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PMA 2009: Trend Spotting
If phrases like restoring consumer confidence are catchwords around your town, you'll find insprations by the truckload here at the show.
by Don Sutherland

So Casio has a "still" camera that can shoot a thousand frames per second. At that rate, a Grand Prix race would have all the velocity of growing grass. But Casio uses some elegant language to describe their guiding principles: "These stylish cameras are the first bold step in a major transformation of the traditional definition of the photograph, offering users entirely new ways of enjoying still and moving images."

It's a heady statement, but completely consistent with what we've been talking about today--cameras that redefine how pictures are made and used. When you're shooting a thousand frames per second, of course, you're whipping a huge amount of data through the camera. So the higher framing rates in these Casios occur at less than VGA size--but on the internet, this would not be out-of-place. And for regular TV uses, maybe the use of a composited still photo behind the motion video frame (per the Exilim EX-Z400, EX-Z270, and EX-512) could dull the impression that the frame's gotten smaller.

Meantime, several of the Casios can do bursts at up to 40 fps, in a feature that might be called a decisive-moment catcher. Somewhere in those tiny time slices would be the single instant that most perfectly summarizes what's going on in the picture. It's the main reason the motordrive was invented years ago, but nowadays it's driven to a point of extreme refinement.

With the advent of the photo-sharing and video-sharing, entirely new outlets for peoples' pix and movies are being added to the traditional picture frame and family album. The camera manufacturers have clearly recognized this broad market pattern, and have packed their products with all sorts of new stuff for our new domains. Yet on the whole, these wondercameras cost way less than their predecessors.

It's a tough world out there ...

It's raining, it's pouring, shall we go kayaking? A class of damage-resistant cameras has sprung up among several manufactures, including Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm, and Canon. The assumption is that people will enjoy their cameras more, and consider them better values, if they survive such challenging conditions as the beach or a romp in the snow, in places where it's dusty or where the ride is bumpy. Canon specifies that its PowerShot D10 withstands cold down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

One factor that helps worldproof a camera, even one that isn't especially designated a ruggedized model, is the reduction of moving parts. For every switch and button on a camera body, you must have a hole and something that goes in it. Along with the part the manufacturer put in it, the aforementioned moisture, sand, dust, etc. can get in too.

From the standpoint of enduring stern conditions, a camera whose menu is on a touchscreen (like the new Nikon Coolpix S230 and the Panasonic FX580) is a smidgen less vulnerable than a camera whose menu settings are made by pushbutton.

An interesting development, therefore, appears in the Olympus SP590, some of whose functions can be activated by tapping the camera. In a similar vein, Canon has new models that can be adjusted by sort of a flick of the wrist.

Smile shutters--which cause the camera to take a picture when everybodyís smiling--received their share of kidding when they first appeared, but pretty soon their practicality became better understood. If you forgot to bring your cable release, and don't feel like fooling with a self-timer, you can literally grin and bear it.

Blink-detection is also a bit of a head-scratcher and people may ask why they need it. But the only reason they donít know is that it didnít exist before, so they never had a chance to find out. We're seeing a proliferation of both, smile shutters and blink detection, Canon, Nikon, and Pentax being among the manufacturers with new models thus equipped.

So while the rest of the economic world goes you-know-where in a handbasket, what do we have here at the PMA Show? Cameras that work better, more easily, more accurately, more effectively, under more different kinds of conditions, for lower prices than ever before. We've heard about a lot of "stimulus packages" in the past few months, but nothing as stimulating as what's at the show right now.

Don Sutherland has been writing the lead articles of the Cygnus PMA Show Daily since sometime in the 1970s. See his digital photographs at