DPS 7-03: PMA 09 Show Special Issue--Better than Being There, What you need to know without leaving your chair

One of the best features of DigitalPro Shooter & the nikondigital.org website is that we have a focus on our readers. So rather than present you with hundreds of new product blurbs or flog products we get paid to sell you we sift through everything out there and try to give you some cogent comments on the ones that are really interesting. Some may be products of value to you today, some in the future and some are just plain cool and point the way to future offerings. So with that in mind after our first two days here, with a couple dozen hours of product briefings and a few miles of shoe leather here are some of the coolest new products we've found.

PMA 09: Let 1,000 Flowers Bloom

From a "big bang" perspective (for most of our audiene that means a new D-SLR from Nikon or Canon) PMA was not set up to deliver this year. But despite a slightly smaller show floor than some previous years there is no shortage of innovative accessories and tools that are quite exciting. And Sony is making a serious full court press into the prosumer and even pro D-SLR market which we predict will be a game changer over the next 3 years.

Normally when we tell you about products here they're ones we've spent time with in the field. Of course on of the major ideas behind a tradeshow is to showcase products which are either not quite finished yet or are just becoming available. So for this issue we'll give you a rundown of the products we have seen demonstrated that look like they will work well and be compelling when they are released. We'll be getting many of them to evaluate as they become available and will follow up with more detailed reviews at that time. Make sure and let us know through feedback in our which of the products we've reported on here are of particular interest to you so we know where to spend our review time.

PMA: Product Highlights

Pro Cameras

In D-SLRs the biggest news was the production availability of the various flagship models--the Nikon D3X and Sony a900--as well as the very popular Canon 1D Mark II. Clearly the space is well enough evolved that simply piling on resolution isn't enough to keep the pipeline full. So it's exciting to see all the new innovations in Point & Shoot technologies that would make interesting additions to the D-SLR lines when they can be scaled up to the needer higher resolutions and higher frame rates demanded by pro cameras. This is a bit of a reversal from the "trickle down" of early digicams, but bodes well for the future of the business. So let's look at some of the coolest new innovations in the point and shoot cameras:

Point and Shoot Cameras

-- Hybrid Sensor

One of the largest advantages of CMOS sensors over CCD is that CMOS chips can combine all sorts of different circuits. Until recently that only mattered to geeks. But now companies like Fuji are introducing some very impressive hybrid sensors that combine different image circuits on the sensor for unique photographic options. Fuji has had a hybrid sensor for high dynamic range imaging for awhile but in the new F200EXR they've really pulled out all the stops. The F200EXR allows you to capture images in one of several modes. The "native" mode is 12MP, but you can also choose to capture 6MP images where pairs of pixels (photosites) are grouped together to increase sensitivity to capture images at stunning ISOs (we'll see how the images actually test out).

Two other interesting modes create two exposures--one to automatically create a high dynamic range image and the other to take images with and without flash. I'm sure there will be plenty of room for improvement but it's very exciting to see this kind of innovation that can help break us free of the "megapixel wars" and give us useful new features. Show Floor Update: I played around with an F200EXR but despite telling me it was a production model they were not allowing anyone to use their own cards to take and keep images, so I can't report on how well the various modes work in practice.

You can pre-order the

Casio High Speed Camera, the

This unique camera features a 1000 fps (yes, 1000 frames per second) mode (at very low resolution) and up to 40 fps at more normal resolutions. Aside from my immediate urge to run out and make some images of water drops splashing into things I can see lots of projects where this would be a great tool. I'm not sure the average photographer wants or needs 40 different images of a nearly identical scene (let alone 1000) or has the computer savvy to sort through and store them all, but for those who need this feature it'll be hard to resist. Show Floor Update: The 1000fps is really cool. Every science classroom should have one! It's worth having just to photograph stuff like a balloon bursting or a water drop splashing. They're hoping to have the camera in stores in a couple months.

You can pre-order

The popular Panasonic Lumix G1 micro 4/3 combines the small size of a point and shoot with the image quality and interchangeable lenses of a D-SLR. The "micro" in 4/3 means they've taken out the mirror to make the camera even smaller. The new GH1 adds HD video capture to the G1. It's not shipping quite yet but was in evidence in the booth.

