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April 2005 news and reviews

April 28
Sony nearly doubles net profit for the year

Despite reported fourth quarter losses of $533m(¥56.5 bn), Sony has ended the year with net profits totaling US$1.5 bn (¥163.8 bn), according to Photo Marketing Newsline. This is nearly double the profit the electronics giant recorded last year. There have been positive sales in the digital camera, flat panel TV and LCD rear projection sectors, while sales have decreased in the CRT television and portable audio markets. Sony expects net profit for the year ending March 2006 to drop to US$755m (¥80 bn) due to restructuring plans said to be costing $680m (¥72 billion).

Canon sales up by 5.7%

Canon has reported first quarter consolidated net sales of 2005 are up by 5.7% due to net sales of US$7.8 bn (¥843.4 bn) compared to last year, reports Photo Marketing Newsline. Toshizo Tanaka, senior managing director and group executive for Finance and Accounting attributes the increase to strong sales of digital cameras especially the Digital Rebel XT (EOS 350D/Kiss N) and the subsequent sales of lenses plus several new compacts in the PowerShot range. Color copiers, inkjet and laser printers, and digital video camcorders have all added to the increase.

HP Photosmart M517
HP has announced a new addition to the M series with the 5.2 megapixel HP Photosmart M517. It features all the usual from HP such as in-camera red-eye removal and adaptive lighting technology, which automatically brightens dark areas in high contrast shots. Other features include a 2-inch LCD, 3x optical zoom, 'fast shot' mode plus HP Instant Share, which allows you tag photos for sending via email or printing at a later date. The HP Photosmart M517 will be priced around €229 (approx. US$386).
April 27
New Nokia boasts Carl Zeiss lens

The mobile phone industry is trying its best to rival low end digital cameras and the latest Nokia might just do the trick. The Nokia N90 multimedia boasts a Carl Zeiss lens, 2 megapixel resolution, 20x digital zoom (ahem!), auto focus, flash, macro mode and video capture. The flip and twist N90, reminiscent of the Panasonic AV series, houses a RS-MMC card and its PictBridge-compatible, and Bluetooth-enabled for wireless printing. The interface looks quite advanced for a mobile phone and the N90 also provides on-phone editing capabilities. The N90 multimedia is expected to become available in the second quarter of this year.

