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Photokina 2006 / New trends in photography
By Matjaž Intihar (translated: Joze Sveticic)
Oct 10, 2006, 09:12

 




For me personally, the first impression of Photokina 2006 was that of a not very pleasant surprise, a feeling I seem to share with my colleagues.
Since we received no press releases and no press conferences showed anything surprising, it was obvious that there would be no major news. Corporate security has improved lately, rising almost to the levels of espionage, with important information very well concealed, while disinformation is fed through every possible channel. Therefore, a serious journalist should never believe any rumours originating from either the companies or internet forums. I had my own personal opinion about what would before the show, of course, however, after speaking with representatives of various companies, it became clear to me that I was mistaken.

After living through the first shock, visiting Apple's presentation of Aperture 1.5 and talking with people from R&D departments of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and Sigma, I experienced a bit of a paradigm shift in my perception of Photokina 2006. One only has to read between the lines to know why there are no new announcements in pro DSLRs. In some cases, however, there were very concrete arguments and explanations. On the other hand, the competition could use those. But research and development costs are so high that a five minute breather benefits everyone.

 

The first day was press day. This explains why the booths are still under construction.

 

 1

Incredible, but true. This year, most companies used the press day to set up their booths. In the background, a Slovene booth – VEGA.

 

 

 

Kodak’s booth bore a striking resemblance to a ghost town. A usually busy hall showed only the Kodak logo. It also showed very few products.

 

 

 

The e-Fotografija team. Jože, Jernej and Matjaž while publishing the first images from the Olympus booth.

 

Cameras and trends

The compact camera market is still growing at a reasonable pace in the developed world. However, Eastern Europe, India and China are the hottest markets for this, pushing global sales figures upwards. In the developed world, there are now fewer customers who are willing to buy new gear every one or two years, so sales remain at the 2005 level. And the manufacturers themselves claim that development, especially when it comes to electronics, is extremely expensive. We are now at a time when development and new DSLRs are waiting for the market to be ready for them. The compact camera market is very much saturated. DSLRs, however, will need a reduction in price to make the market even livelier.

 

Despite the very quickly developing Chinese market, sales figures will not change by much. In 2005, 93 million cameras were sold. For 2006, the sales forecast is about 105 million. However, the prices are dropping, meaning that increased numbers don’t necessarily translate into higher earnings. A staggering 94% of these cameras are compact cameras. However, memory card sales are growing quickly. Compared to 2005, it is expected to grow by 20% this year, to about 350 million units.

 

For the demanding photographers and professionals, postproduction is essential!

In 2006, the major change is in postproduction. For the enthusiast photographer, this means new easy to use programs used to correct red eyes, face recognition, scene recognition and tonal corrections in addition to improved in-camera algorithms and a lot of new programs used to produce high quality pictures in minilabs. For the professionals and the more demanding amateurs, the software companies are developing completely new possibilities. Some background - I have been using image processing software for the last 29 years (no, it’s not a typo) and I’ve used every version of Photoshop. In my opinion, the way these companies are going is completely wrong. However, digital photography introduced new trends one has to accept, even if the past experience suggests these trends are wrong. However, if from a wider perspective, this new way seems completely normal. This has a lot to do with the great quantities of digital snaps that are taken, added further by software developers. I have often used the phrase “film virgin”. These new photographers are what the software industry is aiming at. The more pictures they take (and they could take far less with no reduction in useful output), the happier software companies are. After all, it’s their chance to market applications allowing these photographers to view their shots on displays and justify their approach to taking pictures.

 

Adobe's booth was always packed with visitors. Their presenters displayed the impressive capabilities of Photoshop. Most visitors stopped for a few moments and listened to the presenter. Of course, there were some who passed by, rolling their eyes in scorn of this "dishonourable" technology.

