August 2001 news and reviews
Something many digital camera owners have been crying out for has been answered by Metz in their new external flash unit. The mecablitz 34 CS-2 external flash can operate by hotshoe connection or as a 'slave flash' (firing when it detects the firing of a camera flash), it can now be programmed to ignore the pre-flash sometimes used by digital cameras to meter a scene.
2001: The IFA 2001 exhibition in Berlin falls as the only major trade
show (in Europe at least) before Christmas this year (Photokina being
biennial - every second year). Several manufacturers have announced new
products and most of those are on show at IFA. In this part of the report
we will cover Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Grundig, Iomega and Kodak. (Part
one of two)
IFA 2001: The IFA 2001 exhibition in Berlin falls as the only major trade show (in Europe at least) before Christmas this year (Photokina being biennial - every second year). Several manufacturers have announced new products and most of those are on show at IFA. In this part of the report we will cover Nikon, SanDisk, Sanyo, Sony and Toshiba. (Part two of two)
IFA 2001: Philips and Kodak have today put out a joint press release stating that Philips will add Picture CD support to future products including DVD-video players and portable Audio CD players. Picture CD was launched by Kodak back in 1998. "Through this agreement, Kodak is bringing the benefit of digital imaging to the mass marketplace, allowing consumers to share images in the living room in addition to the computer room," said Dan Palumbo, president, Consumer Imaging, and senior vice-president of Kodak.
IFA 2001: 0800 EDT / 1300 GMT: Sony has today announced the portable DPP-MP1 dye-sub printer. Battery driven the printer can produce borderless card-size photos in less than two minutes. It can be connected to a computer via USB or print directly from Memory Stick. The printer is priced at $280, the battery pack an extra $70. Paper is sold in a pack of 24 with a print cartridge for about $20.
IFA 2001: 0800 EDT / 1300 GMT: Sony has today announced the successor to the popular DSC-F505V, the new DSC-F707. The DSC-F707 has a 5 megapixel CCD (4.92 megapixels effective) with a F2.0 - F2.4 5x optical zoom lens, the same design split lens / body as the 505V, longer life InfoLithium 'M' battery, an electronic viewfinder, jog-wheel, Multi-Segment metering, burst shooting, full manual exposure, NightShot and a new laser based 'hologram AF' low light focusing system. Unlike the misinformation leaked elsewhere on the net in the last 24 hours we can confirm that this beast of a digital camera will have a street price of $1,000. FULL REVIEW NOW AVAILABLE
IFA 2001: 0800 EDT / 1300 GMT: Sony today announces two new 'P' model digital cameras. The DSC-P5 has a 3.34 megapixel CCD (3.14 effective) and a 3x optical zoom lens, it's an evolution to last years DSC-P1 which adds manual focus, selectable ISO sensitivity an AF assist lamp, burst mode, MPEG EX and a new compact battery which makes the camera's case a third of an inch thinner. The DSC-P3, based on the DSC-P5 has a fixed focal length lens which crops the CCD producing a 2.8 megapixel image. The DSC-P5 has a street price of $600, the DSC-P3 around $500. FULL REVIEW OF DSC-P5 NOW AVAILABLE
IFA 2001: Fujifilm continue their assault on the entry level, low cost digital camera markets with the new Finepix A101, A201 and 2600Z. The A101 ($179) and A102 ($249) share the same body design, both have a fixed focal length lens and an extremely basic layout, the A101 has a 1.3 megapixel CCD and the A201 has a 2.0 megapixel CCD. The 2600Z ($299) has a 3x optical zoom lens which is shielded behind a sliding cover (which also acts as a power switch), it has a 2.0 megapixel CCD and a slightly more rectangular design than the A101 / A201.
IFA 2001: 0800 CET: Nikon today announces the Coolpix 885. A smaller, more attractive design and a full 3x optical zoom lens are just the beginning of the changes made to the 885. There are new scene modes, auto transfer, noise reduction and the exposure modes have been simplified, gone are P, A and M to be replaced by the CSM exposure mode in which you can select manual exposures. As you can see the cameras are available in silver and charcoal black, it's not yet been made clear whether this is different markets or whether both colours will be available everywhere. All this for a list price of $600!
A couple of the other digital camera sites have posted reviews in the last few days, as I've just returned from Berlin I'll fill you in on who's been doing the write-up on what. Steve Sanders has posted his 'user reviews' of the Kodak DX3900, Minolta DiMAGE S304 & 5 and Fujifilm A201. Dave Etchells (Imaging-Resource) gives us a review of the Toshiba PDR-M81 and Fujifilm FinePix 4800.
