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Wednesday, August 6 2008

Pre-Photokina: 10+ predictions


By Mason Resnick

With Photokina approaching and pre-show announcements starting to trickle in (the flood should hit in earnest later this month), it's time to look into my crystal ball and make a few intelligent guesses about what awaits us in the world's biggest photo trade show in Cologne, Germany. This will be either scarily accurate, or entertainingly wrong. Here is what I think, based no inside information whatsoever, will be revealed:


1. Several full-frame DSLRs: This is a safe prediciton because Sony has already made known its intentions to roll out its first pro, full-frame 35mm format DSLR at Photokina. Canon's outstanding 5D has been around for two years and for a DSLR, that's getting rather long in the tooth. Canon traditionally announces its new lineup in late August. I think there will be an announcement then.

2. "System compact" becomes the hot new digital camera category: With the addition of the Sigma DP-1 and Panasonic LX3, the category of System Compacts (defined by me as cameras with the ability to be expanded via a system of lens extensions, optical viewfinders, and hot-shoes for portable flash units) will continue to expand. Canon's G9 and Nikon's P5100 also belong in this category and I predict both will be replaced. Olympus had a System compact that was discontinued last year. We might see a new one from them.

3. Meet the Interchangeable-Lens EVF Camera: This will happen, and it will be based on the just-announced Micro Four Thirds system. Without bulky mirror boxes that distinguished DSLRs, cameras can be made smaller, but an Electronic Viewfinder is easier to use in bright light than a simple LCD. The participating companies--Panasonic and Olympus (and notably, no longer Leica) have promised a new line of lenses for these cameras that will be interchangeable, and that's exciting.

4. Megapixel Madness will get worse: Although all you need is six megapixels in your compact digital camera's sensor to get sharp prints as large as 8x10, the latest flood of high-end (read overpriced) pocket-sized cameras will brag 14MP sensors, and 10MP will replace 8MP as the standard. And of course, they will all have the ability to capture images at ISO 1600 or higher. That may sound impressive to uneducated consumers, but those micron-wide, densely packed pixels with their sensitivity jacked up beyond safe limits will produce awfully distorted results. You really don't want to use that feature.

5. 10MP compacts for under $100: 6MP sensors? Bah, you can only find those on cell phones. 8MP sensors? Those are on their way out, too. Manufactrers are already starting to introduce 10MP cameras for around $150 but the market will soon be so flooded with them you can expect them to dip below $100 in a few months.

6. No new film: There will be no new film announcements at Photokina. And a few traditionalists might shed a tear on their digital cameras.

7. Canon will fight back: 2008 is already being looked on as the year Nikon returned to recapture the hearts, minds, and wallets of pro photographers with several outstanding new high-end products. Will Canon sit still while its core audience drifts away to its biggest competitor? Don't count on it.

8. At least two digital rangefinders will be introduced. I'm putting my money on Nikon and Olympus to unveil interchangeable-lens rangefinder cameras based around DSLR sensors. Olympus has already laid the technical groundwork with its announcement of the Micro Four Thirds system, which allows for smaller camera bodies and no room for optical mirror prisms. While the obvious direction is EVFs (see item #3, above), they could drop a bombshell and create a digital rangefinder and a few fixed-focal-length, manual-focus lenses for a lot less than the $5K Leica M8. What do I base my Nikon prediction on? Nothing...I just like to dream.

9. Leica will quietly drop out of Four Thirds, Panasonic will quietly drop DSLRs, and HP will quietly drop out. When's the last time you saw a new HP camera introduction? Look for them to focus on their core products, printers and scanners. Leica was not included in the Micro Four Thirds announcement%3B that sort of thing can lead to speculation. Panasonic rolled out its newest products last month, and no SLRs were included. They are one of the few compact camera companies that's doing well with that line. They may have decided to focus on their strength.

10. Something big from Leica, but it won't be a full-frame rangefinder. It might be a full-frame R-series DSLR, something we haven't seen yet.

...and now, a bonus prediction...

11. Polaroid is saved! Someone will come to the rescue of Polaroid instant film, which was discontinued early this year. I'm putting my money on Ilford.

Let's get back together in October and see which (if any) of these predictions comes to fruition!


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