On September 26, the largest photokina ever will open its doors at the new Cologne exhibition center. Awaiting trade visitors will be a show covering every stage of the imaging workflow: the entire process from image production - i.e. complete cameras, camera backs, lenses and lighting systems - to image processing, archiving and printing.
In line with current trends, photokina 2006 will be showcasing a whole spectrum of digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs), ranging from upmarket models for the discerning consumer to technologically innovative models for the professional user. Whereas the product cycles in the market for compact digital cameras are now as short as one year, DSLR models become outmoded at a substantially slower rate. That said, this year's photokina will usher in a new generation in this sector. Some new names have joined the familiar list of SLR manufacturers, with Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Pentax, Olympus, Leica and Hasselblad now calling the shots in the professional-user market. Now that digital technology has finally come to dominate both the professional and consumer sectors, the market emphasis is very much on features to enhance picture quality, although it's no longer a question of the number of megapixels. The latest technical developments in the SLR market include so-called LiveView, with both Olympus and Panasonic now offering single-lens reflex cameras with onscreen image control before the picture is shot. Likewise, the launch of products from Panasonic and Leica has further strengthened the market position of the four-thirds system. Further manufacturer-nonspecific improvements have been made in the areas of optical image stabilizers, monitor size, image processors, and equipment such as high-tech interchangeable lenses, with new products from, for example, Sigma and Tamron.
A pixel explosion and new cooperative ventures
Featuring a distinctive retro design, which strongly recalls that of an analog coupled rangefinder camera, the Lumix L1 already stands out from the standard selection of digital SLR cameras. Technologically speaking, too, it is superior to rival models and features the LiveView functionality already described. Developed in cooperation with Olympus, the Lumix is to go on sale exclusively in combination with the high-grade Leica D Vario-Elmarit 2.8-3.5/14-50 mm zoom lens. In addition, the four-thirds bayonet mounting accepts the full range of Olympus and Sigma lenses, with at least four more to follow from Panasonic by the end of 2007.
Nikon's premium camera, the D2x, has been enhanced in many aspects and is now challenging Canon's EOS-1DS Mark II in the professional-user market. Although the new Nikon still "only" features a 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor in APS-C format - as opposed to the full-format 16.7-megapixel CMOS of the EOS - it features major improvements in a number of areas: in high-speed mode, the unused frame edge is now darkened; monitor readability has been enhanced; and battery capacity has been increased from 1,900 to 2,500 mAh. Likewise, the maximum number of shots in high-speed continuous mode has been increased from 35 to 60. Further improvements include enhanced AF performance, more choice of ISO settings, expanded Adobe RGB color profile in all three color modes, plus enhanced black-and-white mode.
Meanwhile, Hasselblad is launching the H2D-39, an enhanced version of its
H2 series and the first integrated digital high-end camera with 39 megapixels.
The new model is compatible with all Hasselblad lenses featuring the H-system
and boasts a whole range of technical innovations. For example, with Digital
APO Correction, users are sure of being able to exploit the capacity of every
H-system lens to the full. Likewise, dependable color management is guaranteed
with Hasselblad's very own RGB color system in combination with FlexColor,
its own image-processing software. Last but not least, 3FR files can be converted
directly into the Adobe standard DNG format.
Powerful new digital lenses
Hard on the heels of the trend toward increasingly high-performance DSLR cameras come the lens manufacturers with a range of products tailored to the new generation of powerful digital SLR cameras for the professional user. In September, for example, Carl Zeiss is launching a total of three top-quality lenses for Sony's first digital SLR camera with interchangeable lens, the Alpha 100: the high-speed, fixed-focal-length Planar T* 1.4/85 ZA, the Sonar T* 1.8/135 ZA and the Vario-Sonar T* DT 3.5-4.5/16-80 zoom lens. Each of the three lenses can also be used with any of the familiar SLR cameras of the Minolta Dynac and Maxxum series - provided, that is, they are fitted with an Alpha bayonet mount.
The advent of digitization has revolutionized the world of professional photography and radically enhanced the importance of digital image processing. As one well-known professional photographer puts it: "Whenever I take a picture, I'm always thinking about how I will be able to digitally modify the image." Adobe, who set the standard for digital image processing, have a correspondingly large stand at this year's photokina. Presentations include the full imaging workflow for the professional user with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Adobe. In addition, Adobe is also showcasing its public Beta version of Lightroom for Windows and Mac - a workflow solution for the enhanced import, administration and processing of large amounts of raw digital data.
Unlike Adobe Photoshop, which is also targeted at professional graphic artists, DxO Optics Pro is tailored exclusively to the requirements of professional photographers. This software, which is available for both Mac and PC, automatically enhances pictures taken with DSLR cameras and lenses.
Large formats and new print media
The last stage in the imaging workflow is printing and presentation. The most common form of this is to print the finished images. Here, the latest trends are new inks with enhanced color reproduction and image longevity. Likewise, the choice of print media has significantly increased in recent years. At the same time, the market for printing hardware is now concentrated on a small number of manufacturers. The leading suppliers include, first and foremost, Canon, Epson and Hewlett-Packard.
At this year's photokina, Epson is presenting a total of 25 new print products, three of which are on show for the very first time. For the professional market, the focus is on products in the commercial, graphics and art sectors. This will include Epson's UltraChromeTM K3 large-format printers as well as a presentation of the uses of its wide range of own-developed software for photo studios, such as Epson AlbumMaker, EpsonCopyFactory and Epson Stylus RIP Professional.
Canon has launched five new large-format printers from the imagePROGRAF series this year, and these will be on show at photokina in combination with a selection of professional photography. Celebrating its world premier in Cologne is the top-of-the-range iPF8000 printer, which boasts a print system featuring 12 different inks. This produces a much broader color profile than comparable systems and makes Canon's LFPs the reliable partner for printing proofs, packaging, and fine-art prints and photos with 16-bit depth of color.
Rounding off this show of key equipment for the imaging market is once again a wide selection of lighting systems - including, above all, enhanced portable systems, new high-grade camera backs, ultralight high-end stands and high-performance data-storage media. All in all, this year's "World of Imaging" will feature around 1,600 exhibitors from 45 countries.