Words - Industry - Focus Review – Part – April issue


Focus Review – Part – April issue

The 2004 Focus ‘camerama’
For some camera manufacturers, Focus on Imaging in Photokina year may not have been the charismatic, profitable experience, which they have come to expect, but most of them were there pitching for business!

For a media ‘voyeur’, scanning the aisles for familiar names, there were few disappointments. Any suggestion of ‘exhibition fatigue’, particularly since the excesses of Las Vegas and the PMA show were still fresh in the mind, was dismissed as the crowded camera manufacturers’ stand creaked with the weight of quality enquiries on three out the four days of the show!

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that some digitally inclined members of the PRODIG group of professional digital ‘imagers’ were less than happy with some of the camera manufacturers’ stands, from which their other products, like high-end scanners, were conspicuous by their absence. They also commented wryly on the apparent promotional offer of a £17,000+ Imacon digital back, with a Hasselblad H 1 camera thrown in for free!

Although camera-prospecting professionals may have been satisfied overall, they often exasperated the manufacturers and distributors, because so many preferred to ‘make-do-and-mend’ their equipment as they address the digital age. Too frequently, they prefer, as Craig Calder of Studio Workshop observed, to replace their BMW, rather than invest in the state-of-the-art technology, which has the potential of enhancing the quality and profitability of their output!

Change for the better
However, even the professionals were prepared to admit that significant changes in the camera manufacturers’ approach to the market were in evidence, particularly where individual interests have merged successfully.

For example, at Focus, signs of the rationale behind the Konica Minolta ‘marriage’ were already in evidence on their stand, which dealt with a steady stream of quality enquiries.
“When the two companies examined their market positions, it rapidly became clear that they dovetailed almost perfectly,” observed Paul Genge, an enthusiastic Minolta executive with responsibilities in sales and marketing.

“Currently, the product range comprises successful, Konica Minolta badged, consumer-level cameras, both film and digital, but look closely and you will find the first signs of a robust future approach to professional level options,” he said.

Referring to the prototype Dynax 7 Digital camera, on display for the first time in the UK, Genge explained that the specification indicated a first move toward the professional market and competition for cameras like the Canon EOS 10D and the Nikon D 100.

With a Minolta 24-100mm AF Zoom lens as standard in a Minolta A mount, it is also interchangeable with the existing range of Minolta lenses. It is anticipated that the 6 Megapixel APS-C sized CCD, which will initially record the image with a focal factor of 1.5. When development is complete, it will record the full image 1 to 1.

Upbeat Kodak
With a section to itself on the sumptuous Kodak stand, there was a natural buzz around the DCS Pro SLR/n digital camera, with its new high-performance/low noise imaging system that includes a full-sized 35mm CMOS sensor, but that was not the whole story. The great yellow giant had up-beat things to say about film, in the face of what it deems to be a misinterpretation of the company’s decision to stop manufacturing consumer-level film cameras.

On the stand, Clare Bruce, Kodak UK’s Professional Products Manager, used future film developments as her mantra, as she described two real advances in film technology which are available now. She also emphasised the character of the 50 years celebration of quality and reliability of Tri-X black and white film since its launch on 1 November, 1954.

For 2004, Kodak heralds the introduction of a new multi-purpose, black and white chromogenic film designed for processing in colour negative chemistry and printing the result on colour paper.

Kodak Professional BW400CN film, a name that does not easily roll off the tongue, may have the virtue of fine grain, outstanding highlight and shadow detail, etc., but it will be a miracle if it is still around in 2054!
The other ‘new’ film is the improved Kodak Professional Portria 800 colour film. Already a respected high-speed formulation, Kodak claims that it now has finer grain and more under-exposure latitude.

“These films – and there are more to come,” Bruce observed, “reinforces Kodak’s claim to be dedicated to film capture and our history of giving photographers the tools they need, when they need them.” You’ve gotta believe it!

Believable progress
Bees around a honey-pot would be a fair description of the interest on the FujiFilm stand, as the promised successor to the FinePix S Pro. First seen at PMA, earlier in the month, British photographers lost no time in ‘hoovering up’ the technical details the S3 Pro, with its 4th generation Super CCD SR sensor, using 6.17 million S-pixels and 6.17 million R-pixels, which deliver 12 million recorded pixels.

Nikon, too, pulled in the punters. With the fatal attraction of four digital models, the D100, D1 X, D2H and the semi-pro D70 on offer, as well as the film SLR Pro F5-100, quality and innovation ensured sustained interest in the progress of Nikon cameras and optics.

Hasselblad had what they described as a ‘good’ exhibition, with lively interest in the promotional offers, including a V System trade-in package, a 503CW complete camera offer and heavily discounted 203FE to tempt the bargain hunters.

The fashionable Swedes also sported a new instant film magazine for the V system. The PolaCombi 80/100, an upgrade of the PolaPlus magazine, accommodates both the 100-type instant film and the recently re-introduced Polaroid 80 type film.

There could be a professional application for the new LEICA DIGILUX 2. Demonstrating its digital technology, Leica claims that it is combined with the proven concepts of traditional analogue photography, professionals will appreciate the sharpness, aperture, focal length and shutter speeds, which can be controlled like those on a classic single-lens-reflex camera.

The 2/3-inch CCD sensor is very large for its resolution of 5 million pixel, but the fixed lens, a fast 7 – 22.5 mm Leica DC Vario Summicron f/2 – f/2.4 ASPH. zoom lens, may not offer the professional sufficient flexibility.

Hanging on to the status quo
Canon, Contax, Sigma, Mamiya, Linhof and other manufacturers with ambitions in the professional area appeared to be relying upon the status quo and, interestingly, conspicuous by their absence were both Olympus and Pentax.

The other absent company was Sinar, arguably a leader at the ‘Rolls Royce’ end of the market. Represented in the UK by recently re-named Lastra Imaging (UK), M/D Mark Middlebrook could find no way of justifying exhibition expenditure, when word-of-mouth recommendations have sustained sales of Sinar’s brilliantly conceived equipment for many years.

So, as a source of interest and information on camera development, Focus on Imaging remains an important contributor, without imposing on its visitors a stamina challenging experience like the next Photokina!

© Copyright John Chillingworth