Photokina 2000
 

A report by Arnold Drapkin
and Sal DiMarco, Jr.

This was the 50th anniversary of Photokina and we will spare you statistics, but it was bigger than ever, and different, if not better. According to our trusty Eddie Bauer electronic pedometer, we averaged 10 miles a day through the 13 sprawling halls of exhibitors (1,663 firms from 45 countries) for the 5 1/2 days we were in Cologne. We can also report that the wurst and beer were up to their splendid standards.

The respected, beloved German dean of photography and founder of Photokina, 92-year-old Professor Fritz Gruber, somewhat frail of body but still of resonant voice (assisted by his lovely wife Renata), gave the opening remarks, and in a private conversation spoke warmly of the departed John Durniak.

Several overall impressions: no longer can we talk about how digital is growing. It has arrived and was omnipresent throughout Photokina. It is astonishing that the digital dominance of today was almost nonexistent at Photokina ten years ago. Nevertheless, film use is still healthy (see The Photographic Market below). Several years ago we reported on the coming convergence of digital imaging and silver halide technology. The synergies from the interaction of that dovetailing are now well underway.

Now we are beginning the convergence of imaging technology and information technology. Or, as Dan Carp, CEO of Eastman Kodak put it, "pundits predict that the Internet will be the engine driving the new economy; I would assert that the Internet is an engine that is fueled by pictures, and it will be pictures that will be propelling the new global economy, because, pictures remain the only true universal language." He went on to predict that as more of our communication devices gain the ability to capture and send images, "picture-mail" will join voicemail and email as part of our daily speech. We saw much to back up his prediction, especially in the new area of wireless transmission of images, and others agree.

The German photographic association predicts that for the general public: "pictures will outgrow their functions as souvenirs and means of artistic expression---and assume a new dimension in private communication‚§|Photography will be much more than a hobby, but an essential tool to capture and communicate visual information," and with the new technologies, "anyone who produces pictures will be able to disseminate them worldwide at once."

While the traditional companies in film and camera production (Kodak, Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Agfa, etc.) still dominated hall space, their offerings were heavily digital. Much space was taken by firms with names like Fomecon, Photo-Me Intl, Digital Portal, Applied Science Fiction, Pixel Magic, etc., that didn't exist a few years ago; electronic companies such as Sony, Panasonic, Casio, Toshiba, and Samsung; and computer, software, and peripheral companies such as Adobe, Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Epson, Lexar, SanDisk, and Wacom (just to mention some at random). A large increase in exhibitors from Mainland China (consumer oriented and nothing very original for now), and even a few from the old Soviet Union, Africa, and the Middle East.

While it appeared that money was not spared in the exhibit areas, once again promotional funds and the fancy giveaway items of yesteryear were at a new low. Only two manufacturers discreetly passed on just a roll or two of new film for test purposes after repeated requests. A few pins here and there and paper shopping bags to carry the voluminous printed promo material were it, though almost all are now producing CD-ROM press kits. Kodak's press area with its refreshments and traditional gourmet press dinner, was a welcome exception, but one had to practically promise to give up his firstborn to acquire a Kodak canvas tote bag (very useful to certain Florida beach bums).

It was physically impossible to cover the entire exhibition. We deliberately left out large areas that were not of primary concern, such as Photolab and minilab equipment (with one exception), camcorders, slide and film projectors, video post production, studio equipment and lighting, etc. (NOTE: Some of what was shown at Photokina will be at Photo East at NY's Javits Center Nov. 2 through Nov. 4.)

THE PHOTOGRAPHIC MARKET (An Overview)

In 1999 the world photographic market was valued in excess of $70 billion, a 3.7% rate of growth over 1988. The world market for analog (film) cameras increased some 3% to 67 million units, and more than 3 billion rolls of film and 300 million single-use cameras were sold (a 3% increase worldwide). Sales of digital cameras grew by more than 45% to 5.5 million units.

