Breaking the Four-Minute Mile

Breaking the Four-Minute Mile

By Ron Leach, Publisher

We recently returned from the 2006 PMA Convention and Trade Show in Orlando, FL--the largest annual international trade show in our industry. With over 600 exhibitors, 20,000 attendees, and more than 200 educational sessions, this four-day event is pretty much a "must see" for everyone in the imaging business.

As always, an abundance of new software and hardware technologies were introduced at PMA, as well as even a few film-related products. Perhaps the most striking trend this year was the accelerating reduction in the prices of entry-level digital SLRs from a number of manufacturers. With several digital SLR kits (a body and a zoom lens) priced under $600, photographers can now step up to the versatility of digital SLR photography for less than the cost of last year's full-featured, fixed-lens "prosumer" cameras.

In 2003 Canon unveiled the first sub-$1000 digital SLR/lens combination, with the introduction of their widely popular Digital Rebel. At the time, some industry mavens viewed this achievement as the technological equivalent of a track-and-field milestone set in 1954 by 25-year-old Englishman Roger Bannister when he recorded the world's first sub-four-minute mile. Since Bannister's feat, of course, four-minute miles have become rather commonplace. Obviously, so too have sub-$1000 digital SLRs.

This year's stunning drop in the price of entry-level digital SLR cameras comes at a opportune time for early adopters who are interested in buying a second digital SLR with the enhanced features that have resulted from ever-evolving imaging technologies. Mid-level digital SLRS can also be expected to offer an increasingly attractive combination of features and value, as the trend toward higher-resolution and improved functionality at lower costs continues unabated. And now that "newcomers" Sony, Panasonic and Samsung have entered the SLR fray, a variety of new options will be available to consumers as well.

Roger Bannister, by the way, retired from running to pursue a career as a neurologist shortly after breaking the four-minute mile at Oxford. Canon, on the other hand, has much more in store for us for years to come.

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