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PMA 2004 Report
2004 KenRockwell.com
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SHOW OVERVIEW: WHAT IT'S REALLY LIKE      skip to what's new

PMA, the Photo Marketing Association's annual trade show, was held in Las Vegas in February 2004. The PMA show is the US photo industry's largest. The show is attended by camera store employees and owners as well as the press, and the exhibitors are the photo companies. It is closed to professional photographers and closed to the public.

Many new things are introduced at PMA. The only bigger show is Photokina, held in Germany every other year.

The most impressive thing I saw was a GIGA-pixel-plus image of Bryce Canyon made by Max Lyons shown at the Océ printer exhibit. Max wrote special software to stitch together 192 separate 6MP images from his old Canon D60 camera to make a print 10 feet or so on a side at 300DPI. I've never seen anything like it in all my decades of photography; not even an Ansel Adams mural made from 8 x 10" original has this level of detail.

Very little of the show is the equipment photographers find interesting. Most of the show are exhibitors trying to get camera stores to sell their products by convincing camera stores that there is big money to be made.

Most money in camera stores is made on film and batteries and frames and accessories. Thus most of the show are foreign companies trying to hawk cases and bags and photo frames and photo mug making machines and minilab systems. Of course every camera company under the sun is there as well as the companies photographers find interesting.

Also I was amused that there were a load of companies all seeming to think that they had just discovered some unique twist to online photo sharing. Gimme a break; you've been able to do that at Yahoo! since the 1990s. Heck, before I learned to do this website correctly KenRockwell.com used to link to an online gallery at Yahoo! Ditto for online photo printing, which is where you can order real photo prints mailed to you if you post or email digital pictures to a site. Folks like Shutterfly and Yahoo have been doing this for years, and there are lots of others today who are doing the same thing.

Another underwhelming aspect were all the sellers of magic image correction software. I lost count of how many excited vendors showed me their books of before and after prints proving how their magic software corrected every known photo vice. Nope, all they all did was lighten dark images by examining a histogram.

Of course many vendors had interesting Photoshop plug-ins, that's another story. Some software vendors, like Roxio, didn't bother to exhibit because these old-fashioned trade shows don't make sense in the Internet age.

NEW EQUIPMENT back to top

1D-II SLR: 8.5FPS, 8MP, $4,500. The new standard for sports
A75 digital camera; Bigger LCD
A80 digital camera: small swivel LCD
Pro-1: easy to use, big, clear LCD
i9900 printer: fast and good
28-300L: (push-pull zoom, 0.7 foot close focus)
70-300mm IS Fresnel (DO) zoom

S3 Digital SLR: update of S2, still based on Nikon N80


Dimage A2 point-and-shoot: was just a wooden model and a press release, not a real camera. Roughly same as the other 8MP p/s cameras. I'd forget this class of camera and go straight to a real DSLR today, more here. It does have mechanical vibration reduction, a slick feature for a point-and-shoot.

Maxxum 7 DSLR (Dynax 7 outside of USA): Again it was just a wooden model and a press release, not a real camera. It will have a standard sized (for digital SLRs) 6MP CCD and a novel mechanical vibration reduction system. Don't hold your breath, maybe we'll see it in summer.

D70 Digital SLR sets a new level of performance and price
8700: redo of the 5700, obsolesced by the D70 and Canon Digital Rebel
D2H (Added lock button, fast, quiet, lightweight, BIG screen)
Scanners: very similar as earlier models, claim to add dynamic range and more ADC precision.

7960 printer: GREAT black-and-white prints if you get the special black-and-white ink cartridges.

SLR SLR Pro/N: Low image quality due to too much noise at high speeds and too complicated for use by a photographer. 4,500 x 3,000 image size which can be a 4 MB JPG file at IS0 250 but grows to 8MB at ISO 800 from all the noise. ISO 800 maximum in regular modes which looks completely unusable from all the white noise sparkles. If you have Photoshop and a fast conection have a look at the 8 megabyte camera-original file shot at ISO 800 here and let me know if you agree or not that this is a useless image with all the noise. Look at itr Slow, only 1.7 FPS. Easy to fill up frame buffer, and with a microdrive you're dead till the slow write times clear your buffer. (Unknown if CF cards are any faster). Confusing, you will need a manual or expert advice to be able to figure out how to use it. This camera is for engineers who revel in complexity and maybe dedicated slow studio shooters, but not news, sports, event or wedding photographers who need to make images NOW or shoot at faster ISOs. At ISO 800 the D70 has far better image quality. At ISO 200 its still marred by what looks to me like some bizarre noise reduction processing which makes images, when viewed at 100%, just not look right. Try it yourself and see.

Digilux 2: Slow, expensive ($1,850), can't use standard professional CF cards (only takes amateur SD ones.) It looks like a rebadged Panasonic Lumix camera and it comes from the Orient, not Germany. I'd pass on this and get a DSLR for much better performance at a fraction of the price. See here for my opinions about this class of point-and-shoot fixed lens digital camera.

SD-10: bad choice in a digital SLR, really only 3MP, not 10MP.

Unique 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom covers 35mm film and digital SLRs. It covers the full 35mm film frame making it the world's widest rectilinear lens for 35mm SLRs, displacing the 13mm Nikkor that has been special-order only since the 1970s. I do want to review one of them in depth; the one I tried seemed pretty good for the insane zoom range it offers.

DSC-F828: obsolesced by the D70 and Canon Digital Rebel

12-24mm lens for digital SLRs. Only a mock-up was shown; expect summer 2004 release.

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