In 1999, Kodak's digital products and services were 17% ($2.32 billion) of its $14 billion revenue though only 1% of earnings. They project that by 2005 it will hit 45% of revenue and jump to 27% of earnings. It is obvious that there is tremendous room for digital growth, but reports of the death of film are greatly exaggerated. The amount of film processed in the U.S. increased 10.7% between June 1999 and July 2000, and also increased worldwide.

Digital technologies complement analog (film) systems and stimulate output. Very true in the photofinishing market where sales of color prints are growing steadily. Currently, around the world 2,700 cameras go "click" every second, and shutter clicks will soon pass the 3,000 per second mark. It is estimated that worldwide a total of 70 billion color prints are made annually.

The increasing market saturation of personal computers, printers, and scanners is also playing a central role in the fast expansion of digital photography. Scanner and printer sales are also soaring --the world market for printers is estimated at 60 million units and for scanners over 20 million units.

In the U.S., the amateur photo market volume was about $15 billion. Ninety percent of all households own at least one film camera, but only 6% own a digital camera. This is the target for the coming plethora of digital products aimed at the consumer that will use product design, style, color, and price to fight for market share. An interesting marketing statistic from Fuji is that two-thirds of their consumer digital sales, as well as two-thirds of their film sales, were to women.

Note: Statistics come from PMA (the U.S. Photomarketing Assoc.) and PIV (The German Photographic Industry Assoc.). They did not break out professional market figures, but historically they are a very small percentage of the totals.

THE PIXEL WARS

Like Detroit's horsepower wars of the sixties, people are asking about the pixelpower race |where will the pixel count end? We questioned all the manufacturers on this point. The consensus is that the practical level of the number of pixels you can cram on a chip, small enough for a hand-held camera, is being reached. The emphasis now will be on improving the quality of the image, i.e. the quality of the pixels on the chip, and the price points at which they can be delivered. Manufacturers are experimenting with different shaped pixels, trying to exceed present chip density limits without affecting image quality. Some say CMOS sensors (cheaper to produce) will not match CCD's for quality, but they are now in serious competition for increased resolution at lower prices. (Canon's newly released EOS D-30 is the first high-end digital SLR with a CMOS sensor and is comparatively low priced. Fuji's Finepix S-1 Pro is the first to use shaped pixels it calls "super CCD." Also see the section on Philips below.) Other major factors affecting image quality are storage and decompression, which are also being explored and improved. May the best R&D win!

Just ten years ago, Kodak showed a select few, behind the scenes, a pro digital SLR weighing several kilos with resolution of about 1 megapixel , priced at $30,000. Today's digital SLR's approach 4 megapixels, with high zoom ratios and exposure indexes, extended burst shooting, complete automation, as well as user-adjustable features and assorted bells and whistles, priced (body only, depending on features) from $3,000 to over $6,000.

RF is a buzzword you will be hearing regarding image transmission. Everyone is working on systems to find new ways to compress image data to solve the problem of transporting large quantities of data (image files) through the bottleneck of today's mobile networks. (LuraTech, we heard, has technology that should be looked into.) In photojournalism, with the use of digital cameras standard, image communication via mobile phone is part of everyday life, but relatively low data transmission rates represent a restriction. With developing standards (UTMS and/or others), it will be possible to send higher resolution images in a shorter time by mobile phone -- and, as the images are being captured, by devices built right into cameras. Underscoring their belief in RF's importance, Kodak's CEO Carp himself demonstrated their R&D version of wireless transmission from camera to computer. We predict this will be coming to market before next Photokina for both pros and amateurs. Just think, guys and gals, your picture editor, anywhere in the world, will be able to view your images almost instantly as you capture them, and maybe offer instant critiques.