Sony DSC-HX1

In addition to capturing 9MP at up to 10fps this camera (like some of the new ones from a growing number of other companies) features an automaic scene mode (Sony calls it iSCN) which picks the best scene mode based on the image content and lighting. What makes the Sony version unique is it can be set to capture two shots each time--one in the mode you chose and on in the mode the camera thought best. Then you can simply pick the one you like better or combine the two in Photoshop and do some fancy merging.

Nikon's new flagship point and shoot, the P90 is not the only camera sporting an "Auto Scene" mode, but it is one of the best. This new feature allows the camera to automatically select the best one of many scene presets based on the subject. Another way to make it quicker to pull the camera out of your pocket and shoot or for those folks who never take the camera off automatic to get better images. We'll wait until we use one of these in the field to pass judgement on how well it works. Show Floor Update: The P90 is definitely more of a "ZLR" than a Point and Shoot physically. It reminds me of the Nikon 8000. So for those who like the two handed feel it will be perfect, but it won't fit easily into a pocket.

You can pre-order the for $399.

(adds HDMI to the HZ10W)

One of the first point and shoots to feature a 24mm (35mm equivalent) wide angle lens this Samsung model also makes it easier to take group pictures with a "Smile Shot" mode that waits until everyone is smiling until it takes the photo. Yeah, right. We're pretty sceptical too, so this is another that goes in the wait & see category but it's definitely a great feature if it works! It also has a self-portrait mode that won't shoot until you are in the middle of the frame, and an image combination mode where you can take one shot of a background then hand the camera to someone to photograph you against that background and it will blend the two using your framing. The camera also records HD video and an interesting feature that re-shoots an image if it detects that any of the subjects eyes were closed. All fun stuff! The camera plugs right into your Samsung HDTV also and you can use your remote to drive a slideshow. You can pre-order the for $329.

Their new interchangeable lens camera (I'm not sure what to call these new "mini"D-SLRs since they don't have mirrors) was on display and its larger sensor will give it a leg up against the micro-4/3 offerings out there. But it won't be available until much later this year, so no real field tests yet.

The AMOLED screen on the back of the new Samsung TL320 was awesome. It was clearer and sharper than a traditional LCD. This has got to be the wa of the future. You can pre-order the for $379.


Camera Accessories

Pretec CompactFlash Cards

Pretec was showing CF (type II) cards up to 100GB (233x). Pretty amazing consider that most laptop drives didn't even store 100GB until a couple years ago. I tried one of their 64GB cards in my D300 and it worked great. But apparently you need to install the latest firmware if you want to use cards over 32GB.

GorillaPod Focus for D-SLRs

Basically a beefier GorillaPod that can take more weight.

Lensbaby has a very nice new generation of product which is night and day easier to use than before. I always liked the concept of a Lensbaby but the difficulty of messing with all the little adjustments while composing and focusing a shot left me stuck at the starting gate. Sam let me play with one of the new ones and it is a piece of cake to move the scene around and then turn the dial to focus. I'm looking forward to a review unit and will be posting my results. The new model also has replaceable optics (a simple click and twist with the provided tool) so it can simulate a pinhole, zone or Holga look.


Wi-Fi was very popular, with Eye-Fi enabled cameras and SD cards (including one from Lexar) all over the place. But one of the coolest new Wi-Fi products for Pros was , an add-on for D-SLRs that plugs into their USB port and includes a fancy interface on a PocketPC (PDA) that allows you to tag each image as it goes out over the air. It's not for everyone, but if you shoot events [it can work with a barcode scanner] or something similar and need a high-quality programmable wireless solution the high price (over $1000) may be worth it.

Apurture GigTube Remote Shutter & LCD Viewer

With the advent of LiveView there are lots of potential new ways to use your camera. Apurture is introducing a new and inexpensive device which combines a remote shutter release with a preview/view LCD. You can wire it up to your Video port on your D-SLR and either mount it in your hot shoe for a great viewfinder for low or high shots (like concerts) by swiveling it around, or have it loose and use a cable to run it to where you can stand. It looks like a nice solution for tricky shooting and they claim it will be very inexpensive when introduced later this spring. On non-Live View cameras the GigTube can still show you the image you most recently captured.

