PMA 2004 (Photo Marketing Association) just wrapped up its mind-boggling trade show held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I spent two days on the expo floors (two levels) where thousands of vendors — from Axiom Connection in England to Wonder Technical Company in China — provided us with a glimpse into the immediate future of photography.
I was hoping to see more about wireless and GPS capability in upcoming consumer cameras. Nothing to report there yet. But what I did find was evolutionary refinement on nearly every front of digital photography. Here are a few examples.
- The Foveon image sensor will appear in its first consumer digicam with the Polaroid x530 camera. I was wondering if this ground-breaking technology would spread beyond Sigma’s Digital SLRs. Polaroid had a preproduction prototype on hand, but I didn’t get to shoot an actual working model. We should hear more about this in the coming months.
- Kyocera seems to have solved the nasty shutter lag problem that plagues pocketable digicams with the Contax SL300R T*. The technology is called RTUNE Image Processing, and it works. The camera powers up in less than a second, and shutter lag has been reduced to 0.07 seconds. I tried this camera and found it amazing. This model is 3.17 megapixels with a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar zoom, and is available now for $499. You can get the FineCam SL 300R version with the Kyocera zoom instead of the the Vario Sonnar for $399, and I was told they will release a 4-megapixel version of the FineCam soon.
- Olympus continues to gain momentum in the serious amateur/pro market with their new E1 Digital SLR. This is the first DSLR that uses the new 4/3 format, and the combination of pro features, sexy body, and high performance glass is turning many heads. This camera is particularly good for shooters who don’t already have an investment in Canon or Nikon glass. But look out, it is pricy.
- Keep an eye on Konica Minolta too. They announced the DiMAGE A2 at PMA that features 8 megapixels with a 28mm - 200mm optical zoom and their ground-breaking anti-shake technology. This is a tempting camera for the serious shooter. And they’ve entered the Digital SLR fray too.
Canon, Nikon, Fuji, and HP dominated the entrance to the first floor. Canon is looking very strong and should continue their momentum into this year and beyond. HP is clearly on the rise and seems to be taking a page out of Apple’s book by pushing the digital lifestyle. They have a lot of energy and a compelling product line to support the hype. You should keep on eye on them.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous weblog, Apple seems more focused on digital music than photography at the moment. They didn’t have a presence at PMA while their digital hub PC rival HP looked very strong. It feels like a missed opportunity for Apple.
I did notice however, an abundance of PowerBooks in other vendors’ booths. Seems to be a case where the customers are a little ahead of the manufacturer when it comes to digital photography on OS X. It will be interesting to watch how Apple contends with HP on this front in 2004-2005.
I also discovered many other gadgets and goodies. But I’m saving those for my upcoming digital photography book, which I hope O’Reilly will be announcing in the next month or so.