FILM - Improved scan properties and better sharpness, grain, and color reproduction are the claims made for the relatively few new films being marketed. Almost all are color negative, except:

FUJI

Fuji Provia400 F (RHP III), the only new transparency film debuting. We cannot give you independent evaluation (no samples), but it is claimed to have the finest level of grain (RMS granularity of 13) of any 400 chrome film, with sharpness and image quality approaching that of ASA 100 films, and excellent reciprocity characteristics. It can be push/pull processed from 1/2 stop (ei 280) up to 3 stops (ei 3200) with minimal (they say) effect on color and contrast. They have also tested it at 3 1/2 stops (ei 4800) with "satisfactory" results, "depending on the subject." See the Fuji website for an explanation of the Super-fine Sigma Crystal Technology that makes all this possible. Fuji also has new color neg films, professional Fujicolor Press 400, 800, & 1600 and Superia X-tra 400 and 800 (and Nexia 800 for APS) with much finer grain, sharpness and contrast, they say, using a new "4th color layer" combined with their "Sigma Crystal technology." These new films are improvements on the Fuji NHG II neg films which are current favorites among many sport, newspaper, and wire service shooters. Also coming is a new 160 NPC.

AGFA

AGFA VISTA is a new line of 100, 200, 400, and an added 800, ASA color neg films with their patented "Eye-Vision technology" replacing their current HDCplus films. The new emulsions more accurately effect color perception by the human eye. This more natural color rendition is especially effective with blue and green tones and the green cast of fluorescents. They claim improved color saturation, definition, finer grain and tonal separation. The new 800 is claimed to have finer grain close to the old 400. (www.agfaphoto.com)

KODAK

KODAK also added, prior to Photokina, professional PORTRA 800 to its existing 160 and 400 neg family. Made especially for high speed, long lens, low available light situations, it can be push-processed up to two stops "with minimal impact on grain, contrast, and shadow detail." Looks like a shoot-out with the three new 800 neg films is in order.

A new professional PORTRA 100T neg film is designed for tungsten (3200K) use, especially where multiple light sources are involved. It has improved reciprocity characteristics and "virtually eliminates the need for compensating filters during long exposures." (FYI: I have used the film on TV studio sets and it is excellent. SDM Jr.) Kodak also claims "outstanding color accuracy" and "excellent skin tones."

For you large format fans they have new pre-loaded Ready Load/Single Sheet packets for easy daylight handling of a wide range of Ektachrome and negative 4x5 films. (www.kodak.com)

The development of new, improved film emulsions are due to the use of precise computer simulation. The interaction of over 100 different reagents can be exactly predetermined so that, for example, reproduction of skin tones can be exactly preset. This is one of the reasons for the improved 800 ASA emulsions and it is predicted that in the future there will be further improvements in high speed films in terms of sharpness, grain, and color reproduction -- and film with an ASA of 8000 is possible.

MORE ON KODAK - We had a private dinner with Kodak's Chief Technology Officer, Jim Stoffel, and Senior Technology Associate (old friend and former SI photographer), Richard Mackson. Among technologies beyond its traditional film business that Kodak announced it is working on, of particular interest to photojournalists, is digital watermarking that will make it possible to verify unauthorized use of images. It is designed to survive all the normal processing steps and can be cropped, compressed, and scanned without losing any of its hidden data that creates the watermark. Also in work is an OLED screen, a thin glass sheet that is sharper and brighter than conventional LCD's and can be viewed from any angle. It has applications in consumer electronics from cameras to mobile phones and the market is estimated to reach $4 billion in five years. (see News Flash at end.)

Additionally, they are active across the board in products and processes for consumer, commercial, and professional areas. These include large format inkjet printers (with new pigment inks), new lamination and adhesive materials, a visual asset management system for image service bureaus, imaging workstation solutions for portrait and wedding photographers, and a high-speed digital lab system for wholesale photofinishers capable of printing 10,000 snapshots per hour. (Other manufacturers are introducing their own improved digital labs -- this certainly shows the industry's optimism that the market for paper prints, from both digital sources and conventional film, will continue to increase.)