Foolography GPS Unleashed

A couple companies have small GPS adapters that plug into the Nikon 10-pin connector and work with external bluetooth GPS units, but Foolography was showing one that is the smallest (and least expensive) I've ever seen. Their pro version will be out later this year with an integrated electronic compass that works even if the camera is tilted up or down. The current Unleashed works with the Nikon D2 & D3 series of cameras. A D90 version is under development as is the Pro version with compass.

Car/Surface Mount

A powerful dual suction cup mount (looks like the device cat burglars use in the movies to climb up walls and windows) that can be used to attach a camera to a car or other smooth surface. Not for everyone but perfect for anyone doing photography who needs to attach cameras to tables, windows or vehicles.

Reversible Head with Tension Mount

My previous experience with the Acratech universal head was very disappointing. It was light but not secure enough to use with a pro rig, not sturdy enough to use with a Sidekick, and didn't have an independent tension adjustment. It got handed down to my daughter and even that didn't go well so I've bought her an inexpensive Benro head. But Acractech has an impressive new offering with a separate tensioner, a drop slot rugged enough so you can gimbal a lens from it (it is however on the side so I would not gimbal anything larger than a 70-200 with it) and in a novel twist you can mount it upside down as a leveling base to use for panoramas. Caveat: I just played with it for a little while in their booth so I'm not saying you should run out and get one, but their heads are very light and innovative so it's worth keeping your eye on.

ThinkTank Pixel Sunscreen 2.0 & Shape Shifter

If you need to review images in bright light ThinkTank has introduced the Pixel Sunscreen 2.0 which provides a complete hood over your laptop (it comes with a 'dark bag' for the full effect) not unlike a large Hoodman.

I also got to see their Shape Shifter bag which is a collapsible camera backpack. A nice product if you want to pack your gear in something larger and then pull out and expand your pack on location.

DataColor / ColorVision Camera Scene Calibrator

I'm not quite sure what to call this little gooodie, but think of it as a 3-day super gray card for your Raw files. It is a small cube with a reflective white, refletive black and two different gray patches (one you can turn towards your primary light source and one to your secondary). It also has a little "Christmas ornament" reflective ball which provides specular highlights. Once you have an image of the device in a given lighting condition you've got the data you need to adjust your white balance and baseline your images as you bring them into your favorite raw converter. They're not available for testing yet but I'm excited to try one out and will report on my results.

Image Viewers

A couple new image viewers were on display. Hyperdrive had a new UDMA version of their image viewer / backup solution while Jobo introduced the Jobo GigVu Sonic with similar new higher speeds. One advantage of the Hyperdrive is you can buy it without a drive and put a drive up to 500GB into it while the Jobo is only offered with drives up to 250GB. Both have nice screens, read Raw files, and the Hyperdrive can support a drive to drive backup for extra security.

B&H has the . For those who need more room the .

The flagship .

MemoryKick is a unique image viewer which doubles as a media player. So it might be one less thing to carry.

Software Tools & Computer Training

D-SLR Training DVDs

Blue Crane Video has a line of training DVDs including both a basic and advanced D300 course. I'll get you more feedback after I watch a few but they might be just the thing for everyone who can't stand wading through the manuals or spending dozens of hours trying all the settings themselves.

Clickfree Transformer

Clickfree is the latest in a long series of companies offering "fire and forget" consumer backup solutions. But with a twist. They have built an intelligent USB adapter that plugs into your computer and to an external drive and then implements automatic backup on to that drive. The press release is short on details but if it works well it'd be a great way to make it easy to backup your images when you travel. Ideally you could just plug in your external drive & adapter each night and it would do the heavy lifting instead of you having to manually backup or sync your images from the day.

