Reports From photokina, The World's Fair Of Imaging

In this issue we bring you our photokina report, a series of articles from our reporters who covered the huge photo show held this past fall in Cologne, Germany. Exhibitors from over 150 countries covering every aspect of the photo and imaging trade were there, and we spent five days trekking the massive halls, speaking to engineers, designers, and marketing folk about the new products that will be appearing in the coming months and year ahead. While we did have pre-show information about numerous items, there were still a few surprises and enough glimpses into future technology to make the trip more than worthwhile.

Some of the highlights included Canon's new digital SLR, the EOS-1Ds Mark II, with an amazing 16+ megapixels on a full-size sensor; Nikon's speedy new digital SLR, with a real boost in megapixel power; the unveiling of Minolta's Maxxum digital SLR; new integral digital back "medium format" cameras from Hasselblad and Mamiya; and the unveiling of digital-dedicated lenses from many makers, including Tamron and Sigma.

Among surprises were Nikon's new F6, a film SLR that brings the F-series cameras into the 21st century, and the return of the Zeiss Ikon brand to rangefinder 35mms. I call them surprises because when anyone thinks photo show these days the expectation is that it will be all digital, all the time. But there's no denying that film maintains a very loyal following and that more than a few photographers work in both mediums, with each offering distinct benefits.

But there's no question that digital is beginning to erode into film gear. Right after our return we learned that Bronica will no longer stay in the medium format camera business, although they will continue to offer their rangefinder model. We also found out that Ilford will no longer be producing photo chemicals. Indeed, with the Canon 16+ megapixel offering, the case was made that the viability of medium format itself may be in question.

I wonder if the old distinction between formats, between miniature (read 35mm) and medium format (read 120/220), makes much sense in this digital age, as we're really talking about sensor size, megapixels, and pixel dimensions. There are tiny sensors crammed with 6 megapixels, APS-sized sensors with 8 or 12 megapixels, and full-frame sensors with 16, and then there are 6x4.5 size sensors with 22 megapixels. Is it time to rethink how we classify all these cameras and how we judge just how many pixels can dance on the end of the sensor? And rather than worry about megapixel numbers, should we instead be talking about just how big those pixels are, and how their size might affect image quality?

But that's all to come. A week after returning from the sound and fury of the show all we can conclude is that the state of flux continues unabated. There are some very clear issues still surrounding digital, most having to do with standards, or lack of them, and the actual archival qualities of the medium itself. One standardization proposal worthy of mention is Adobe's call for a (somewhat) uniform raw file format. Their DNG (or digital negative) proposal was floated among a number of manufacturers, and surely was a matter of discussion among the gathered press. Adobe, in discussions with this magazine, all but dubbed the current state of affairs in raw file formats a ticking time bomb, one where the proliferation of raw variants will inevitably lead to lack of full support for reading and writing in the future.

With all that in mind I hope you enjoy this issue. Be assured that we will be testing and reporting in detail on many of the key products discussed.

Our Annual Article Index, which lists all the articles run in Shutterbug in 2004, is now avaliable on our website, And of course you can access any of the articles we've run in the past on our comprehensive website
as well.