Linda and I spent a few hours yesterday roaming around the Orange County Convention Center here in Orlando at the 2006 PMA International Conference. I wish we could have spent more time but workload issues limited our visit to 3 hours. People spend days at this event so I apologize in advance for the cursory report.
First stop for us Canon users was the Canon booth. After wading through waves of rabid photographers, I finally got my hands on the 30D, Canon's able upgrade to the 20D. Besides a larger LCD and a bit of modification to the handgrip, the 30D handles just like the 20D which is very well indeed. The Canon folks didn't seem all that defensive about the new model's lack of increased sensor resolution. And why should they be? The 20D's sensor is one of the best in the business. Canon feels this will be a good entry-level pro/consumer model and a viable upgrade to those folks with 10Ds and Digital Rebels.
We were actually more interested in the new Canon large-format, pigment ink printers just announced. They had some mock-ups there but no samples and no price points. But clearly, with these announcements and the new HP models (also large-format and pigment based) the gauntlet tossed down by Epson with its 1800 and 2400 printers has been picked up.
Naturally, we next went to the HP booth where they had some pre-production Pro B9180 printers and samples to look at. Output looked great (you'd expect it to look lousy?) but since these are pre-production models, we'll have to see what the real thing performs like. Price point is $699 which undercuts the 2400. Since Epson has years of experience with pigment inks, Canon and HP have some catching up to do but if they can, it will be a major advantage to the industry. And you can bet that Epson will do cartwheels to keep their position atop this category.
Next, we moved to the Nikon booth where the most significant item was the Nikon/Nik software collaboration of Nikon Capture NX. While we're not currently a Nikon shop, this piece of software looks pretty interesting and very sophisticated.
An aside: it seemed to us that the most interesting things coming out of this PMA were the strategic alliances on the software side -- Nikon and Nik, Bibble and Picture Code (Noise Ninja), Bibble and Kodak. It appears that it's time for the software side to deal with issues such as sensor noise, color correction and lens distortion/softness that take lots of development time and expense to fix from the hardware side.
On another front, I've not been a fan of the 4/3 system introduced by Olympus and Panasonic but the presence of Panasonic at this show is hard to ignore. And I guess when you team a technical giant such as Panasonic with an optical wizard like Leica, you really can't ignore them. But with everything else in visual technology moving wide-screen (HDTV is 16:9), the 4/3 format seems at best anachronistic or a blatant nod to those telephoto freaks out there that just can't get enough reach (you guys on this forum know who I mean
Elsewhere, there were the prerequisite tweaks to Aperture and LightRoom; lots of new consumer cameras; new lenses (and significantly some in the 4/3 format i.e. Sigma); new CF cards from SanDisk and Lexar in 8MB sizes; and new viewers from Jobo and others to challenge the Epson 2000 and 4000.
I wish we could have spent more time but we saw what we came to see. With Photokina coming later this year, I suspect that the "blockbuster" hardware announcements will come then. This show was about holding ground for the top-end companies and refinement of the state-of-the-art in the form of software and peripherals.
The good news: I left the show not feeling that I had to go out and buy another camera to be competitive. That . . .was very refreshing.