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June 2005 news and reviews

June 30

Amateur photographers in the UK are being invited to capture digital photographs of Britain's rural, urban and human landscapes to help to build a picture of Britain. The competition is being run in conjunction with a BBC4 series 'A Digital Picture of Britiain' presented by professional photographer Tom Ang. As well as the chance to win £500 worth of photographic equipment, winning entries may be featured in a Photographic Masterclass presented by Tom Ang on BBC interactive TV. They may also be exhibited at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Yorkshire in September 2005. You can catch A Digital Picture of Britain on Sunday 3 July at 10pm.

Olympus Zuiko Digital Fish Eye lens

Olympus has announced a new 8mm F 3.5 Zuiko Digital fisheye lens for its E-system digital SLRs offering a 180 degree angle of view. The lens has a special multi-layer coating designed to reduce susceptibility to ghosting and flaring and its ED element will help keep chromatic aberration to a minimum. It also offers 2 cm macro mode. The optional PPO-EO4 underwater lens port will allow you to take ultra-wideangle pictures 40 meters under the water's surface. It will be available in January 2006 at a price yet to be set.

June 29
Nikon Coolwalker firmware update v1.3
Nikon has updated the firmware for its portable image viewing and storage device the Coolwalker MSV-01. Version 1.3 for Windows and Mac users corrects a problem that occurred with images taken by the Nikon D2X, D2Hs (TIFF files) and the Coolpix 8800 and Coolpix 8400 (JPEG files); the images would not fill the whole screen in full-screen playback. Another problem that prevented the display of JPEGs taken with the D50 at an image size setting of 'S' has also been corrected. There was also a problem for Mac users - the Coolwalker was not correctly recognized by computers running Mac OS X.
June 27
Samsung Electronics is to develop a 5MP QSXGA CMOS image sensor (CIS) by the end of the year, according to the EE Times. The company says the image sensor measures light sensitivity 50% better than previous designs and is 30% smaller than other models with a similar resolution. The CIS will perform as well as a CCD, but will use less power and be more competitively priced. Samsung has already developed a 3.2 megapixel chip for use in camera phones, which will be launched early next year.
Nikon posts PictureProject software v1.5.2
Nikon has today posted an update for its image management, edit and design software program PictureProject. Version 1.5.2 corrects a problem that prevented proper display of layouts as well as several problems that occurred with CD and DVD burning. It also corrects a problem when NEF+JPEG Basic Images capture with the D50 were opened in PictureProject, which caused differences in brightness between the RAW image and the corresponding JPEG image.
June 24
Toshiba to challenge Lexar trade secrets verdict

Toshiba is set to consider a 'legal response' after the verdict from a Californian jury, which ordered the company to pay Lexar $465.4 m following theft of trade secrets and punitive damages, Reuters reports. The news was announced by the head of Toshiba, Tadashi Okamura, at the annual shareholders' meeting. Toshiba was found guilty in March of theft of trade secrets relating to NAND flash chips used in CompactFlash cards, Secure Digital and xD-Picture Cards. Okamura told Reuters, "We developed the NAND flash-related technology on our own. The ruling is totally unjust and we would like to consider a legal response."

June 23
Just posted! Adobe Photoshop CS2 Review
Just posted! Our 'In a Nutshell' review of Adobe Photoshop CS2. The latest version of the most popular digital imaging application features numerous improvements aimed squarely at the digital photographer, in our review we have focused primarily on these improvements and new features. This review was written by site contributor and author of the 123 of digital imaging, Vincent Bockaert.

Nikon has announced an software update to Nikon View. Version 6.2.6 adds support for RAW images captured by the D50 and the red-eye correction function can now be used on RAW and 16-bit TIFF images. Another problem that occurred was that RAW files could not be opened in Nikon Capture 2 if they were rotated in Nikon View 6.2.x.

Canon posts EOS-1D/s Mark II firmware updates
Canon has today posted two firmware updates for two of its digital SLRs. Firmware version 1.2.3 for the EOS-1D Mark II and version 1.1.3 for the EOS-1Ds Mark II fixes the previous firmware problem which meant that when the display button was pressed right after shooting images the camera would freeze and would result in an abnormal display.
June 22
Nikon Imaging established in China

Nikon has announced the opening of a new subsidiary in China called Nikon Imaging, which will initally employ 50 people to develop the imaging business in the country. The new enterprise, which opened June 20, endeavors to increase sales of digital cameras by directly importing and wholesaling imaging products such as digital cameras. The workforce is expected to rise to around 120 after a year and the company has a sales target of ¥10 billion for the first fiscal year and approximately ¥33 billion after three years.