 

It is film virgins that drive the development of postprocessing, giving the industry new chances. Considering that both Adobe and Apple are starting an intense fight in the field of RAW processing, it is clear that this is a massive business opportunity.  I was at the presentation of the new Apple software, Aperture 1.5, a feature-packed RAW workflow application. The presentation also included video presentations of professional photographers already using Aperture. One of them started his presentation with these words: “I was on assignment in Hawaii. In a single week, I took more than 14,000 RAW shots!” A nearby colleague uttered something that was at the tip of my tongue. “Learn to shoot, you hack!” After seeing a preview of his photographs, it was obvious that the comment was well deserved. (What can you do, that’s the way the trends are going nowadays and us, old school photographers have to find our peace with that and keep moving on, using new equipment and expanding our knowledge. Most of all, we should make photographers and software developers aware of their mistakes. Trade fairs such as Photokina are an excellent opportunity to contact both developers and marketing people.) The preview showed a sequence of about 30 shots. It was a scene of running horses and obviously, the photographer kept shooting in burst mode until his buffer runneth over. What we’re talking about is spray’n’pray, capturing the maximum amount of images and then finding the best one (usually the sharpest), followed by a lot of postprocessing. Since I’ve been using image digitalisation equipment for the best part of thirty years, starting with huge drum scanners, their software and later DTP software, I do have a very good idea what I’m talking about. It would seem that Adobe’s and Apple’s philosophy is the fastest possible conversion of RAW images, even if it's at the expense of quality. The important thing is capturing images in RAW, and more being rather better than less. We’ll just pick up the one with the highest image quality later. Film virgins usually don’t prefocus, or know much, if anything, about metering, tonal values, exposure compensation, composition etc.

 

Apple is entering photography through the front door. However, it depends on people using OS X. For the professionals, however, this is not a problem. Even the photographers have realised that Apple is in a different class than Windows PCs.

 

 

Aperture offers simplicity. However, does simplicity offer quality?

 

 

The application can process all major RAW formats.



The photographers today are told by software developers (rather than their colleagues) that a good picture is mainly obtained with the proper RAW application. If this is OK for the majority of people, is it OK for me? I know how things used to be and where postprocessing is going. I know this from my experience with graphics, and I know it better than most photographers and software developers. From the beginning of digital photography, it's been lagging about 10 years behind graphics technology. Let me just say it again. I know how things work and I know where technology is going.

It was on the e–fotografija.com forum that we spent months discussing RAW vs JPEG. The conclusion was – RAW for quality, JPEG for speed. However, there is an addendum to this statement. This goes for experienced photographers and those who know how to postprocess correctly. Everything else can usually turn out to be immaterial. However, thinking that the final image itself will be better if captured in RAW and then converted with the much praised application is patently wrong. But, the industry found their niche, and in the same way we were bombarded with megapixels we’ll be bombarded with stories about RAW formats. It seems obvious that photographers want these kinds of stories. Let’s give them what they want.

 

Writing this just a few days after Photokina, I can state with a clear conscience that postproduction is starting to really liven up in photography. It won’t be long before we hear that neither the camera nor the photographer are important, but rather, it’s the RAW developer that makes the final image. This is true. I always tell this at my Photoshop classes. However, I also tell that with a properly set up shot, you don’t even need programs that make your picture “better”. However, more and more film virgins are coming up, thinking exactly the same ways as software developers – they want to make taking good pictures without the required knowledge easier. This is how simply the marketing people put it. Practice, of course, does differ.

 

Software developers and photographers consulting them are beginning to be aware that the professional photographer has more and more work to do. While in the film era, his only job was to press the shutter and forget all about the shot up until it was printed, everything from pressing the shutter to the final image is now his responsibility. This is the chance for the companies which, to the uninitiated, present themselves as the solution to this new problem. There are already more than 10 RAW converters. Apple and Adobe will fight a furious battle in the consumer class. It will be a while before we know who will win. Each program has its advantages and disadvantages. In other words, each of them wants to convince the photographers that they are the right choice. Apple offers a simple path from processing to printing, archiving and sending via email. However, in my experience, such things tell little about the quality of processing. If the focus is on simplicity and the ability to quickly review 1000 and more images, quality is likely not an important factor. For that reason, there will always be RAW converters that don’t focus on speed but rather on quality, such as CaptureOne. Adobe with their Lightroom bet primarily on compatibility with Photoshop for further processing.