RAW storm in a teacup?  Dave Coffin interviewed
If anyone understands the ins and outs of RAW, it's Dave Coffin, he has reverse engineered the RAW formats of almost every digital camera on the market and provides his code (dcraw.c) freely for anyone to use. He recently posted a note on his web page pointing out that the encryption of metadata (in the current Nikon vs. Adobe situation) is nothing new and that it's fairly common for manufacturers to apply some kind of protection to their RAW formats. We decided to ask him some of the questions this information raises and also those which have been asked by our readers.
April 26
Just posted! Nikon Coolpix 7900 review
Just posted! The Coolpix 7900 is the new 'top of the range' ultra-compact from Nikon and goes head to head with the Canon PowerShot SD500 and Sony Cyber-shot P200, offering a 7 megapixel resolution, 3x zoom lens and a wealth of innovative features. See how it fared in our concise review.
TIPA Awards 2005
Canon snapped up two spots in the D-SLR categories at the annual TIPA (Technical Image Press Association) awards. The EOS 350D won best entry level SLR, while the EOS-1Ds Mark II was voted best professional SLR. Fuji's FinePix S3 Pro was awarded best mid range D-SLR. The 12x zoom lens Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 picked up the super zoom award. Other winners include the Stylus Verve S (mju mini Digital S), which scooped the innovative design award for its distinctive curved styling and the Epson R-D1, which won the best prestige camera.
Ricoh Caplio GX8
Ricoh Japan has today announced the highest resolution compact camera on the market with the Caplio GX8, successor to the GX. The 8.2 megapixel camera, offers a 28mm wideangle 3x zoom lens, 1.8-inch LCD and as ever from Ricoh, super close 1cm macro mode and a fast start-up time of 1.3 seconds. The GX8 also boasts a live histogram and auto bracketing. It will be priced £299.99 and will be available next month.
April 25
OpenRAW launches website
The OpenRAW Working Group has launched a new website www.OpenRAW.org. The main aim of the site is to obtain complete documentation of manufacturers' RAW file formats, such as how the data is stored and the camera setting selected by the photographer. Undocumented RAW file formats can present a number of problems, such as limiting the image processing choices, an increasing risk that a RAW file will become unreadable or unable to be processed properly, and a waste of third party software development resources. The OpenRAW group wants manufacturers to publicly document past, present and future RAW image file formats.
April 24
Samsung Digimax Pro 815
Spotted by forums member William Chang it appears that Samsung has today revealed an SLR-like digital camera at a Photo Fair in Beijing. The Digimax Pro 815 has a 28-420 mm zoom lens (mechanical zoom, focus ring, exposure compensation ring) mated to a 2/3" CCD sensor of unknown resolution (although the '8' in the model name may hint eight megapixels). Other key specifications include a 3.5" TFT LCD monitor, a flash hot shoe, 2.5 frames per second shooting, fast startup and operation and a Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery. The camera also appears to have an EVF viewfinder. We will report more specifications / details as we receive them.
April 22
Nikon responds to RAW WB concerns
Nikon has today issued an advisory addressing the current concerns around the 'encryption' of white balance data in its NEF (RAW) files from the D2X and D2Hs digital SLRs. This story started three days ago when Photoshopnews.com published an interview with chief engineer and original author of Photoshop Thomas Knoll which complained that Nikon was encrypting white balance data in their NEF files and that future versions of Adobe Camera RAW would not be able to read WB data. In the new advisory Nikon states that it already makes available an SDK which "...when implemented properly, enables a wide range of NEF performance, including white balance..."
Kodak reports first quarter losses
Despite a growth in the digital arena, Kodak has reported a net loss of $142 million, or 50 cents per share, compared with net income of $21 million, or 7 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2004. Sales also fell by 3% to $2.83bn from $2.92bn in the same period last year. Kodak Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Carp says, "While the first quarter's performance was disappointing, such short-term volatility is to be expected as we transform Kodak into a digital company." Kodak's outlook is more positive as it predicts that it will achieve operational earnings of $2.60 to $2.90 a share in 2005.
Canon PowerShot S2 IS
Canon has today announced the successor to the S1 IS, the all-new 12x optical zoom five megapixel PowerShot S2 IS. This camera is clearly aimed to compete with the other compact big-zoom club which is currently made up of the Panasonic DMC-FZ5, Konica Minolta Z5 and Sony DSC-H1. Just like the S1 IS the S2 IS utilizes a small USM (ultrasonic motor) to drive its zoom (multi-speed and quiet for shooting movies). Changes compared to the S1 include a body redesign, five megapixel CCD, a bigger zoom lens, DIGIC II, faster continuous shooting, night display function, stereo audio recording and a larger LCD monitor.
April 21
Women prefer Kodak digital cameras

When it comes to women and digital cameras, recent research from imaging industry market research company Lyra reveals that Kodak really pushes their buttons. The Digital Photography survey showed that more than 20% of women use Kodak cameras while only 10% of men choose to use the brand. The most popular camera manufacturer among the male of the species is Canon, with 17% of men using its products, followed by Sony. Lyra's president and director of the Digital Photography Advisory Service, Charles LeCompte, explains the findings: "The explanation is that women in general are less comfortable with technology and therefore are more attracted to trusted brands." So ladies, dump your D-SLRs and pick up an EasyShare!

Just posted! Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ2 review
Just posted! The Lumix DMC-LZ2 is one of two new 'compact' 6x zoom cameras with image stabilization from Panasonic. On paper they seem to offer an interesting set of features at a real 'entry level' price point. Find out how we got on with the $300, 5 megapixel Lumix LZ2 in our concise review.
April 20
Canon posts EOS 20D firmware v2.0.0
Canon had today posted a firmware update for its digital SLR the EOS 20D. Version 2.0.0 adds support for the wireless file transmitter WFT-E1 to allow high speed transfer of images from the 20D and personal computers through wireless/wired LAN.
Pentax posts Optio X firmware v1.01

Pentax has today posted firmware version 1.01 for the swivel-lens Optio X. The new firmware improves autofocus performance in the five million pixel camera and also fixes a problem encountered when you change the image folder name from the standard to the date.