IFA 2001: 0100 GMT: 0000 GMT: Canon has today announced the PowerShot G2, a four megapixel sucessor to the popular PowerShot G1. The G2 features the same 3x optical zoom lens, flip-out and swivel LCD and Microdrive compatibility. Some new items are the four megapixel CCD, AF area selection, evaluative metering, AE program shift, RAW mode 10-bit, histogram and a 32 MB Compact Flash card. Best of all we've had one for the last two weeks in order to bring you a full in-depth review of a production camera! [FULL REVIEW ONLINE]
IFA 2001: The first of three digital cameras added to Kodak's "EasyShare" line today is the budget level DX3215, a 1.3 megapixel, 2x optical zoom digital camera with 8 MB of internal RAM and a SD/MMC slot for additional storage, price $199. Next comes the DX3700, a 3 megapixel, fixed optical lens digital camera with 8 MB of internal RAM and a SD/MMC slot for additional storage, price $399. Last comes the DX3900, a 3 megapixel, 2x optical zoom digital camera which comes with an 8 MB CompactFlash card, price $449.
IFA 2001: 0800 CET: Nikon Europe has this morning confirmed that the Coolpix 775 will be released to the European market, they have also announced the new upgraded and improved Coolpix 885. "As compact as most film cameras, the Coolpix 775 is a natural choice for families and individuals who want to make the move to digital and to enjoy sharing their images on line and on print.", "Ready for anything, the Coolpix 885 takes compact digital photography to a new level of sophistication in a remarkable combination of quality, convenience and ease of use."
IFA 2001: We don't normally talk about camcorders here, but this announcement is interesting because of the technology employed. The new tiny 'Network Handycam IP' DCR-IP7 'MICROMV' digital camcorder records digital video onto new MICROMV tapes (which are 30% the volume of a DV tape). The DCR-IP7 can also shoot 640 x 480 JPEG's or MPEG-1 clips onto Memory Stick, even more interesting is that the camcorder supports Bluetooth wireless transfer as well as USB and Firewire (IEEE 1394). This neat little camcorder can also send email and browse the web. Oh yes, and it's 2 x 4 x 3 inches and weighs in at 370 g (13 oz) with battery.
IFA 2001: SanDisk has today announced that it will be expanding its retail presence in Europe and will also be opening a large distribution center in Holland. "One of the new products going into Europe for the first time this summer is the SanDisk Secure Digital memory card, a new stamp-sized, removable flash card targeted mainly for use in mobile phones, Internet music players and small-size digital cameras."
The EISA (European Imaging and Sound Association) Awards are chosen annually by a panel of Editors from 40 prominent magazines throughout Europe. This years photo awards were 35mm SLR: Minolta Dynax 7 SLR, Lens: Sigma EX 20mm F1.8 DG, Consumer digital: Sony DSC-S85, Professional digital: Nikon D1x, Film scanner: Nikon Coolscan 4000 ED, Photo Innovation: Epson PIM Technology and Photo Printer: Canon S800 Photo.
Thanks to the photographer for letting me know that the full page image (of Gary Condit and wife) on the front of this weeks People magazine was shot with a Canon EOS-D30. In his words, "People magazine cover story will come out on Gary Condit. The entire story and the COVER was all shoot on the D-30. This was shot under a extreme deadline, hence their openess to using digital.", "I have been using the D30 about 9 months . All most ALL my magazine work in this year (2001) has been digital on the D30, some of this work has been used as large as 2 pages."
Here's a useful accessory for Nikon D1 / D1x / D1H photographers. The interestingly named Ickiewarez have new waterproof covers for the Nikon D-SLR which cover the camera and lens, they have a velcro strap for the lens and a clear back so you can still keep an eye on the LCD monitor.Available for the D1 / D1x / D1H plus 28-70 F2.8, 80-200 F2.8, 300 F2.8 or 400 F2.8.
Minolta US has today confirmed that the DiMAGE E201 will be released in America at a price of $299. This entry level digital camera has a fixed focal length lens (38 mm equiv.) and 2.3 megapixel CCD features a movie clip mode and has CompactFlash storage (Type I only). The E201 was initially announced back in May this year but at that time wasn't at that time destined for the US market.
Not to be outdone by Sony and their DPP-SV88 multi-function printer Fujifilm has today announced the 'FinePix Memory Printer' NX-800M which provides the ability to archive and print. The NX-800M has both SmartMedia and PCMCIA slots for storage cards which can then be archived directly to CD-R/RW or printed on the internal 4 x 6 dye-sub printer. Prints can also then be made at a later date from the archived photos. The NX-800M also has a small LCD screen for preview / setup as well as connectivity to a TV/Monitor and/or PC/Mac via USB.
Sigma has today announced a new AF 20-40mm F2.8 EX DG lens. Again this lens appears to be aimed at owners of digital SLR's because it offers a relatively useable bottom end (wide end) to a normal mid point in a compact lens construction. For example, this lens on a Canon EOS-D30 would provide an equiv. range of 32-64 mm, on a Nikon D1x it provide an equiv. range of 30-60 mm. The lens has access at the back for filters.
