Microsoft at Photokina

We’re at Photokina this week meeting with Microsoft’s partners in the imaging community and checking out all of the new equipment that has been announced over the past few weeks.  Photokina is the largest imaging trade show in the world and happens every two years in Cologne, Germany. The show layout is immense, covering 230,000 square meters (nearly 2,500,000 square feet) of exhibition space, with 1600 suppliers. It’s expected that 160,000 people will visit the show during the week.   The layout of the show is very well organized keeping companies, with similar products in close proximity to each other, so if you want to find out more about memory cards, Lexar, SanDisk, Kingston and the like are only a few feet away from each other.  Similarly, all of the camera manufacturers are in adjacent halls (though some of their booths are so large, they take up most of the space in their respective halls).  

Canon Booth Nikon Booth Nikon D80
Kodak Booth FujiFilm Booth Sony Booth

Microsoft’s iView Multimedia has a booth here showing off some of the new features in iView Media Pro 3.1.1.  We’re nestled right between Apple and Adobe, who are demoing their latest high end photo workflow offerings.   Tim Grey has been there each day giving demos of the new imaging features in Windows Vista including the Windows Photo Gallery and we’ve been getting some great feedback from the attendees (though sometimes the language barriers make that process a little tricky).

The question we keep getting from people back in the office is “What is the coolest thing you’ve seen at the show?”  That’s a really tough question to answer because there are so many great things here ranging from the new Hasselblad H3D medium format camera that costs about as much as a nice new car (~$30,000, but it’s 39 megapixels!) to the new cameras from Kodak, Canon and Nikon.  Sigma has a new camera  sporting a new Foveon X3 sensor and Epson, HP and Canon all have new printers to show off in all shapes, sizes and profiles.  You probably want us to focus on just a couple of things so here goes…

Chris’ Picks of the Show
LensBaby 3G – The LensBaby is a ‘selective focus’ lens which creates some cool depth of field effects as you bend the lens to accentuate certain parts of the image.  The new third generation of this lens (dubbed Lensbaby 3G) adds lens locks that hold the lens in place once you get it just the way you want and then lets you fine tune the focus before taking the shot. Josh thinks it makes your camera look like something from Hellraiser but I think we agree that it is very cool and worth checking out. 

Canon Media Storage – Canon released a portable media storage device that lets you copy images off of the Canon cameras, freeing up your memory cards for more shooting and making it easy to transfer up to 80 GB of images back to the PC.  It’s 3.7” TFT LCD display makes it easy to review your pictures in JPEG, TIFF or Canon RAW formats and the device is laid out just like the back of a Canon DSLR so it should be very intuitive to any Canon shooter.

Josh’s Picks of the Show
I would have to agree with Chris that the LensBaby3G is the ‘coolest’ new item at the show and one that’s sure to make my wallet lighter. The ability to lock the lens, and then fine tune the adjustment using the control knobs is reminiscent of the kind of control you get with a 4 x 5 view camera. My other picks include:

Hasselblad H3D – This is essentially a full frame DSLR on steroids. Boasting a 48 x 36mm sensor—twice the size of a full frame 35mm sensor—available in 22 and 39 megapixels, this camera packs enough resolution for the most demanding applications. Despite its size, it was remarkably well balanced and comfortable. As Chris mentions, it’s not cheap. Plus you’re going to need to invest heavily in storage—a 16-bit image off the 39 megapixel H3D is going to be about 200MB!

Epson Photo Stylus 3800 – This is an amazing printer before you realize that it’s $1,295. Capable of printing up to 17 inches wide with the latest Epson K3 inks, automatic switching between photo and matte black modes, new screening technology that makes it nearly impossible to see the actual dots, and dramatically smaller than its predecessor, this is perfect for making beautiful, long lasting prints.

Adobe Lightroom – This is a new class of digital imaging application intended to make the digital workflow faster, easier, and more productive. While it’s still in beta, I really like the approach of using one piece of software to organize & manage, process, print, and publish my photos. One the unique new features is non-destructive editing. This essentially means that any changes you make in Lightroom don’t affect your original image. Lightroom keeps track of these changes and applies them to copies of the image when you save, print, or publish the image. It’s going to be very exciting to watch this application evolve.

It was really cool of the Photokina folks to provide some great photo opportunities at the show. Aside from the Kölner Dom Cathedral and numerous bridges, there was a stage outdoors with several beautiful eagles and a couple of times per day, the eagles fly back and forth between trainers across the courtyard.  Great photo opportunities!

If you want to see lots of great pictures from each of the major players at the show, stop by DPReview’s live Photokina coverage which includes a brief review of each booth and lots of pictures of the cool new devices at each one.

– Chris Evans and Josh Weisberg

Comments (0)