They also introduced a full range of snazzily designed, popularly priced consumer digital cameras. A really neat, new consumer product is the ultra-compact, weatherproof, Advantix T700 Preview Camera using APS film. A built-in preview screen on the back (like a digital camera) lets you see an image as you capture it and select print quantities for those you want to keep.

The Pro 4720 small footprint, A6 thermal dye printer that outputs multi-format prints in seconds, is worth a look. Also, the Personal Picture Makers 120 and 200 (under $299), in a joint venture with Lexmark, don't require computers. They print directly from digital camera memory cards, easily scroll through images to select, choose, size, and layout (the 200 has a small preview screen) the number of prints you want. More about these types of printers from other companies later.

Kodak's strategy appears to be sound, giving top priority to positioning itself in the digital era using its traditional businesses to fund the change. Estimating that nearly half its revenue will come from digital by 2005, they have allocated $500 million a year to digital R&D, pursuing alliances with high-tech and dot.com companies and pushing to offer more digital services online. They need to execute better and faster. (AT&T is pursuing a similar strategy trying to use long distance revenue to fund its cable broadband makeover. Unfortunately for both, revenues from traditional sources are falling faster than expected, and they are being punished by the stock market for missing their numbers. See Late News Flash at the end.)

Shortly after Photokina, Kodak announced the hiring of Ted Lewis, one of Silicon Valley's best known Web gurus, with $100 million in venture capital money to spend on start-ups with hot new technology. More importantly, according to Jim Stoffel, they intend to do it on a Silicon Valley timetable -- moving quickly to identify and leverage investments in cutting edge advances.

"A full-time pair of smart eyes in Silicon Valley is a must, with Ted's help there are things we aspire to participate in "and don't even know about," Mr. Stoffel added in a Wall Street Journal interview. Lewis will report directly to CEO Carp, working closely with Senior VP for Digital and Applied Imaging Willy Shih and Stoffel. Also announced was an investment in digital website PhotoAlley.com (to be their exclusive print processor) and a deal with Circuit City to market a how-to CD for digital camera buyers that includes software to organize photos into digital albums. Other Kodak digital services include "You've Got Pictures" in partnership with AOL, Picture CD, Kodak PhotoNet Online, and joint agreements with Internet companies Snapfish.com, ememories.com and CVS.com.

For those of you who prefer "real" film, don't worry, Kodak is continuing to work on new and improved silver halide films. (www.kodak.com)

PHILIPS SEMICONDUCTORS

Underscoring the increase in co-op ventures between the old line manufacturers and digital companies, Philips announced a joint venture with Pentax to develop an advanced processor for a 6-megapixel digital SLR, combining Pentax lenses and bodies and digital still camera chipsets. Philips is also partnering with Hewlett-Packard, which will use its newly developed 36-bit "True-Frame sensor technology" in the HP PhotoSmart 912 digital camera. They are also working on improved CMOS image sensors and just introduced their UPA1021 "SeeMos" sensor which is smaller, has higher resolution with lower power consumption, and integrates more easily with PC's. This will help in development of lower priced, smaller cameras. They predict that this sensor is not just limited to camera solutions but will help advance integration among mobile phones, PDA's, and even toys. They are not alone in these areas so you can see which way the wind is blowing. (www.philips.semiconductors.com)

POLAROID

Polaroid's mantra is to bridge instant photography to digital. One way is with the C211 (see section below on Olympus and Polaroid). Mostly, it is going to be with easy-to-use, radically restyled, digital cameras for the consumer market with price points from $60 to $300.

They also are redesigning their i-zone instant pocket cameras, the World's bestselling consumer cameras, with a sleeker profile and translucent color change faceplates (à la Apple), aimed at the trendy youth market. They will combine the i-zone with a built-in digital camera, so that Generation Y (kids and teenagers -- their market) can elect shooting an i-zone instant photo, or a 640 x 480 VGA resolution instant image. It's ready to download, email and share with friends -- or post on their new i-zone website. Their hottest new product is the "Webster," a portable, computer-mouse-size, battery operated mini-scanner. Designed to digitize i-zone mini photos (or other small objects), store 20 of them in its 2MB memory, then cable connect to a PC with Webster 30 program software and manipulate and e-mail images, or link with the i-zone website.