 

Monitors

Even in the professional world, CRT has been completely surpassed by LCD technology. The most prominent professional monitors are Eizo ColorEdge and NEC SpectraView. Everybody was exhibiting their calibrators and trying to convince us that their output devices and calibrated monitors, combined with ICC profiles, show exactly the same picture. In practice, of course, this is far from being true. But it does come very close. Still, that’s not the same. When we mentioned that on the display, details in dark areas were visible, while on the print they weren't, the presenters tried to convince us that our eyes were at fault. But then again, it’s one thing talking to marketing people and promoters, and another thing talking with R&D people and telling them that you’ve been in image processing for almost 30 years. For this reason, at this year’s Photokina, we conducted several interviews with engineers.

 

Comparing a good print is impossible without a high quality screen and a calibrated light box. Despite their best intentions, the presenters couldn’t convince us that the print was the same as the displayed image.

 

 

In most cases, a high-quality screen is a must.

 

 

The majority of monitors were either Eizo ColorEdge or NEC SpectraView.

 

Minilabs and their future

Minilabs are also going through tumultuous times. In two years, Fujifilm "ate" their competition. On the other hand, the only thing Kodak was displaying was their name. Most minilab companies have either shut down or were acquired by Fujifilm. The most interesting development, however, is the Chinese entry into this market. This contributed to a major reduction in minilab prices, with the Chinese units coming with a five year warranty. Since Fujifilm has no serious competition anymore, with the exception of Kiss and Chinese manufacturer, it is becoming clear, that printing with chemistry is approaching its end. Despite some reassurances and despite most minilab owners convictions that chemistry has a full 10 years ahead of it, it is my opinion that in three years time, the first labs will abandon their chemistry-based machines. In six years time, chemistry-based minilabs will be surpassed by other printing methods.

So what’s the biggest difference between the predictions of the print shops (10 years) and my personal opinion?

First of all, we know what happened in the competition between film and digital. In 2000, camera manufacturers still claimed that digital will only come into its own in ten years time. They did of course have to support their engineers and confuse smaller digital companies they couldn't completely control. When I published my book, e-Fotografija, in 2001, it contained a chapter called “2008: What was that thing called film?” Naturally, many disagreed. Nowadays, film compact cameras are nearly extinct, development of film SLRs has stopped completely, and film is gasping for air. Smaller printers make lower prices possible, but most of all, more and more minilabs are focusing on photokiosks, which enable customers to choose and order photographs. In this area, the trend of buying a photokiosk unit with a printer is becoming more and more prominent. In 2005, 210,000 photokiosk units were sold. In 2010, sales of 420,000 units are forecast, 30% of which will include a printer. To understand the trend better, one needs to look back 20 years. At that time, photo labs could survive by printing alone. They didn’t even sell films, let alone cameras. Nowadays, printing for family album is a tough business with low margins.

 

CeWe, the biggest European printing service, was present at this year’s fair. Their shops are being equipped with photokiosks at a very fast rate.

 

After this year’s Photokina, it is my belief that this year and the first half of the next year are the absolutely last time that buying a new minilab unit makes commercial sense. Their prices have dropped considerably, printing costs are down as well and their revenue per print is still the best. In 2008, we will have to wait for Photokina and see where the trends are going. Even though Fujifilm remains the only major minilab manufacturer, it is forced to sell them more aggressively at lower prices. Another fact that should not be overlooked is that Fujifilm founded a joint venture with another digital printing giant, Xerox.

 

Owner of MyPhotoFun showed us how a Xerox printer is used to produce a photo album with 50 pages of photographs. Using their free client software, different photo albums can be ordered. The price for the 50 page album is only 27 EUR.

 

This further confirms my claims. Did anyone bother to wonder as to why everybody else got out of this market? If the market is doing well, there are usually more solution providers, not fewer.

