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Weekend Wrap: August 6, 2010

Weekend Wrap: August 6, 2010

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A slightly opinionated look at the week in the world of photography, in one neat little package

August 6, 2010

Manufacturer statements fuel MILC rumors; the death of Photojournalism; Sony’s NEX battery problem resolved; Samsung’s USB cam; Sigma’s steady tele zom; Rollei’s 90th; Unified Color gets serious about HDR; and Jack’s book is published!

Samsung’s Camera Keeps Plugging Away

Samsung this week announced the PL90, a compact digital camera with a built-in USB plug. It simply swings out from the bottom of the camera and you plug it into your computer to quickly and easily download still images and videos. Other features include Smart Auto (camera picks the best scene mode setting using Artificial Intelligence algorithms) and Perfect Portrait, which as you may have guessed, automatically chooses settings to improve portrait quality. The PL90 is not the first camera to sport a retractable USB plug—GE’s Create by Jason Wu line of basic compacts, introduced at PMA earlier this year, hold that honor—but at a list price of $150, it may be the least expensive.

Sigma’s Significant Tele Zoom Is Stabilized

The 70-200mm lens has traditionally been a Very Important Lens in the arsenal of serious shooters. Sigma’s latest entry in this popular category is an optically stabilized 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM, which the company says is available now; in fact, it is currently available in most mounts through Adorama and replaces the older non-stabilized version. In addition to stabilization, the lens offers Sigma’s new “F” low dispersion (FLD) lens glass, which is said to reduce chromatic distortion and flare, and has a Hyper Sonic Motor, which Sigma says is faster and quieter while offering full-time manual focus override. It’s available in Sigma, Nikon, Sony/Minolta, Canon, and Pentax mounts.

MILC’s Futures are Rising

I’m going to make a bold prediction: By this time next year, every camera maker will have a MILC (mirrorless interchangeable lens compact) camera on the market. Panasonic, Olympus, Samsung and Sony already have them. Who’s next?
Nikonrumors  got hold of Nikon’s patent application for a mirrorless interchangeable-lens compact camera, including several drawings. A few interesting possible features: A mirror-based electronic viewfinder that magnifies the reflected image; some kind of protective mount cover which would protect the sensor from dust when changing lenses; an electronic shutter, not a mechanical one; and most likely, a new lens mount. Of course, what's in a patent application does not necessarily end up on the finished product but this sounds exciting.

Canon is hinting that it will see no EVIL. Instead, the company is hinting it will shrink its DSLRs so they are in the compact range. The head of Canon’s Communications Products division, Masaya Maeda, was quoted by Reuters saying “It’s not a question of whether or not you have a mirror. There is a consumer need for good-quality cameras to be made smaller. We will meet this need.” This statement seems to be intentionally vague. Canon is keeping the guessers on their toes.

Pentax, on the other hand, has made it clear that it is planning to get into the MILC market, but they’re going to do it their way and not necessarily with a “me-to” camera. Citigroup wrote this week in its Hoya earnings call report that “Hoya plans to release a mirrorless camera under Pentax brand that is distinct from models already on the market.” A tantalizing tidbit, but that’s all we’ve got so far.

Photojournalism’s Futures are Falling

Neil Burgess declared that Photojounalism died on Monday. He is in a position to know: A former Magnum bigwig, Burgess wrote in the latest edition of the Editorial Photographers of the United Kingdom & Ireland’s web site  (right) that “magazines and newspapers are no longer putting any money into photojournalism” and that “Even when photographers create brilliant stories and the magazine editors really want to publish them, they cannot pay a realistic price for the work,” and “magazine supplements offer me less for a story which might be used over a cover and eight pages than their associated papers pay me for a single picture of a celebrity.”

Pretty discouraging stuff, and after attending the NAPP Northern Short Course back in March I believe that while Burgess may be taking an extreme position (perhaps, ironically, to grab an attention-getting headline?)  there is much truth to what he says. Certainly, editorial budgets for traditional print outlets are shrinking at an alarming rate, and web sites simply don’t pay enough. There is plenty of great photojournalism out there, but the photographers are having a tough time making a living at it. Have we reached the age of the “starving photojournalist”? 

Sony’s NEX Batteries Are Not Failing (It’s a Firmware Glitch)

Owners of Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 cameras have been complaining about short battery life and, according to the company, many users think they have defective batteries. The batteries are fine, but the firmware isn’t, which is why the “3D Sweep Panorama” firmware update announced last month is so important, even if you never plan on using that feature. Among Sony’s NEX-3/NEX-5 firmware update’s improvements is decreased power drain when the camera is switched off. So if you’ve got an early NEX, go update your firmware! (Note: The firmware update is currently available for Windows only; a Mac version is “under development” so if you have a Mac, make friends with a Windows user.)

Download Firmware Version 0.2 for the NEX-3  or NEX-5.

Rollei Turns 90 

Rollei is in a position to tell you that a lot can happen in nine decades. The brand, which turned 90 this week, has gone through many changes, evolving from a high-end camera maker to a licensed brand name that has found its way onto compact digital cameras such as the Flexline 140, a modestly-priced 10MP model (right).


That’s a far cry from its vaunted lineup of pro medium-format cameras of days gone by. The Rollei brand is now owned by RCP Technik GmbH, which acquired the company in May 2007. But many photographers still treasure such classic cameras as the super-compact (for its time) Rollei 35, the 2.8F TLR Twin-Lens Reflex (left), and the medium-format SL66 SLR.

Happy 90th, old friend!

Unified Color’s 32 Bit Float Photoshop Plug-in Gets Serious

Our resident HDRI expert, Jack Howard, reports the following: Unified Color has been busy since we first reported on their HDR PhotoStudio 2 standalone program this spring ( . They've released a new standalone HDR generation and 32-bit editing program, HDR Expose, which inherits all the tools of HDRPS into a much more more slick interface.  And now they've just announced 32 Bit Float, a 32-bit Photoshop Plug-in that works inside CS3, CS4 and CS5 which offers a bunch of Unified Color's powerful 32-bit color spacetools for your HDR files generated in Photoshop, Photomatix or any other HDR generation program. These guys are serious new players in the HDRI scene, and their tools are great for creating photorealistic HDRI images.

Practical HDRI, 2nd Edition Is Released
(You might recognize the author’s name)

Speaking of Jack, Rocky Nook has just released Practical HDRI, 2nd Edition, by none other than Adorama’s own Blogger-In-Chief and (as noted above) resident HDRI expert, Jack Howard! The book, which you can buy from Amazon, includes information for Photoshop CS5 users and leading HDR software, including Photomatix Pro, FDRTools, Dynamic Photo HDR and HDR PhotoStudio.


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