June 21
Just posted! Canon PowerShot S2 IS review
Just posted! (A little later than we'd hoped - this one took a long time!) The PowerShot S2 IS is Canon's much-anticipated successor to the hugely popular S1 IS, bringing it in line with the rest of the increasingly competitive 5 megapixel big zoom market. The good news is that the S2 is no 'minor upgrade' - almost every aspect of the S1's specification and performance has been improved or refined, the body is entirely new and some of the most serious problems found on the original model have been addressed. But is it enough? Find out what we thought after the link...
June 20
Nikon posts Coolpix 8800 and Coolpix 8400 firmware updates
Nikon has today posted firmware version 1.7 for the 8 megapixel Coolpix 8800 and version 1.5 for the Coolpix 8400. The firmware addresses a number of issues; the shutter releases immediately when using the self-timer and remote control together and the self-timer can now be used with certain scene modes including fireworks, museum and sports. Both cameras can now use 6GB Microdrives. Problems caused by selecting Quick response for the Release speed option have also been rectified.
June 16
Kodak to end production of black & white paper
As a direct result of the popularity of digital and further evidence that Kodak is dedicating its future to the digital market, it will soon end its century-old tradition of producing black and white photographic paper, according to Associated Press. The demand for the paper, specially designed for black and white film and used by fine-art photographers, has declined by 25% annually. The decision to end black and white paper production will mean the closure of its plant in Brazil and takes the company closer to its target of cutting around 15,000 of its workforce 2007.
June 15
Microsoft has today made their RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer PowerToy available for download. This utility provides for viewing of Canon (CRW & CR2) RAW and Nikon (NEF) RAW files as well as TIFF images and other standard image formats (BMP, GIF, PNG, JPEG etc.). The utility is split into a Windows XP shell extension which provides preview / edit / print commands for RAW files as well as a RAW viewer application. It weighs in as a 47 MB download!
June 14
Fuji FinePix F10 Zoom underwater housing

Fuji has just announced an underwater housing for its '24-hour' camera, the six megapixel FinePix F10 Zoom that is waterproof up to a depth of 40 meters. The polycarbonate housing, which will be hard to lose with its bright orange coloring, offers full operational functionality underwater and the package includes a strap, spare o-ring and maintenance guide. The suggested retail price is around £149.

Nikon Capture v4.3

Nikon has announced an update to its RAW conversion and image management program. As well as adding support for the Nikon D50, Nikon Capture version 4.3 now adds color aberration control, red eye correction and improves processing for NEF files. The new color aberration tool automatically reduces the appearance of color fringing. The multi image window, which displays thumbnails and allows simultaneous editing of multiple images, is now easier to use; names of preferred folders can be changed to something the user finds easier to remember.

June 13
Microsoft announces beta version of graphics application Acrylic

Microsoft has issued a beta version of a new illustration, painting and graphics application program code named Acrylic. The news was first announced by CNET, which says the software is based on graphics application Expression, which Microsoft acquired with its purchase of Hong Kong-based company Creature House. Acrylic will only be available for Windows XP, despite Expression being available for Apple Macs before the purchase.

Fujifilm posts FinePix F10 Zoom firmware v1.02
Fujifilm has today posted firmware version 1.02 for the FinePix F10 Zoom. The new firmware corrects English displayed on the LCD and updates the compatibility of the PictBridge function with some printers. It has also rectified the error that would not allow some computers to start up when the F10 was connected and powered up.
June 10
Just posted! Casio Exilim, EX-Z750 review
Just posted! The Casio EX-Z750 models joins such as the Canon SD500 and Sony DSC-P200 in one of the most fiercely competitive sectors of the market and offers by far the largest feature set in its class. It has a plethora of 'Best Shot' scene modes (30 in total), full photographic control, MPEG-4 movies, in-camera special effects and basic image editing and long battery life. So is this the 7 megapixel, 3x zoom compact by which others will be judged or an over-specified novelty piece? Read our concise review after the link to find out..
Lexar offers replacement for 80x CF cards

Lexar has issued a customer advisory regarding its Professional 80x speed CompactFlash cards (512MB - 4GB) following the news that there was a problem, described as 'lost image condition', when used with certain Canon digital SLRs. Lexar is now proposing to replace the affected cards. Owners must fill out a Return Materials Authorization (RMA) form and once they have received an RMA number, they will be sent a replacement Lexar card with the firmware installed. It is not possible to install the firmware. Affected cameras include the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, 1D Mark II, 20D and Digital Rebel XT/350D/Kiss Digital N.