Following on from my review of the Canon G2 and based on some of the questions and comments from our Canon Talk forum I've add a little to the review with an investigation into the true cause of some jagged / stepped diagonal lines I noted in some of our sample shots. It does appear to be related to the cameras bayer interpolation algorithm and is enhanced by sharpening.
SimpleTech has today announced the availability of Compact Flash Type I cards up to 640 MB in capacity and Type II of 850 MB and 1 GB. This announcement comes hot on the heels of one made earlier this week about their new partnership with Hitachi Semiconductor. "We can take Hitachi's leading edge flash memory silicon, double its density with SimpleTech's patented IC Tower(TM) stacking technology, and offer the world's highest capacity CompactFlash cards.'' said SimpleTech's Chief Technical Officer Mark Moshayedi.
Brave webmaster launches on the 13th! Fellow Digital Photography journalist, enthusiast and Brit Ian Burley has today launched his own site covering Digital Photography News, Reviews and Articles. Ian, a long time IT and photography journalist has years of experience behind him and we wish him luck in his new venture. Here's what Ian had to say, "Today we launched Digital Photography Now. Although there are some 40 pages already on this site for you to browse, DPN will grow rapidly over the next weeks and months."
We haven't yet been lucky enough to get our hands on Nikon's fast shooting D1H but Scott Audette (Pro Photographer) has posted four ISO 800 and ISO 1600 samples on his website. It has to be said that these are some of the cleanest, sharpest high ISO images I've seen from any digital SLR (including Kodak's DCS620x). I've checked the images and they are original and unaltered. Simply amazing.
The saga continues... Looks like Kodak have had a slight (sarcasm) change of heart over the Digital Photography features in Microsoft's new Windows XP Operating System. In a new official release they're now saying, "The changes made to Windows XP are a positive move. Kodak is pleased that our EasyShare digital cameras and software will work well with Windows XP," said Phil Gerskovich, chief operating officer, Digital and Applied Imaging, and vice president, Eastman Kodak Company. "We look forward to working with Microsoft to continue to improve the digital photography experience in Windows XP."
We've just posted our review of Think! Computer Products' Fire-N-Ice Firewire hard drives. These new drives come in two flavours, a smaller portable unit and a larger (higher capacity) (still portable) desktop unit. Both are Windows and Mac compatible and both use the high speed Oxford 911 Firewire bridge and IBM hard disks. These relatively low cost, portable, high speed, high capacity units offer another potential solution for your mounting collection of digital images.
Nikon, as a part of their Coolpix 775 promotions has today announced a 'Funniest Photo Competition', the prize winner of which will spend two nights in New York and a private party with Kim Cattrall who plays Samantha Jones in the TV series "Sex and the City". The photo contest will run for four consecutive weeks, officially beginning today, and ending on September 10, 2001. Photos will be judged on overall quality, creativity and most importantly, "funny" content.
Just before PMA 2001 we noted Lexar's press release about their new 512 MB Pro CF Type I card, today they've put out a press release which confirms that they are now shipping this card. Based on the same 'engine' as the 320 MB CF card it offers higher speed transfers, wearing a '12x' label (supposed to be 1.8 MB/sec). "The 512MB 12x is perfect for today's professional digital photographers, as it is capable of a sustained write speed of 1.8MB/sec. which greatly reduces file write time and camera recycle time.
Toshiba has today announced a new 128 MB MMC/SD (MultiMedia Card / Secure Digital card). Hot on the heals of SanDisk who announced a 128 MB card back in June. While I'm not a huge fan of new formats (surely we have enough already!) it's good to see that at least those who end up with MMC digital cameras will be able to buy relatively useful capacities. Toshiba also reveal that they hope to introduce a 256 MB MMC/SD card in 'fourth quarter 2001'.
We've just posted an update to our original DiMAGE 7 review, we've managed to get our hands on a later production sample with firmware v021e. Items updated: Resolution charts, colour charts, white balance, ISO sensitivity tests, night shots, comparisons, noise levels, timing & performance. No significant differences were discovered apart from slightly cleaner resolution chart images (less diagonal stepping).
LuraTech, the creators of the LuraWave image compression format (which we've covered previously) has release a JPEG2000 plug-in for Adobe Photoshop. You can download a 30 day trial copy TODAY for a glimpse into the future of JPEG compression. The full version of the plugin is priced at $79.95, an SDK is also available. JPEG2000 files (at least as loaded/saved by this plug-in have the .JP2 extension). We've done some side-by-side analysis of JPEG vs. JPEG2000 using a 4 megapixel TIFF from Sony's DSC-S85, the results are impressive. JPEG2000 also features a highly compressed lossless 'sub format' which we've calculated equates to approximately 1 MB per megapixel (very impressive).
