Although I was not covering digital cameras, I could not resist checking
out one model, the new Fujifilm FinePix F700. Encased in a handsome
aluminum body, this camera is not only packed with advanced SLR-type
capabilities and capture modes, but also boasts some significant "firsts."
As the first 6.2-megapixel compact camera, this one raises the bar by
a substantial notch, and will usher the way for other ultrahigh-resolution
digicams of various brands. More importantly perhaps, the FinePix F700
is the first camera to incorporate the 4th Generation Fujifilm SuperCCD
SR sensor array with increased resolution, for images as large as 2832x2128
pixels, without interpolation.
According to the tech notes, this new 1/1.7" sensor offers a wide
exposure latitude plus "four times greater dynamic range"
than the 3rd Generation sensor, by "simulating the extended tonal
range characteristics of color negative film." Consequently, it
will hold detail in both highlight and shadow areas even in contrasty
lighting as confirmed by sample images shown by Fuji reps. The SR sensor
is also said to yield significantly enhanced resolution and sensitivity,
as well as enhanced color purity and images with less digital noise.
Even the best sensor will not produce superlative image quality without
the most effective image processing software. Hence, it's worth
noting that the F700 incorporates Fujifilm's Image Intelligence*
system, designed to produce "vibrant skin tones, clear whites,
and sharp definition." At a list price of $599 (including a docking
station) this 6-megapixel camera is definitely a bargain, considering
its ultrahigh resolution, and vast range of capabilities and creative
controls. Since the FinePix F700 was announced in February, this has
been the first model that I recommend to friends who seek my advice
before buying a high-resolution digital camera.
--Peter K. Burian
Canon EOS 10D
Since my beat this year was high-end digital I had expected to see a lot
of new things, and I did, but most were in the form of nonfunctional or
only partly functional prototypes. I find it hard to get excited about
a camera that doesn't work or which I am not allowed to handle.
My favorite product from the ones that were actually ready to use was
the Canon EOS 10D. Actually, I got one of these from Canon shortly after
the PMA Show and have now done several shoots with it. It is a remarkably
agile camera and the autofocus is such an improvement over its predecessors
that I can see it becoming one of my favorite cameras in a hurry. I particularly
like the auto rotation feature so I no longer have to individually rotate
vertical images from a mixed shoot. This camera is also important because
it is pushing the prices on digital SLRs down within the range of more
and more photographers. That is good for all of us.
Canon EOS 10D
I was torn between the Toy Poodle and Shetland Sheepdog...oops, sorry,
wrong "best in show." There was lots of interesting gear at
PMA 2003, much more than I expected. I started with the Kodak LS633, if
only for the way that OLED technology will reshape our expectations of
every kind of display media in the future. I continued with the Kyocera
FineCam L4v's oversize 2-5" preview screen wrapped around
a sleek body, which was also nice, but I decided my choice for Shutterbug
should reflect my real-world choices.
On the second day of the show, I ran into my friendly retailer from Adorama
and told him to place my order for a Canon EOS 10D. It's a better
EOS D60 and for $500 less I can't go wrong. If I'm lucky,
I might even have it before this issue comes out.
Preclick Lifetime Photo
New technologies and new products were in abundance at every turn at this
year's PMA convention. When it came time to pick my Best of Show,
I opted for a product that wasn't quite as splashy as some others.
Preclick Lifetime Photo Organizer is a software application that is as
fun to use as it is easy to use.
Unlike other photo organizers, Lifetime begins life as a tiny file, so
it's not gobbling up countless megabytes of valuable disk space.
As soon as it installs, it immediately recognizes where the pictures are
stored on your hard drive and starts to gather them up under one roof--virtually
(they always stay where you left them, unless deleted within the program).
Or you can stop the process and dictate which drive or folder to go to.
Once the program gets the go-ahead, it does it all so fast and efficiently.
You just sit back and watch the action unfold. After you've selected
the images to view, Lifetime even lets you do some editing, with a very
effective redeye-removal tool and an AutoFix tool, which can dramatically
improve color, contrast, and exposure, plus rotation and cropping. Or
you can convert the image to black and white or sepia. And if you're
unhappy with the results, you can undo any edits or one-click restore
the original image (otherwise they stay fixed). You can annotate the images
and rate them, then do a search or sort by various criteria. When done,
you can view a slide show.
Lifetime does even more, letting you pick images to e-mail (shrunk down
to size) and the program lets you copy (and optionally shrink) pictures
to a separate folder and package that with an installer, to share with
friends/family/colleagues. Then there is the kiosk-in-the-home feature,
which allows you to select images to be printed by an online service or
simply upload your pictures to a photo-sharing web-album.
Lifetime Photo Organizer (for MS Windows only) can be ordered online for
$29.95, at www.preclick.com.
Pentax Optio S
Sometimes smaller is better, or decidedly more convenient, especially
if it makes it easier to carry a camera along everywhere. The tiny new
Pentax Optio S really does fit this description to a "T."