On a global scale, the number of prints from minilabs is falling further. This is despite the fact that today, ten times as many pictures are taken than before, however, there seems to be no interest in convincing people that paper is the only way of preserving their memories. In 2002, almost two billion square meters of paper were sold. From that point on, paper production is decreasing by approximately 9% per year. Another increase in production is not forecast before 2008, at which time it should increase by 1% and amount to approximately 1.3 billion square meters. Globally, 70% of images are made on film and only 30% on digital media. However, since China is poised to enter the digital market, in 2008, digital's share will grow to 60%. When speaking to a representative of one of the leading camera manufacturers, I was told that the pressure by Chinese and Korean camera manufacturers is increasing, leading to smaller market with lower profits. For this reason, they expect to shift their focus to home printing. Money will, as is already the case, be made with paper and cartridges.

 

Chinese minilabs should not be taken lightly. After all, they do carry a 5 year warranty.

 

Image storage and its future

There is another new idea that came up in the hyperactive minds of software developers. Even though it’s my personal opinion that your best pictures should be printed in order to be available for the next few decades, there is another possibility. ACDSee, Adobe, Apple, Google et al are already offering (or planning to) image storage in special databases. Image browsing technologies seem to be improving rapidly, too. For this reason, it is not beyond belief that we will start storing our images in their data vaults, where they will be protected from harm, available for browsing (Apple's Aperture is a giant step forward in this direction) and, finally, automatically converted into more modern formats, when they become available. When this will happen remains to be seen. And a final thought. Perhaps they will offer printing services. Digital photography is indeed changing the world of photography beyond recognition. For this reason, one must look at them from a broad perspective.

 

Let’s start with the presentation. The press centre was nice. Wireless access did prove to be a bit tricky due to underpowered routers.

 

The interesting bits

I’ll start with cameras. All major manufacturers were present. However, there was a major difference compared to 2004. Panasonic and Sony were very prominent, while two years back, they were anything but. They both started manufacturing DSLRs and are trying to increase their presence in this area. And while Sony’s acquisition of Konica Minolta gave them a strong advantage, Panasonic is still very much in the background. After all, Olympus E-300 and a Leica lens are not exactly an equal match. In the coming year, however, the combination of Olympus, Panasonic and Leica should provide some interesting stuff. The biggest member of this triumvirate, both technically and financially, is obvious. We may yet see another remake of the Konica Minolta - Sony story, from which the 4/3 system can only benefit. Important observation – only the BIG remain. The minor players are not doing so well in the market that’s dominated by multinational corporations. Well, on to cameras.




 

 

Once the fair was open for business, the biggest crowd gathered at Canon’s booth. This year, however, they showed nothing extraordinary.



 

Canon

I was expecting at least a minor update to the 1Ds MkII - a bigger screen and perhaps increased buffer. However, they said that since the competition showed nothing, they don’t have to show anything either. If you remember the interview with Mr Iwasaki Takaya from the previous Photokina, he already told us about a few upcoming new features. (http://www.e-fotografija.com/artman/publish/article_440.shtml) Sensor cleaning was introduced in EOS 400D. For reasons stated before, they didn't introduce any new products in the pro class. They told us, however, that a big thing should be expected for the next year. After all, it is the 75th anniversary of the company and the 20th anniversary of the EOS system. All this means that the next professional EOS will be introduced at this occasion. We already heard some news about the camera!

 

Canon started making a new series of lenses, L II. Their quality and price will place them in a class above the classic L series.

 

The EOS 400D was introduced to the general public. I already had my review sample with me. In the compact camera segment, new Powershot A and IXUS series cameras were introduced. In both series, Canon switched to 10 MP sensors. With IXUS 900Ti, they also included a face recognition mode that allows for easier portraits and a 28 mm wide angle lens, which is still a bit of a rarity in smaller cameras. A welcome new introduction was the Powershot G7. A very capable camera with loads of features and an optical viewfinder is poised to compete with other cameras in this class. I used the first camera in this series, Powershot G1, in 2002, and a comparison is sure to show what happened in these four years.

