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High-End Pros Create Photo Fun at PMA
via Knight Ridder

THE GIZMO: Photo fun at the Photo Marketing Association trade show.

Just a few weeks after some noteworthy unveilings at the Consumer Electronics Show, digital camera and accessory makers pulled off dozens more at this week's Photo Marketing Association (PMA) meet in Orlando, Fla. And that's proof positive of the vitality and highly competitive nature of this biz.

YOUR OWN LAB: Home photo printers have already wreaked havoc on the commercial labs that process and print snapshots. Now Canon is threatening the custom labs that service high-end consumers and professional photographers with its first "Pro" designated Pixma Pro9000 and Pixma Pro9500 photo printers.

These wide-body models use reformulated inks and high-density printheads - 10 separate color tanks splaying superfine droplets through 7,680 nozzles for the Pro 9500 and eight tanks pumping through 6,144 nozzles on the Pro 9000 - to output extraordinary quality prints up to 13 by 19 inches.

Underscoring the gallery quality of the work are two new Canon fine art printing papers that complement these models - a 100 percent cotton Photo Rag and a heavy, Fine Art Paper Premium Matte.

U.S. prices haven't been announced, but a British photo Web site has targeted the Pro9000 at about $700 and the Pro9500 at close to a grand.

NEW PARTNERS: Old-guard camera builders, camera-lens crafters and consumer electronics makers have been doing lots of collaborative deals to finesse their digital camera products.

Olympus and Panasonic are among the latest to tie the knot, establishing a new standard for digital single-lens-reflex (d-SLR) cameras called the Four Thirds System.

First fruits of their labors are the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and the Olympus E-330, both unveiled at PMA and featuring a couple of very cool "exclusives."

Previous d-SLRs let you utilize the rear-mounted LCD monitor only for reviewing pictures already taken. New shots had to be composed strictly through the optical viewfinder, which gave you the "through the lens" perspective.

These new d-SLR cameras let you have it either way, also providing a live view on the LCD screen via a unique image grabber built into the optical viewfinder.

Until now, changing the lens on a d-SLR has been an open invitation for dust to accumulate on the camera's electrically charged image sensor. The Olympus/Panasonic solution is the Supersonic Wave Filter. When you're swapping lenses, it automatically goes into vibrate mode to repel and eliminate dust particles.

Also unveiled at PMA was Samsung's first d-SLR, the GX-1S. It's largely based on Pentax's d-SLR technology and will take both Schneider and Pentax lenses.

Prices on all three cameras have yet to be announced.

OH YOU CARDS! Users of the popular SD memory cards have a nifty new option from San Disk, the Ultra II SD Plus. Folding one of these cards in half reveals a high-speed USB 2.0 connector that plugs into any USB port to quickly transfer photos and other data to a computer without the need for a separate card reader.

Newly available are 512 MB ($69.99) and 1 GB ($89.99) versions. A 2-gigabyte version ($134.99) hits stores in June.

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