June 9
Casio Exilim EX-S500
Casio has added to its Exilim Card range with the super slim EX-S500. The 5 megapixel camera is 13.7mm at its thinnest point (excluding protrusions). Despite only having a 3x optical zoom, the S500 features Anti-Shake DSP and also has a 2.2-inch LCD. Movie capture is 640x480 at 30fps and there's also a Past Movie funtion, which enables recording five seconds before the shutter button is pressed. The stainless steel-bodied camera is available in meister gray, fiesta orange and nordic white in July (Europe) priced £299.99.
June 7
Zigview LCD that attaches to viewfinders

A new device is being marketed by UK distribution company Intro2020 that allows you to view the scene in the viewfinder on an LCD. The Zigview monitor attaches to your SLR's viewfinder where the image is captured by the CMOS sensor inside it and relayed in real time to the 1.9-inch TFT. The Zigview works with most digital and film SLRs and is supplied with an eyepiece adapter for common Nikon, Canon and Fuji cameras. Adapters for other cameras will cost £6.99. The Zigview monitor will retail for around £119.99.

June 6
Lexar LockTight tested
Lexar announced their LockTight technology back in February. LockTight is essentially an encryption and access control system which ensures that 'locked' CompactFlash cards can not be used in unauthorized cameras or read by unauthorized users on any computer but your own (and with the correct username and password). We've had an opportunity to test a Beta version of the LockTight software, card and card reader with our review Nikon D2X. UPDATE: We have received a clarification about how exactly the encryption is carried out. (2nd update)
Olympus to cut camera production costs

Olympus is to cut production for digital camera costs by 30% due to fierce competition, reports Bloomberg. The news follows earlier announcements that Olympus, the world's fourth largest camera manufacturer, is to cut 4,000 jobs, 13% of its global workforce. The long term aim is to recover some profit after Olympus reported its first ever annual loss last month. The job cuts will save the company around ¥3 bn. Bloomberg says Olympus expects shipments of digital cameras to rise from 8.9m to 9.5m this year with the release of two SLRs aimed at pros and serious amateurs.

June 3
Samsung Digimax V800

Just as soon as we review a camera, it's 'evolutionized' and a new one is launched. The new camera is the Samsung Digimax V800, successor to the recently reviewed Digimax V700. As suggested by its name it boasts one million more pixels than the V700 taking it to 8 megapixels, and, as seems popular with Samsung's recent launches, the V800 sports a large 2.5-inch LCD. The Digimax V800 can record high quality movies (VGA @ 30 fps) with stabilization and a pause function. It also boasts manual control, Schneider-Kreuznach lens and a 32MB built-in memory.

June 2
Samsung launches three 5 megapixel cameras

The final three 5 megapixel cameras to be launched by Samsung are in the A series. First up is the beginner-friendly fixed-lens Digimax A502, which has four scene modes and a 1.8-inch LCD. The Digimax A55W and Digimax A50 (pictured) sport almost identical spec, although the former has a 5x zoom and the latter has a 3x zoom. Features include in-camera video editing, 2.5-inch LCD, 32MB built-in memory, MPEG 4 movie mode and auto macro function (2cm A55W / 5cm A50). The also offer PictBridge compatibility and an Album feature for categorizing and saving your images.

Samsung Digimax L55W and L50
Samsung has announced five 5 megapixel cameras today in a bid to 'drive penetration of this important sector'. The first two introduce a new L series in the shape of the L50 and the wideangle Digimax L55W. The metal-bodied L55W sports the biggest LCD on a compact Samsung camera at 2.8 inches. It has a 28 - 135 mm lens(4.8x zoom), 2cm macro function and MPEG 4 movie mode. The L50 is pocket-sized and has a 3x optical zoom, and MPEG 4 movie mode which you can pause. You can also use the zoom during recording but if you do so you will lose the sound..
Samsung Pro815 officially announced
Samsung has officially announced its first SLR-styled digital camera, the Pro815, an 8 megapixel 15x zoom model. It's targeted at enthusiasts and boasts a lot of 'world firsts' including the largest LCD on a digital camera at 3.5 inches, world's longest zoom on a high end camera and world's largest capacity lithium ion battery. The fully manual Pro815 sports a Schneider-Kreuznach lens and boasts a color data LCD screen for waist-level shooting, 2.5fps continuous mode and ISO 800. High speed mode allows steady shooting at the long end of the zoom. It's due to ship in August and will cost approximately £600 ($849).
Nikon's NEF files supported by Windows

