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Tracking the Trends at PMA

A handful of new DSLRs took center stage at this year's show.

This past January brought thousands of photo enthusiasts to Las Vegas for the annual Photo Marketing Association (PMA) tradeshow and convention. Thousands of attendees divided their time between the booths of the 650 exhibiting companies filling two stories of the convention hall packed with design, photography, and imaging tools and accessories.

The big announcements from this show come in the form of DSLRs. Sony, Nikon, Canon, Samsung, and Pentax all revealed new DSLRs which are covered in this report (see the March 2008 issue for coverage of the Pentax camera). Sony especially made some waves by revealing a DSLR model with a 24.81-megapixel CMOS sensor (the future DLSR has yet to be named). Several SLR lenses also were introduced, including those from Tamron, Sigma, Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Tokina.

Professional photographers, fine artists, and other attendees looking for new printers, software, or media, however, might have come up a little empty handed--there was a shortage of new products in these areas debuting at this year's show. There was an abundance of products more geared toward the consumer and 'prosumer' side of the market: Candy-colored point-and-shoots and digital photo frames, for instance, filled the show floor.

What follows are a few of the highlights from the new products for professional imagers. Mark your calendars for PMA 2009 (www.pmai.org), which will return to Las Vegas March 3-5 of next year.

In addition to the announcement of the development of a 24.81-megapixel CMOS sensor, Sony (www.sony.com) also added two cameras to its line of Alpha DSLRs: the 14.2-megapixel A350 and the 10.2-megapixel A300. Both offer Sony's new 'Quick AF Live View' technology, which allows users to frame photos on the camera's 2.7-inch LCD screen while allowing the nine-point center cross auto-focus sensor to focus at high speeds. The two-sensor design of the live view system focus-tracks the subjects and provides live view during burst shooting. The A350 is able to shoot up to 21/2 frames continuous per second, while the A300 is capable of shooting up to three continuous frames per second, when using the optimal viewfinder.

The DSLRs feature Sony Bionz Image Processor, designed to enhance images with rich tonal reproduction, improve white balance and exposure control, and expand D-Range optimize capabilities, reports Sony. The A350 and A300 also incorporates Super SteadyShot image stabilization which reduces shutter lag by 2.5 to 3.5 step, allowing the user to shoot with minimum blur or adjust exposure control for smaller lens aperture. Both also feature an ISO range from 100 to 3200 and High ISO Noise Reduction technology that reduces noise at ISO 1600 and 3200 by eliminating noise from raw data. Additionally, the cameras utilize Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer which applies image adjustment curves to expand the tonal range.

The cameras also feature an improved user interface, an automatic pop-up flash, an anti-dust system, and support for JPEG and RAW file format. Both accept CompactFlash Type I/II media; an adaptor for Memory Stick Duo media cards is also available.

Price: A300 with a DT 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens, $800. A350 camera body, $800; A350 with a DT 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 3.9x zoom lens, $900. The A300 and A350 are expected to ship in April and March, respectively.

Additionally, Sony announced two new zoom lens for use with its line of Alpha DSLRs. The Vario Sonnar T* 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA is a wide angle 24-70mm zoom lens with a f/2.8 aperture designed for landscape and portrait photography. It features Carl Zeiss T* coating technology to provide higher light transmission and minimize glare. The 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G lens is a telephoto zoom lens designed for medium and long distance shots, including sports and portrait photography. The lens utilizes extra-low dispersion glass to reduce chromatic aberration. Both utilize Sony's Super Sonic wave Motor (SSM) technology for fast and silent auto-focusing. Prices: Vario Sonnar T* 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA, $1750; 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G, $800.

Nik Software (www.niksoftware.com) introduced Viveza, a photographic plug-in for Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. The software is designed to help users select and control the light, color, and tonality of their images. Viveza utilizes Nik's U Point technology, allowing users to easily correct and enhance images with just a few clicks. To make an adjustment to an image, users place the Color Control Points directly on colors or objects in an image, then adjust sliders for brightness, contrast, saturation, red, green, blue, hue, and warmth. The software automatically creates masks based on where the user places a Color Control Point.

Viveza is compatible with Photoshop's Smart Filter feature which allows users to adjust enhancements after they've been applied, without adding additional layers. Also, the software's Selective Tool allows users to brush light and color changes into their image using Photoshop's brush tools. Viveza also supports pressure-senstive features designed for Wacom pen tablets.

Price: $249.95.

Adding to its line of fine-art paper, Moab (www.moabpaper.com) by Legion Paper introduced Somerset Photo. Designed for photography and fine-art reproduction, the 100-percent-cotton paper boasts a large color gamut and high dmax. The 300-gsm, archival quality paper is acid-free and is virtually free of optimal brightening agents. The bright white paper has a satin finish that is ideal for instances when a velvety black is required, reports the company.

Somerset Photo is available in 17-60 inch rolls and in A4, A3+, and A2 sheets.

Canon (www.usa.canon.com) added a new DSLR to its EOS Rebel series with the 12.2-megapixel EOS Rebel XSi. The camera features an APS-C size CMOS sensor that utilizes large microlenses over each pixel to reduce noise and enhance sensitivity up to ISO 1600. The camera also features a 14-bit analog-to-digital conversion processor, allowing it to record up to 16,384 colors per channel which produced images with finer and more accurate gradations of tones and colors, reports Canon.