Catching up with reviews posted elsewhere on the Internet we note that Steve's Digicams has posted a Nikon Coolpix 775 review, Imaging-Resource has posted Coolpix 775, Olympus C-4040Z and Fujifilm Finepix 6900Z reviews and DC resource have covered the Nikon Coolpix 995 and Kyocera Finecam S3. Finally Peter iNova gives his opinion of the Coolpix 775 in his own user report.
We've finally posted our updated Nikon Coolpix 995 review. The review now reflects results based on a full production Coolpix 995 with firmware 1.6. We've re-shot resolution charts, colour test patches, ISO sensitivity, night shots, flash. All timings have been re-confirmed as have dynamic range results. Changes? There's less noise at ISO 100 and 200 on this full production unit and Microdrive timings have changed (subtley). Otherwise most of our original conclusions and results stand. NEW: Animated 990/995 Kodak Q60 target. Plus 31 new sample images!
Kodak has just sent me a press release on their official position on Windows XP and its new Digital Photography integration. Looks like things are not at all well between Kodak and Microsoft, in this press release Kodak accuse Microsoft of limiting consumer choice as to what the users default photo application should be, they also state that Microsoft is attempting to 'Tax the Internet' by having a list of Microsoft-Preferred photo finishing sites... Trouble brewing.
We've just posted our full, in-depth review of a production (firmware v1.3u) Nikon Coolpix 775. This tiny, lightweight 2 megapixel digital camera has a 3x optical zoom lens, 1.5" LCD monitor and a range of pre-programmed scene exposure modes. Unlike some of its rivals the 775 has a comfortable hand grip and ergonomic control layout which make it small yet perfectly usable. So how does it stack up to our in-depth review tests?
The 'use to be free' photo sharing site FotoTime has either been forced or decided to go down the pay-only route. As we'd expected and even predicted long ago the revenues from merchandise (such as prints) was never going to be enough to support the huge bandwidth requirements of photo sharing sites. As from August 1, 2001 FotoTime will be charging $23.95 per year for image hosting (though you'll have 30 days grace).
The Japan Camera Industry Association (JCIA) has today published a report on the shipment of digital still cameras for the first half of the year 2001 (Jan - June). It tells us that between January and June this year Japan exported 3.9 million digital still cameras (up 34% on the same period last year) with a total value of 143 Billion YEN / US$ 1.14 Billion (up 18% on the same period last year). Japan produced 2.1 million digital still cameras for its domestic market (up 86% on the same period last year) with a total value of 78 Billion Yen / US$ 624 Million (up 53% on the same period last year).
The Japan Camera Industry Association (JCIA) has today officially announced new guidelines for the measurement and marketing of digital camera 'megapixels'. The guidelines recommend the use of effective pixel count (the actual number of pixels captured). We've known about this for some time, but this is the first time JCIA have made it official. What these new guidelines mean is that from September 1st, 2001 all new Japanese digital cameras must carry a label which states the effective pixel count, not the total CCD pixel count. This is a more accurate, fairer and less confusing method of labelling and should make it easier for the consumer to know what they are buying.
Sony US has today confirmed new retail pricing for Memory Stick storage cards. "Effective today, Memory Stick media in 8MB, 16MB, 32MB, 64MB and 128MB capacities are available for around $25, $35, $50, $80 and $150, respectively at retailers nationwide and at www.sonystyle.com." This means that a 128 MB Memory Stick has a cost per MB of $1.17, compared to Compact Flash at approximately $0.78/MB and SmartMedia at approximately $0.93/MB.
Peak Development Ltd, a UK company has today announced its new 'Digital Image Recovery Service' named ImageRecall. This service aims to recover images lost on corrupt, deleted or damaged CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, MMC/SD, Microdrive or PC Card storage devices. "We aim to provide a fast efficient service to all our image recovery customers and have historically been able to recover 80% of lost images" stated Kevin Bordley, Technical Supervisor. "Every week we have professional photographers asking for our service"
It looks as though Kodak have made it up with Microsoft after their problems earlier this month. They were involved in today's Windows XP event in which more than 20 key industry leaders showcased their hardware and software solutions for digital photography on the Microsoft Windows XP platform. These companies demonstrated everything from digital cameras to photo-processing services, all designed to provide consumers with the ability to easily manage their digital photography using Windows XP.
Canon USA has today confirmed a lens which has been rumoured (and seen elsewhere) for some time. The new white bodied EF 70-200mm f/2.8L has a new improved IS (Image Stablisation) function as well as dust and moisture resistance which you would expect of an 'L' lens. On the EOS-D30 this lens would provide the equivelent focal length range of 112 - 320 mm. This beast of a lens weighs in at 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) and will have a street price of US$ 3,000 when it reaches the shops in September.