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June 2004 news and reviews

June 30
Canon EOS-1D Mark II firmware 1.0.2

Canon has today posted a firmware update for the EOS-1D Mark II digital SLR. This new firmware addresses three issues: "1. The screen becoming magenta-colored when shooting bulb exposures, 2. The values being cleared when C.Fn-06 is set to “2” and the battery is removed, 3. Improves image quality of NTSC video output". Updating is very easy, drop the firmware update file onto a Compact Flash or SD card, insert it into the camera and select the Firmware option from the camera menu.

June 29
Just posted! Kodak DCS Pro SLR/c review

Just posted! Our full in-depth review of Kodak's 14 million pixel Canon lens mount SLR/c digital SLR. The SLR/c is unique in being the only (current) third party digital SLR with a Canon lens mount, it features the same full 35 mm size CMOS sensor as the SLR/n and a Sigma based body which has a very similar layout to the SA9 / SD9 / SD10. See how the SLR/c performed in our tests and how it measured up to the competition.

Nikon release new D70 firmware

Nikon has today posted a firmware update for the D70 digital SLR. Since we first reported this news the firmware is now available in the US, Europe and Japan.. The D70's firmware is split into two parts (A & B) with this new firmware labelled as "A:Ver.1.01/B:Ver.1.02". It addresses several issues; removal of potential color cast at high shutter speeds, improved Auto ISO when used with speedlight, support for CF card greater than 4 GB in capacity, fixed an issue related to the CF indicator light and power off switch, improved Chinese menus.

June 24
Kowa Prominar TD-1, 3mp, 1350 mm zoom

Kowa Prominar first announced the TD-1 digital spotting scope in March last year, the company has now posted a new press release with specifications, it also reveals that this unique digital camera should be reaching shelves in Japan sometime in July. The 210,000 YEN (approx. $2,000) digital spotting scope has a huge 450 - 1350 mm F2.8 - F4.0 zoom lens (equiv. approx. 10x - 30x zoom) coupled to a 1/2.5" 3.14 megapixel CCD. It also has a true TTL optical viewfinder. This beast is 39 cm (15.4 in) long and weighs 2.3 Kg (5.1 lb).

Toshiba's methanol fuel cell

It will certainly be some time before we see fuel cells used in digital cameras but it's worth noting that development fuel cells is accelerating. Toshiba today announced a small methanol fuel cell which weighs just 8.5 g (0.3 oz) and can produce 100 mW of power. Toshiba describe this new unit as "small enough for integration into a wireless headset for mobile phones, but still efficient enough to power an MP3 music player for as long as 20 hours on a single 2cc charge of highly concentrated methanol. The new fuel cell outputs 100 milliwatts of power, and can continue to do so, non-stop, for as long as users top up its integrated fuel tank—a process that is as simple as it is safe."

June 23
Phase One P25 first look, 22 megapixel

Michael Reichmann over at The Luminous Landscape has today posted is first look at the 22 megapixel, $29,990 almost full-frame medium format 645 digital back. This back delivers images which have 5440 horizontal pixels and 4080 vertical pixels from a 48.9 x 36.7 mm (1.9 x 1.4 in) 22 megapixel CCD sensor. "The Phase One H25 has become something of a benchmark for studio-based professional photographers during the nine months or so since introduction. There is something about Phase One's ability to extract shadow detail and produce extremely clean raw files that seems to me to be just a step ahead of what is seen from other backs."

61.5 million digicams from Japan in 2004

According to a news article on Nikkei Electronics today the six major Japanese manufacturers expect to ship 61.5 million digital cameras in 2004. Sales for financial year 2003 topped 40 million units which is an increase of 71% over financial year 2002. Of all the manufacturers Canon posted the best improvement, a 100% increase year on year with an estimated 76% increase coming this year. Matching Canon will be Sony who expect to ship 15 milliion units, closely followed by Olympus with 11 million. Most interesting is that Canon and Nikon combined expect to ship more than 1 million digital SLRs in 2004, considering their higher price it's certainly shaping up to be a lucrative market for them.

Lots of photos, not many prints

A new study published by InfoTrends/Cap Ventures reveals that while most digital camera owners are taking more photos than they ever had that most of them aren't printing and when they do it's only in small numbers. Most users share their photos through e-mail or online. This is something I've been arguing for some time now, obviously there are some manufacturers who have vested interest in increasing the number of digital photos printed however thanks to pervasive Internet usage and other methods of sharing images users simply don't feel the need to print.

Olympus post E-1 firmware 1.2

Olympus has today posted the second firmware update for their E-1 digital SLR. Version 1.2 improves the function of the shutter release button, allowing you to repeatedly 'pump' the shutter release button while it is half-pressed. Additionally this update also adds a display of focus points in the finder's LCD. For those who haven't yet upgraded their E-1 this update also includes improvements made in 1.1 such as higher shparness settings, improved exposure in macro mode with flash and quicker startup time from sleep mode. This update can be installed automatically via the Olympus Studio software.

June 21
Foveon 1/1.8" X3 Image Sensor

Foveon has today issued a press release announcing the F19 1/1.8" Type CMOS 'Direct Image Sensor'. This press release essentially puts a name to the sensor to be used in the Polaroid x530 digital camera which was announced at PMA. As with previous X3 sensors the F19 captures three individual colors (red, green and blue) for each pixel location, in this case 1440 x 1080 x 3 layers. Hence this new chip is being labelled as a '4.5 Megapixel CMOS Direct Image Sensor'. This sensor is also designated to be used in the new HanVision HVDUO-5M digital camera which is aimed at industrial, scientific, medical, and communications applications.