Just a reminder, in our last Photokina Report we made a fearless forecast at the introduction of i-zone, predicting its popularity. Now, watch the " Webster"!

An interesting statistic: Polaroid cameras of all types have a 40 percent market share in U.S. mass merchandising outlets (Wal-Mart, K-Mart, CVS, etc.).

Of interest to professionals: for digital photographers needing instant hard copy on site, the new DP-500, a compact, hand-held, mobile instant photo printer that produces high resolution Polaroid 500 size prints from CompactFlash or SmartMedia digital memory cards in about 20 seconds. It is self-powered by the batteries in the 500 film's 10-exposure back. It's another of the new printers that bypass the PC.

There is now a sixth 20 x 24-inch giant Polaroid instant camera, presently in Europe. Newly designed with increased portability, it has a separate film holder and processor rather than an integrated part of the camera, with both horizontal and vertical composition.

New printer models from Daylab, used to make instant prints from chromes, and by artists for emulsion transfer and image transfer, include the Daylab 35 (an improved version of Daylab Jr), Daylab 35 Plus (an upgrade to Daylab II), and Daylab 120 (for medium format). All have many new features, improved optics, and electronic controls.

There is a new 545 Pro Film Holder back for 4 x 5 "peel-apart" sheet film with an automatic processing timer and audio-visual signals indicating processing is complete. It has about ten new features too numerous to mention. Worth a look if you use that format.

Olympus and Polaroid will jointly produce the $800 C211 Zoom, a digital camera combined with an instant photo printer, to be marketed to real estate brokers, insurance agents, and law enforcement. It's a 2.1-megapixel camera with 1600 x 1200 resolution, a monitor to preview the color images before printing, an 8MB SmartMedia memory card, and USB connections. (www.polaroid.com)

CASIO

CASIO has several unorthodox introductions: a Dick Tracy wristwatch digital camera. With a b&w CMOS sensor, an f 2.8 lens, and 1 MB capacity (up to 100 pictures), it also tells time! It's just a little bigger than the Casio data bank watch I wear and you can transfer image data to your PC with an infrared connection.

Also new is the Casio QV2300UX LCD 2.11-megapixel digital camera with a lens that swivels 270 degrees without changing position of the body. It is preprogrammed with 28 sample images (instead of the usual icons). The camera selects the appropriate setting to match the image (landscape, portrait, etc.).

LEXAR

For the pro market, Lexar is introducing the 10X and 12X, 256MB and 320MB USB-enabled Type 1 CompactFlash digital film cards with higher capacity and faster write speeds to capture high-speed subjects. This larger storage is vital for today's high-resolution digital cameras that generate large image files. The 10X is capable of sustained write speeds up to 1.5MB/sec, the 12X up to 1.8MB/sec. List prices range from $849 for the 256MB 10X, to $1299 for the 320 MB 12X.

While digital cameras allow you to take pictures faster than ever, you cannot view them (to confirm what you've got) until the images are stored to the digital "film." These new film cards allow you to view captured images 50 percent faster (verified in a test performed for us) as well as transfer faster (850 KBps) via USB JumpShot hot-pluggable cable connecting directly to your Mac or PC.

Lexar is also starting SAYCHEESE.Com, an online information site for digital photographers, and PRINTROOM.Com, an online digital photo editing and photofinishing service with discounted pricing ($3.95 for 8 x 10 prints).