Computer Hardware

CRU was showing an impressive array of desktop storage & RAID-based backup solutions (ranging from single drive non-RAID enclosures to 2, 4, 6, and 8-bay RAID enclosures). They are much higher performance than a pseudo-RAID like Drobo or a NAS like Infrant or Buffalo, but the key question is how easy they really are to administer. I'll be looking into them further and reporting back.

New Lowepro Bags

There were literally several dozen companies showing camera bags. The variety was overwhelming. But after sorting through piles of them there were a couple that really stood out.

First Lowepro has completely redesigned their venerable Pro Roller series. The new designs feature something many of us have wanted for years--a hybrid bag where the inner insert doubles as a soft-sided photo backpack. I've done that before with an MP-1 or MP-3 crammed into a roller or a ProTrekker crammed into a huge Pelican but having it done right as a unified whole will be awesome. I can't do the products justice in this short space but they're sending me a sample to work with and I'll be doing a much more complete review soon. I'm hopeful the bags can solve many of the problems of photo travel which require a sturdy roller when needed but are best served with a smaller soft-sided backpack when needed.

They've also updated their TopLoader models to have an easier 'side-opening' top and added some nice new point and shoot cases including one (the D-Wrap) that attaches to the camera and simply 'wraps' it in neoprene.

CaseLogic also had some interesting designs and is clearly going to make their mark on the digital photo market, but I didn't see any that were so compelling that I'd trade one of my current bags for one. Their equivalent of the smaller Lowepro Classified bag was interesting. It has a molded camera inset to keep a small SLR and lens snugly in place while you configure the rest of the bag around it. But it didn't fit my D300 with L-plate that well and would not have fit a larger body, so it's clearly targeted more at the casual user.


There were a seemingly endless number of Photo Book products. Many are aimed at retailers, using either dedicated equipment or binding kits. But some like AsukaBook are designed for pro photographers who want to create books for their clients.

Stunningly Snapfish says they are printing Photobooks at the rate of over 250,000 per week.

Eco Paper from Hahnemuehle

Hahnemuehle has introduced their SugarCane paper, made 75% from the byproducts of creating sugar from sugar cane, and manufactured using all renewable energy. It looks good to, sort of a warmer toned version of Photo Rag. The perfect paper for your next nature or other environmentally sensitive show.

Fun with Infraed...

Follow-up on our:

If you're as excited by the possibilities of Infrared as I am you're probably looking around your studio already for an old camera body you can convert. If not, older used D-SLRs are inexpensive enough in the for sale forum on our site or on eBay that you may be able to experiment. Once you've got a camera you want to convert I strongly recommend as a very service-oriented and professional company that does an excellent job and is happy to help answer any questions. They can do a traditional IR conversion, or a trendier "enhanced infrared" that lets more of the color through. They even offer to make your camera full spectrum (by completely removing the IR filter and replacing it with clear glass). That provides great flexibility but because you need to use a filter to shoot IR you can't use the viewfinder and autofocus. As I've mentioned I went for the most traditional conversion--standard IR with a 720nm cutoff--and have been very happy with it. If you use make sure and let them know we sent you!

Other Products at PMA

Swarovski had a new line of HD scopes as well as some very nice looking camera adapters with mouts for the digiscoping crowd.

Hahnemuhle introduced SugarCane 300, the first eco-friendly art paper made from recycled materials.

Cardinal Photo Safari Update

The best news  for the many of you who have been asking is that we'll be returning to Africa in November, 2009 for another . The Botswana trip is already half full, so if you want to join us now is the time to act! As those of you who have been with us before know, there is nowhere else in the world that compares to a small group specialized photo safari to the private concessions in Botswana. Not only is the wildlife abundant, but the camps are gorgeous. Most importantly there are strict limits on the number of people and vehicles in each concession--and for our photo safaris, a strict limit on the number of people per vehicle. Many days we may not see anyone except the handful of people from our group.The year 2009 will mark my 7th photo safari to the concessions in Botswana. Every trip we've seen not just plenty of lions, hippos, giraffes and antelopes but also cheetahs, leopards and wild dogs. Truly a special trip.