The XSi features Canon's DIGIC III processing engine. The redesigned electronic system works with the CMOS sensor to produce images with optimal detail and color. The camera also uses a nine-point AF system with a newly developed AF sensor, which features a cross-type AF measurement that reads a wider variety of subject matter than single-axis AF sensors, thereby increasing the camera's ability to autofocus. Canon also reports that the XSi is the fastest firing Rebel, capturing 3.5 frames per second for bursts of up to 53 images in fine JPEG mode and 6 frames in raw mode.

Additionally, the XSi features Highlight Tone Priority and High-ISO Noise Reduction functions as well as Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer technology, which automatically corrects image brightness and contrast. Also, the DSLR has Live View capabilities with a new 'Live Mode' contrast-detection auto-focus (AF) function that allows the camera to automatically focus during Live View without lowering the reflex mirror. Users can view their images on the 3-inch LCD monitor. The camera also features four metering patterns including 4-percent spot metering, a wide range of exposure modes from fully automatic to fully manual, depth of field preview, and mirror lock.

The camera's EOS Integrated Cleaning system shakes dust particles off of the low-pass filter in front of the sensor and is activated each time the camera is powered up or shut down. Users can also use the Digital Photo Professional software included with the camera to map out dust spots that may remain on the sensor and subtract dust spots from the final image during post processing. A manual sensor cleaning function is also available.

The DSLR is fully compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses, as well as EX-series Speedlites, an optional Battery Grip, and remote control and viewfinder accessories. Unlike the previous Rebel models which use CF type memory cards, the ESi utilizes SD and SDHC memory cards. The camera also uses Canon's new high-capacity LP-E5 lithium battery pack which provides 50% more exposures per charge than earlier Rebel models. The body of the ESi is stainless steel and polycarbonate embedded with glass fiber and available is black and silver finishes.

The camera is expected to ship in April 2008. Price: $800; $900 for a lens kit version that includes the EF-S1855mm f/2.5-5.6 IS zoom lens.

Canon also introduced two new telephoto lenses for its EOS SLR cameras: the EF200mm f/2L IS USM and the EF800mm f/5.6L IS USM, both of which were exhibited as prototypes during PhotoPlus (see p. 7 of the January issue of The Big Picture for detailed specs). The EF200mm will be available in April for a price of $5999; the EF800mm will be available in May for a price of $11,999.

Nikon (www.nikon.com) added to its line of D-series cameras with the D60 DSLR. Billed as Nikon's smallest DSLR, the camera features a 10.2-megapixel DX-format CCD imaging sensor as well as Nikon's Expeed image-processing system. The D60 features a 0.18-second start-up time and fast shutter response and allows users to capture images at a speed of up to 3 frames per second for as many as 100 consecutive JPEG images.

The D60 utilizes a three-area auto-focus system and Nikon's 3-D Color Matrix Metering II, which evaluates each scene for brightness, color, contrast, shadows and highlights, and camera-to-subject distance to determine an appropriate exposure for that scene. Users can view their images on the camera's 2.5-in. LCD monitor with a 170-degree viewing angle. The camera also features on onboard Help Menu System with Assist Images to help users select the appropriate settings for many camera features. Additionally, the DSLR incorporates Nikon's i-TTL flash control, which evaluates flash exposure to achieve better automatic flash balance. The camera also features Nikon's Active Dust Reduction system.

The camera features in-camera editing capabilities through the Retouch Menu including Nikon D-Lighting; red-eye correction; image trim; image overlay; and monochrome, skylight, warm tone, and color balance filter effects. The D60 also includes new effects such as quick retouch, NEF (RAW) processing, and cross star and color intensifier filters. Additionally, the D60 includes eight digital vari-programs which adjust settings automatically for the selected scenario and lighting condition.

Included with the D60 is the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilization lens.

Additionally, Nikon introduced the new AF-S Micro Nikkor 60 mm f/2.8 G ED lens designed for extreme close-up photography. The lens can focus at a distance of 0.185 m (0.6 ft) at its closest. The lens utilizes Nikon's Silent Wave Motor technology; a nano crystal coat, which reduces ghosting and flare; extra low dispersion glass to minimize chromatic aberration; and Nikon's Internal Focusing design, designed to eliminate rotation of the front lens element.

Estimated price: $549.95.

Samsung introduced the 14.6-megapixel GX-20, the fourth and most advanced addition to its line of GX DSLRs. The GX-20's CMOS sensor is capable of capturing 14-bit raw images, which can be converted to JPEG format directly on the camera. Also, the camera features an 11-point wide-area auto focus system, a high ISO setting of 6400, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 second. The DSLR can capture up to three pictures per second in continuous shooting mode, In this mode, users can capture an unlimited number of JPEG images and up to nine raw images. The camera also features Optical Image Stabilization, an improved sensor-based shake reduction system that helps minimize blur.

Users can compose their images using the Pentaprism viewfinder that yields a 95-percent wide field of view and then view their images on the camera's 2.7-in. LCD screen. Samsung has also incorporated an advanced dust-removal system that can operate automatically or manually.

Price: $1399.95.

Tamron (www.tamron.com) announced the development of the SP AF10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) lens, a new high performance ultra wide-angle zoom lens designed for DSLR cameras with APS-C size imagers. The lens covers a focal length of 10-24 mm and a focal length equivalent to 16-37mm when converted to a 35mm full-size format. It also has an 0.24m minimum focus distance over the entire zoom range. The lens features a zoom ratio of more than 2X and a lens' filter diameter of 77mm.

The lens uses high index dispersion and low dispersion glass elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and glass and hybrid aspherical elements to compensate for spherical and comatic aberrations and distortions. The lens also features an optical design to optimize the angles of light rays reaching the lens' imager. Additionally, it uses a multiple coating and internal surface coating to reduce ghosting and flare.

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