Other data storage systems are being developed: IBM via Retec showed a 1-gigabyte mini hard drive and SONY showed a digital camera with an integrated CD-ROM drive, and has a model with a Sanyo storage medium called iD Photo, which we did not see. (www.digitalfilm.com)

KIOSKS, KIOSKS & more KIOSKS

Everybody and his brother are going to put out newly designed, or upgraded, kiosks in retail areas. They will enable you to do everything from popping a roll of film in for processing to making all kinds of prints quickly and easily from original film or any image capture or storage device on the market -- or coming to market. And then enable you to store them on the internet, email them to friends and family and, as technology permits, do it wirelessly. Some are upgrades of presently existing machines while others are revolutionary.

A sampling -- SANDISK and Photo-Me Int'l, in a joint venture called Digital Portal, Inc. will manufacture silver halide processing digital photo kiosks (self vending digital photo labs) that will enable you to insert digital film flash memory cards, floppies, or CD's, edit them on a display screen, and quickly get prints on photographic paper. With Web connectivity you will also be able to upload personal photo files to the DPI portal where they can be accessed remotely by anyone with a user passkey who can select images to print immediately on the access kiosk. Using the same silver-halide process as a 1 hour photo lab (with their own patented technology), and a user-friendly interactive interface, they promise "superior" photo quality. Also a price per print matching today's cost of 1-hour prints, development of the first 4 x 6 print in 2 minutes, and an additional 20 seconds for each one thereafter.(www.sandisk.com) (www.pmimaging.com)

APPLIED SCIENCE FICTION (that's their name, for real, they are in the image enhancement and correction business) showed a revolutionary digital dry film process technology (DFP) they intend to use in a kiosk under development. DFP processes exposed, undeveloped, 35mm/APS b&w or color film, directly to RGB digital files, using a dry (no plumbing), environmentally safe process within four minutes. However, look Ma, no negatives, just digital files.

If you'e an old-fashioned mugwump who likes to keep your negatives lying around in a shoebox, you can always use the files to have a service bureau recreate negs.

The kiosk will also have a scanner that will incorporate ASF's three digital enhancement technologies: Digital ICE to remove surface scratches -- Digital ROC for color restoration, and Digital GEM to eliminate graininess. The combination of these patented innovations is called DIGITAL ICE3, and they are licensing it to Minolta and Nikon for their scanners. The kiosk will be capable of receiving prints, negatives, slides, and all digital camera media. It will output to a dye-sub print that will be coated for longevity and the system will have internet connectivity.

There are three known suppliers in the DFP program: Noritsu, Gretag, and Phogenix, the Kodak-HP joint venture. The kiosk will allegedly be on the market "next year." (www.asf.com)

Pixel Magic Imaging (PMI) will be upgrading its line of digital Photo Ditto kiosks to feature ASF's Digital ICE and Digital ROC technologies in a strategic alliance agreement with ASF.

AGFA is introducing its Agfa e-Box. It's point of sale kiosk system, accepting all leading digital data carriers (like DPI), is operated by the customer with a touch screen to generate a print order which must be sent from the e-box to a nearby minilab for printing. The e-box wins the prize for its imaginative pedestal design.

KODAK is upgrading its familiar, ubiquitous, yellow and blue Picture Maker with two new models. In addition, it will offer the Picture Maker GC, a smaller, low cost counter version.

MICROTECH showed its triple-slot PCD-47B SCSI reader/writer for use in digital photo kiosks and minilabs for image transfer. It accepts all types of digital film and memory cards on the market.

LEICA

The Sultans from Solms took a different approach this year at Photokina. They showed nothing new in the digital area. For the film-based photographers, they showed a new 28mm f/2 ASPH Summicron-M for the M-cameras. It is very light, and with aspheric lens elements, extremely sharp. Listening to their customers, they introduced a modified version of the M6 TTL camera with a .58 viewfinder. This allows the user to see the 28mm frame lines easier while wearing glasses. It will be useful to some, not to others. They now offer three different viewfinders for the M6. One will be right for you.

A compact motor drive for the M-camera was introduced. This 3 fps motor adds about a half an inch to the bottom of the camera, and the battery pack is a very convenient hand grip.

