Working with digital video requires disc space, of course, and Maxtor showed their new 300-gigabyte external model at CES. That's a lot of gigabytes, but it's not too much if you have a lot of video to edit. Or a lot of photos to store. We're no longer in the age of VGA digicams, and the cost of camera memory being what it is, we're no longer in a condition where people are reticent to snap away. As we'll find out next month, in our PMA wrap-up coverage, the 8-megapixel imaging sensor is becoming a new standard—expect three or four models by spring. People have got to put all those big pictures somewhere. DVD and large-capacity hard-disk drives are not so much the luxury nowadays.
Neither Iomega nor Maxtor had plans to appear at PMA, though. They may have products photographers need, but they don't consider them photographic products.The busy LVCC Grand Lobby was the home for the newest Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) display, "Experience CEA: One Digital World."
There once was a time when every photographer worth his salt owned not only a camera, but a slide projector as well. In a day when "sharing" has become a buzzword for the deployment of photos among family and friends (and complete strangers, if Internet posting is your cup of tea), it's surprising that the original form of sharing—setting up the screen and projector, stacking-up the slide trays, running your pictures, and sharing the sound of your narration while your guests share the sound of their snoring—has been forgotten. And maybe with good reason. An old-time Carousel cost maybe a hundred-and-a-half, a digital projector is nowadays "down" to ten times that. Digital photos look wonderful projected (see our profile of an Epson projector in PTN's October 2002 issue) and we recommend that everyone try it. The minute they can afford it.
On the prayer that enough consumers have the bankroll to devote two grand of their "home theater" budget to a projector, we saw a lot of projectors at the CE show (although, as in the case of many appliances, positioned more as a way of watching DVDs—competing with large-screen TVs—than for reliving memories with your enthralled pals. Home projection goes back a long time, predating photography by a couple centuries (projecting painted glass slides was all the rage in Rome in the mid-1600s) and, the moment it becomes affordable, we're sure it will bounce back (particularly since the same digital file that prints so well also projects well—you don't need separate "print" and "slide" films anymore). Until then, many manufacturers are positioning their digital projectors as business appliances, just as they always have.
Toshiba showed a new LCD-based model at the show, the TLP-T70MU, "ideal for today's on-the-go professionals" outputting 2000 ANSI lumens at XGA (1024x768, in case you've forgotten your alphabet) resolution. People who attend the CE show are interested in products that "allow them to run an office-quality operation from their briefcase?" Well, as we said before, the product was there, the show was there, so why pay homage to a theoretical consumerdom?
While a new projector from Toshiba comes as no surprise—they make a ton of 'em—a new projector from Olympus was a bit unexpected. But there it was, the VP-1 Data Projector, one of the smallest such units we've seen (in a field where smallness is a virtue for the all-bidness "road warrior"). The bitty Olympus, claiming an output of 1000 lumens, uses DLP technology. It was described as being "business grade," not because consumers wouldn't like it, but because there are certain technical standards that dictate how you're allowed to position certain products. The price? $2,495. We'll have more on this in an upcoming feature.The LVCC Central Hall drew seemingly record-breaking crowds on the opening day of the CES.
While "real" photography on the high-end was a bit of a surprise at a CE show, so was the extent of non-electronic photo products. Consider the storage products of Computer Expressions. Not only are they not electronic, they're not even machines. They're photo albums and CD carriers, among other products, with the faces of charming stuffed animals. And we do mean charming (with a five-year-old goddaughter, we've developed a newly refined taste for what does and doesn't make it in the stuffed-animal charm department). Open their mouths and find your photos. Computer Expressions turned our take on the show around—yes, their products were certainly consumer-oriented, but they weren't even electronic. Yet there they were with a large booth in Center Hall, displaying dozens upon dozens of their cute little faces on all sides. This was certainly not your father's CE show.
The Great Divide
One difference between a CE show and the PMA is, of course, the presence of PCs. They generally are at one, aren't at the other. We've always wondered about that.
You don't need a computer as much today for digital photography as you did eight years ago—the rise of the D-Lab saw to that—but the fact remains that most digicam users still enter their digipix into computers for any number of reasons—storage, burning to CD or DVD, editing and adjusting, outputting to a home printer or the Internet. It's probably still safe to say that the computer, the "digital darkroom," is half of digital photography, but it's the missing half at photo shows. At the CE show, it's not missing—just puzzling.
Dell, for example, declared they'd be making a bold announcement about their entry into the photo market, at a certain press conference on a certain day. And when they made that announcement, it was that they'd someday make a bold announcement. At their booth, we encountered exhibits manned by Kodak and Canon personnel, none of whom quite knew why they were there. But there they were.
Think there'll be a Dell presence at the Kodak or Canon booths at PMA? We'll see.
Here Comes the Flood Whether in the photo or CE channels, digicams have been awaiting a major event: the four-or-more-megapixel, 3x-or-more-zoom, $250-or-less snapshot camera. It is with this combination of price and features, we've argued before, that digital adopts economic and technical parity with film cameras. So guess what we saw at the CE show? Hint: at just around the time of the show, Kodak announced they're getting out of the film-camera business (in this hemisphere, anyway).
Concord Camera announced its Eye-Q 4360z at the show, a 4-megapixel, 3x-zoom entry-level model with MSRP of $199. $199? That's even less than $250.
Samung also showed a 4-megapixel, 3x-zoom camera for $299. Even Nikon was in on the popular bandwagon with the 3.2MP Coolpix 3200 at $299.95. Do you hear that booming sound? That's the sound of progress, banging on the floodgates.