As part of our annual Photo Marketing Association (PMA) coverage we ask our
reporters to deliver a "Best of Show" award. While each contributor
had their own beat, we also asked them to go beyond their respective area of
coverage to find what, for them, signified a breakthrough product, technology,
or new trend that they felt would affect all photographers in the months and
years ahead. Each looked at this topic through their own lens, and while there
was some agreement, there were some surprises as well.
Sony's Pro D-SLR And Tamron's Ultra-Wide Zoom
In addition to showing equipment that would be shipping soon, a few companies
announced "products in development" during PMA 2008. Shown as prototypes--sometimes
only in the back rooms, under secrecy agreements--these were intended as
"sneak peeks" into the future. Typically, such items boast of entirely
new technology or at least some really significant improvements over current
models. Some of these will not be officially unveiled until later in the year;
other future products were openly discussed, however, including my two picks
for "Best of Show": a pro D-SLR and an ultra-wide angle zoom.
Sony has already made five Alpha-series models, combining some Konica Minolta
Maxxum components with their own technology. But it's the sixth camera
that I found particularly appealing, the coming "flagship" of the
line shown as a "mockup" during Sony's international press
conference. Although a model name was not announced, this will be a professional
D-SLR, employing a newly developed 24.6 (effective) megapixel CMOS sensor with
several A/D converters to minimize digital noise. More importantly, the sensor
is full frame with a recording area that's roughly the size of a 35mm
slide or negative.
Other camera specifications were not available, but apparently, the pro D-SLR
will include a built-in stabilizer and an ultrahigh-resolution 3.5" LCD.
It should also allow for a fast Burst mode, since the new CMOS sensor supports
"6.3 frames per second scanning"; actual speed will depend on the
processor as well. I have been very impressed with the performance and image
quality provided by the Sony A700, and I'm definitely looking forward
to testing the new pro model sometime this fall.
The Tamron SP AF10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) zoom (for "small"
sensor D-SLRs) received a lot of publicity because of its exotic optical formula.
In truth, another aspect may be just as important: the new system that will
modify "the angle of incidence" of light rays. Presumably, this
feature will ensure that light rays strike the sensor at a 90° angle, even
at the edges of the frame. That should minimize the loss of edge sharpness and
shading (darkening) that is typical with lenses--especially ultra wides--that
are not extensively optimized for digital capture. Tamron's current 11-18mm
zoom is a highly-rated model, but the extra features to be available with the
10-24mm lens should make it even more desirable.
--Peter K. Burian
Nik's Viveza And Casio's EXILIM Pro EX-F1
My first pick is Viveza, a new plug-in from Nik Software. This plug-in makes
selecting and correcting image content easier than ever. One of the most difficult
tasks in image editing is masking areas of your image for correcting color,
contrast, or brightness. Viveza uses control points that let you click on an
area of your image and then make corrections for just that color range. Viveza
has a very easy-to-use interface, and like the other Nik plug-ins, it fully
supports a graphic tablet.
My second pick is the Casio EXILIM Pro EX-F1. It's a 6-megapixel compact
camera with the ability to capture 60 fps (frames per second) at full resolution.
If that's not fast enough for you, in Movie mode you can capture up to
1200 fps. I appreciate the fact that Casio hasn't compromised on the camera
side of things to work this magic. It records in JPEG and in raw (direct to
DNG) with a very good 12x optical lens, full selection over Exposure modes,
and a large, bright LCD display. This camera really blurs the line between still
and video camera.
Universal Battery Charger And Simplified Picture Hanging System
My first pick is a small universal charger with which you can charge two different
size batteries at the same time. Although there were several new universal chargers
at the show, the Delkin Dual Universal Battery Charger that sells for $55 seemed
particularly appealing. Using one universal charger will make it far easier
to always have your rechargeable battery charged and ready to use. It's
adaptable to different types of power worldwide and includes a car charging
cord so you can recharge batteries en route to your assignment or destination.
Dual Universal Battery Charger
One small item I saw demonstrated struck me as particularly useful. Anybody
who has experienced the frustration of trying to precisely position the wall
hook when hanging pictures will agree. The Picture Perfit really does make hanging
a picture of any type a simpler task without needing either a measuring tape
or laser. Basically, it consists of a small guide cap panel with adhesive on
the back that has a picture suspension hook. The adhesive temporarily holds
the panel in place for positioning. For the utmost in convenience get their
kit, which contains an adjustable carpenter's square along with a few
hooks. It's really fast and the picture is exactly where you want it every
time. A starter kit sells for under $20.
--Robert E. Mayer