For those wanting an autoexposure M-camera -- well, it wasn't ready yet. It will be coming.

Lastly, and some say the most interesting thing Leica showed, was a recreation of the "O" series cameras in response to the latest Japanese Retro movement. If you want to know how it felt to make pictures in 1923/24, get one of these neat little toys.

They didn't show anything in the way of a digital M- or R- camera, but they are working on them. Remember, Leica is a very small company. As someone pointed out, Fuji has 400 people in its digital R&D department and Leica has a total of 60 people in R&D. Keep the faith, and you will be rewarded. (www.leica-camera.com)

Of great interest to Leica owners, from Voigtlander, the makers of the inexpensive 15mm f/4.5 Super-Wide Heliar lens, was the 12mm f/5.6 Ultra-Wide Heliar. It has an angle of view of 121 degrees (yes, you read it correctly), the widest rectilinear lens ever produced for a 35mm camera. It is a 39mm screw mount lens and will mount on a Leica M camera with the standard screw-to-bayonet adapter. With viewfinder it is expected to sell for around $1,000. (FYI: My few test shots with the 12mm were outstanding. SDM Jr.) (www.voiglaender.de)

In the interest of full disclosure we must report that the junior member of this Photokina team is an unabashed Leica user and fan.

It is also only fair to report on one of the newer and more interesting Leica knockoffs, the Konica Hexar RF. It is an auto-exposure camera with the Leica M bayonet mount (the patent ran out years ago). Originally shown at PMA in February, it was shown again, now with the promise of a 35mm f/2 lens and a 50mm f/1.2 Hexagon lens. IF you MUST have auto-exposure NOW, then get the camera. If not, wait for Leica to perfect its own version. (www.konica.co.jp/english/hexar_rf)

CANON

Of course, Canon showed its new D30 digital camera and a few new amateur lenses. The most interesting thing was the prototype telephoto lens based upon its Multi-Layer Diffractive Optical Element Technology. Simply put, it reduces the size of big telephoto lenses by 25% and makes them one-third lighter. Naturally, this system will give better chromatic aberration correction than with a fluorite element.

Canon left Dave Metz and company home, and when asked about other new products we were referred to their website. (www.usa.canon.com)

NIKON

Richard LoPinto was there, and very thoroughly briefed us, but there Wasn't too much new from Nikon. A bunch of consumer digital cameras, and a low end 35mm SLR, the F-65.

Of use to real photographers was the AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D IF-ED lens with its Silent Wave Motor. This new compact 300mm lens is touted to give superior optical performance and "swift" autofocus operation. In response to customer requests, the 300mm f/2.8D IF-ED, the 400mm f/2.8D IF-ED, the 28-70mm f/2.8D IF-ED, and the 80 to 200mm f/2.8D IF-ED lenses will be available in light-grey finish.(www.nikonusa.com)

TAMRON / BRONICA

The Bronica division of Tamron showed a neat new medium-format 6 x 4.5 rangefinder camera, the RF 645MF. It comes with three manual focus lenses each with built-in shutters (65mm f/4 normal, 45mm f/4 wide angle, and 135mm f/4.5 telephoto). There is also a dedicated strobe for the camera.

Also, Tamron introduced a 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspherical lens. Except for the speed, it seems to be a more useful range than the 28-70mm zooms currently on the market. Available for Canon AF, Nikon AF-D, Minolta AF, and Pentax AF cameras. (www.tamron.co.jp)

OLYMPUS

OLYMPUS has a compact, portable digital printer, the Camedia P-200. Battery operated, it produces a 3 x 4-inch dye sub print in 90 seconds from SmartMedia or CompactFlash cards without computer connection and is about the size of a PDA.

A good friend of Sal's recently spent some serious time with the Olympus E-10 and now raves about it as a very well designed professional tool. It is definitely worth a look.