Nikon D50 and exclusive preview
Nikon has today announced their new affordable and easier to use D50 digital SLR. The D50 has the appearance and control layout of the D70, the major physical differences are size, weight and control layout. Under the skin the D50 has the same six megapixel CCD sensor as the D70 (and the D70s announced today). The D50 will be available in black and silver bodies and as a kit with the new AF-S DX 18-55 mm lens. The D50 Kit (including the 18-55 mm lens) will cost around US$899 (£649.99/€971) when it's available in June. Body only price will be £549.99/€821. . We have posted our exclusive detailed hands-on preview of the Nikon D50.
Nikon D70s
Nikon has today announced an upgraded version of the D70, the new D70s. This camera has the same CCD sensor and imaging pipeline as the D70 so image quality should be identical. However several changes have been introduced including improved auto focus accuracy, slightly wider flash coverage, a higher capacity battery, a new larger 2.0" LCD monitor and re-designed menus. The D70s Kit including the 18-70 mm lens will cost around $1199 (£899.99/€1343), while the body only will be $899 (£699.99/€1045), expected to ship in early May.
Nikon D70 firmware adds D70s features
Nikon has today announced that a firmware upgrade due to be issued in mid-May will bring several new D70s features to the D70. It's refreshing to see a manufacturer not leaving existing owners stranded, although clearly there are some D70s improvements which can't be introduced with firmware (such as the larger 2.0" LCD monitor). Primary improvements include new menu design and improved auto focus performance, especially in motion tracking.
Two new Nikon AF-S DX lenses
As part of its announcement of the D50, Nikon is also introducing two new lightweight, affordable AF-S DX lenses aimed specifically at buyers of the camera. The AF-S DX 18-55 mm F3.5-F5.6G ED (which becomes the D50's kit lens) and the complementary AF-S DX 55-200mm F4.5-F5.6G ED. Both lenses are compact and lightweight and are designed specifically for digital SLRs with Nikon's DX size sensor (1.5x FOV crop). Used on the D50 the two lenses combined would provide an equivalent field of view coverage of 27 - 300 mm and weigh just 210g and 255 g respectively. Both lenses will cost around £199.99/€299.
April 19
Wacom announces first Bluetooth tablet

Wacom Europe has announced the first pen tablet to incorporate wireless technology. The Graphire Bluetooth has an active area of 6x8 inches and is available now priced $249.99 (approx. €192). Bluetooth-enabled devices can communicate at distances of up to 30 meters. It comes bundled with a host of software including Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 and Corel Painter Essentials 2. Wacom Japan announced an A5 Bluetooth pen tablet, called FAVO, at the end of March which was not planned for launch in Europe.

Kodak ImageLink Print System products

Kodak has today announced the the worldwide availability of the first products compatible with its one-touch printing system, ImageLink. The Printer Dock Series 3 is currently available bundled with ImageLink-compatible cameras the EasyShare Z740 and EasyShare Z700. The Printer Dock will be on sale as a standalone product from May 2005. The ImageLink Print System is designed to simplify at-home printing and is supported by Konica Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Ricoh, and Sanyo.

Nikon encrypts white balance data
We are surprised and disappointed to hear that Nikon is trying to lock out third party RAW converters. According to PhotoshopNews.com, Nikon has encrypted white balance information in NEF files written by the D2X and the D2HS. While the encryption can be cracked, Adobe is concerned about being sued for violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Dpreview agrees with the sentiments of chief engineer and original author of Photoshop Thomas Knoll, who said "I think the copyrighted information inside the NEF file belongs to the photographer, not Nikon. But Nikon apparently thinks they own the information inside the NEF." UPDATE: Third party RAW converter, Bibble, has announced that it has decoded the D2X's RAW white balance parameter and will fully support it. Author of dcraw.c David Coffin has also decoded the encryption.
April 18
WWL recalls Polaroid x530
World Wide Licenses (WWL) Europe confirmed today that the Polaroid x530 has been withdrawn from sale in the UK but will be re-introduced later in the year. In an official statement, WWL, which was given exclusive rights to sell Polaroid-branded products in 2002, says the x530 was sent to some Argos stores before it had been approved for shipment, but there also appears to be a 'technical issue'. The Polaroid x530 is the first compact digital camera to utilize Foveon's X3 sensor. UPDATE 05/11/05: The long-awaited x530 will ship in August 2005, according to the Polaroid's website. We won't hold our breath!
Adobe acquires Macromedia
Adobe has announced an agreement to acquire Macromedia in an all-stock transaction valued at $3.4 billion. Graphics software giant, Adobe, will acquire the web and application development software company Macromedia at the close of fourth quarter 2005. A press release issued today said the two companies will provide customers with a 'more powerful set of solutions for creating, managing and delivering compelling content'. Bruce Chizen will continue as chief executive officer (CEO) and Shantanu Narayen will remain president and chief operating officer. Stephen Elop, president and CEO of Macromedia, will join Adobe as president of worldwide field operations.
April 15
Pentax posts *istDS firmware v1.02
Pentax has today posted firmware version 1.02 for its 6.3 megapixel digital SLR the *istDS. Version 1.02 of the firmware provides support for SD cards greater than 1GB. Announced in the run up to Photokina 2004, the *istDS is one of the smallest and lightest digital SLRs currently on the market. It's Pentax's most affordable digital SLR and is available for around $800, body only.
Fujifilm posts FinePix F440 and F450 firmware v2.1
Fujifilm has posted firmware version 2.1 for the four and five megapixel FinePix F440 Zoom and FinePix F450 Zoom. The minor update automatically increases gain in dark scenes on the 2.0-inch LCD to aid composition. These two ultra-compacts were announced last June, and replaced the F410 Zoom and F420 Zoom.
Just posted! Canon PowerShot SD500 review
Just posted! The PowerShot SD500 (Digital IXUS 700/IXY Digital 600) is the new flagship of Canon's ultra-compact 'Elph' range, and the first to hit the 7 megapixel mark. It also features a new curvier design, a DIGIC II processor, high performance movie mode and several novel in-camera special effects. See how it got on in our concise review.
April 12
Contax brand comes to an end?
Kyocera has today announced that it has decided to terminate the Contax branded camera business. Contax joined forces with Yashica in the 1960s, which became part of the electronics giant Kyocera in the mid-1990s. The history of the name goes back to the original Contax camera produced by Zeiss Ikon AG in 1932. The company announced its first 35mm SLR film camera, the Contax S, in 1949. A dark cloud has been hanging over the Contax brand since Kyocera announced it was to end of camera production last month.
April 8
Nikon UK confirms entry-level D-SLRs for end of April
Nikon UK has today sent out an official press release which confirms the launch of two new entry-level digital SLRs at the end of this month. The first is a successor to the D70 and an upgraded version, likely to be the D70s, while the second camera, rumored to be called the D50, will be for people who are looking to upgrade from a compact. More news as we have it!
Just posted! Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 review

