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November 2005 news and reviews

November 28
Just posted! Canon PowerShot A620 review
Just posted! The seven megapixel Canon PowerShot A620 (along with the 5MP A610, launched simultaneously) replaces the popular A95, and joins the A520 as an affordable, well-specified compact for the enthusiast user on a budget. The A620 certainly looks promising on paper; newly kitted out with the fast DIGIC II processor and a 2.0-inch LCD, it has a wealth of shooting options and 4x optical zoom. Read the concise review after the link to find out what we thought.
November 23
Olympus ME-1 Eyecup Magnifier

Olympus has announced a new accessory for the Four Thirds digital SLR, the E-500, in the shape of the ME-1 Eyecup Magnifier. The device increases the performance of the camera's viewfinder by 1.2 times and is said to enable easier focusing and framing. The eyecup has two lenses and measures 40x30x12mm. It is available next month at a price yet to be confirmed and will also fit the E-300.

November 22
Focusing after the shot, the plenoptic camera
Ren Ng, graduate student at Stanford University has developed a hand-held plenoptic camera which takes a shot first and allows you to make the decision about focus point in software after the event. The prototype camera is actually a Contax 645 with a modified Megavision FB4040 back (sixteen megapixel). The back has had an array of 90,000 microlenses mounted in front of the sensor (with a gap between the array and the sensor). These microlenses create a unique image on the sensor surface which includes not only the amount of light deposited at that location, but how much light arrives along each ray. The image is then reconstructed in software and a focus point can be chosen. Note that the final resolution is the same as the number of microlenses.
Sigma 170-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG
Sigma has announced a new telephoto lens in the shape of the 170-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG. The lens features multi-layer coating, aspherical lenses, SLD glass and rear focus s
Olympus to reduce digital compact production
Olympus plans to reduce production of compact digital cameras in favor of digital SLRs in a bid to boost profitability, reports Reuters. The Tokyo-based company is simply responding to a fast-growing DSLR market which offers higher profit margins. Sales of compact cameras currently account for around 72% (2004), and the company aims to cut this to 40% in five years' time. Olympus hope that DSLRs will make up 30% of its sales in five years, up from 3% last year. Olympus response inside.
Konica Minolta updates for A1 and A2

Konica Minolta has announced firmware updates for the five megapixel Dimage A1 and the eight megapixel A2. Version 1.1.3 (A1) and 1.1.4 increases the writing speed of the memory card and USB transfer speed. The A1 was first announced in August 2003, making it over two years old and its predecessor, the A2, was launched in February the year after. Both cameras feature an Anti-Shake CCD, whereby the CCD is stabilized, rather than the lens element, which is designed to counteract camera shake.

DALSA chips power Leaf backs
Semiconductor and electronics company DALSA has announced two new 33 and 28 megapixel CCD chips that will be used to power Leaf's digital camera backs. The 33 megapixel FTF5066 will be used in the Leaf Aptus 75 back and produce files of around 200MB in size, while the FTF6146 28 megapixel DALSA chip will be used in the Aptus 65 back. The 33 megapixel chip is available now and the 28 megapixel chip will ship in early 2006.
Sigma 135 - 400mm DG lens

Sigma has announced a new telephoto lens to add to its DG range with the 135 - 400mm F4.5-5.6 optic. The multi-layered-coated lens, designed to reduce flare and ghosting, has SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements that provide correction for all types of aberration throughout the entire zoom range. Its rear focus system ensures high performance stability and ease of use. The price will be £479.99.