The Botswana, Texas and Alaska Grizzly Bear trips are filling up, but we have a few slots left so if you're interested please act soon by or emailing us at safaris [at[ cardinalphoto.com. Thanks!--David 

David's Favorite New Products

ThinkTank Skin Set: A new belt & pouch system from ThinkTank. I used one of these for the first time in Death Valley and it was perfect for wandering around the canyons with an extra camera (my IR converted D70), my flash, a wide-angle lens, bottle of water and sat phone. You can of course configure it for more (although it becomes a lot to carry around your waist) or less but the belt is about as comfortable as possible and the pouches are well designed. It is a valuable alternative for when you don't want or need to try to work out of a full backpack (not many of us like to set a backpack down in the sand either). Interestingly I ran into Walt Anderson on the dunes (inventor of the Better Beamer & Ground Pod) using exactly the same setup. If you use to shop at ThinkTank you'll receive a free bag with your purchase!

DigitalPro User Tips

TIP 1: Quick File Copy: This one is thanks to Moose. He asked me whether we could add a feature to DigitalPro so that by simply clicking a button the selected images would be moved to a specific folder (for burning or some other further processing step). It turns out that you can do that already with a couple simple steps:

  1. Create a 1-line ".bat" file that contains "Copy %1 <your folder location"
  2. Set one of your Editor locations in Tools->Options->Editor to the .bat file you created in step 1
  3. Simply launch that editor on your images and they'll be copied to whereever you specified.

From this simple example you can probably also tell that you could build other simple scripts to do other file actions.

TIP 2: Keyword Filter: New to DigitalPro 5.0.9 is a filter you can apply to the Keyword or Category tree so it only displayes terms related to the one you put in the filter box. Personally I've found it to be a real life-saver when keywording many images in a single session. Let us know what you think about it in our .

Pro Shooters LLC, released DigitalPro™ 5 for Windows, a substantial upgrade to their award winning integrated image browser and image cataloging software. DigitalPro handles the entire image review and cataloging process, including loading, reviewing, renaming, captioning and filing images. With DigitalPro’s image catalog users can quickly retrieve images based on categories, keywords, captions or shooting data. For editing DigitalPro integrates seamlessly with Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Nikon Capture and Capture NX, Bibble, or the user’s choice of photo editors. .

Recent Photography News from

March 4: Sony 500mm f/4 telephoto lens spotted! Sony is mum on the lens, but quite clearly they have an unmarked prototype 500f/4 on display in their booth at PMA. It features all the bells and whistles we've come to expect from a high end Nikon or Canon lens, including the "stop focus" detents around the barrel. Nothing speaks to a company's committment to the pro market more than long lens development, so if this lens and the recently introducted 70-400 are any indication, Sony is here to stay!

On the right you can see the lens behind its protective glass:

Sony's "Stealth" Prototype 500mm f/4 lens at PMA

March 4: No news is no news on a replacement of the long in the tooth Nikon 80-400 or the recently maligned 70-200 (an awesome lens but one that some FX format users are more than a little tweaked about the light falloff with their cameras. Nikon confirmed today that they couldn't confirm any update to either--but they stressed that their theme this year would be optics so I'd expect at least some progress on the 80-400 front. In the meantime I'll be working on testing the Sigma 120-400 as it is just too frustrating for participants to try to use an 80-400 for serious action (it can be done, but you have to be very experienced to begin with).

March 3, 4 & 5: LIVE coverage of the most important new products from PMA 09. and we keep exploring the many new products of interest to our readers.

February 24: Travel safe & secure with the photo travel tips we've provided in .

February 10: An interesting report on camera & lens failures in Antartica has been posted by Michael Reichmann. Of particular note was the high failure rate among the Canon 5D Mark II and the perfect track record of the Nikon bodies. .

If you have a hot tip or news item for DigitalPro Shooter, write us at . If your tip or news item is picked as the Shooters' Tip of the Week, we'll send you a really cool DigitalPro hat! Or just write us to let us know what you think of the newsletter.

To keep up with the latest articles and reviews, join me at . For the latest versions of DigitalPro, visit .

Good shooting!

--David Cardinal, editor DigitalPro Shooter