May 2005 news and reviews
Following several delays the Leica Digital-Modul-R is set to ship on June 15, two years after its development was first announced. An official letter was sent to Leica users over the weekend announcing the delivery date. The date was put back earlier this month due to 'software problems'. Mario Thurnherr, manager of Leica Camera's Photo Division, says, "Our customers had to wait longer than planned for the unique digital solution from Leica, but are now rewarded with an outstanding product." Lets hope it really is worth the wait.
Digital Outback Photo has announced its latest E-book, The Art of RAW Conversion, is now available to download for $39.95. The 290-page book authored by Uwe Steinmueller and Jürgen Gulbins explains how to get the best quality from Photoshop CS2 and a number of different RAW converters as well as understanding DNG, basic color management and how to remove noise, chromatic aberration and lens distortions. An upgrade from DOP2000 is available for $27.95.
After years of struggle, the writing could finally be on the wall for AgfaPhoto as it files for insolvency. The consumer imaging business announced 4,000 redundancies in 2001 to concentrate efforts on digital imaging. However, three months previously it had decided to abandon production of digital cameras. Agfa-Gevaert sold AgfaPhoto to a group of investors in a management buy out/in in November, 2004, but still provides distribution, order fulfillment, after sales and other services to the company until the end of the year.
Samsung has launched a teaser on its Korean website for the launch of an ultra-slim camera called simply #1, which is a dead ringer for the Nikon Coolpix S1. At 17.3mm the five million pixel camera is only just slightly thinner than the Nikon but has the same rounded corners, 2.5-inch screen and almost exactly the same control layout. The top plate features a safety flash (SF) button, which is said to enhance image clarity and colour (when there is insufficient light) without using flash. According to the mini trailer, it is due for launch on June 1. UPDATE: The Samsung has already been launched in some countries, including Germany, as the i5.
Kodak has delayed the launch of the unique Wi-Fi-enabled EasyShare One camera until October, reports the Wall Street Journal. It was originally scheduled for launch in June. A Kodak spokesman said, "Kodak is making significant, innovative advances to create the EasyShare-One camera. We are taking the necessary time to ensure the best-possible customer experience, making certain that all of the new system components interoperate as expected." The four megapixel camera has a tilt-and-swivel, 3-inch touch-screen LCD, that is designed to change the emphasis from 'point and shoot to point and share,' says Kodak.
Scientists at Canada's Universite Laval have invented a lens that is five times thinner than a piece of paper and can zoom without using mechanical parts. The lens is created by adding a small quantity of photosensitive material to a liquid crystal cell. When a weak electrical current is applied, the crystals realign differently from those in the periphery and thus take on the shape and behavior of a lens. The researchers have been able to modify the lens’ focal distance from 1.6 to 8 meters in a few milliseconds by increasing the voltage from 1.5 to 4.5 volts.
ABSoft has announced upgrades to its noise reduction software program Neat Image for both Windows and Mac. The new versions of Neat Image are said to significantly improve quality and efficiency of noise reduction, provide stronger integration with the latest image editors and enhanced usability. V5.0 for Windows and v3.0 for Mac plug-ins are compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS2. Other new features include profile quality indicators, improved image viewers plus preset matching, new command line format and optimizations of the underlying algorithms.
Sigma has announced new addition to its digital optimized DG range of zoom lenses in the form of the APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG/HSM. This fast telephoto zoom sports a fixed F2.8 aperture throughout the range, HSM technology for high speed silent focus and four SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements. A new 'digitally optimized' coating is claimed to minimize flare and ghosting when used on a D-SLR, and the lens will be available in Sigma AF, Canon EF, Nikon D, Konica Minolta and Pentax AF mounts.
Hot on the heels of the optic launched yesterday Sigma has announced the ultra-telephoto 50-500mm F4-6.3 EX DG/HSM lens, which is also optimized for digital SLRs. It has a new lens coating which reduces flare and ghost and also creates an optimum color balance. It also features HSM （Hyper Sonic Motor）which provides a quiet high speed AF function, a zoom lock switch and has four pieces of SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass for correcting color aberration. It costs £899 and will fit SLRs with Sigma, Canon, Konica Minolta, Pentax and Nikon-D mounts.
Sigma has today announced a telephoto macro lens optimized for use with digital cameras. The Sigma 180mm f3.5 APO EX DG lens has a life-sized reproduction ratio and is an HSM model, which guarantees fast and silent auto focusing as well as full time manual focus. It is compatible with Sigma, Canon, Nikon-D, Pentax and Konica Minolta D-SLRs and will be priced £549.
Minox has broken all ties with its German co-partner and ailing company Leica Camera AG. Optical and miniaturization specialists Minox was taken over by general manager Thorsten Kortemeier in 2001 when he acquired 51% of the Minox partnership capital, leaving Leica with 49%. Minox was launched four years ago and currently produces digital cameras including the famous miniature Digital Classic Camera Leica M3, binoculars, compact cameras, 35mm cameras plus windwatches.
Pentax has today announced another addition to the Optio range with the five megapixel SVi. An update to the SV, it also has a 5x optical zoom, 1.8-inch LCD, impressive 3cm macro function and 320x240 movie mode. The only difference appears to the be the fact that the aluminum alloy-bodied camera has an 'enhanced' grip achieved by placing a resin element on the front right hand side. A battery stand which charges the batteries in camera, plus an additional set is also available. The Pentax Optio SVi will be available in June priced £249.
An official letter from Leica confirms that the Digital-Modul-R is to be delayed, despite expectations that the 10 megapixel digital back would be available in the next few days. Leica says it is 'working hard to resolve a few last software problems'. Although the 'problems' do not impair the basic function of the module they have to be remedied before it is fully ready for production. Many people have already placed orders for the module, which was scheduled for release this month. Leica urges customers not to overreact and says that it will be worth the wait.
After all the bad news that has beset Kodak in the last year, things appear to be on the up as the company took the number one slot for sales in US in the first quarter of this year. It shipped 900,000 point and shoot digital cameras, a 41% increase on sales this time last year, according to a market research company. Kodak is followed by second-placed Canon (850,000 units), which recorded a whopping 72% increase, and perennial front-runner Sony was ranked third with sales of 800,000 units. UPDATE: Chief executive Dan Carp will step down as president in June, although he will remain in the post until he retires in January 2006. He will be succeeded by Kodak president Antonio Perez, who joined Kodak in April 2003 after 25 years at HP.
Following the launch of the Photographer's Directory, Adobe is expanding further with the announcement of a royalty-free image library, called Adobe Stock Photos. The service provides a single destination point to access stock photography from Getty Images, Jupitermedia and Digital Vision to name a few and offers around 230,000 images. Accessed through Adobe Bridge, Adobe Stock Photos helps designers select, browse, preview, organize, label, and drag-and-drop imagery directly from within Adobe Creative Suite 2. It's currently available in Adobe's Creative Suite 2 Premium and Standard editions, including CS2 versions of Photoshop, GoLive, InDesign and Illustrator.