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Lots of news, most of it good, some of it amazing
The reason there was so much new product news over the past week or so was that, while PMA has now been relegated to the status of CES sideshow, there's another photo trade show that seems poised to take its place. It's called CP+ (The Camera & Photo Imaging Show), and it took place this week in Japan. The big announcements camera makers usually saved for PMA were made here.
But the news this week didn't stop at CP+, with big (if not unexpected) announcements from key photo companies. Let's look at the week that was:
1. Kodak stops making cameras (Don't worry: They're still making film)
It's official: Over 100 years after changing the world by bringing photography to the masses via the Brownie (right; photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons), Kodak is getting out of the camera business. Between the company's recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the surge of smart phones as the compact camera of choice, it was a wise decision. It's too bad: Their line of pocket camcorders are quite good...pick one up before it goes away! Don't worry, though: Kodak promises they will still make accessories and hopefully will continue producing the Leica M9's sensor—and they will continue making film and traditional as well as digital print media, printers and inks. Read the Kodak announcement.
2. Pentax takes over Ricoh camera design
Although it was bought by Ricoh, the Pentax brand is clearly here to stay (see why in item 5). In fact, Ricoh feels so strongly about Pentax that it announcet this week that its own legendary but lesser-known camera line will be absorbed by Pentax. Pentax will take over the product lines as well as design and manufacture of Ricoh cameras, like the revolutionary, modular GXR (shown at right with the very groovy Leica M-mount module). It is unclear if the Ricoh camera brand name will continue. or if it will fade into a photographically interesting sunset.
The line between medium format and high-end DSLRs was blurred this week when Nikon unveiled the D800, a 36MP powerhouse of a camera and by far the highest-resolution 35mm-format sensor camera in the world. (26MP? That's sooo last month.) One possible unintended consequence? At such high resolution, many pixel peepers will more clearly see the previously hidden defects in the lenses they bought before which were not designed for such sharp scrutiny. Sales of medium format lenses and adapters such as this one could increase, since medium-format lenses are optimized for larger sensors and/or enlargements, and greater scrutiny.
4. Ruggedized compact camera competition heats up
Speaking of resolution barriers broken, Sony, a leader in megapixel excess, unveiled the world's first 18MP pocket-sized digital camera, that's not the most important thing about the DSC-TX200V. In fact, such high pixel density may be a major drawback. No, this camera's key features is the fact that this internal-zoom camera, despite its minimalist design and size that bears more than a passing resemblance to an iPhone, is completely ruggedized. It's one of around half a dozen rugged cameras that can be submerged 15 feet or more, are dustproof, shockproof, and freeze-proof. Pentax (whch started the rugged compact trend years ago), Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Canon all introduced new models, making the field more crowded and interesting. The ability to submerge as far as 40 feet is the state of the art. Try doing that with a smart phone...and you'll need a new phone.
While all other MILCs are based on relatively new lens systems specifically designed for those cameras, Pentax's K-01, which was introduced last week, is the first MILC that is backwards compatible and, without the need for any kind of adapter, is compatible with millions of lenses that have been available for decades. Featuring an electronic viewfinder and a Sony-made sensor that is expected to produce outstanding images, the camera looks a bit toy like but is expected to be a serious contender for the enthusiat market. And if you own Pentax K-mount lenses, it's a natural progression.
When Olympus decided to go head to head with Panasonic in the MILC-with-built-in-EVF category, they found a very cool marketing twist: Make it not just technologically amazing, but design it an homage to the most popular camera line in the company's history, the OM-1 film SLR. The resemblance is indeed striking, but the claimed world's fastest AF system, 5-axis image stabilization and weatherproof design and ISO sensitivity to 25,600 are among the key features that will make this a popular model.
Canon got the memo from cell phone users. With smart phone sales causing compact camera sales to tank, Canon has refreshed its lineup with two new Elphs that, despite their mild-manner appearance, have Wi-Fi built-in. For other new models, Canon announced Apps and software solutions making it easier to upload and share images from camera through computer. That's pretty nifty and, based on the non-photo competition, a virtual necessity for survival. In other Canon news, Canon unveiled three next-gen lenses, a weatherized 24-70mm zoom and stabilized versions of their 24mm and 28mm primes. Intriguing, but overkill? Depends on whether Canon will come out with a uber-high-def DSLR like Nikon and are thinking ahead.
Sigma slashed the nosebleed-high price of its flagship DSLR, the SD-1, from nearly $7,000 to a more reasonable $2,299. The company also announced that the SD-1's 15MP (or 46MP, depending on how you calculate these things when talking about Foveon) sensor is now part of two next-generation DP compact cameras, the DP1 and DP2 Merrills. The cameras were named for the late Richard Merrill, who created the Foveon sensor. Remember that the original DP1 was the first compact digital camera to have a built-in APS sensor, which paved the way for many others and even helped influence the develompement of mirrorless interchangeable-lens compacts. If you rely on the 46MP count, these cameras are the highest-MP cameras of 'em all!
I wonder what big news awaits us next week...