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Photokina report: big crowds, few surprises  
Tuesday, September 26, 2000 | by
It was only 10 years ago that Kodak introduced the original Kodak DCS, a digital Nikon F3 that operated only while tethered to a heavy external pack. A first-timer to Photokina 2000, however, would think digital has been around much longer than that. That's because the bi-annual photographic trade show in Cologne, Germany, which wound up yesterday, was absolutely dominated by pixel-based products.

The original Kodak DCS (later renamed the DCS 100) on display at Photokina 2000

Digital's domination translated into more than just booths filled with digital cameras. For example, Applied Science Fiction (ASF) showed off a device for photofinishers that doesn't actually process exposed film, at least not in any traditional sense. Instead, it uses a dry process to "develop" latent film images on an unprocessed roll into digital files, and it does so in as little as 7 minutes. Not even film itself, the cornerstone of the analog imaging world, is safe from digital assimilation. The assimilation in this case is complete; ASF's dry process alters the film, preventing subsequent chemical processing and printing. Meanwhile, in the Kodak and Fuji halls, film and digital were given about equal floor space, but it was the digital products that garnered the lion's share of attention.

Despite the show's digital focus, however, there were relatively few releases of products aimed at the digital photojournalist and pro digital SLR shooters in general. Faster, higher-capacity CompactFlash cards led the charge in this area, as all major Flash RAM card vendors, except for Sandisk, had something new to display. Polaroid also showed new film scanners, including a pre-production multi-format scanner that looks interesting.

But as a long-time Hasselblad owner, the most exciting new digital product to me is Kodak's DCS Pro Back. While it's not the first medium format digital Hasselblad, it is the first to offer untethered operation for true freedom of movement. There have been precious few instances in which I've used a Hasselblad on a tripod, so the Pro Back's capability of shooting sans direct connection to a computer seems like a real breakthrough. At a size approaching 4 cm x 4 cm, its 16 megapixel CCD is quite large. It's physical size and pixel count should translate into excellent detail and sharpness, combined with the good colour and other image attributes of this series of CCD, smaller versions of which are found in other Kodak pro digital cameras.

With few all-new products to chase down, I spent the bulk of my time on the show floor speaking to vendors, listening in on product demonstrations, and sleuthing out hitherto-unknown digital hardware and software. The remainder of the Photokina report details some of what I learned, and is a compilation of the daily reports posted last week, as well as extensive new material. It's broken down into 4 sections, two of which are posted today, with two more coming later in the week:

Part 1: Cameras and lenses. Kodak DCS Pro Back; Canon EOS D30; Canon's DO lens design; Fuji S1 Pro vs Fujichrome Provia 100F; Nikon D1; Nikkor grey-barreled lenses; Pentax digital SLR; New Sigma pro lenses; Canon Powershot G1; Ricoh GR21; Hasselblad DFinity. Also photos of the DCS 520's internal components.

Part 2: Cards and readers. All that's new from Lexar Media, Delkin Devices and Microtech.

Part 3: Software. FotoStation Pro 4.5; Luratech and JPEG 2000; Adobe Photoshop 6.

Part 4: Film scanners. Film grain and the Minolta Dimage Scan Elite; Polaroid Sprintscan 120; Kodak RFS 3600.

Note: All photos shot with a Nikon Coolpix 990 set to Auto colour, manual exposure, and lit by an SB-28DX flash diffused by a Westcott Micro Apollo mini-softbox.

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