 

70-200mm f/4 L IS and 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS. The F/2.8 model could soon get an L II series replacement.

 

 

With their macro flashes, Canon has a strong presence in macro photography.

 

The main news were the two image tanks, Canon MediaStorage M30 and M80. They only differ in storage capacity. The design and functions are taken straight from a Powershot camera. In this way, they want to appeal to all Canon users with a familiar user interface. Both units have a 3.7 inch screen, a USB 2.0 port, CF and SD slots and use the widely used BP-511 battery, used in most of Canon’s DSLR and upper class compact cameras.

The new EF 50 mm F/1.2 L II lens was also on display. However, it was still a preproduction model, so no test shots could be made with it. In an interview with Mr Kazuyuki Suzuki, I learned that Canon will divide the L series in two classes. For the demanding amateurs and the less well heeled professionals, there will be the F/4 L series, while the professional series will get an additional Roman II in its name, meaning an even higher quality and, of course, price. All of this means that in the future, there will be several new lenses in different classes.

 

The two image tanks, Canon MediaStorage M30 and M80.

 

 

The design and functions are taken straight from a Powershot camera.

 

 

PowerShot G7. A very capable camera with loads of features and an optical viewfinder is poised to compete with other cameras in this class.

 

 

Canon also jumped into the 10 MP class.

 

 

A demonstration of optical image stabilisation. Left – IS off. Right - IS on.

 

 

Canon is increasing the emphasis on home printing.

 




 

Fujifilm is the only company to come out of the minilab wars relatively unscathed. Agfa and Kodak were left behind. All of this meant that Fujifilm was the only major company presenting minilab technology. This of course included photo kiosks and printers.

Fujifilm

Apart from a few compact cameras, most notably the Finepix F31, Fujifilm was showing its new DSLR, the S5 Pro. The major new feature is that Fuji finally managed to get a good body from Nikon. The S5 Pro  now uses Nikon D200 body. The sensor remains the same, still with only 6 MP, but capable of interpolation of up to 12 MP. Due to its excellent sensor and new algorithms, the image quality from S5 Pro should be even better, making the already good camera, especially for portrait and wedding photography, even better. It’s a win-win situation. Nikon's sales of the D200 and lenses increase slightly (they buy their sensors outside anyway), while Fujifilm gets an excellent body for their excellent sensor.

 

Fujifilm FinePix F31. The camera kept its 6 MP. Is more than that really necessary? They kept the excellent high ISO quality. Personally, I think that the F31 is one of the most universally useful compact cameras.

 

 

Print quality was presented to the visitors.

 

 

At the Fujifilm booth, there were a lot of subject on which their technology could be demonstrated. Both face detection and red eye removal.

 

 

However, the new S5 Pro was covered in screcy. This time, Fujifilm has a better body, the one used for the Nikon D200. I hope to be able to test the camera really soon.

 


 

 

 

On the first day, Leica was very mysterious.



 

Leica

The company seems to have found its way and started developing new things. Leica is of course something special in the world of photography. You either like it or you don’t. They may not have the best technology, but they are known for their quality. The quality is not very apparent in photo technology today, and the sales are mainly due to their formidable reputation.

The Leica M8 is certainly an excellent upgrade to the film M-series Leicas. Considering that a few top-quality (Really, really top quality, not marketing department’s top quality.) lenses are available for this camera, and further considering the fact that it has an APS-H (1.3 crop factor) 10 MP sensor, image quality should be very good. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the quality exceeded that of most DSLR cameras. I hope to be able to test the camera really soon.

The Leica Digilux 3 is the first DSLR with this name, however, in my opinion it is more a demonstration of intent. Otherwise, it is merely a rebranded Panasonic DMC-L1, a camera based on the Olympus E-300. They added some additional electronics and offer a longer warranty. If it breaks down completely in the first six months, it will be replaced free of charge. The main highlight of this camera was the D-VARIO 14-50 mm.

 

They finally presented the M8. The legendary M-series is something special in digital world as well. However, the most important aspect will have to wait. That’s image quality.