One interesting Olympus camera is the E-100RS. This 1.5 million pixel camera can shoot up to 15 fps. So, if you want to improve your golf swing, tennis shot, or your kid's batting or pitching stance, this is the digital for you. (www.olympus.com)

SEITZ ROUNDSHOT

ROUNDSHOT has a digital version of its 360-degree panorama camera with a resolution of 1000 x 2900 pixels with image viewing on a connected notebook, along with a new camera head for 70mm film, and a shiftable connection for Mamiya 645 lenses. (www.roundshot.ch)

CONTAX / YASHICA

CONTAX came up with a great new idea in its Contax N1 autofocus SLR, and Contax N Digital, adding a fold-out LCD viewfinder (like they have on camcorders) with a 1.5-inch screen and a 330,000 pixel CMOS. It enables you to actually see the effect of exposure compensation adjustments -- brightening and dimming -- and can also switch between color and b&w to give you a better idea of what your image will look like when using either film. It also has a cable shutter release so you can operate the camera remotely while monitoring the LCD viewfinder. The rest of the camera, with its Zeiss lenses and 1/8000 sec shutter speed, are up to usual Contax standards.

Unfortunately, users of the older Contax SLR 35mm cameras (those introduced from 1974 on) CANNOT use their old lenses on either N1 or the N Digital. (www.contaxcameras.com)

HASSELBLAD / FOVEON

The Silicon Valley-based company Foveon Inc., and Victor Hasselblad AB have combined efforts to create the Hasselbald Dfinity, an extremely high quality digital camera. Foveon contributes it CMOS-based imaging engine, which by the samples we saw produced in front of us, is excellent. (None other than the charming Barbara DeMoulin, Foveon Studio Manager, gave the demo. Her husband Ray, retired as head of Kodak Professional, is Foveon's Vice Chairman.)

The Dfinity is housed in a compact camera which, at this point, takes Canon EOS lenses, and is connected to a desktop or laptop computer by an IEEE 1394 interface (Firewire). The camera is controlled from the keyboard and screen, which functions as the viewfinder computer. You can shoot every 1.5 seconds and get a 12MB file.

The Foveon "imaging engine" incorporates three sensors and a color separating prism. The prism is designed so that light entering it is split into red, green and blue components and then focused on each of the three 2K x 2K CMOS sensors.

The system will work with Windows and Macintosh support systems. Hasselblad plans to market it, starting in January 2001. (www.foveon.net) (www.hasselblad.com)

BITS & PIECES

Overlapping of functions is a further trend. There are digital cameras from several manufacturers that can also replay MP3 files (Fuji Finepix 401), and some still models provide an option for recording short video sequences.

Speaking of convergence, more and more digital camcorders are equipped to make, and store, still digital images, and one is equipped with a built-in flash unit for shooting stills. Made for Platypus fans!

NEWS FLASH -- As we were putting this report to bed, Kodak announced a radical restructuring. Trying to become nimbler in the digital age, they have consolidated their seven business units into two.

CEO Dan Carp will head a consumer imaging unit, with consumer and digital imaging reporting to him (about 60% of the company). Martin Coyne will be president of a Commercial Business Group, which accounted for $6 billion of Kodak√'s $14.1 billion in revenue last year. Formerly head of the successful health imaging unit, Coyne expanded it from $1.5 to 2.1 billion in the past 5 years and is known for his ability to move quickly and successfully toward new technologies.

Of interest to pros, Patrick Siewert, head of Kodak Professional, will now report to Coyne as part of the Commercial Business Group, along with the heads of Document Imaging, Entertainment Imaging, and Health Imaging. The Wall Street Journal characterized this as a move "geared at rejuvenating Kodak's professional division." How they handle professional digital equipment and processes between the two units remains to be seen.

Separately, they'e creating a new business unit based on its flat-panel display technology (discussed above in the Kodak section). Les Polgar, a new hire from the semiconductor industry, will head the unit.

Well, that's it until 2002 !!!