Just posted! Read our review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5, the replacement for the popular FZ3. Although externally almost identical to the FZ3, the new model features several key improvements, including a 5 megapixel sensor (bringing it closer to the FZ20 in spec terms) and faster focus. And of course it sports that huge 12x image-stabilized Leica zoom lens. Click on the link to see how it got on in our tests.

April 7
Image management program iView MediaPro and Phase One's Capture One PRO, which handles adjustments of RAW files, is now available as a bundle for $499. The offer is valid until May 5 and is only available as a download from the companies' respective websites www.iview-multimedia.com and www.phaseone.com. An accompanying RAW workflow guide detailing how the two programs can be used together is also available for download. The bundle represents a saving of around $199.
April 6
Just posted! Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT review
Just posted! Our full in-depth review of the Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT. The 350D / XT is the latest digital SLR from Canon and represents the 'affordable SLR' follow-up to the 2003 EOS 300D / Digital Rebel. The 350D / XT is smaller, lighter, has more features and now sports an eight megapixel CMOS sensor which effectively aligns it as the 'baby EOS 20D'. See how the 350D / XT performed in our tests.
April 4
Just posted! Canon PowerShot A510 review
Just posted! Our review of the 3.2 megapixel Canon PowerShot A510. This replacement for the very popular A75 offers several enhancements - most importantly a new 4x optical zoom - over its predecessor and is virtually identical to the 4.0 megapixel A520 reviewed last week.
Adobe Photoshop CS2
Adobe has launched the second version of its design, publishing and image editing program with Creative Suite 2, including Photoshop CS2. New tools include 'vanishing point', which allows you to clone, paint and transform in the perspective or your images, advanced noise reduction, optical lens correction, which corrects barrel and pincushion distortion as well as enhanced 16-bit editing. Another new feature, multi-image camera raw, allows you to process several raw images while you continue to work in Photoshop CS2. Adobe Photoshop CS2 is expected to begin shipping in late May and early June for around $599. Licensed users of any previous version of Photoshop can upgrade for $149.
April 1
Matsushita and Olympus are expected to exhibit new digital SLRs at the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show in February 2006. The interchangeable lens D-SLRs will comply with the FourThirds standard in 2006. The Japanese companies are working jointly in developing products and key components, but will market products under their own brands, which for Matsushita includes Panasonic. A joint statement says that Olympus and Matsushita are responding to what they see as a soaring global demand for digital SLRs, with shipments expected to reach 5.5m units in the year to 2007, from 2.7m in the current year to March 2005.
Epson posts P-2000 firmware v02.02
Epson has posted a firmware update for the multimedia storage viewer the P-2000. Version 02.02 of the firmware now allows the 40GB hard drive to support JPEG images captured with digital SLRs that have image sensors up to 17.8 million pixels, such as the 16.7 megapixel Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II. Other changes include the addition of a histogram and RAW file support for a number of digital SLRs and the Canon PowerShot Pro 1.