 

 

Leica aficionados and users alike were ecstatic.

 

 

Leica’s booth was always busy.

 

 

In cooperation with Olympus and Panasonic, they presented the Digilux 3. In my opinion, this is not the real thing, and definitely not worthy of the Leica name.

 

 

The public loved it, of course, but it is only a combination of an entry level camera, expensive lens and Leica warranty. Not the most balanced match.

 

 

The body was based on the Olympus E-300, with electronics and sensor coming from Matsushita. Is this really Leica?

 

 

The Leica lens with image stabilisation and autofocus can be mounted on Olympus and Panasonic cameras.

 

 







Nikon 

No major news from Nikon either. The D80 is set to hit the shelves, and we’ll be testing it soon. Nikon claim that sales are excellent, that they are the leader in some major markets and that they trust in their base of 55 million users and their engineers. Considering the fact that Nikon finally caught up with Canon by introducing more SSM and VR lenses, it seems likely that more and more professional users will stay with Nikon, with some even returning to the system.

 

 

 

Nikon’s booth included photographs by the Slovene photographer Miran Kambič.

 

 

 

Nikon in all of its glory.

 

 

 

Even for users of other systems, a look through Nikon cameras and lenses is enticing enough.

 

 

 

Nikon is introducing more and more lenses with SWM and VR technology, quickly catching up with its main competitor.

 

 

 

Nikon is also aware that after pressing the shutter, the photographer needs to see the image on the screen.

 

 

 

Presentation of Nikon Capture NX. Nikon’s RAW program has some excellent solutions. All Nikon users should get acquainted with it.

 


 

 

 

Olympus

After all the great expectations of a camera that would replace the legendary E-1, nothing happened. However, Olympus is still very much committed to DSLRs and in the interview, their representatives stated that they will show the camera at PMA next year.

Nevertheless, we got to see the new E-400. It reminds me of the OM-1 from 1973. With the right price, which was not set at the time, this could bring some new users into the 4/3 system. We already started our review of the E-400.

Olympus was also one of the few who actually demonstrated the advantages of their technology in practice. In a small pool, underwater housings and the mju 725SW were being tested. When speaking with the R&D people responsible for the camera, I was told that the incredible robustness of the camera (it can survive a fall from 1.5 meters) is due to the demands of the American army. Apparently, Olympus developed this camera in response to their demands.

 

Olympus had one of the very few booths that were ready on Monday.

 

 

At 11:00, the promoters were already in their place.

 

 

The same goes for Olympus representatives, who showed their technology to groups of journalists.

 

 

At 10:00, we noticed this camera in a glass case.

 

 

Since we were expecting a new camera and a replacement for the E-1, I was very interested in the camera.

 

 

It was quite obvious that both the design and the finish of the camera indicate a prototype. Interestingly enough, the back of the camera has a rotating display. Even if this is an E-1 prototype, it would seem that Olympus was already thinking about Live Preview at the time. Soon after this picture being published on e-Fotografija.com, the camera was removed from display.

 

 

Olympus offered the visitors a chance to test their cameras. In the small pool, underwater housings could be tested, as could the mju 725, which can be submerged for up to 5 m.

 

 

The housings could be tested outside the pool as well. Olympus is, interestingly enough, one of the few companies that provide underwater housings for both their cameras and their flashes.

 

The Bright Capture function was demonstrated in practice. The pink Lincoln had very dark windows. With the naked eye, it was impossible to see anything inside. Using Bright Capture, the camera automatically raises the sensitivity and displays a bright image on the camera screen.

Mju 750/740 both sport a 5x optical zoom, a first in the class of mini cameras.

 

You couldn’t see a thing through the windows.

 

 

The reflectivity was too high to see inside. However, using Bright Capture technology …

 

 

... we could see inside. Inside the pink Lincoln, Elvis was hiding. The Bright Capture technology captured the ultimate proof – the King is alive and well.

 


 

 

Panasonic is nowadays very much a respected company in the photographic industry.

