On The Road Again

Editor's Notes

The PMA Show: 8Mp Digicams, Digital SLRs...And Much, Much More

This issue contains our reports from the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) Show, the biggest photo and imaging trade show in the US. Covering this show is a major task, but our crack reporters--Peter Burian, Joe Farace, Dave Howard, Chris Maher, Bob Mayer, Jack Neubart, Uwe Steinmueller, and yours truly--spent the days and nights tracking down new products and spotting trends that will affect how we shoot, light, store, and manipulate our images, and carry all that gear, in the year and years ahead. As you might have guessed, much of what was new at the show was in the digital realm. That includes the new 8-megapixel cameras, digital SLRs, scanners and printers, software, and exciting new memory cards with even greater capacity and speed. But there were also new films from Kodak, some very affordable yet high-tech film SLRs and a host of accessories for both the film and digital realm. This show also noted the passing, for all intents and purposes, of the APS film format.

Though not a surprise, we all got our first look at the new crop of 8-megapixel digicams. The question no longer is whether or not you can have enough megapixels in your digital camera--it becomes, just how many megapixels do you need, and what's the price you pay (not dollars) in terms of all those pixels on such a small chip? Uwe Steinmueller raises some interesting points in his report and it's something we'll continue to test as soon as we get our hands on these cameras.

Cameras like the new Canon EOS-1D Mark II we report on in this issue and others that are sure to follow may sound the bell for 35mm film SLRs. The question is: will they do the same to medium format film cameras? While medium format scanners combined with the beauty and resolution of medium format film makes for an image quality combination that's hard to beat, simple economics may prevail. It will take some very clever marketing, and a very strong message about ultimate image quality, to keep medium format viable. True, large format cameras are still sold, and there will remain a dedicated core of enthusiasts who will stick to their medium format guns.

For now, it seems that when it comes to megapixels the bar, now defined as 8 megapixels for medium to high-end digicams, will continue to be raised. Frankly, we thought that digicams would stop at 5 or 6, but now that 5s are going for what 2s sold for a few years ago and 6s for what 4s brought not so far back, everyone questions when it might end.

One factor that might help you decide to get into digital is just how you can transition, or adapt from one system (film) to another (digital). It might become easier for owners of Minolta and Pentax SLRs, now that both companies have, or have announced digital SLRs that will take their previous lenses. The Pentax *ist D is already available; the Minolta announcement at the show was that they will have a digital SLR with Maxxum lens compatibility ready in the fall. And Leica R owners will also have a digital back for their current R bodies.

But I don't want to give away all the goodies we have in store for you in this issue. I can promise you that our reports have something for everyone involved in photography along with a few surprises, and of course our annual Best of Show picks from each of our contributors.
All in all, a show such as this is about new tools for practicing the art and craft of photography. Admittedly, this is a gear-laden issue, but we wanted to do justice to how this show serves as a bellwether for all things photographic, and how the tools of the trade can, in part, define and hopefully expand our ability to express our visual creativity.