Nikon has announced a collaboration with Microsoft which will allow easy access to its raw NEF files in current and future versions of Windows. The project is intended to make NEF more widely accessible through current and future versions of Windows, which is ironic considering that just a few weeks ago it emerged that Nikon had encrypted white balance data in its NEF files which meant it could not be read by Adobe Camera RAW. The next version of Windows, Longhorn, will offer enhanced native support. Microsoft and Nikon have previously worked together producing Microsoft's RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer for Windows XP.

June 1
Just posted! Nikon D2X review
Just posted! Our full in-depth review of Nikon's flagship 12 megapixel D2X digital SLR. The D2X, the official successor of the 2001 D1X, offers more than twice the number of effective pixels, the brand new 'D2' body and a host of unique features. One feature which stands out is the unique high-speed crop mode which provides a seven megapixel image and a shooting rate of eight frames per second. See how the D2X performed and how it compared to the competition, read our 29-page review!
Pentax *ist DL
Pentax today announced the *ist DL. This 'new' camera is essentially the same as the *ist DS but with a few feature changes and specification reductions. We can only assume that this new model will allow Pentax to push the price of their 'most affordable' digital SLR even lower. Primary differences include Auto ISO, removal of 11-area AF, a penta-mirror viewfinder with lower magnification and a larger LCD monitor.

Following severe financial problems, Leica shareholders met yesterday to discuss the future of the company. The company aims to reorient its corporate structure to achieve a sales volume of around €100 million in the near future. It aims to simplify capital reduction, increase the share capital against contributions in cash and a creation of authorized capital. Dr. Josef Spichtig, chairman of the board of management of Leica Camera AG, described these measures as being “indispensable for the existence of the Company”. Leica Camera Group recorded a 21% sales decline from €119.1 million to €93.7 million, year ending March 31. The measures take into account operating losses of around €13 million for the next financial year (2005/2006). For the subsequent fiscal year, 2006/2007, the company aims to break even. Dr Spichtig, said he intended to continue the photo and sports optic units as well as Leica M and Leica R camera systems and compact cameras as 'co-operation products'.

HP Photosmart R817 and R818

HP has today announced two 5.1 megapixel, 5x zoom cameras in the shape of the Photosmart R817 and R818. From the official press release the pair seem to have identical spec including a 2" LCD, 15 shooting modes, plus the new theatre mode, and shutter and aperture priority. Both feature HP technologies such as the new in-camera panorama stitching, which can stitch together five photos, adaptive lighting and in-camera red-eye removal. The one main difference is that the R817 is available in silver, while the R818 comes with a dark midnight gray metallic finish. The R817 will ship in July and is available with (£349) or without a docking station (£299). The R818 comes bundled with the HP Photosmart R-series docking station for £399 and will ship in August. The new HP Photosmart Scuba/Underwater Camera Case can be used for either camera and is waterproof to a depth of 40m.

Microsoft has today announced native support for various RAW file formats in its next version of Windows, known as Longhorn. In addition the 'Microsoft RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer' will also be available for Windows XP. "The explosion in popularity of digital photography on Windows continues to progress and evolve as consumers discover the quality benefits of digital camera RAW," said Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of Windows Digital Media at Microsoft. "By working with industry leaders to extend support for RAW in Windows, we are removing the obstacles for consumer use of RAW and enabling a seamless platform for the next era of digital imaging innovation."
Canon EOS 20Da for the rest of us
Canon has today announced that its specialized EOS 20Da which was at first introduced as a Japan Only model will now be available in the rest of the world. The EOS 20Da is identical to the EOS 20D except for a modification to the low-pass filter. This camera is best suited to astrophotography as well as InfraRed photography (not according to Canon USA). It would be possible to use it as a normal camera but would require an external IR cut filter. In addition the camera has a partially transmissive mirror which enables live focusing on the LCD monitor (this can only be done for short times and requires the mirror to be locked up). Pricing has not yet been announced. UPDATE: It is expected to be priced £1,829.99 (€2,549.99).