Panasonic

There were no major news. Panasonic also presented a mini compact with a 28 mm wide angle lens and a 4/3 DSLR, the Panasonic DMC-L1, which looks just like the Leica Digilux 3. Indeed, the difference is almost negligible. How much the tweaked algorithms will influence the final image quality remains to be seen.

Even though you might not consider Panasonic to be a major camera company, their booth was always teeming with visitors - apparently, people do take them seriously. They are after all a huge company, comparable to Sony and Samsung in many market segments, and it might just happen that they will enter the higher end DSLR world through a side door, much like Sony. Some information seem to point in that direction. It might just happen next year. In the world of professional video, Panasonic is one of Sony's strongest competitors. As to whether this will happen in photography remains to be seen.

 

Interest in their presentations was immense.

 


 




Pentax

Pentax introduced the most stuff. The Pentax K10D was more or less the star of the show. After all, it has an ergonomically well designed body with dust and moisture protection. Image stabilisation is already included in the camera. Loads of accessories and lenses, combined with an amazing price should help both this camera and the Pentax brand get the well deserved glory. They also introduced the new pancake, the DA 70 mm F/2.4 and announced lenses with ultrasonic focusing motors. As some others have hinted before, some ultrasonic patents that are currently held by Canon are expiring. This means everybody else will soon gain access to this technology. The mount on the K10D already has two additional contacts which will make it possible to use these lenses. They plan to introduce four such lenses next year - the DA* 16-50 mm F/2.8 ED, the DA* 50-135 mm F/2.8 ED and the DA* 60-250 mm F/4.0 ED.

 

The K10D was a bit of a star due to its specifications and price. This camera is sure to put a small lump in the competition’s throats.

 

 

With K100D and K10D, Pentax reclaimed its place among the top camera companies.

 

 

Both cameras are very well built, and with their built in Shake Reduction technology and great price, they are sure to sell well.

 

 

The K10D has the option of adding a battery grip, which is also used to store an additional SD card and the remote.

 


 

 

Samsung came to Photokina in style. Some might have overlooked it because their booth were not in the main halls. However, their NV series of compact cameras is becoming very successful.

Samsung

The NV series (NV, NV7 OPS and NV10) was presented to a wider audience. In the future, Samsung might just become one of the leading compact camera manufacturers.

They also introduced their SLR camera. The GX-10 was made in cooperation in Pentax and in some markets, where the Samsung brand is well respected, it will prove a strong competitor to other mid-level DSLR cameras. Pentax representatives told us that despite all the value packed into these cameras, the price is economically sound. Apparently, the cooperation ushered in new possibilities, meaning that in a few years' time, Samsung could be a strong player in the entry level and mid-level segments.

 

The GX-10 was shown. In cooperation with Pentax, Samsung got the technology that makes it possible for them to leap ahead. We'll hear more about Samsung cameras, that’s for sure.

 


 


 

Sigma

Besides the new Sigma 18-50 mm F2.8 EX DC, Sigma 18-200 mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS (with image stabilisation), Sigma 50-150 mm F2.8 DC and  Sigma 70 mm F2.8 Macro, Sigma also introduced the DP1 compact camera. The interesting bit is the sensor – it uses the same size Foveon X3 sensor as their new DSLR, the SD14. The lens is a 28 mm (in 35 mm terms) prime with an aperture of F/4. This compact camera might be the first of a new class of compact cameras with high image quality, similar to what we had with film.

The SD14 is an upgrade of the SD10. The camera now has direct JPEG recording, built-in flash and a Li-ion battery. The camera sports a 2.5 inch screen and a shutter that is rated for 100,000 actuations. Inside, there's a pentaprism, interchangeable focusing screens, dust protection with a special glass filter and the camera is bundled with a RAW development application, Photo Pro 3.0. Since Sigma already has many loyal users of their lenses, they could sell a lot of these cameras - at the right price, of course. However, it all depends on the image quality of the Foveon x3 sensor. The technology might be award-winning, but it didn’t do that well in practice. Will the new algorithms change that?