November 21
Just posted! Olympus SP-310 review
Just posted! At the end of August 2005 Olympus added the 7 megapixel SP-310 to its 'SP' range of 'creative compacts'. The SP-310 - on paper at least - offers a compelling mix of point-and-shoot ease of use and advanced photographic features - including RAW capture - at a very competitive price point. But is it any good? Read the concise review after the link to find out.
November 17
Iomega Screenplay - killer app (not)
Iomega has announced its portable Screenplay device, a $220 unit which features a 60 GB hard disk for storage of multimedia content and can be directly connected to a TV for playback. While primarily aimed at movie playback the Screenplay of course also supports Photo's in JPEG format and so could be used a take anywhere photo album for slideshows etc. The Screenplay connects to your computer via USB 2.0 (for file transfer) and then to your TV via composite or S-video (NTSC or PAL), it also comes with a remote control. However it's still NOT the killer app. I'm thinking of something with nearer 250 GB of storage, is designed to be a 'living room appliance', has LAN and Internet connectivity and features such as direct print ordering. For some whoever the Screenplay may be a handly little device useful for transporting albums of photos for display (and it would need to be made by a household name too).
Hands-on with the D200 next week
If you're in the UK there's an opportunity for you to get your hands on the new Nikon D200 next week at the free Solutions Expo. The expo will be held at the Olympia Conference Centre, London next Tuesday and Wednesday (22nd - 23rd November). Other highlights of the conference are sessions on Apple Aperture, Adobe Photoshop, Asset management, Stock Photography and even Color Space.
Leica weathering the storm?
Leica has announced a growth in sales of 6.7% in the first half of this financial year compared to the same period last year. This growth however is thanks mostly to its binoculars, scopes and rangefinders division. Sales of analogue and compact digital cameras actually fell by 55.6% to €4.2 million, reading between the lines Leica look as though they're pinning a lot on the D-LUX 2 (AKA. Panasonic LX-1) being a good seller this Christmas.
Qimage v2006.200
Mike Chaney has contacted us to let us know he's just released the latest version of his excellent Qimage application. For those who haven't come across it before Qimage started life as a quality photo printing tool and has since grown into a 'swiss army knife' of imaging with everything from thumbnail browsing (even in 3D) to batch conversion and e-mail. If you've not tried it before do yourself a favour, and if you have you need to download this new release as soon as possible (Windows only).
November 12
Just posted! Canon EOS 5D Review
Just posted! Our review of one of the most anticipated cameras of the year, the full frame twelve-point-eight megapixel Canon EOS 5D. This camera becomes the first compact digital SLR (not having a vertical grip) to feature a full frame sensor (same size as 35 mm negative), it also adds spot metering, Picture Style parameters and a big 2.5" LCD monitor among other improvements. Depending on your opinion the EOS 5D can be seen as a mid-priced semi-professional D-SLR or an affordable full-frame D-SLR (the first below $4,000). Our review is far more extensive and detailed than any before it, so dive in and see what we thought of Canons latest.
November 11
Adobe post Camera RAW 3.3 Beta
Adobe has today posted the Adobe Camera RAW 3.3 Beta plug-in for Photoshop CS2 (ACR). This RAW converter / importer is well respected and has become the standard for many photographers. Version 3.3 Beta adds support for several new camera models including the Canon EOS 5D, EOS-1D Mark II N, Olympus E-500, Pentax *ist DL & DS2 and the Sony CyberShot DSC-R1. There are also several improvements including newly tuned demosaic algorithms, improved redraw speed and "legacy" IPTC support. Note that the converter is still considered to be in 'Beta' form.
November 8
Just posted! Canon PowerShot S80 Review
Just posted! A little over a year after the launch of the 7 megapixel PowerShot S70, Canon revealed its replacement, the S80, which an extra million pixels and a few new features - including the latest DIGIC II processor. It's smaller and lighter than the S70 yet it packs a much larger (2.5") wide viewing angle LCD, a control wheel / 4-way controller, XGA video capture, USB 2.0 High-speed and even more external controls, though raw capture has been dropped. So is the S80 a worthy successor to the well-respected S70? To find out check out our 'concise' review after the link.
Nikon recalls some EN-EL3 batteries
Nikon USA and Europe have both issued an advisory asking owners of cameras with the model EN-EL3 Lithium-Ion battery to return them for exchange. This battery was included with the Nikon D50, D70 and D100 as well as sold as an accessory. Apparently some affected batteries can short out and overheat. Nikon has published a list of 'lot numbers' of the affected batteries, at the moment we only have information from Nikon USA and Europe, if you live in other regions you should check with your local distributor.
Nikon D2X / D2Hs firmware v1.01
Nikon has today released new firmware for the D2X and D2Hs digital SLRs. Firmware version 1.01 includes improvements to autofocus performance, resolves an issue with the AF-assist illuminator on certain Speedlights, resolves a flash sync issue with the SB-800 Speedlight, improves preset white balance and corrects errors in menus when the Dutch language is selected. UPDATE: Firmware now available with English instructions on the Nikon Asia website.
November 7
Cypress 9 megapixel APS size CMOS
Cypress Semiconductor has announced the CYIHDSC9000AA, a new 9 megapixel APS size CMOS image sensor. In 2004 Cypress acquired FillFactory, the Belgian company behind the IBIS4-14000, the 14 megapixel CMOS sensor used in the Kodak DCS 14n, SLR/c and SLR/n. Interesting features of this new sensor are its lack of microlenses and its low-cost design. Output image size is stated as 3710 x 2434 (9.0 million pixels) and the sensor has a pixel pitch of 6.4 µm. Lets hope we see this sensor in a compact camera with a large diameter high quality lens.
November 4
Wacom wide format Pen Tablet