June 20
First Epson R-D1 samples online

The Japanese IT news website Impress PC Watch has today posted a hands-on article with Epson's unique and unusual R-D1 rangefinder digital camera. This camera is a joint development between Epson and Cosina, it supports Leica M and L mount lenses and features a six megapixel APS size CCD sensor. The R-D1 was first revealed by Epson at PMA (behind glass), more detail and a full press release was published later. This new article (published in Japanese) is a hands-on with the R-D1 and contains a set of (fairly average) samples taken with the camera in combination with a range of different prime lenses.

Sigma update 50 mm and 105 mm Macro lenses

Sigma today announced new versions of the 50 mm F2.8 and 105 mm F2.8 Macro lenses. Both of the new lenses carry the EX DG notation have improved coatings and a new 'Floating Mechanism' to reduce aberrations. Both lenses are also 'improved for the characteristics of digital SLRs'. For improved macro depth of field both lenses have an impressive minimum aperture of F45 on Sigma, Canon and Konica Minolta lens mounts, F32 on Nikon, Pentax mounts.

June 17
Fujifilm FinePix F440 and F450 Zoom

Fujifilm has today announced the FinePix F440 and F450 Zoom. These two ultra-compact cameras are successors to the popular F410 and F420 Zoom. Perhaps the most interesting element of this announcement is that just like the FinePix A330 and A340 (announced just before PMA) the F440 and F450 feature standard CCD sensors of four and five megapixels respectively. This means that out of the eight new cameras announced by Fujifilm this year five of them are based around standard CCD sensors rather than Fujifilm's own SuperCCD. Both cameras have 3.4x optical zoom lenses, are powered by a Lithium-Ion battery, store images on xD-Picture Card and 2.0" LCD monitors.

June 16
Nikon to increase digital production, exit film

In an interview with Reuters Nikon's managing director Makoto Kimura has stated that Nikon will be increasing production of the D70 by 20,000 units per month to a total of 90,000 units per month and may soon exit the compact film camera market. To quote Mr Kimura, "There is still the matter of timing, but eventually we will have to dissolve this business... ...there really is no region in the world where you can do good business in compact film cameras anymore."

Konica Minolta announce X31

Konica Minolta Europe today announced the DiMAGE X31, a three megapixel version of the two megapixel X21 announced back in February. Just like that camera and other DiMAGE X models the X31 features a 'folded optics' lens system which fits vertically in the camera body, a prism mirror then 'folds' the optical path through 90 degrees. This allows the camera to have a slim profile, have no extending lens and maintain a very fast startup time.

June 15
Nikon Coolpix 5400 Firmware 1.4

Nikon has posted new firmware for the Coolpix 5400. This new release of firmware adds RAW file format support to the camera, this will be a significant improvement for current owners as it opens up a wide range of RAW development options as well as higher image quality. NEF files created in the Coolpix 5400 are compatible with Nikon View 6.2.2, Nikon Capture 4.1.0 and PictureProject 1.0 (or later). Installation of the firmware is fairly straightforward, just drop the 'firmware.bin' file into a firmware folder on a CF and start the camera in play mode.

June 14
Just posted! Canon EOS-1D Mark II Review

Just posted! Our full in-depth review of Canon's latest professional digital SLR, the EOS-1D Mark II. This remarkable digital SLR has a high resolution eight megapixel CMOS sensor, can shoot at over eight frames per second and buffer up to forty frames (JPEG). And that's just the achievement of the camera internals, externally the camera is built 'like it was hewn from a solid block of metal' and has environmental seals around all compartment doors and controls. All this for around $4,500, making it around $1,000 cheaper than the four megapixel EOS-1D it replaces (price at time of introduction).

June 11
Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 firmware 1.12

Konica Minolta has released new firmware for its DiMAGE A2 digital camera. Version 1.12 applies several improvements including LCD brightness while using Flex Digital Magnifier, focusing at a specific zoom range and with Flex Focus Point, improved flash metering, EVF timing functionality, improved support for add-on lenses. This firmware can be downloaded and installed by users of the camera by simply placing the firmware update file on a Compact Flash card or transfering it via USB directly to the camera.

June 9
Seagate to introduce 5 GB HDD CF

Seagate has announced it is to produce a 5 GB HDD in the CF Type II form factor, although they can't use the name 'Microdrive' that is essentially what this device is. Details at this point are a little thin on the ground, the metal cased device will be available in 2.5 GB and 5 GB capacities, it has a rotational speed of 3600 RPM and features 'RunOn' technology which appears to be a buffering system which avoids data loss if the unit is knocked or vibrated in use. Seagate will also be producing a 'built in' version of the device which is designed to be hardwired into devices such as MP3 players or PDA's.

June 6
Pentax's new $900 Digital SLR

According to an article published in Nikkei Electronics, Pentax are planning to introduce a new digital SLR aimed at 'general consumers' that will cost around 100,000 YEN (approx. $900). One discrepancy in the news article is that "the company intends to ship about 100,000 units by March 31, 2004", we assume they mean "March 31, 2005". This would probably mean we should expect to see this new camera at Photokina in September. This comes as yet more good news in the 'affordable' segment of the digital SLR market. Pentax's current digital SLR, the *ist D is currently in stores for between $1,200 and $1,600. UPDATE: This story is confrimed by Pentax USA.

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