 

At the Sigma booth, we could test their lenses on our cameras.

 

 

Both new products, the SD14 and the DP1, were on display. Both cameras have the same Foveon X3 sensor. Practical tests should be interesting. The SD14 now has JPEG recording, enabling easier functioning, while the DP1 looks promising due to its sensor size and prime lens.

 

 

The 300-800 mm lens is now available for the 4/3 system as well.

 


 



 

Sony

The biggest emphasis was, of course, on the Alpha. The booth was always crowded, a good sign for Sony - apparently, photographers have warmed up to them. Professional lenses were available for hands-on testing (sporting a Sony logo, of course), as were the new Zeiss lenses (DT 16-80 mm, 135 mm F/1.8 and 85 mm F/1.4). This cooperation and new bodies in the mid and pro classes should lure the more demanding users over to sony. Nothing new with compact cameras, however. Sony also got into the 10 MP class with their N2 camera, which also has a 3.0 inch display.

 

Sony presented professional lenses for the Alpha.

 

 

We could also test Zeiss lenses for the Alpha mount.

 

 

In the background, Sony was also presenting various output options on their printers.

 

 

The interest in printers clearly shows that there's a bright future ahead of them.

 

 

Everybody wanted to print their pictures. It will be interesting to see when Sony will start their printing campaign.

 

 

At the press conference, they emphasised the importance of entry into the SLR world.

 

 

Sony’s entry into the SLR world is a solid one, which means we can expect pro cameras relatively soon.

 








Conclusions

This was the first impression on new trends and products for cameras.
Following this, there will be an article on accessories and future trends, as well as interviews - and this year, there really were a lot of them. But it’s clear by now – the classical Photokina of old is gone. Photography has also become a part of IT. And the serious entry of the really big players, such as Adobe, Apple, HP, Panasonic, Xerox, Samsung and Sony among the “real” photography companies clearly shows that photography is developing in a direction we may not be used to. However, for all of us who use this technology professionally, nothing will change. All of these companies are well known to us from the graphic industry. Therefore, I’m very familiar with Adobe, Apple, HP and Xerox. I’ve been using Adobe software and Apple hardware and OS for the last 15 years and more. Indigo digital printers have been in use in Slovenia for more than 10 years. Again, the trend is obvious – the once industrial technology is now trickling down to the masses.

Even Canon, the photography behemoth, is claiming that cameras alone are not enough to guarantee survival. Before the digital explosion, photography accounted for 25-30% of the company’s business. New opportunities are opening up, though. In talks with their representatives, I was told that printers are the next hot thing. Furthermore, they will soon be entering a completely new arena.

Nikon managed to keep the reputation as a manufacturer of excellent equipment, and by introducing new lenses and software, they managed to keep old customers and lure in new ones. I believe that the people who used Nikon before will start coming back, despite having switched to another system.

Olympus solved their financial crises and are posing themselves to become an even bigger 4/3 system manufacturer. Joining Olympus are the legendary Leica, which is sure to raise a lot of publicity for the system with its fantastic reputation, and Panasonic, one of the biggest companies which could prove instrumental in helping the system gain some momentum. I believe that there will be many news from Olympus and the 4/3 system, especially when it comes to lenses and such..

Pentax seems to have got a lot out of its deal with Samsung. The K100D already received a lot of (very deserved) hype, while the K10D seems to be a minor hype tornado. And they’re not stopping here, either. There will be lenses with ultrasonic focusing, the 645D is in the final stages of preparation, and of course, they are developing (though at an unknown pace) their pro model.

Sigma is still the biggest third party lens manufacturer. With the SD14, they are again trying to have a whole system. With their compact DP1, they have created a whole new class of digital compact cameras. And most importantly, they breathed some new life into the Foveon X3 sensor.


Let me finish with a sentence I use a lot. Photography remains photography, it’s just the technology that’s changing. And another thing. Companies representing the technological aspect of photography - well, they're changing, too.


Matjaz Intihar


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Obnovljeno: Mar 9th, 2007 - 10:08:49