry, as lower margins (for dealers as well) combined with our current global financial crisis (which is causing credit to dry up and consumer to be wary), could well lead to a considerably constriction in the marketplace. Add to this cameras like the 25MP Sony A900 and 21MP Canon 5D MII full frame cameras at around $2,500, and one has to wonder at the economic viability of much of the medium format marketplace.

As consumers we all like lower prices. But what will be the cost of this to the companies that make them and who find their margins and sales drying up? Desperation is contagious.

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RawWorkflow.com

Michael Tapes of RawWorkflow.com this week has provided us with a free utility program (Mac and Windows) for extracting JPGs from raw files. It's called IJFR and standards for Instant JPG from Raw. I've been using it for a while, and it does a great job, and I especially find it valuable since I rarely shoot JPGs, but sometimes find that I need them after the fact. Scott Kelby has a guest blog written by Michael that helps explain it all in more detail.

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Leaf & Sinar

Leaf has a number of new backs and product offerings built around their AFi camera. In addition to up to 56 megapixel resolution, the new line-up offers internal sensor rotation for easily changing orientation and Leaf SensorFlex technology which lets photographers pre-select image size and capture speed. The new line-up totals six new products: the Leaf AFi-II 6, 7 and 10 digital camera systems and the Leaf Aptus-II 6, 7 and 10 digital camera backs.

You'll find more AFI-II info here, and Aptus-II info here.

But wait – there's more! Imaging Insider has just published an announcement that to "..expand strategic cooperation to cover imaging technology.," Sinar and Leaf are to enter into some for of strategic coopreration. Since these companies are both direct competitors, and since they are also both OEM's of the Hy6 cameras, their puff-piece press release leaves a lot of unanswered questions. More as I find out what's going on behind the scenes.

UPDATE:

On Sept 27th I published an unconfirmed report that it appeared that Sinar was going to be adopting Leaf backs and removing itself from the MF back business. This was in error. I have since received the following clarification from Sinar...

If you read our (Leaf and Sinar's) press release attentively you'll find Wolfgang Keller's (CEO Sinar) statement:

?The new Leaf AFi-II digital back would complement our own digital product range perfectly, like the brand new eSprit 65, and with this cooperation we will be able to provide solutions for an even broader spectrum of professionals.?

This phrase actually says it all:
- At the moment we are only talking about Leaf's AFi-II technology.
- Sinar is rounding out the product range on the top end with this one back.
- Nobody is talking about getting out of back manufacturing.

In contrary we have just launched our new Sinarback eSprit 65 which is the first medium format back that is capable to process the files on board and does not need proprietary software since it is able to deliver DNG files.
And there is of course the whole range of multi-shot backs that are a Sinar speciality.

We at Sinar see ourselves as system integrators that strive to deliver the best quality on the market to our customers. This is nothing new. It has been the case with lenses all along. We bought Rodenstock, Zeiss and Schneider lenses and integrated them into our system -> Sironar and Sinaron lenses
We bought Copal shutters and integrated them into our system as well.. and there are other bits and pieces that arent that obvious. For instance some of the Sinar m electronics are even taken from the automotive industry because they have the highest standards in the industry.

And now we believe that the new Leaf AFi-II back is the best back on the market when it comes to True Wide Sensor technology in the 50+ MP range.
So we will be integrating that back in our system. That's why Leaf and Sinar announced this cooporation.
Our two companies have already had such a relationship in the nineties when in 1992 Sinar presented the Sinar e Leaf system with Leaf's DCB and later DCB II.

I stand corrected and wish to apologize to Sinar for previously publishing unconfirmed speculation.

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September, 2008


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Concepts: Camera, Digital single-lens reflex camera, Single-lens reflex camera, Hasselblad, Medium format, Digital camera back, Digital camera, Canon EOS 5D

Entities: eSprit, Toronto, Leica, Canon, Panasonic, Hasselblad, Nikon, Sinar, Adobe, Kodak, Phase One, Ikonoskop, HP, Sony, These range, Botswana, Canada, JPGs, Photoshop, Windows, Wilhelm Imaging Research, EVF, Michael Reichmann, Leaf, Carl Zeiss, Michael, Jim Jannard, Henry Wilhelm, Digic, Scott Kelby, Sean Reid, Vince Laforet, Epson, Michael Reichmann, Jeff Schewe, Rodenstock, Michael Tapes, Wolfgang Keller, Schneider, G1

Tags: cameras, Sinar, Leaf, press release, new format, video, digital, Micro Four Thirds, Leica, sensor, industry, medium format, new camera, ze lenses, new leaf, Canon 5D, new backs, 5d mkii, Planar T*, price reduction, new ze lenses, digital camera, electronic viewfinder, Zeiss ZE Lenses, new products, lower prices, video capability, HD video, raw video, video convergence, HD video camera, new variant micro-four-thirds, digital eos camera, digital camera backs, new format standard, Sinar speciality, exciting new product, new pocket digicams, canon 5d mkii, Hasselblad