Smaller than most credit cards and just over 3/4" thick, it's
about the size of a deck of cards--which were seen everywhere in
Las Vegas. A patented sliding lens zoom mechanism allows the 3x optical
zoom lens to fully retract into the camera body flush with the front of
the stylish aluminum alloy case. Thus it's easy to slide into any
pocket or purse to have readily available for those elusive good pictures
that typically are seen when no camera is immediately available.
There is an effective 3.2-megapixel capability and the built-in memory
is 11MB. A variety of shooting modes are offered including super macro,
capable of recording sharp images of subjects a mere 2.4" away.
In addition to top-quality digital image recording it has a movie mode
with sound playback plus a voice recording mode for attaching 30-second
memos to selected images. A rechargeable lithium ion battery
--Robert E. Mayer
A Selection From Various
While it may seem unfair I guess I have some sort of leeway here to give
you more than one Best of Show nominee.
My "I can't wait to try this one out" award goes to
a fun product in the film category--Konica's Film-In Super
Wide camera. This single-use model delivers a 17mm lens and a built-in
flash--the camera yields a 90Þ angle of view. In case you were
wondering, the typical angle of view of a single-use camera is about 30mm.
The camera is loaded with 27 exposures of Konica ISO 800 color print film,
and might sell for about $9. Who knows, this may replace the Holga and
John Stewart's recent Woca discovery.
For sheer usefulness I think
the Kodak LS-633 digicam's OLED (O for "organic") display
is a long-awaited breakthrough. This display actually allows folks to
see what they shot in broad daylight, and from a very wide viewing angle.
I saw an image from the side in fairly bright light and it was as clear
as if I were looking at it from straight ahead.
Optical stabilizers, Vibration Reducers--whatever you want to call
them, the lenses that allow for a pickup of two stops or more in hand
holdable shutter speeds are a boon to street and nature photographers.
The Nikon addition to their VR (Vibration Reduction) line-up--a 24-120mm
model--seems like the ideal "street" lens that should
make a hit with candid photographers and photojournalists alike.
Everyone who shoots slides
loves Fuji's Velvia film, the color rich chrome that changed the
way photographers saw and recorded color. Now that film will be available
in an ISO 100 version, doubling the speed of the venerable Velvia 50.
Also from Fuji comes a new Astia 100F professional film, the more neutral
version yet color rich as well. This film is intended for portrait, fashion,
and commercial photographers who need a bit less saturation in their images.
For sheer love of film I have to tip my hat to Fujifilm for sticking with
it and even improving these glorious emulsions.
Those printing kiosks keep
popping up all over the country. These are walk-up workstations that allow
you to bring in your CD, digital memory card, or even film and get digital
output ranging from prints to other CDs to index prints of all the images
you have on your card. There were plenty to choose from at the show (including
kiosks from Sony, Polaroid, Kodak, Fuji, etc.). One I especially liked
was from Applied Science Fiction, the company that brought us Digital
ICE retouching software. This one, dubbed the DigiPIX workstation not
only makes copies but also allows you to make the next step with image
correction and enhancement. You can remove redeye, control brightness
and contrast, and make some impressive color corrections. You can then
make prints, dupe your CD, create a CD, and even kick out some enlargements.
The digital infrastructure continues to grow.
The importance of carryon luggage
is becoming greater for photographers--especially digital photographers.
These days its not uncommon to carry your processing gear on your back,
somewhat like the wet plate photographers of the 1800s but without the
mule and tent, it is hoped. That processor also serves as archiver, special
effects generator, and business portfolio in one--you guessed it,
a computer. This new way of shooting has engendered a host of accessories
and innovations that make working with a digital camera a lot easier.
One such product I traveled with and liked is Tamrac's 5259 Backpack.
The backpack was perfect for carrying a laptop and 35mm and digital SLR
equipment. The main compartment is completely foam padded and was large
enough to carry a pro-sized digital SLR with a 200mm zoom lens attached,
several additional lenses, and even another camera body. The laptop remained
protected in a separate, foam-padded compartment in the rear that allows
quick access, a handy thing when you're about to get inspected at
the airport. Under the front flap is a zippered pocket for personal items
and an open pocket for files or tickets. A large zippered accessory pocket
held all those wires and cords that are part of the traveling gear today.
The backpack fit in the overhead compartment, and sure makes the one carryon
bag restriction easier to satisfy.
Although there were a host
of amazing gizmos and gadgets at the show my choice for the most fun product
was Brandess-Kalt-Aetna Group's My Little Photobobble-Heads. My
Little Photobobble-Heads statues have face frames that can be personalized
with your favorite little or big kid's photograph. "Just place
it in the frame and watch them bobble in a 7" tall, heavy poly-resin
constructed bobblehead statue. Choose from a tennis, baseball, basketball
(African American or Caucasian), football, hockey, soccer girl, soccer
boy, fireman, or policeman," said the press information. Who needs
Photoshop when a product like this can bring so much fun to photography?
And of course, in the "open the floodgates" category I have
to nominate the Canon D10.