Bigger Does Mean Better
By Michael McEnaney
Why all the craziness? That's simple, digital technology has grabbed the world by the throat and CES 2001 was the place it dragged everyone to for a look see. Those 1,800 exhibitors represented more than 25 different technology segments including: digital audio and video, information technology (IT), home networking, emerging technologies, broadband, home theater, mobile electronics, personal electronics, content media, specialty audio, delivery systems, the Internet, telephony and wireless communications.
Some of the bigger news centered around technological breakthroughs in the areas of DVD and Satellite Radio (the XM Satellite Radio System may join AM and FM as radio listening choices) but seeing as we are a bit more focused on imaging, we'll zero in on the hot news in that area.
Space Age Space Solutions
Ironically enough, in a convention center short on space, storage took center stage - more specifically digital storage. Now that everyone is getting the hang of capturing digital images they need some place to put them. CES 2001 offered several interesting options.
The new DataPlay digital media, which won a couple of awards at the show, is a universal media solution about the size of a quarter that is designed to permanently store a vast amount of digital content, whether downloaded off the Internet, pre-recorded (mastered) or created by consumers. One 500 MB digital media can hold over 11 hours of music downloads, five complete pre-recorded albums of CD-quality music or hundreds of high-resolution photographs for less than $10.
Delkin Devices has increased the capacity of their CompactFlash memory cards up to 256 MB, and CompactFlash Type II cards to 448 MB. As we are all aware, the latest digital cameras are producing high megapixel images and Delkin's new cards allow for more images without the sacrifice of lower resolution settings. Delkin's eFilm line of digital camera memory upgrades includes Compact Flash from 4 MB to 256 MB, CF Type II up to 448 MB, IBM Microdrive up to 1 GB, SmartMedia up to 64 MB, as well as PC Cards and MultiMediaCards.
And, talk about innovation, Iomega released a very significant product in the digital imaging arena - the Fotoshow Digital Image Center. What Iomega has done is develop a version of their new 250 MB Zip Drive that sits on top of your TV and plays, via remote, your digital images. For less than $300, here's a simple peripheral that takes Zip disks, as well as IBM Micro Drive, SmartMedia and CompactFlash cards, and allows the user to view, edit and share their digital masterpieces on the boob tube by remote control. It's as simple as that. The Fotoshow Digital Image Center also doubles as the aforementioned 250 MB Zip Drive for your computer so you're getting two products in one. It's Mac and PC compatible and offers various TV hook-ups including Composite (RC), S-Video and RF (coaxial), so unless your TV is an antique, you're covered.
Sanyo has also come to market with a storage solution of their own - the iDPhoto magneto-optical disk - a 730 MB mini CD that drives their new IDC-1000Z digital camera, a 1.5 MB digicam with the capacity to hold over 11,000 images on the iDPhoto disk. At $10 a disk, Sanyo has an affordable storage device here - we'll have to see how it integrates itself into the mainstream as the year rolls on.
Online "Actual" Albums
Perhaps the next hot online photofinishing application will be these photo albums consumers can create and order over the Internet - they were a more quiet part of CES than they should have been. We're not talking about cyber-albums that you create online and have family and friends visit - we mean actual hard cover photo albums you proudly leave out on your coffee table. You upload your digital image files to these Websites offering the service and organize your images as you would on the pages of a regular photo album. A few clicks later you've ordered the album you just created and the company ships back a finished hard cover photo album a few days later. One of the nicer twists is the fact the photos come back embedded right into the glossy, high-grade paper in whatever layout you created - no glue, no tape, no fading photographs. These "album pages" are put together as a hard cover photo album and shipped out to customers and PTN has got to tell you, they're beautiful.
For now we know that Kodak (via Print@Kodak), Printlife.com and DigitalNow.com are currently offering this photo albuming service. A slew of others are sure to follow.
The PrintLife.com set up is particularly well thought out. They call their product PhotoBook and it works thusly...using PrintLife.com's free software, PrintLife Photo Book Publisher, user's create photo albums from their digital images (and text if they choose) and upload them to the PrintLife Website. A click or two later, you've ordered a PhotoBook. PrintLife then sends the customer this hard cover photo album with their images and copy, as we said, imbedded right into the high-grade, glossy album pages. They even give consumers the option of selecting a cover photo for the front of the album. Really slick.
PrintLife tells us they have more exciting photo products planned later this year. PTN thinks they'll have a hard time topping their initial offering.
As for the "online only" version of these photo albums, the folks at E-Books have added a new wrinkle here. They have developed a product called FlipBrowser Gold (we told you about the first version of FlipBrowser in an earlier issue of PTN) that allows users to share their photos in a digital photo album on the Internet with pages that are actually turned as though the user is thumbing through a book. This set-up certainly adds a little life to the current "double click on the thumbnail" photo viewing experience.
Magic Number? Two Million Pixels
We won't run down all the digital cameras we came across but we will tell you about a most interesting development in the resolution wars that was quite evident at the show. Yeah, there were plenty of 3 and 4 million pixel digicams on the show floor (we even got a peek at a 5 million pixel model) but the real fun is happening at the 2 million pixel and below level.
The Ultra-Pocket Digital Camera is an ultra-thin, 6-millimeter, automatic brightness adaptive technology the size of a credit card. It sports the unique"AutoBrite" feature ensuring that bright regions of a scene never saturate, while darker details always remain crisp and clear. The Ultra-Pocket also boasts a sleek, silver contour, durability, and simple point-and-click use. USB connectivity ensures fast downloading and compatibility with Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. This little beauty is CMOS-driven and offers VGA resolution. Expect to see the SRP in the $100 range.