Wacom has announced the world's first wide-format pen tablet for use with widescreen displays and dual monitors. The Intuos3 6x11 tablet is specifically designed for photographers, designers and artists who are using multiple displays. The tablet has programmable ExpressKeys and Touch Strips, and the cordless battery-free Grip Pen offers 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Adobe Photoshop Elements 3, Corel Painter Essentials 2, nik Color Efex Pro 2 IE and Wacom Brushes 2 are bundled with the pen tablet. It is expected to retail for $389.95.

November 2
Sharp 10 megapixel 1/1.7 CCD
As if noise and detail levels weren't bad enough from the latest batch of digital cameras based around the 8 megapixel Sharp CCD they've today announced one that crams even more pixels into tiny package. The RJ21W3BA0ET is a ten megapixel 1/1.7" CCD with 3766 horizontal and 2801 vertical pixels (total) and a pixel pitch of just 2.05 µm. We always kind of hope that the next compact sensor announcement will have some real innovation like higher sensitivity and lower noise but it appears as though market forces just want 'more megapixels'.
November 1
Nikon D200, 10.2 mp, Exclusive Preview
Nikon has today announced (not to everyones surprise) the Nikon D200, a ten-point-two megapixel digital SLR with professional features and build quality in a compact body. From a features and functionality point of view the D200 is much closer to the D2X than the D100. Highlights are a magnesium-alloy body, an 11-area AF sensor, 3D Color Matrix Metering II, 5 frames per second continuous shooting, 2.5" LCD monitor, USB 2.0, 1/250 sec X-sync plus WiFi and GPS support. The D200 is about 100g heavier than the D100 but 240g lighter than the D2X. Best of all is the price, body-only, $1,849 in the US. We have a full detailed hands-on preview of the Nikon D200 available now.
Nikon DX VR 18-200 mm F3.5-5.6G Zoom
Nikon has today announced an impressive 11.1x DX format optical zoom lens with Vibration Reduction. The AF-S DX VR 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G IF-ED Zoom-Nikkor (try saying that three times quickly) provides an equivelant field of view range of 27 to 300 mm on a DX format digital SLR (such as the newly announced D200). In addition to the big zoom range you get a silent wave motor for high speed focusing and Vibration Reduction II (pretty essential at 300 mm equiv.). It is expected to be around €749 and should be available at 'the end of December 2005'.
Nikon Remote Speedlight and Commander
Nikon has today announced the new remote Speedlight SB-R200 and Command Unit SU-800. Aimed primarily at close-up and macro photography, these units combine to make a wireless flash system, the SU-800 commander unit can be combined with SB-R200 Speedlight (or other compatible Speedlights) in up to three groups. Nikon is selling these components separately but also as Macro kits, which include one command unit and two SB-R200 Speedlights.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9
Sony has today announced the newest addition to its slimline T range in the shape of the six million pixel Cyber-shot T9. As well as offering one million more pixels than the T7, the previous incarnation, it also offers a better macro mode of 1cm. The T9 maintains the large 2.5-inch LCD in favor of a viewfinder, has the same sliding up/down lens, but all the controls have been shifted on to the right hand side of the back plate, including the zoom rocker lever which was previously found on the top of the camera. The Sony Cyber-shot T9 comes in silver or black. Apologies but we have no further information as we have not received full specifications or a press release from Sony.